Stupid things are sometimes far more compelling to me than smart ones. For instance, I seldom think about the themes in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s epic Three Colors trilogy, but to this day I don’t understand why, in The Blues Brothers, the Good Ol’ Boys arrive at Bob’s Country Bunker at 3 a.m., ready to play a show in the middle of the night. Likewise, I can’t stop thinking about the idiocy that is the latest viral food meme, the 100 Foods to Eat Before You Dielist that keeps bubbling up on Facebook.
As we near mid 2012 it's high time we check in on five cities — New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland — to see which restaurants are raising the bar with their new (or improved) wine programs. While some might assume that New York and San Francisco would lead the pack of forward-thinking lists, the last six months have shown that the some of the country's most innovative lists are popping up outside the big two. Here, now, a look at ten hot lists from Ambonnay in Portland, OR to Nellcôte in Chicago, to North End Grill in New York City.
Urban Union, Chicago
Chef/Wine Director: Michael Schrader
Located in Chicago's Little Italy, Chef Michael Schrader's Urban Union boldly swears off red sauce in favor of clean, market-driven small plates. The wine list also ventures outside of straw bottle Chianti and Tuscan vernaccia to include a long list of German and Austrian whites. The rest of the list's 150+ selections stay within Italy, France, Spain, and California and wear very low markups, with most selections falling right around $40. The wines by the glass offer a particular draw, with more than 30 (including more than a handful on tap) between $5 and $18/glass. The focus here is on acid and brightness and the producers who are bringing it are mostly small with an eye toward organic and/or biodynamic farming.
Standouts: Larmandier-Bernier Blanc de Blancs Brut, Vertus NV $93; Knoll Grüner Veltliner Smaragd "Kreutles" 2008 $63; Michel Lafarge Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2008 $55; Eric Texier St-Julien en St-Alban "Vielle Serine" 2009 $60
One popular tool in McDonald’s Euro marketing kit has been the “My Burger” competition. Consumers dream up new burgers, usually under the mandate to use only on-hand ingredients, with the best ideas tried as limited-time offers.
It’s not just a way to engage consumers; it also can be a means to developing actual menu winners. In fact, the much-discussed McRibster sandwich came to be through Austria’s “Mein Burger” competition last year.
At McDonald’s in Spain, the “Mi Hamburguesa” competition has narrowed to five finalists. Now that the Burger Brackets are over, we need something new to cast votes for, so consider these burger builds from Spain:
◙ The MC Flanders: A beef patty specked with pepper topped with caramelized-onion sauce, lettuce, fresh onion, tomato, bacon and melted Emmental cheese on a French roll.
◙ The McCantabrica: A crispy chicken patty with bacon-favored cheese, blue-cheese sauce, crispy onions and tomato on a corn-dusted ciabatta roll.
This year Food Channelpresents its 2012 Trends Forecast—the top ten food trends predicted for the coming year. This report is put together in conjunction with CultureWaves, the International Food Futurists, and Mintel International.
For more than 20 years The Food Channel has uncovered food trends ahead of the curve. “These insights are serious business to us. We realize we are both reflecting what is happening, and influencing some future food decisions. While all the predictions this time of year are fun for foodies, we also know that they give those who make their living from food a competitive edge when it comes to what drives their consumers’ choices,” said The Food Channel Vice President and Editor in Chief Kay Logsdon. As retailers continue the drive to build BRANDS, the need to embrace trends and develop products that lead the market becomes crucial. How will you bring these trends to life?
The Food Channel Top Ten Food Trends for 2012
- Black Market Foods—Limited supplies of items to help drive up popularity.
- Inconspicuous Consumption—Spending quite a bit, but making it look like we’re not spending much.
- Social Media: Finding Common Ground and Common Courtesy—Social media is mixing with restaurants with some tension on both sides.
- Shopping Schizophrenia—Welcome to the new balancing act when it comes to eating.
- Beyond Ramen Noodles—Colleges are being forced to provide a wide-ranging food experience.
- So THAT’s What it Tastes Like!—Less sodium, fresher locally-sourced produce, and fewer smokers on premise means people are tasting ingredients as they were meant to be.
- The New Agri-Chef—Chefs who simply like to cook with what they’ve grown.
- Groovin’ On Peruvian—Peruvian cuisine may be the next Big Thing on the ethnic culinary scene.
- Social Cooking—More cooking is being done outside as a social event.
- The Rise of the YouTube Chef—Everyone is their own food TV star these days
Are you in the restaurant, foodservice or food manufacturing business? No matter how tough the economy is, people still need to eat. And foodservice entrepreneurs have shown a lot of creativity in the past few years—in fact, you could almost say the recession has sparked a renaissance of restaurant industry creativity. Beyond food trucks, burgers and beer, what are some of the hot food trends for 2012?
Here are 10 of the most promising trends I’ve featured on my food trends site, SmallBizTrendCast.
- Artisanal everything: Not new, but still going strong, “artisanal” originally referred to handcrafted foods but is now springing up everywhere. The term has even trickled down to quick-service restaurants, with major chains like Jack in the Box touting “artisanal” breads as a selling point. One product that’s not quite so mainstream: artisanal marshmallows.
- So cool it’s hot: Ice cream (especially, you guessed it, artisanal ice cream) shows no signs of slowing down. (And why should it—who doesn’t love ice cream?) Next up, restaurant consulting firm Andrew Freeman & Co. predicts “snow ice”–a dessert with the flavor and creaminess of ice cream but that has a light, airy texture—will hit big in the U.S. for 2012.
- One potato, two potato: They may have been banned from school lunchroom menus, but they’re showing up everywhere else. Andrew Freeman & Co. says the big trend will be “have-it-your-way” potatoes, such as make-your-own mashed potatoes with customized mix-ins, fries where you can choose the cut, degree of crispness and dipping sauce; and chips with custom “dustings” and dips. If plain old potatoes sound too unhealthy for your customers, try offering sweet potato fries and dishes.
- Breakfast anytime: Customers want what they want when they want it—and for many, what they want is breakfast. Restaurants are happy to oblige, since breakfast food ingredients are typically cheaper than other meals. Some are serving breakfast menus all day long; others are reinterpreting breakfast foods for dinner with items like sandwiches made of waffles, egg dishes or French toast bread puddings.
- Juicy news: Depending on where you live, it might seem like juice bars are oversaturated. But Howard Schultz doesn’t think so. The Starbucks entrepreneur recently bought Evolution Fresh, a super-premium juice maker with a brand presence in grocery stores on the West Coast. He plans to sell the juice to more retail outlets, put it on the menu at Starbucks and launch juice bars in 2012. If Schultz thinks this market has more room for growth, maybe you should, too—especially if you’re in an area where juice bars (or Starbucks) don’t have a strong presence.
- Sweets from Swedes: Scandinavian sweets, which have long been popular in places with lots of Scandinavians, like Minnesota, are now becoming trendy in urban areas like L.A. and New York. What’s behind the popularity? Americans are craving small sizes and natural ingredients, both features of Scandinavian treats. One to watch: a dark treacle syrup called stroop, used in Dutch desserts.
- Healthy eating: Trends like gluten-free foods and products catering to diners with food allergies will continue to be hot. Watch for whole grains, a wider range of salads, selection in portion size, and low-sodium options to grow in popularity as well.
- Appetite for appetizers: Whether you call them tapas, small plates or appetizers, smaller-sized portions are going to keep growing strong for several reasons. They’re less expensive for cost-conscious diners, offer smaller portions for health-conscious diners, and are made for sharing, which appeals to people’s desire to make eating out a social experience. Chefs like them, too, because appetizers allow them to experiment with new recipes and ingredients without committing to a full-scale meal.
- Mostly Mediterranean: In a recent Technomic poll, 60 percent of restaurant-goers said they are open to trying Mediterranean food, and sales of Greek, Spanish and Middle Eastern menu items grew by nearly 2 percent between 2009 and 2010. A growing interest in eating healthfully, vegetarian foods and ethnic foods are among the factors in Mediterranean food’s popularity—so break out the chickpeas.
- Familiar favorites with a twist: One overwhelming trend that will continue into 2012 is a yen for familiarity. Consumers battered by the economy want comfort food. But that doesn’t mean plain old mac-and-cheese. Americans are eager to try new tastes, as long as it’s couched in something they know. So smart chefs are putting new twists on old formats, like pizzas, wraps and sandwiches, or using exotic ingredients in familiar foods (wasabi ice cream).