Bothered by those 3 percent surcharges that have been showing up on your tab at some of the top restaurants around L.A.? Apparently one person was so bothered by them that they filed a class-action lawsuit accusing several places — including Animal, A.O.C., the Hungry Cat, Lucques, Melisse, Rustic Canyon, Son of a Gun and Trois Mec — of violating antitrust laws. The problem is not the charge itself, the suit alleges, but the collusion among the restaurants, which, according to the complaint, “started last year when an influential restaurant owner circulated a secret agreement to his direct competitors asking them to raise their prices in unison by 3 percent.” Problem is that the memo wasn't secret (in fact, we reported on it when it happened), and the restaurants are very open about the fact that it was a way for them to be able to provide health care to their employees and comply with Obamacare (they are also open about their books, so you can see where the money is going). As our restaurant critic Besha Rodell explained on KCRW yesterday, the lawsuit may not have weight at all since the surcharge is not required but suggested. Is it price-fixing when the price is optional?
Another question that hit the food waves this week has been circulating in the beer and wine worlds for years: Are women better tasters than men? NPR decided to tackle the question with science and found that some women are able to recognize smells and flavors better than men, but with several caveats. The women must be of reproductive age, and they must be trained to tune their noses and palates to the specified flavors. “It's not that women are super-sensitive to everything — it's that women are a little better when they focus their attention on a smell,” one scientist said. This probably goes back to the savannah, when women needed to sniff out their kin to form bonds and create connections. But if it makes us better beer tasters in today's modern world, hell, we'll take the biological advantage.
OMGOMGOMG. McDonald's is going to start serving breakfast all day! Obviously this is something we've been waiting for since we were kids, when the McMuffin was way more exciting to us than the salty slab they served in a Happy Meal. We also were hoping it would happen sometime in our teenage years, when late-night drunken drive-thru missions for breakfast food left us stuck with only Jack In the Box. After testing it out in a few markets (lucky jerks in San Diego!), the franchisees approved the motion to roll it out nationwide. Oct. 6 is the big day. Lunch will never be the same again.
The Washington Post published an interesting piece from a Cantonese writer who's taking offense to all the attention her homeland's cuisine has been getting — especially since she remembers growing up feeling a little like Eddie Huang in Fresh Off the Boat when he gets publicly shamed for bringing Chinese food to school. Perhaps, in our excitement of discovery, we have occasionally been guilty of indulging in the “discount tourism” of which the writer accuses food lovers. But how do immigrant cuisines become more accepted in the mainstream canon if not through local interactions with it? “The dishes of America’s recent immigrants have become checkmarks on a cultural scavenger hunt for society’s elite,” she says. Sure, it's easy for society's elite to feel like they've traveled to another country by eating at some super-authentic place, but what is food if not transportive — and what about us poor, hungry, open-minded food explorers? Are we part of it, too?
We probably could have seen this one coming since #theyaintdeadyet: Starry Kitchen is returning to an actual kitchen. Where they are landing is something else we should have seen coming: a bar arcade in Echo Park. Called Button Mash, the new pinball and arcade game hangout will be for the Silver Lake/Echo Park crowd what Eighty Two is for the downtown set. Prepare your mouth — balls are coming.
The new City Market South in downtown L.A.'s Fashion District announced a slew of attention-grabbing food tenants this week, including the second location of San Francisco's Slanted Door, which features the modern Vietnamese cooking of James Beard Award–winning chef Charles Phan. Also coming to the development, which will be on the original site of the first wholesale produce market in Los Angeles, are hand-rolled pastas and wood-fired meats at Steve Samson's Rossoblu, plus cocktails from a yet-to-be-named new concept from Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix with Mario Guddemi and Sal Aurora.
Tweets o' the Week:
Overheard at BA: Oh my god enchiladas.
— Bon Appetit Magazine (@bonappetit) September 1Events:
It's Labor Day weekend, and there are so many food events going on that we made an entirely separate post about them all. In addition to the L.A. County Fair, the last 626 Night Market (here's our list of what to eat there), the all-day BBQ at Terrine and the fourth member of A Tribe Called Quest cooking poolside at the Line Hotel, there are a few other events to check out next week.
Monday, Sept. 7: “Me, My Friends and I” Collaboration Dinner
E.P. & L.P. executive chef Louis Tikaram will team up with some of his old kitchen homies, Dan Hong (Mr. Wong, Ms. G’s, Papi Chulo, El Loco in Sydney) and Jowett Yu (Ho Lee Fook in Hong Kong) for a one-night-only, seven-course, modern Asian dinner that probably will feel more like a dinner party among old friends than a formal dining event. Tikaram is hosting at his Hollywood restaurant, which we recently reviewed.
Wednesday, Sept. 9: Ultimate BBQ With Wolfgang Puck
For the first time ever, renowned chefs Wolfgang Puck, Francis Mallmann and Adam Perry Lang join forces for an epic evening of barbecue that celebrates their distinct styles and unique preparations of smoked and grilled meat. Hang out on the lawn of the exclusive Bel-Air Hotel and keep eating as if Labor Day wasn't two days earlier.