Starbucks' cup designs are all over the news this week. This time, the plain red holiday cups are drawing ire from a group of Christians who claim that the cups are part of a symbolic war against Jesus because they don't say “Merry Christmas.” The hype and outrage can be traced back to one man, a Christian Internet evangelist who posted a viral video showing fellow believers his super-clever prank to get “Merry Christmas” back on the cup (he did it by telling the barista his name was “Merry Christmas”). Cool thing is: A survey of the last eight years of holiday-cup designs shows that “Merry Christmas” has never appeared on a Starbucks cup.
RIP, burritos. According to Restaurant News columnist Jonathan Maze, burrito sales finally appear to be trending down. Baja Fresh has been steadily closing stores since 2011. Ruby Tuesday's Lime Fresh Mexican Grills is selling off all but eight stores. Even Sharky's has been slowly rebranding its local stores to become more of a place to get brown rice in a salmon nori burrito than a 1,500-calorie lunch. And while Chipotle is reopening the Northwest stores that were closed after the recent E. coli outbreak, this trend isn't going to help redeem its crappy year.
Congrats to n/naka chef Niki Nakayama on making Out.com's Out100 list, which spotlights LGBT leaders across multiple industries. Nakayama is the only female kaiseki chef in the world, and her small Palms restaurant, where she flawlessly executes traditional Japanese formalism with modern touches, is one of the most underrated dining destinations in L.A. “I hope that by being an out, queer Japanese-American woman in a traditionally male-dominated field, I can influence people to recognize I’m simply a chef and that none of those other labels matters,” she told the website. You can also watch a beautiful video profile here.
The Great Tipping Debate of 2015 continues, with, oddly enough, Joe's Crab Shack stepping up and testing no-tipping policies at 18 of its restaurants. Like Union Square Hospitality Group in New York — which made waves last month when it announced it was eliminating tipping at all 17 of its notable restaurants — Joe's Crab Shack is raising prices across the board and not allowing customers to tip on their bill. Joe's CEO said “tipping is an antiquated model” and moved to increase his employees' hourly rates, which are being calculated based on employees’ historical earnings as well as managers’ rankings. Who's next to hop on the no-tipping train?
This week's restaurant review takes us to Simbal, a Little Tokyo restaurant that could use a little more attention, both from the public and from the chef. “I worry for Simbal,” our critic Besha Rodell says. Read the rest of her review here. You can look at Anne Fishbein's gorgeous photography of the food here.
In openings and closings: Spread PB, which was basically the Chipotle of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for stoners and Valley moms, has closed after less than a year (but there are plans to shop the concept elsewhere); Timothy Hollingsworth's anticipated downtown restaurant, Otium, now has a kiosk parked outside of the Broad Museum where you can get coffee and some composed plates before the real deal opens in a few weeks; and Ricardo Diaz's La Puente experiment Colonia Taco Lounge has reopened as Colonia Tacos Guisados in a nice, freeway-accessible taco stand (with a drive-through!) in Whittier. Huzzah!
Tweets o' the Week
Not that you care but I DO need to cry over this spilled milk. — dialogue from my unsold sitcom pilot WHAT'S WRONG NOW Events:
Friday, Nov. 13, through Sunday, Nov 15: Studio Cooking
Explore the intersection of food, art and work at this temporary kitchen created from borrowed equipment from artists’ studios. On Friday, Lisa Jugert conducts a live, food-focused, still-life photo shoot. Amanda Katz hosts a “Studio Brunch” on Saturday, with a discussion of hosting, intimacy and labor. And on Sunday, the organizers treat attendees to a three-course meal, performance and lecture.
Saturday, Nov. 14: Meet Nigella Lawson at Williams-Sonoma Beverly Hills
Hang out with Nigella Lawson, the British author, critic and TV personality whose latest book, Simply Nigella, is a cookbook for the every day. Our own restaurant critic, Besha Rodell, met up with Lawson at Petit Trois this week.
Tuesday, Nov. 17: Edmund J. Clifton III Discusses and Signs Clifton's and Clifford Clinton
In this new biography, Clifford Clinton's grandson explains how Clinton, with his last $2,000 and 2,500 recipes, opened the first Clifton's Cafeteria in 1931. With the highly anticipated reopening of the Clifton's Cafeteria on Broadway last month, this is the place to ask your burning history questions and have them answered by a relative of the legend himself.