The promise and the perils of lab-grown meat

Plus ranking mustard, a history of the Chinese-food takeout container, and a fancy Cheeto in Chicago.

In writing Snack Cart, I’ve read a *lot* of kinda-bullshit filler interviews with people who have started brands. This Food & Wine interview by Kat Kinsman with Jackie Summers, the founder of Sorel Liqueur, is not that. I mean it sort of is, but Summers’ journey is so amazing it’s an absurdly compelling read. He went from magazine elite to almost dying of cancer to founding Sorel to losing it all in Hurricane Sandy to homelessness to bringing the brand back. It’s wild, y’all. I am getting a bottle of Sorel as soon as physically possible. 

The “article most people sent me this week” award goes to: This story by Rudy Sanchez in Dieline about the history of the Chinese food take-out box. If you sent this to me, I read the first 2 paragraphs and felt incredibly seen. I love you. If you haven’t, read this for an unlikely history of an American icon that predates the creation of Chinese food!

Nonprofit executive Erin McAleer writes for WBUR that all parents should be taking advantage of free school lunch. McAleer says that Commonwealth schools are getting 100% reimbursement from the federal government for schools. This is a very Massachusetts-centric article, but this message is relevant everywhere. The benefits of 100% free lunch -- reducing stigma, improving the overall food quality, and improving student performance -- are increasingly obvious. Regardless of your political persuasion, this seems like something to get behind. 

Joe Fassler, writing for The Counter, has an opus on the promise and, more importantly, the perils, of lab-grown meat. There is a lot of money pouring into the industry and many people, myself included, are urging us to do more. Fassler talks to the naysayers, who make a lot of really good points about how making lab grown meat at scale isn’t feasible with what we currently know about biology and physics. This essay is great. It’s also an important read for people like me, who still think it’s important to invest in fake meat even if there are huge barriers to scale. I don’t agree with Fassler’s points towards that end that money spent on fake is money we should be spending on solar power or biomass or other proven green technologies -- we should be spending a lot on everything with a remote chance of solving the problems. 

“Before we dive in, I know you’re wondering, Are we supposed to just go about our everyday lives and pretend that the collective trauma of a seemingly endless pandemic, the near-overthrow of our democracy, and irreversible damage to our climate isn’t real? Also, do you have vegan options? Yes and yes!

Shoutout to streaming services for turning watching TV into a nightly “no, where do YOU want to eat” experience.

SF Gate has a new Burrito columnist. This is a fun voice, but I kinda wish she wrote more about the burritos? However, I did learn something! My beloved “quesadillas” from Anna’s Taqueria in Cambridge MA are probably actually “burritos dorados”. 

Every once in a while a random digital outlet drops an absolute banger of an article. So it is with InsideHook story by Jason Diamond recreating a James Beard piece from 1975 where he ranked 28 mustards. Diamond covers every mustard (still being made) that Beard did and adds a few more. This is a lot of fun, and I really like how Diamond wrapped it up. I gotta eat more mustard. 

Helen Rosner interviews antitrust researcher Moe Tkacik on food delivery service apps. They cover a lot of topics touching many cities, but some core issues shine through. The main one being: pick up your food yourself if you can. 

Culinary Backstreets visit what sounds like a long shot to me: a vegan butcher shop in Istanbul. Still, the shop is doing well and you have to love the optimism of its founders in a meat-obsessed country. 

Eater wrapped up Ratatouille week with a lovely essay by Ryan Sutton arguing that critic Anton Ego is one of the heroes of the film. I love this essay, as it touches upon one of the meta-themes of Snack Cart: the value of criticism. The movie makes a beautiful case for why criticism is important and should be celebrated. 

I’m not going to do better than this headline, so just read it: The Pirate Who Penned the First English-Language Guacamole Recipe.

Evveryone tweeted about the news that rapper Eminem is opening a spaghetti restaurant based on his famous song lyric. But one hero went there. Seems fine.  

This VICE story on the demise of Ronald McDonald exists in a weird uncanny valley. It’s sorta snarky, sorta straight, and packed with creepy pictures of clowns. You will learn something about McDonalds, but it’s weirdly focused on the UK and also weirdly obsessed with an 00s Coventry clown panic? This could have been better.  

Chicago 

Josh Noel at the Chicago Tribune profiles some new Black-owned breweries around Chicago. Only 70 out of the 9000 or so breweries across America are Black-owned (that’s wild!). The two new ones profiled here seem fun. 

Nick Kindelsperger reviews Urbanspace, a new food hall that is slowly opening in the Loop. It’s a mix of New York imports and local favorites, and Nick says it has some of the best burgers and thin crust pizza in Chicago. Eater Chicago also goes deep into one of the stands, Bhoomi, which specializes in Indian grilled meats. One of the cofounders is the son of Jiggs Kalra, an early advocate of Indian food in the United States. One of the stalls is also a Roberta’s Pizza, which reminds me it’s never a bad time to read Meghan McCarron’s essay on Roberta’s becoming a mall restaurant

Mike Sula at Chicago Reader joins Nick Kindelsperger in really liking the food at Kiosk Balkan Street Food. He doesn’t include photos of the improbable sandwiches, but he does focus on them, or more importantly the bread. Sula also goes deeper into the cheffy touches Nemanja Milunovic brings to traditional Serbian dishes. 

Nick Kindelsperger gives a glowing review to Esmé, the most ambitious restaurant to open in Chicago this year. Nick admits he was skeptical when the team behind the place wouldn’t answer any of his questions about the food, instead focusing on their goals for philanthropy and supporting local art. However, the food does the talking and it’s worth the steep price tag. 

Amy Cavanaugh at Chicago Magazine ALSO visits Esmé. Her review features a bunch of photos, which I found helpful to reference when reading Nick’s review. She focuses on the team’s ambitions more than the food. Somehow BOTH reviews mention a fancy Cheeto/Champagne amuse-bouche and NEITHER include a photo of it. 

New York

The team behind Persian restaurant Sofreh love tea. They love it so much they are opening an all-day tea spot next to their restaurant. Brooklyn Magazine runs down the menu, including beautiful photos of the interior.

Pete Wells waxes a bit nostalgic while reviewing CheLi on St. Marks Place. The iconic street is changing from an overall post-punk aesthetic to one of Asian snacking, and Wells calls CheLi not just the best restaurant on the street, but one of the best Chinese restaurants in New York. A fun review to learn more about Shanghainese cooking as well as a certain era of New York. 

Ryan Sutton reviews the tasting menu at One White Street. It’s a tough get, and Sutton tries to decide if it’s worth it. He points out that while many chefs are pushing the envelope, this is almost a throwback. Sounds very French in a way that I find appealing. 

Boston

Terrence Doyle is leaving Eater Boston, and in a parting story lists his five favorite dishes in the city. From fried clams in Essex to dumplings in Chinatown, this is a good list. It’s time to admit my secret shame and confess I’ve never had a North Shore roast beef sandwich. 

Devra First is reflective in her review of Highland Kitchen. She writes a paean to neighborhood restaurants around the world, and this one specifically. 

Los Angeles

When most Angelinos make plans to go to Coachella, it’s not for fruit. But the Los Angeles Times says you should. Dates, specifically. Across the desert valley, farmers have been cultivating dates for generations. There is a LOT of date content but I can only add if you get the chance to have a date shake from the area you should. 

LA Taco highlights a vegan taquero who has opened a high-end Wagyu butcher shop. Balance is important. 

The KCRW tortilla competition comes to a head this weekend in the Fuerte Four. Trader Joe’s ended its miracle run, and juggernaut HomesState fell to another relatively unknown entrant. 

Out of Context J. Gold of the Week

The restaurant’s clientele is the essence of groovy, post-boho Silver Lake -- Latino families, spooning gay and lesbina couples, Spaceland regulars, a scattering of coffeehouse guys, searching for satori in pocketbook-size veggie burritos. - link