Archive for the ‘food’ Category
The success of Chipotle is remarkable, especially in the recent economy. Fortune calls out a few of their key statistics: Their stock was in the $50 range three years ago and is now sitting in the $300s. Revenue nearly tripled since 2006 with the number of Chipotle locations doubling. Their margins are 25% to 26%. That’s great success for a “fast casual” restaurant with a seemingly small and basic menu. Those few main ingredients and garnishes can be combined into a large number of choices but I think most people stick to their favorite combos. So it’s not the variety that brings them back. The company is testing out a Asian restaurant called ShopHouse with a similar formula: chicken satay, meatballs, steak and tofu with Asian flavors over brown rice with a selection of accompaniments. DCIst has a snapshot of the menu. Alas for our food allergen avoiding family, ShopHouse serves peanuts. The reason we started patronizing Chipotle was their commendably clear allergen statement and a complete lack of nuts in the place.
In the San Juan Islands near Seattle the unique and old method of reef net fishing is still being practiced by the local Native Americans in the area and commercial fisherman. A net is suspended between two boats or barges, originally two canoes. Salmon are lured into the net by an artificial reef (a diagram is on this page). When the lookout spots a school of salmon coming in, the net is brought up and the fish are pulled into one of the boats. This method leaves the fish in excellent condition and is touted as being highly eco-friendly. Unwanted species are thrown back immediately and the wanted salmon are put in a live pen. Local destination restaurants, the Herbfarm and Willows Inn, have featured reef net caught salmon on their menus. One fisherman has posted video of a catch in action.
As the food truck trend spreads across America, the L.A. Times takes us back to the late 1800s when tamale wagons served customers on the streets of Los Angeles. They’re the forerunners of today’s taco trucks (loncheras), powered by horses instead of gasoline. There were over 100 of them by 1901 and some deemed them unsafe as they supposedly gathered a bad crowd, especially after the saloons closed. But they perservered as fans of Mexican food grew and now their descendants are everywhere, even, some might say, in the spirit, though not the flavor, of the Taco Bell on the corner.
Pie jousting has spread to Burien! What’s pie jousting you ask? Every April 1st at Sully’s Snowgoose Saloon on Phinney Ave. in Seattle a jousting competition is held where competitors ride bicycles and throw cream pies at each other. It’s a lively spectator sport with delightful crowd reactions. Last week in Burien, which is south of Seattle, they held their own pie jousting tournament which included tricycle matches for the little kids. The event raised funds to purchase bike racks for downtown Burien. When visualizing how you might excel at pie jousting, keep in mind that you are riding a bike while holding a pie in one hand. And that your opponent is coming towards you doing the same thing. Here’s the Seattle Times video coverage.
The pancake breakfast fundraiser is a mainstay for many community groups, youth sports clubs, firefighters. In the cultural mosaic of Seattle the pancake breakfast practically forms the identity of the local Scandinavian groups. The Swedish Cultural Center serves pancakes (Swedish of course) once every month except for July. Thousands of pancakes are served. A 2008 newsletter lists the raw ingredients: 220 pounds of flour, 100 dozen eggs, 200 pounds of ham, 50 kilos of lingonberry sauce. Several local Sons of Norway chapters also put on regular pancake feasts (some even call them Swedish pancakes — it’s OK, it’s all one Scandinavia here). In a similar vein, the Polish Home Association has a restaurant that serves Friday night dinners and Sunday brunches with a full menu including cabbage rolls, pierogis, Polish sausage. These food events are not only effective fundraisers, they also bring new members into the clubs. And many, if not most of the diners are from different heritages.
Glimpses behind the scenes of two cooking shows form the core of this Boston Globe article about the not-new phenomenon of chefs marketing themselves on television. Ming Tsai tapes his PBS series on the premises of a high-end appliance distributor. Instructors and interns from Johnson & Wales prep his ingredients. Guest Jacques Pepin joins him to saute up a turkey breast and butterfish, then feast on the results with wine and champagne. Over at Joanne Chang’s restaurant kitchen, she welcomes “Ace of Cakes” star Duff Goldman who is taping a new Food Network show “Sugar High.” Crisis strikes when Chang realizes she gave too many fortune cookies samples to the crew and needs more on-air for her recipe. Goldman offers to take the blame by telling viewers that he ate them all. Things are always more perfect than reality after these cooking shows are edited for broadcast.
Several Marie Callender’s restaurants closed abruptly last week after the parent company filed for bankruptcy. In some cases diners were in the middle of meals when they were asked to leave. All the Washington and Arizona locations were shut down. Florida and Northern California locations were hit hard; seven Bay Area restaurnts were closed with none remaining in the East Bay. The company’s Perkins restaurants in the midwest were also shuttered. Owner-operated franchises of both chains are getting the word out that they are staying open.
Alice Waters has gathered several friends for a series of events to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Chez Panisse and benefit her Edible Schoolyard program. It kicks off on August 26th with the unveiling of Water’s portrait for the National Portrait Gallery. There’s a long list of dinners with special guests at private homes. Michael Pollan will roast a pig in his backyard. Restauranter and long-time Waters friend Cecilia Chiang will host a Chinese banquet with guest Ruth Reichl. The list goes on with several cuisines and chefs represented. Tickets are pricey but funds go to the Edible Schoolyard.
Last year Heinz came out with a clever new ketchup container called the Dip & Squeeze. Perfect for fast food takeout, it lets users dip their french fries in or squeeze the ketchup onto a burger. After this breakthrough idea was promoted on “Good Morning America” David Wawrzynski’s relatives started calling to congratulate him on his invention’s success. But although Wawrzynski had pitched his Little Dipper package to Heinz in 2008, they had cut off contact after an initial interest. He filed a lawsuit against Heinz in October of 2010. No news on the outcome of that yet, but Heinz has just won two industry awards for the Dip & Squeeze.
The Boston Globe connects the price of a simple scoop of ice cream at Toscanini’s in Boston to forces all around the world, from the price of oil from the Middle East to the rising demand for milk in China to the price of grain to feed the dairy cows closer to home in Colrain, Massachusetts. Toscanini’s buys its ice cream mix (the base ingredients), made by Hood, from from Rosev Dairy Foods. Hood buys products from Agri-Mark, a dairy cooperative (they make Cabot cheese). Increasing demand in Asia for U.S. milk has caused prices to rise significantly. The price of sugar is high as well following damage to sugar beet crops in Australia, Russia, and the Ukraine. Toscanini’s is paying 25% more this year for that ice cream mix and their flavoring ingredients are also more expensive. They took pistachios off the menu when the nut hit $10 a pound. But customers are willing to pay more than $4 a scoop for premium ice cream, so Tosci’s is continuing along. And I’m glad that they’re still serving Chocolate No. 3, the ultimate dark chocolate flavor.