Cocktail Bar Branding Gets Creative

 

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Signature drinks are what cocktail bars are known for. But some bars have found ways of dropping a signature literally in the drink itself!

The trend includes branded ice cubes, citrus twists, olives, and made to order, fire-scorched wooden coasters.

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Domino’s Pizza accused of wage theft of $567,000

Three Domino’s Pizza franchises have been accused of owing $567,000 in back wages and underpayments to workers.

Importantly, the lawsuit, filed by New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman, also lists Domino’s Pizza Inc (the franchisor) as a “joint employer” in the case. “As our suit alleges,” Schneiderman said in a statement “we’ve discovered Domino’s headquarters was intensely involved in store operations, and even caused many of these violations.” Specifically, Schneiderman accused the Domino’s Pizza Inc. of being complicit in the underpayment by urging operators to use the company’s PULSE computer system, even though the company knew the system under-calculated gross wages.

Domino’s has counted these accusations by claiming it is not responsible for the employment practices of its operators.

The most recent lawsuit follows settlements with 12 other franchisees that operate 61 locations and have agreed to pay 1.5 million to date.

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It’s Dinner: But Is It Cooking?

What is a meal kit?  A meal kit includes all of the ingredients and recipes to make delicious meals at home.  More than one hundred companies now offer to do the planning, shopping, and prepping, leaving the joy of cooking, and eating, to you.  The United States meal market could grow by as much as five billion dollars over the next decade.

Meal kits are regarded by some as a positive development in cooking culture.  The kits provide ideas and eliminate the need to decide “what’s for dinner?”.  Feedback from customers, especially millennials, is that these kits are teaching them how to cook, so they can feel involved in the kitchen,

Blue Apron is one of the leaders in this category, and the company offers a subscription service with: original recipes weekly (500-800 calories per serving), fresh ingredients (pre-measured to avoid waste) and convenient delivery across the nation (arriving in a refrigerated box).  As a pricing example, Blue Apron offers a 2-Person Plan including 3 recipes per week for a total of $59.94 ($9.99 per serving) or a Family Plan for 4 including 2 recipes per week for a total of $69.92 ($8.74 per serving).

A price point of $9-$10 per meal is a lot of money for most people.  However, some believe the kits are worth the time saved driving/walking to the store and shopping.

The meal kit market gets very specialized at a point.  Fans of Northern California cuisine and chefs can join Sun Basket, and enthusiasts of Georgia farmers and Southern chefs may subscribe to PeachDish.

Meal kits might help to cut down on food waste through pre-portioned ingredients.  According to an estimate by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, up to thirty-one percent of America’s post-harvest food supply is thrown away.

One complaint about the kits is that too much packaging is used, and besides current recycling methods, there is a hope that one day the insulation will be compostable.

As far as home-cooking trends are concerned, meal kits are at the forefront.  How much staying power will they have?  Time will tell…

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A Better Chocolate Babka

If you are looking to nosh on something, with your coffee, tea or seltzer, might I suggest a slice of babka?

Babka is a sweet loaf, similar to a light textured coffee cake.  Babka is made from a doubled and twisted length of yeast dough and is typically baked in a high loaf pan.  It starts with a rich, slow-rise dough made with lots of butter, real vanilla, fresh egg yolks, lemon zest, sugar and sea salt.  The dough is rolled around an almond frangipane (made from almonds, almond flour, more vanilla, butter, sugar and eggs), then brushed with dark chocolate and cinnamon sugar.  You can fill a babka with almost anything sweet: chocolate, jam, dulce de leche, homemade ganache, and Nutella to name a few.  The babka is usually scattered with brown sugar streusel.

This pastry is associated with Eastern European Jewish tradition.  The word “babka” is both Polish and Yiddish, deriving from “baba,” meaning grandmother.

Baking a babka requires commitment.  Babkas can take a day or more to make, which includes three and a half hours to bake, and six to twenty-four hours to rise.  Refrigerating the dough in between steps makes it easier to work with, and a longer proofing period gives the loaf a more complex flavor.  Proofing is the final rise of shaped bread dough before baking.

New York bakeries have joined the babka movement.  Bklyn Larder fills its babka with ganache, Sadelle’s creates a chocolate-cookie version and Breads Bakery presents a Nutella loaf.  Baz Bagel even bakes its babka into bread pudding.

Babka freezes very well, making for second servings, and another delicious snack or dessert.

To read more, please click here

 

Bringing Tradition Back; Bakeries Mill Again

The revolution is fermenting.  Right now, in a handful of bakeries around the country, there is a movement underway–stone mills are turning and fresh flour is turning into sourdough.  For most everyone reading this article, flour has always been ghost-white, shelf stable, and flavorless.  Fortunately for those of us who are gluten-tolerant, change is coming!

From California and Arizona to New York and North Carolina, bakeries are bringing tradition back.  In a time that none of us can remember, bakeries were where people bought their flour–freshly milled, whole grain from bran to germ–and had their loaves baked.  In the last 100 years or so, industrialization took over the process and bestowed upon us the wonderful white flour.  Unfortunately, we didn’t totally understand what was happening when we stripped wheat of its perishable part, the germ, and replaced it with a selection of vitamins to ‘fortify’ the remnants, the starchy endosperm.

Dough heavy weights such as Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery (San Francisco), Richard Bourdon of Berkshire Mountain Bakery, and Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco are popularizing on-site milling.  By milling the wheat whole, the oils, enzymes, and nutrients remain intact.  “When you compare what’s removed from wheat to make commercial flour, it tracks pretty well with the nutrients that are most deficient in the U.S. population,” says Dr. David Killilea, a nutritional biochemist at the Children’s Hospital of Oakland Research Institute.  In addition to the nutritional benefits, chefs are working directly with farmers and scientists–particularly those at Washington State University’s Bread Lab–to turn out loaves that maximize the flavor and texture profiles of different breeds.

To read more, click here and here.

 

Nutrition Labels Get FDA-Approved Recipe

Nutrition Facts Label - What

Last week, Michelle Obama made a monumental speech to usher in significant change to the world of packaged foods. The nutrition facts labels are getting a major makeover.  From Oreos to milk, food manufacturers will have two years to comply with the changes.  Here is what to expect:

  • Larger, bolder type for calories and serving size
  • Changes to serving sizes to be more accurate with consumption and packaging
  • Added line to delineate added sugars
  • Additional Nutrients required

While many nutritionists and dietitians see the changes as a great step in the right direction, industry trade groups are speaking up with concerns.  For example, the American Bakers Association is perusing the full 943-page document and has already flagged issues with the timing, definition of dietary fiber, and added sugars.

Additionally, the Grocery Manufacturers Association said the update was due as eating habits have changed.  However, they also have concerns that the new label may cause some confusion and that education will be necessary.

To read more, click here and click here for the FDA’s overview of changes.

Restaurants and Bars May Soon Be Permitted to Sell Alcohol Before Noon on Sunday

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Calling the it the “most bizarre, arcane, frustrating, maddening law that you could imagine” Governor Cuomo has proposed new regulations permitting restaurants and bars to sell alcohol before 12 on Sundays. A “hangover” from the Prohibition , the new law will be voted on next month by the legislature and could go into effect soon after.

If approved, booze at brunch (or breakfast even) would be legal across NY state as early as 8am.

The specialty-appointed panel who made the recommendation are part of a task force charged with modernizing state alcohol laws and cutting red tape.

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Amazon’s Latest Expansion Will be Under the Belt

Amazon’s latest expansion into the food market is the launch of its own private-label product lines. Amazon users and internet-scrollers (so just about everyone) can soon expect to hear a lot more about perishable goods marketed under names like Happy Belly, Wickedly Prime, and Mama Bear. The service, available only to Prime members, is scheduled to roll out as soon as the end of July/early June. Hopefully the e-commerce giant’s partnership will be a boost to local food retailers, providing an opportunity to expand customer base across the country.

While Amazon discreetly rolled out private-label lines under Amazon Basics in 2015, sales before were limited to electronic and tech parts. The latest expansion moves much further. Amazon has recently applied for trademark protection for a variety of foods including potatoes chips, chocolate, pasta, and granola.

The move will unfold just ahead of another Amazon food venture: its delivery service for which it is partnering with Tyson Foods.

So whether you choose to embrace it or curse it, Amazon’s latest expansion will certainly impact local food markets.

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A Return Trip to the Caribbean

Guyana, a country on South America’s North Atlantic coast, is defined by its dense rainforest. The country is English-speaking, with strong traditions of cricket and calypso music, and culturally it’s connected to the Caribbean region.  Angela Pellew-Whyte is a native of Guyana and the chef at Angela’s in Bedford –Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

Interestingly, Ms. Pellew-White ran the original Angela’s on the same corner from 1997 to 2004, and after training in the culinary program at the Art Institute of New York City, she returned to the same space to pick up where she had left off.  Ms. Pellew-White draws inspiration from growing up in a household of nine children, where her father prepared feasts for a large, extended family.  While her sisters played with dolls, she cooked.

Caribbean food has been described as bold, full-flavored, aromatic and textured food.  Caribbean food is a fusion of influences that may include plantains, okra and rice from African slaves, stir-fries and soy sauce from Chinese migrant workers, pork in all forms from Spanish colonists, puff pastry from the French and curries delivered with indentured servants from India.

One of Chef Pellew-White’s featured dishes is Guyanese saltfish and bake.  Bake is a type of fried bread that can be eaten with almost anything: jams, jellies, corned beef/mutton, saltfish, even vegetable dishes such as sautéed okra or tomato choka.  Recommended dishes includes codfish sliders, oxtail (the meat is braised and complemented by gravy), curry goat (with scents of cumin and curry), jerk chicken (in a strong marinade), okra (beautifully tender), plantains (soft and warm), rice and peas, and corn with house dressing.  Pricing is moderate.

Angela’s can be found on the corner of Nostrand and Jefferson Avenues, and serves moderately-priced, pan-Caribbean dishes.

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One Sommelier’s Streamlined Vision

Only the well-financed restaurants have the resources to present the best wines.  Most wine-conscious restaurants narrow their visions and choose a style or region in which to concentrate.  The selection complements the cooking and conveys something about the restaurant’s identity.

Freek’s Mill is a new casual restaurant in Gowanus, Brooklyn, and features one of the most narrowly concentrated selections of wine.  However, if you want Beaujolais or a chenin blanc, this restaurant is the place to be; these wines make up about 70% of the bottle inventory.  The wine list was constructed by Alex Alan, the sommelier and a partner in the restaurant.  Mr. Alan said his choices grew out of a draft of the restaurant’s opening menu, which emphasized seasonal vegetables, small plates and a wood-burning oven.

Beaujolais is a French wine generally made of the Gamay grape which has a thin skin and is low in tannins.  Beaujolais tends to be a very light-bodied red wine, with relatively high amounts of acidity.  The wine takes its name from the historical Province of Beaujolais, a wine producing region.  Chenin blanc is a white wine grape variety from the Loire valley of France. Its high acidity means it can be used to make everything from sparkling wines to well-balanced dessert wines,

Mr. Alan is quoted, “In a perfect world, I want to give customers what they want.  But I also want to teach them something without it feeling like I’m teaching them something.” The author of this article, Eric Asimov, applauds Mr. Alan for choosing wonderful wines that will reward customers who put themselves in his hands.

Here lies the age-old debate: Is a restaurant obligated to give customers what they want by offering something for everybody?  Or can it stay true to a vision?

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