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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Pregnant New Yorkers Not to be Refused

Pregnant women in New York City are now legally entitled to purchase an alcoholic beverage, regardless of how it makes the bartender or patrons feel.  New guidelines based on the city’s Human Rights Law now say that refusing to serve a pregnant woman is discriminatory, and restaurants and bars are explicitly prohibited from refusing mothers-to-be.

Specifically, “While covered entities may attempt to justify certain categorical exclusions based on maternal or fetal safety, using safety as a pretext for discrimination or as a way to reinforce traditional gender norms or stereotypes is unlawful,” said the Commission on Human Rights.

Multiple medical associations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Surgeon General’s Office discourage any alcohol consumption during pregnancy.  And currently, restaurants and bars are required to post signs warning the dangers of alcohol to fetuses.  This new law now has foodservice establishments “stuck in the middle on this one,” noted Robert Bookman, a lawyer with the New York City Hospitality Alliance.

The new law also covers foods such as raw fish and soft cheese.  To read more, click here.

Quinoa and California; an Unexpected Love Story

Quinoa–you’ve heard it, seen it, tasted it in nearly everything over the past few years.  The ancient grain, indigenous to the Andean regions of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Chili, has grown wildly in popularity due to its complete-protein profile.

However, the seed itself hasn’t grown as wildly.  The pseudocereal is can be difficult to cultivate, and the surge in consumption had recently put a strain on farmers south of the equator.  Between the increasing price of quinoa and the increasing exports, consumers began to express concerns for the origin of their new favorite super food.

Meanwhile, in small, hot, below-sea-level area of the Imperial Valley in California, the Lundberg family has been able to grow the seed with great success.  In 2014, the family farm started with just 40 acres in Northern California.  Now, Lundberg has 800 acres planted and is looking at expanding this dry, forsaken patch in Brawley to 500 acres of what might be the next brown rice.

To read more, click here.

Brooklyn Brewery Joins the Navy Yard

View-1-png.pngBrooklyn Brewery, the borough’s most iconic brewer, originally opened their Williamsburg location in 1996 and helped propel the neighborhood from its downtrodden industrial past to an international destination. But with rents steadily on the rise and showing no signs of slowing, the brewery has been looking for new spaces for several years to move the bulk of their operations once their lease is up in 2025. This weekend they announced that they’ll be following in the footsteps of Russ & Daughters and the Mast Brothers and opening a huge (75,000 square-foot) production facility in the updated Brooklyn Navy Yard under a 40-year lease.

The new facility will include brew space, offices, and a rooftop beer garden and restaurant. The move represents the first time the Brooklyn Brewery will be offering food as well as suds, and chief executive Eric Ottaway promises the menu will be “more than pretzels and bratwursts.” The borough has already committed to $80 million to revamp the Navy Yard’s building 77 as a food hall open to the public. The beer garden there should be open to the public by 2018, and early renderings promise the space will be a major destination for the “foodies” borough president Eric Adams is hoping to attract.

To read more, click here.

The Pre-Shift Meal May be Your Best Tool For Team Building

Many full service restaurants already incorporate a staff meal as part of their operations, but for some that meal may not seem worth the expense or planning required. If you fall into the latter category, we invite you to reconsider some of the added benefits of bringing the team together over a staff meal. Studies done in firehouses show that firefighters who share meals are more cooperative and perform better as a team. And while the stresses of putting out a burning building may not be exactly the same as those of serving a full dining room, there are some basic skills in common. And teammates who are able to relax together and connect when they’re not on the clock are more likely to communicate well when they are. Organizing a shared meal is also a good way for managers to take on joint responsibility and foster teamwork between front of house and back of house.

If organizing a full pre-shift sit-down is impossible at your establishment because of the time required or the nature of the business, we still recommend doing a lineup to go over the latest menu changes and any information that can be shared with guests. For more ideas about adding this simple but powerful step to your daily operations, click here.

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