Swiss Farmers, etc.

My latest piece, out today in the Toronto Globe and Mail: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/travel/article-head-to-switzerland-for-true-farm-to-table-dining/

This piece, in my monthly jazz column in Bay State Banner, which appeared last week: https://www.baystatebanner.com/2019/05/02/where-to-find-jazz-in-boston-youd-be-surprised/

And we are only weeks away from delivering my new book, “WHY BE HAPPY?,” to my editor at Da Capo.

 

In the News

Thanks to Oakley Capital, a London-based private equity firm, Time Out Market is coming to Boston!  You’ll soon be able to enjoy burgers, bagels, BBQ, and who-knows-what while funneling capital to investors around the globe, and funding the Conservative Party in England.

Founded by Peter Dubens, “Managing Partner of the Oakley Capital Group,” the firm, according to their website is, “a privately-owned asset management and advisory group comprising Private Equity, Venture Capital, Corporate Finance managing approximately €1.6 billion.”

Mr. Dubens is a great supporter of PM Theresa May, the Conservative party leader in  charge of removing the UK from, the EU.

According to Private Equity News: “Peter Dubens, managing partner at private-equity house Oakley Capital, donated £50,000 to the Conservative Party in late May (2017) as senior figures from U.K. finance dug deep to push Theresa May over the line.”

Now what could beat that?  Isn’t it grand?

So, please, Boston-based PR and media: Let’s celebrate Time Out Market knowing that your support is funding right wing politics.

Bonus: A hot cup of coffee and you get the chance to support the 1% in England.

Knowing that your money is being used by private equity for projects and the personal lifestyles of the elite is pretty terrific.

Happy May Day!

 

Something to Eat

I’ve been enjoying a number of places in the neighborhoods.  Batard is only getting better and better–Never had a bad meal in numerous visits going back to the first month they opened. Great price point and I learn about wine each time.

Right next store is Frenchette.  I can’t think of a more pleasant place to have lunch.  Restraint and focus pay off.

Shin Yakitori, on 53rd, a short subway ride away, is a delight.  New chef, from Tokyo, and on a recent visit, one of many, everything tastes great.

Nearby, on 11th, you have Corner Slice, square slices of pizza, that are light and wonderful.  Next to it is Ivan Ramen: Vegetarian ramen is just about the best.

Back downtown: Le CouCou, and next to it, The Ship, and one block away, Il Buco di Alimementari.  Best French, great bar, best Italian, in town, in that order.

 

WHY BE HAPPY?

Well, a decent draft of my new book, “WHY BE HAPPY?,” The Japanese Way of Acceptance, is complete and each and every day I add more and take out more, and soon it will be in the hands of my editor at Da Capo, and then published in hardcover in early 2020.

My monthly jazz column in The Bay State Banner is coming along.  The most recent one (4/4/19) is a Q & A with Regina Carter: https://www.baystatebanner.com/2019/04/04/qa-with-regina-carter/

The five previous columns featured Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ron Carter, and several great local talents.

My new piece on Museum Susch, a museum that opened in 1/19, featuring the art of women artists is out in Vogue later this year.

Working on a sad, fascinating, tragic story of a young man who died in the Coast Guard.  His mom and I are in sync.

Then, too: Micro-brewed beer in Switzerland, women farmers in Switzerland, and UNESCO sites around the world.

All that Jazz

Well, my monthly jazz  column in The Bay State Banner is in its 5th month, and the current piece is about the brand new, “Jazz and Gender Institute,” at Berklee: https://www.baystatebanner.com/2019/03/06/terri-lyne-carrington-tackles-gender-in-jazz-with-new-institute-at-berklee-college

Soon my piece on Museum Susch will be in Vogue.  This museum opened in 1/19, and focuses on women artists.

Then, nodding to F&B, we have micro-brewers of Switzerland, which will appear in Hemispheres; and, Women Farmers of Switzerland, which will appear in the Toronto Globe & Mail.

Meanwhile a first draft of my new book, out in 2020, about Japanese day to day habits that focus on the Other, rather than the late stage capitalist perception of individualism, which mistakes Self for happiness, is done.  Now I have 4 months to revise it.

Not eating out any longer in Boston frees up time and money.

Sports & Food

Writing about restaurants in Boston is a lot like writing about basketball in NYC.

You might enjoy watching the Knicks and Nets, they might play well, both as teams and individual players, they might even win.  But chances are you’re not in NYC expecting great basketball.

In Boston, the amount of energy, money, and devotion that goes into sports is astonishing.  The city has the best of the best in football and baseball, and the best in basketball and hockey.

If the town put 1/10th of the focus it has on sports into restaurants, there might be a reason to eat here.

Here’s an important difference: In NYC, Knicks fans can remember when the team was great.  They know what needs to be done: Get Dolan to sell the team, for one.  Is he the worse owner in basketball? With the Nets, better scouts and a better GM might help.

In contrast to Knicks and Nets fans’ recognition that something is wrong and something needs to be done, critics and chefs and restaurateurs in Boston act as if this really is a restaurant town with a whole bunch of great chefs and restaurants.  They act as if everything’s great, even getting better than ever.

In fact, things have never been worse.

There’s no James Dolan to blame, nor scouts nor GM’s.  The reasons for the deep mediocrity of most Boston restaurants is multi-faceted.  But start here: Noting that the restaurants are, in general, pretty awful, like basketball in NYC, is a good place to start.

What needs to be done?  What might help?

Where Restaurants Are Opening

Boston is one of the greatest sports cities on the planet.  Restaurants, not so much.  The local joints are terrific, and there are lots of really wonderful places like Raphael’s in Codman Square and Galleria Umberto in the North End.  But it’s sports where the city excels.

And that’s why the big trend in Boston is restaurants opening near sports venues.

Next to TD Garden, home to the Celtics and Bruins, are a good half dozen restaurants, from Alcove to Tavern to Ward 8.  New places are opening within walking distance in the North End.  Further afield, in the Seaport District, the city’s most racially segregated part of town, are literally dozens of high end restaurants, many of them franchises–within walking distance or an UBER ride.

And near Fenway Park, more and more restaurants are attracting sports fans before and after games, and during the off-season.

Many of these restaurants serve good food with good value and good service.

It’s a good business model to use in one of the greatest sports cities on the planet.

 

Why Restaurants Are Closing Now

Yes, high rent.  But let’s say that the rent is affordable, why then do restaurants close?

In 2018, about a dozen well-known places closed in Boston and  NYC.

Restaurants start with food.  If the food’s no good, people won’t go.

Obvious, right?

But even with good food, if the service isn’t attentive, anticipatory, thoughtful, and empathic, the restaurant’s days are numbered.  Danny Meyer, of Shake Shack and Gramercy Tavern and Blue Smoke and many other places, understands this better than anyone in the restaurant business.

The big thing, once the food and service are reliably good, is that a restaurant must serve a cultural function in its community.  Without that, it simply won’t survive.

Numerous restaurants in Boston closed over the past three or four months, located in hotels or areas frequented by tourists, or in neighborhoods that have changing demographics.  These places never really fit in properly, and it was because they failed to do so that, despite good food and good service, they are gone.

Restaurants, no matter where or when, are neutral public places that exist to provide people a place to go with friends and family.  Boston has a few of these: Santarpio’s, Galleria Umberto, Darryl’s, and Charlie’s come to mind.

But you can expect even more closures in 2019 both in Boston and NYC as restaurants continue to distance themselves from their communities and have little or no cultural function.

In their place, and we’re already seeing this, will be franchises, places owned by private equity geared toward volume, and the most bankable item next to coffee: Pizza.

So grab a slice and hoist a pint of $10 beer.

Best Cookbooks of the Year

Back in the day, I would get about 150 cookbooks sent to me each year by publishers and PR people for free.  It wasn’t long before I had 600 cookbooks in my house: Stacked up on the floor, cluttering shelves, and in boxes in the basement.  And that’s before I gave them away as presents to friends.

One day I called a program that trains high school kids to work in hospitality, and donated 250 books to them.  Staff showed up, hauled away the books, and I never heard from the program again.

I still have about 300 cookbooks.  Most go unread.  If I want to cook something, I look it up on the web.  From grilled chicken in corn tortillas to Korean marinated beef, it’s all there.  By chefs and students of cuisines.

Once I asked a very famous chef, whose name you’d know in a second if I told you where his first restaurant is, why he and so many other chefs published cookbooks.

Brand promotion is key.

There are the rare cookbooks that are incredibly useful: Anything by Marcella Hazan, Nancy Singleton Hachisu, or Mark Bittman, come to mind.

But the real essentials of cooking well aren’t there for the most part:

A chef took six months to teach his line cooks how to use salt and pepper properly.  A chef taught his sous chef how to buy the best ingredients, from chicken to beans.  A chef taught his crew how to use four ingredients well.

The great chef Gary Danko said: “If you can learn to cook ten dishes well, a total of ten, in your lifetime, you are really far ahead of the game.”

Not that I’m knocking stuff you get for free.

Top, New Food Ingredient: 2018

Wow, tough call, I was back and forth on this one.  Was it cinnamon, persiflage, yuba?  Or some other rare product sucked out of the earth in Orwellian named Democratic Republic of Congo?

Well, none of the above, and those of you who are adept at puzzles and prestidigitation know where I am going with this.

That’s right: It came down to one thing with at least two meanings.

Dough.

That was the top ingredient this year.

From pizza to bread to croissants to pretzels to doughnuts to sandwiches, the big boom in 2018, which will herald investment in years to come is: Flour and water.  OK, add salt, be my guest.  Anyway, FLOUR is the big ingredient this year, 2018, and that’s because it has, next to coffee, the greatest profit margin in the food and beverage industry.

If you look at your “local” bakeries and pizza joints, you will find that the non-franchise outfits are either: Fewer in number; about to go under; and, unable to compete in marketing or pricing with international brands.

Which is the second meaning of dough.

The #1 franchise in the U.S. in terms of growth in 2018 was pizza.  That pie you buy–“artisanal, gourmet, healthy, natural”–for between $12-$28 has a food cost about 90% less per slice.

Folks, the food world is where the music world was in 1972: Undervalued, in the early-middle stages of monetization, and not so much about the taste of things, but about the sale of things.

And that’s not persiflage.