José Andrés to Enter Fast Casual Segment in D.C.

José Andrés, the Ferran Adrià prodigy who popularized Spanish cuisine in the U.S., will be launching a vegetable-focused fast casual concept. The first location of ‘Beefsteak” (play on the tomato variety), will open on campus at George Washington University in Washington D.C. early next year. José Andrés, aside from having his own course on food at the university, also serves as an advisor on food initiatives and has been testing dishes with his staff for months.

José Andrés would like to clarify that his concept is not “vegetarian,” it is vegetable-centric. As Jose says, “We don’t like to call it vegetarian. We want to call it tasty, fun, sexy, good-looking.” Vegetables has been around forever, so this concept is not about ‘the next big thing,’ so much as it is re-inventing and converting people’s ideas about vegetables. Roy Choi, the Los Angeles food-truck chef, recently posted on his Instagram about the future of vegetables and how he is, “trying to make vegetables relevant to a new generation by just making them fun.” Batali and Bastianich also have a portion of Eataly dedicated solely to dishes prepared with vegetables, and world famous chef Rene Redzepi of Noma is always preaching the virtues of vegetables.

Vegetable restaurants do exist, such as Vedge in Philadelphia, where chef Richard Landau reaffirms that vegetables are beginning to ‘move from the side of the plate to the center.” Jose Andre’s Beefsteak will be the first of its kind in Washington D.C. and if it is successful, will expand and open more locations. Before opening his now wildly successful Jaleo, people had their doubts about tapas and small portions; now small plates are a nationwide phenomenon. José Andrés is confident that despite the doubts about a vegetable-centric fast casual, he will be successful in giving the people “what they don’t know they are craving.”

To read more about the new fast casual concept and other vegetable-focused eateries, click here

Crumbs Bakery Is Back!

Crumbs filed for bankruptcy earlier this summer upsetting cupcake lovers across the nation. Come next Tuesday Crumbs will be reopening! A grand reopening celebration will be taking place at their 1385 Broadway location in the Garment District which has recently been repainted for the event. There are twenty five over locations including L.A, Chicago and Boston that will be having celebratory opening blowouts over the course of the next 20 days.

One of Crumbs Bakery’s new partners, TV host Marcus Lemonis, is eager for the relaunch to showcase his new bagel-croissant hybrid which is meant to encompass the “new, modern Crumbs experience.” This new fusion pastry coined “baissant” with be found in stores next to the “Crumbnut,” a reinterpretation of the Cronut. The idea of introducing these new pastry mash-ups was to diversify the product mix beyond just the scope of cupcakes. There will also be some new cupcake flavors though such as salted caramel and key lime. A few other new non-cupcake offerings will include frozen desserts, cookies, gluten-free options and Crumbs chocolate bars.

To read more about the reopening of Crumbs and it’s new product mix, click here

Fine Dining Chefs Entering Fast Casual Space

While many chefs have made the transition from fine dining to fast casual before the term was even coined, there has been a recent increase of chefs wanting to enter this market as it continues to grow at an impressive rate. Chef Wolfgang Puck launched Wolfgang Puck Express in 1991, and Chef Tom Colicchio created the sandwich-focused “witchcraft” in 2003 and now operates 16 locations. Infamous New York City restaurateur Danny Meyer launched his “Shake Shack” burger concept in 2004 (now with 56 locations worldwide) with a business model that is highly sought after to emulate.

Going from fine dining to fast casual is very appealing as it opens up a completely new market in a sector with incredible growth and potential. The National Restaurant Association has reported a total of $173.8 billion in sales for fast casual restaurants, which is an 11% growth increase in 2013. While Michelin starred chefs are excited for the challenge, it is definitely not an easy transition from fine dining. Adam Fleischman of Umami Burger, who has announced he is partnering with chef Joshua Skenes of San Francisco’s ‘Saison’ to launch a fast casual noodle chain (Fat Noodle), has said that, “the tricky thing is that just because you’re a name chef, [it] doesn’t translate into being a fast-casual person.”

Chef Ethan Stowell of Seattle operates nine restaurants plus his fast casual pizza concept, Ballard Pizza Company. Stowell describes the draw to the fast casual market which so many chefs are currently experiencing, “I think that sometimes as a chef you get kind of pigeonholed into just being a chef, and there are a lot of chefs out there who are chefs and businessmen at the same time. That’s why I did it, because I like the business aspect of it. I like the model. I like the idea of potentially multiplying it out and growing that business.”  Stowell points out what fine dining chefs can bring to the operation from past experience which can make a true impact: the approach to product and guest’s experience; “I don’t think they are much different than running higher-end places, the goals are still the same. The goals are have somebody come in to have a good time, try to offer them good value for what they get. Treat them wth respect, they treat you with respect, and everybody leaves happy with the transaction.”

To read more about different chefs interested in entering the fast casual market and what they can bring to the table, click here

Kappo Masa Opening on UES

Larry Gagosian is a globally known art dealer who is very important in his field. He owns a chain of his own galleries of which the flagship gallery is found on Maddison Avenue and 76th Avenue. Larry always believed that upper east side area neighboring his Gagosian Gallery needed more restaurants. Gogosian then had an idea: to open a restaurant within the gallery. “I had an idea for a restaurant in this building.”

Gagosian proceeded to asking a chef at whose restaurants he is a regular: sushi master Chef Masa Takayama from his restaurant Masa near Columbus Circle. After Gagosian proposed to begin a partnership, Chef Takayama agreed and the deal was done! The lower level of the gallery was transformed into a stylish dining room with textured oya stone walls and some interesting art pieces. “This is not going to be an extension of the gallery,” Mr. Gagosian said.

The open kitchen will serve raw and cooked items for a large, seasonal menu of sushi; sashimi; and grilled, steamed, braised and fried dishes. Many of these dishes will often offer luxurious ingredients such as caviar or white truffles which will be served on dinnerware that has been designed by Chef Masa Takayama. The presentation of the sashimi is very inventive as it is displayed on frozen blocks of glass. Bamboo Bento Boxes will be served at the lunch hour. The restaurant within an art gallery will open tomorrow at 976 Madison Avenue (76th Street), 212-647-2942.

To read more about the partnership and new restaurant where art and sushi collide, click here

Yaffa Cafe Closes in East Village

Yaffa Cafe, a favorite 24-hour restaurant in the East Village, has closed for good after 32 years of service. Yaffa Cafe was a great late night spot in the neighborhood popular amongst NYU students. Last month the Department of Health shut down the cafe for several violations including a lack of a secondary fire exit in the backyard. The managers at Yaffa Cafe tweeted that their recipes would live on at their sister establishment, Simone Martini Bar, which can be found just down the block.

Locals took to twitter to express their anger, nostalgia and bitterness about the sudden close of Yaffa Cafe. It seems the general feeling is that Yaffa Cafe in St Marks Place will be missed for its quirkiness and all-night backyard hangout space which has already been dismantled and removed. The editor of the Guardian, Alex Koppelman, tweeted, “Yaffa Cafe is gone, and 23-year-old me is very sad.”

To read some of the tweets that came upon the news of the closing of Yaffa Cafe, click here

The Good Batch Bakery Opens in Clinton Hill

A new bakery, The Good Batch, opened September 9th in Clinton Hill. Some of you may be familiar with The Good Batch as their team has been present at Smorgasburg serving up delicious ice cream sandwiches. The Good Batch in Clinton Hill serves morning pastries, cakes, ice cream sandwiches and many other delightful sweets and treats. The bakery has also been working hard to grow their new wholesale line. The bakery has a small  cafe in the front of the shop that has been warmly welcoming neighbors since their opening.

Be sure to check out the shops latest ice cream sandwich creation from Sous Chef Chloe: The Crispy. The Crispy is a gluten-free caramel rice crispy cookie filled with vanilla ice cream. Other items on the menu this weekend include the Goodwich (oat chocolate chunk cookie, sea salt, drizzled fudge, vanilla ice cream), the gluten-free Almond Toffee (almond toffee macaroon, toasted almonds, burnt sugar caramel, toffee candy, vanilla ice cream) and the Coffee Caramel (brown butter salty cookie, caramel cream, crushed espresso beans, coffee ice cream).

To check out some pictures of The Good Batch at 936 Fulton Street and their goodies, click here

Single Concept MatchaBar in Williamsburg

Matcha is a powdered green tea that has almost as intense of an energy kick as caffeine. Additionally, the finely ground matcha powder is full of all the same nutritional benefits as green tea. This traditional Japanese drink is currently offered in a few Japanese coffee shops throughout Manhattan (for example Bosie Tea Parlor in the west village). Now, however, it can be found in the new single-concept MatchaBar that opened in Williamsburg!

Owners Max and Graham Fortgang (brothers) import matcha directly from farms in Nishio, Japan and have created a menu based around the matcha powder. A few items that can be found at MatchaBar include matcha lattes, matcha tea, and a few dessert and food items that include matcha in the recipes catered by Watty & Meg, a farm to table neighborhood restaurant in Cobble Hill.

Beginning in a few weeks, the MatchaBar space will also double as a speakeasy at night. Check out the space at  93 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn (near North 10th Street). To read more about the opening of MatchaBar and to view some photos of the food and beverages, click here

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