food trends

Up and Down: recession winners and losers

   image courtesy of Food Mayhem

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The recession marches on.

Unemployment is still too high; consumer spending is still too low. And have you looked at the financial sector lately?

While discretionary spending on groceries and restaurants is down overall, there are some signs of life. Health, convenience, small luxuries, and qualities that can can lead to future savings; these are the features that seem worth opening wallets for.

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http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3253/2652939425_ddef7fb3fd.jpg Up: home-brewed coffee.

We’re dusting off the Mr. Coffee or replacing it with a single-cup brewing system. Even Starbucks got in on the act launching Via Ready Brew instant coffee. When we do go out for coffee, it’s likely to be a 99¢ cup from a fast food outlet. Could $4 lattes be a thing of the past? […]

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One Night Stand: the pop up restaurant

One minute they’re here, and then they’re gone.

The pop up shop is nothing new to retailers. Think of the stores and kiosks that make regular seasonal appearances selling Halloween costumes, Christmas decorations, or calendars. In recent years, we’ve seen stores like Target and Nike bypassing the vacant storefronts of suburban malls for prominent urban locations that create instant buzz for high-profile product launches. The Gap took to the road with a school bus full of flip flops and floppy hats, setting up shop at beaches on both coasts. Even the decidedly stodgy Wal-Mart ran a 2-day ‘Fashion Cabana’ in Miami’s trendy South Beach district.

Unique challenges for restaurants

A pop up restaurant is hampered by the limitations of  a temporary location. It needs an inspected, commercially-licensed kitchen, cooking equipment, seating and tableware, and ideally a liquor license. One response has been the underground dining movement. The foodie version of a rave, the underground experience occurs when people in or out of the food industry host a meal in a private, unlicensed location— an apartment or loft, a gallery, warehouse, or even a parking garage. Often clandestine gatherings, invitations might emanate from a password-protected website, maps are scrawled on post-its, and the threat of a Health Department raid makes the diners’ hearts beat faster.

The legitimate version is the increasingly popular pop up restaurant. Falling somewhere in between underground dining and full-fledged restaurant, pop ups have both the indie cachet and the Health Department’s blessing. They take one of two forms. A would-be restaurateur borrows an existing kitchen– a cooking school or catering facility, a restaurant during its off-hours (a Monday night when it’s normally closed, or a breakfast joint that closes up at night), or a complementary food service business like a cheese shop or bakery. Alternatively, an established restaurant temporarily reformats its menu and service, often turning the kitchen over to a guest chef or a junior staff member for the night.

Restaurants love pop ups

They can audition potential hires, wring a little extra revenue from the off-hours, and test the waters for new concepts and menu items.

Chefs love them

Young chefs get to strut their stuff for the public, and established chefs get to stretch a bit and break out of the structure and routine of restaurant formats. High profile chefs like Rachael Ray, Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio, Emeril Lagasse, and Cat Cora of Iron Chef America have all embraced the pop up.

The appeal of pop ups is undeniable. They are the embodiment of our 21st century consumer mindset, combining the status of scarcity and small production with the urgency and short-attention span of our high-octane, twittering culture. They are both edgy and law-abiding, liberating to chef and diner alike. Their very anti-status turns dining at a pop up restaurant into an event.

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Future Dining: a waiterless society

Restaurants go High Tech with e-Menus

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We might gripe about high prices, overdone steaks, or a long wait for a table, but nothing irritates us more than lousy service.

Restaurants are experimenting with a host of new gadgets, gizmos, and geekery that could reinvent restaurant service.

For now it’s mostly a marketing gimmick, but ultimately restaurant owners hope to reduce staffing costs by automating many functions. For the diner it can mean an end to desperate efforts to flag down an inattentive waiter. No more intrusive social interaction with “hello-my-name-is-kimberly-and-I’ll-be-your-server.”

But what will happen to all of those out-of-work actors? […]

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All the Cool Kids are Drinking Coconut Water

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It’s huge in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In the U.S., not so much.

No, we’re not talking about soccer.

As the bottled water market falters under environmental and economic pressures, the beverage industry is on the lookout for a new cash cow. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are both betting that coconut water could be the next big thing, with matching investments in Brazilian producers. […]

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Sweet Tooth or Salt Tooth?

There is an unsteady alliance when salt and sugar commingle.

It happens when the tastes are unblended and distinct; balanced in a dizzy dance on your tongue. Some of these couplings are legendary, like melon with prosciutto; some are classic, like french fries with ketchup; and some are questionable, like ‘Hawaiian’ pizza with pineapple and ham. […]

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Top Pig: the world’s most expensive ham

 

 

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The world’s most expensive ham went on sale last month.

The upscale UK department store Selfridges is offering the ham for sale in the food hall of their flagship London store. The leg of jamón ibérico de bellota weighs a bit over 15 pounds and is selling for $2,940.

What could possibly justify a price tag of nearly $200 per pound for a ham? […]

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Slow Your Roll: anti-energy drinks

image courtesy of flickr

Remember 2007?

Unemployment was low and the Dow was high. We were mainlining energy drinks— $7 billion worth— just to keep up. If the party wasn’t stopping then neither were we.

These days, we’re all frazzled nerves. We’re looking to be soothed. We need something to bring us down from the ledge of our own anxiety. […]

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Macarons: Kicking cupcakes to the curb

les-macarons

A few months back, we wondered if we had reached total cupcake saturation. Like hedge funds and Florida real estate, it was looking like cupcakes had their own bubble of over-heating, over-expansion, and over-investment  with borrowed capital. The cupcake hucksters appeared, hawking their second-rate baked goods on every street corner. Too much inferior buttercream was leaving a bad taste our mouths.

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Mini-Size Me

image courtesy of MarcWellness.com

image courtesy of MarcWellness.com

Bucking the Big Gulp theory.

The venti coffee at Starbucks. The big tub of popcorn at the movies.

It’s a basic law of restaurant economics: overhead is fixed, ingredients are cheap. Why not pile a little more on each plate? It’s win-win; the customer pays a little more for the super-sized portion and the restaurant clears a little more profit. But the recession is changing all that. Smaller portions at lower prices are in.

Portion control pays a big dietary dividend. Over the course of a year, you’ll lose about a pound for every 10 calories you cut from your daily intake. Cutting 100 calories is as painless as substituting tortilla chips for potato chips, a bagel for a donut, mozzarella instead of Swiss.

Bigger isn’t always better!

Here are some online resources to help you boost your portion awareness:

NutritionData.com is a good place to start. Its Daily Needs Calculator will recommend values for key nutrients based on your age, body mass index, and activity level.

Epicurious.com has a directory of portion control products like food scales, food scoops, and serving guideline place mats and plates.

Visual Cues can help you estimate proper portion sizes (baseball-sized vegetable servings, thumb-sized cheese, and 4 stacked dimes for fats).

Divine Caroline has a pictorial essay depicting food portion trends over the last few decades.

How portion savvy are you? Take the interactive Portion Distortion Quiz sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

 

Posted in food trends, Health | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Pomegranates are here to stay

pomegranate_seeds

It took a few centuries, but it looks like the pomegranate has finally gone mainstream.

There are few foods that can match the pomegranate for cultural power and mystique. Pomegranates inspired poets from Homer to Shakespeare. Egyptians buried pomegranates with their dead to ensure safe passage to the afterlife. Both Buddha and the Prophet Muhammad ascribed sacred powers to the fruit, and many scholars believe it was not an apple but a pomegranate that Eve was offered in the Garden of Eden.

It’s taken a while, but the pomegranate has definitely caught on. […]

Posted in food trends, Health, recipes | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Crazy for Infographics

Infographics are hot!

Infographics have moved well beyond the food pyramid.
Visual representations of data and information are the perfect tool for our time.
They’re like shorthand that cuts through the text overload, able to convey abstract or complex information quickly and clearly.
They rely on a universal visual language that suits our globalized media.
They transcend analytics to win hearts and minds.
They can quickly become addictive.
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sugar content (courtesy of SugarStacks.com)
Posted in Entertainment, food trends, Web 2.0 | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Gingerbread Houses 2009

gingerbreadtemplate

What’s up with gingerbread houses in 2009? Plenty, it seems.
Gingerbread houses have gone green and organic, like the 10×14 foot edible estate with LED lights and a green “vegetated” moss roof on display in the Charlotte Ritz-Carlton. They are made of cupcakes, boast chocolate bar solar panels and gumdrop wind turbines, and are mid-century modern design.

Here’s a sampling of what’s online this holiday season:

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Posted in food trends, shopping | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Trend Watching 2010

image via Free Republic

image via Free Republic

It’s that time of year.

We look back at this past year and ahead to the next.
The media are full of lists enumerating the best and worst of 2009 and prophesizng the trends for 2010.
A good best of/worst of list is one we agree with. A good trend report is tougher to spot. […]

Posted in food policy, food trends | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Do You Eat Like a Conservative or a Liberal?

cupcakes-flags

Remember the defining moment in the 2008 election? In the still wide field of Democratic presidential candidates, the senator from Illinois strode into a Rural Issues Forum on a farm outside of Des Moines, Iowa and asked this question:
Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?
That’s when we knew that Barack Obama was a foodie like us.

It turns out that Democrats do like arugula. And Thai food. And brie. […]

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