Category: Food and Drink

How to find the best food in Oaxaca

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

First, if you do it right, most of your best meals will be eaten before 3 p.m., sometimes even before 10 a.m. Most “comida popular,” as it is called, is sold in the earlier parts of the work day, as the evening meal is typically eaten at home with family. Those are the supply chains you wish to catch, because they will have the freshest food and ingredients. Treat your dinner as an afterthought, but plan the earlier part of your day carefully.

Start by getting up fairly early and avoiding the hotel breakfast, which is rarely excellent even in the fanciest places.

The best thing to do is to walk or take a cab to a food market around 8 or 9 a.m. Look for a lone woman selling tamales, and don’t be afraid to ask around for her, since her place in the market will not be so obvious. Everyone in the market, however, will know her station. In Oaxaca, you might try 20 de Noviembre market or Mercado de Abastos, but tamales can be found in other locations as well, sometimes also in the parks or in various neighborhoods, carried around in baskets.

Then order as many tamales as you can; you won’t find it easy to spend more than $5 on your meal. Of particular interest are the tamales de mole, tamales de amarillo (the word means yellow, but they’re actually orange), and the tamales de rana with tomatoes. In addition to the fillings, you can enjoy the thrilling experience of eating corn near the locations where corn was first bred and engineered by indigenous Mexicans before the Spanish conquest. You’ll feel like you’ve never tasted corn before.

…Don’t worry about sanitation; the tamales have been steamed at high temperatures and kept hot, and they are served promptly. They’re typically gone by 10 a.m., a sign of both their quality and their safety.

Recommended, there are further tips at the link, including about the world’s best barbecue, which is in Mexico, not Texas or North Carolina.

Las Gemelas, now the best Mexican food in the DC area

Las Gemelas, 1280 4th st. NE, 202-866-0550.

There are two places here, a restaurant and on the other side of the (small) mall is a tacqueria. The tacqueria is the best Mexican food this region has seen. Real blue corn tortillas, everything else authentic, could be mistaken for excellent real Mexican food in Mexico.  The morning green chile chorizo tacos are the must-get – one of the best dishes in town – but everything is very good.

The restaurant proper has a small number of truly excellent dishes, and a bunch of “quite good” dishes, noting the menu is pretty small. The first time I went the lamb Borrego soup was the knockout, the second time it was off the menu but the pork cheeks enchilada with mole was an A+, again one of the best dishes in town. I quite liked the toast with honey, though it hardly seemed Mexican (not a complaint, just a warning).  If you go to the restaurant, make sure you figure out what you really should be getting.  In addition, the visuals and décor are very nice in both, excellent places to sit and take in the crowd and surroundings.

Overall, this is a major advance for this region’s Mexican dining, and the prices are entirely reasonable.

Chiapas fact of the day

With average daily consumption of 2.2 liters of Coca-Cola, Chiapas leads the world…It’s more than five times higher than the national average…

According to a 2019 study by the Chiapas and Southern Border Multidisciplinary Research Center (Cimsur), residents of the southern state drink an average of 821.25 liters of soda per person per year.

Broken down, the immensity of the quantity seems even more astonishing: every man, woman and child in Chiapas drinks an average of 3,285 — yes, three thousand two hundred and eighty-five – 250-milliliter cups of soda a year, according to the study.

According to the Cimsur study, among the reasons why Coca-Cola and other refrescos are so popular in Chiapas are marketing campaigns in indigenous languages – mainly Mayan – and limited access to clean drinking water.

Here is the full story.

My Conversation with Alexander the Grate

Here is the audio and transcript, recorded outside in SW Washington, D.C.  And no, that is not a typo, he does call himself “Alexander the Grate,” his real name shall remain a secret.  Here is the event summary:

Alexander the Grate has spent 40 years — more than half of his life — living on the streets (and heating grates) of Washington, DC. He prefers the label NFA (No Fixed Address) rather than “homeless,” since in his view we’re all a little bit homeless: even millionaires are just one catastrophe away from losing their mansions. It’s a life that certainly comes with many challenges, but that hasn’t stopped him from enjoying the immense cultural riches of the capital: he and his friends have probably attended more lectures, foreign films, concerts, talks, and tours at local museums than many of its wealthiest denizens. The result is a perspective as unique as the city itself.

Alexander joined Tyler to discuss the little-recognized issue of “toilet insecurity,” how COVID-19 affected his lifestyle, the hierarchy of local shelters, the origins of the cootie game, the difference between being NFA in DC versus other cities, how networking helped him navigate life as a new NFA, how the Capitol Hill Freebie Finders Fellowship got started, why he loves school field trip season, his most memorable freebie food experience, the reason he isn’t enthusiastic about a Universal Basic Income, the economic sword of Damocles he sees hanging over America, how local development is changing DC, his design for a better community shelter, and more.

And:

And:

Recommended, you won’t find many podcast episodes like this one.  It is noteworthy that Alexander has a better and bigger vocabulary than the median CWT guest.  Also, this is one episode where listening and reading are especially different, due to the ambient sounds, Alexander’s comments on the passing trains, and so on — parts are Beckettesque!

The separating equilibrium (a ban by any other name?)

Governor Ron DeSantis would not let cruise ships sailing from Florida mandate vaccination?  Well, this is what you end up with:

Now we know the true cost of not getting vaccinated for COVID-19: You won’t be able to order sushi when cruising on Royal Caribbean‘s Freedom of the Seas.

Here is a list of all the other restrictions for the unvaccinated cruise passengers.  Via Stephen Jones.

Roger Scruton Hungarian coffee shop markets in everything

When the philosopher Sir Roger Scruton died last year Boris Johnson called him “the greatest modern conservative thinker”.

It seems that he had an even greater admirer in Viktor Orban, the right-wing prime minister of Hungary, whose allies have poured £1.5 million into a chain of coffee shops in Scruton’s memory. The first opened in November in Budapest and is filled with Scruton memorabilia donated by his widow, Sophie.

More cafés will follow, says John O’Sullivan, a former speechwriter for Margaret Thatcher who now chairs a Hungarian think tank. The £1.5 million investment comes from the state-sponsored Batthyany foundation, which also paid for the historian Norman Stone to write a history of Hungary that praised Orban’s leadership.

Here is the full link from the London Times (gated).  For the pointer I thank Jason D.

Markets in everything Japanese melon pan mask edition

Melon pan is not only delicious, but one Japanese company also thinks it can make a good mask.

Osaka-based experimental think tank Goku no Kimochi The Labo has created “Mask Pan” or “Mask Bread” after college students from Fukuoka and Okinawa decided they want to sniff the smell of bread all the time. What better way to do that than wearing melon pan on your face?

FNN reports that Goku no Kimochi The Labo roped in famed melon pan specialty shop Melon de Melon to bake the bread. For each Mask Pan, the middle is carved out, making space for the wearer’s mouth and nose. As silly as this might seem (and goodness does it ever), the melon pan’s signature crunchy outside supposedly has a degree of effectiveness.

Here is the full story, via Shaffin Shariff.

The regulatory cicada culture that is American

As millions of cicadas began emerging in Loudoun County about two weeks ago, Chef Tobias Padovano at Cocina on Market in Leesburg began foraging for the noisy insects and serving them in tacos.

That is, until last week when a customer ordered and ate the cicada tacos, only to later complain to the Loudoun County Health Department, which then forced the restaurant to temporarily stop serving them.

Victor Avitto, an environmental health supervisor with the Loudoun County Health Department, told the Times-Mirror that the cicadas needed to be sourced from an approved food source, and only then it would it be fine to serve them.

“They need to be sourced from a farm that is inspected and certified,” he said.

On Wednesday, Padovano said he found an online source for cicadas from Dubai which was approved by Avitto, allowing for the sought-after cicada tacos to again be served.

Here is the full story, via HHL.

Is the second-cheapest wine a rip-off?

The standard economic analysis of product-line pricing by Mussa and Rosen (1978) implies that higher-quality varieties command higher absolute mark-ups. It is widely claimed that this property does not apply to wine lists. Restaurateurs are believed to overprice the second-cheapest wine to exploit naïve diners embarrassed to choose the cheapest option. This paper investigates which view is correct. We find that the mark-up on the second cheapest wine is significantly below that on the four next more expensive wines. It is an urban myth that the second-cheapest wine is an especially bad buy. Percentage mark-ups are highest on mid-range wines. This is consistent with the profit-maximising pricing of a vertically differentiated product line with no behavioral elements, although other factors may contribute to the price pattern.

That is from a new paper by David de Meza and Vikram Pathania, via The Browser (which is worth paying for).

Why the lab leak theory matters

Here is Ross Douthat at the NYT:

…there’s a pretty big difference between a world where the Chinese regime can say, We weren’t responsible for Covid but we crushed the virus and the West did not, because we’re strong and they’re decadent, and a world where this was basically their Chernobyl except their incompetence and cover-up sickened not just one of their own cities but also the entire globe.

The latter scenario would also open a debate about how the United States should try to enforce international scientific research safeguards, or how we should operate in a world where they can’t be reasonably enforced.

I agree, and would add one point about why this matters so much.  “Our wet market was low quality and poorly governed” is a story consistent with the Chinese elites not being entirely at fault.  Wet markets, after all, are a kind of atavism, and China knows the country is going to evolve away from them over time.  They represent the old order.  You can think of the CCP as both building infrastructure and moving the country’s food markets into modernity (that’s infrastructure too, isn’t it?), albeit with lags.  “We waited too long to get rid of the wet markets” is bad, but if anything suggests the CCP should have done all the more to revolutionize and modernize China.  In contrast, the story of “our government-run research labs are low quality and poorly governed”…that seems to place the blame entirely on the shoulders of the CCP and also on its technocratic, modernizing tendencies.  Under that account, the CCP spread something that “the earlier China” did not, and that strikes strongly at the heart of CCP legitimacy.  Keep in mind how much the Chinese apply a historical perspective to everything.

A number of you have asked me what I think of the lab leak hypothesis.  A few months ago I placed the chance of it at 20-30%, as a number of private correspondents can attest.  Currently I am up to 50-60%.

My Conversation with Mark Carney

Here is the audio, video, and transcript, definitely recommended.  Here is part of his closing statement:

COWEN: Last question. You wake up each morning. Surely you still think about central banking. What for you is the open question about central banking, where you don’t know the answer, that you think about the most?

CARNEY: I gave a speech at Jackson Hole on this issue, and I started — which is the future of the international monetary system and how we adjust the international monetary system.

I’ll say parenthetically that we’re potentially headed to another example of where the structure of the system is going to cause big problems for the global economy. Because it’s quite realistic, sadly, that we’re going to have a fairly divergent recovery with a number of emerging, developing economies really lagging because of COVID — not vaccinated, limited policy space, and the knock-on effects, while major advanced economies move forward. That’s a world where rates rise and the US dollar strengthens and you get this asymmetry, and the challenge of the way our system works bears down on these economies. I think about that a lot.

And this:

COWEN: If you’re speaking in a meeting as the central bank president, do you prefer to speak first or speak last?

CARNEY: I prefer — I tend to speak early. Yes, I tend to speak early. I’m not sure that’s always the best strategy, but I tend to speak early. I will say, one thing that’s happened over the years at places like the G20, I noticed, is the prevalence of social media and devices. The audience drifts away over time, even at the G20, even on a discussion of the global economy.

And from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, do note this:

CARNEY: …I think you’re absolutely right on that, there wasn’t. It is revealed that there wasn’t a liquidity trap.

Rooftops!  Finally, on more important matters:

COWEN: Are the Toronto Raptors doomed to be, on average, a subpar NBA team due to higher taxes?

And:

COWEN: What’s the best Clash album?

CARNEY: Fantastic question. London Calling, and one of my best memories — I was very fortunate; they came to Edmonton when I was in 12th grade in high school. I went to the concert and that was fantastic, yes.

COWEN: I also saw them, I think in what would have been 12th grade had I been in school that year. But London Calling is too commercial for me. I much prefer the Green album, like “Career Opportunities,” “Janie Jones.”

CARNEY: Well, “I Fought the Law” was the best song at the concert. I have to say, they had got to Combat Rock by this time, which was relative — [laughs] Combat Rock was more commercial, I thought, than London Calling, although they threw it all out the door with Sandinista!

Again, here is Mark’s new book Value(s): Building a Better World For All.