Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Service of Favorite Foods No Longer Available

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

Oyster Bar. Photo: afar.com

Charles Passy wrote about some of the taste sensations he misses because businesses that sold them have closed or, as was the case with the Oyster Bar and its caviar sandwich, a restaurant has deep sixed an item from its menu. Good news for the sandwich fans: the Grand Central Terminal favorite has reinstated its sandwich, Passy reported in The Wall Street Journal.

According to Passy, “The menu item, a fixture for more than 15 years, had never been a huge seller, as a typical day saw up to 10 orders. But those who liked it really seemed to like it, Mr. Ingber said.” Sandy Ingber is executive chef.

Photo: thelittleloaf.com

Passy reported that one caviar sandwich fan, Oli Coleman, wrote about it in The New Yorker observing “It went well with a severe martini.” It’s back on the menu as Ingber found a source for reasonably priced caviar. It was dropped to begin with because the price of bowfin caviar would have catapulted the price of the sandwich three fold.

Photo: liquor.com

I reminisce about a rye bread with black pepper chunks on its crust made by a bakery in Bayonne, N.J; the lightest, tastiest mozzarella I chose by chance as an appetizer in an unremarkable looking restaurant in Venice years ago and the fruit tarts and birthday cakes at Dumas, a NYC bakery that has been closed for decades. [I noticed in Google that a Patisserie Didier Dumas is in Nyack, N.Y. The name Dumas in France is the equivalent of Smith or Jones here, and checking the website and seeing nothing that resembles the sweets I remember; nevertheless I should one day check out this place.]

I’m not a fan of sauerkraut—too sour–but once tasted a wonderful plate of it in Paris at a restaurant celebrating the food of Alsace. There was that elusive mulligatawny soup at the Wabeshabelli Hotel I had in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was so long ago that I can’t describe the taste but I’ve never again sipped a mulligatawny soup that pleased me as much.

Sometimes my husband Homer matches the sublime taste of a no-frills plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce that I’ve enjoyed throughout Italy.

What are some of the dishes you remember that are no longer to be had? Have you encouraged a restaurant, bakery or supermarket to reinstate an item you loved and did you change their mind?

Photo: pinterest.com

 

Service of Belonging: New Places to Meet

Monday, March 19th, 2018

Photo: turkishtravelblog.com

Every country, except ours, seemed to have unofficial local gathering spots for some citizens—usually men. In Turkey there were chi shops where men dropped in for tea and gossip; in France, the local bistro was a place to grab a quick glass of wine even in the morning and learn the latest and English and Irish pubs were places in towns and neighborhoods for a cup of Guinness and small talk.

Years ago in NYC, Saturday was the day for singles to meet at Bloomingdale’s, not to buy clothing, furniture or housewares but to meet the next love interest.

New gathering space at Adams in Poughkeepsie

Now supermarkets are filling the bill as a place to meet and greet the neighbors and hang out. In order to distinguish themselves from the burgeoning food delivery businesses–Wal*Mart has joined Amazon.com in home delivery–and meal kits, some have installed tables for special interest groups to meet weekly. Anne Marie Chaker in “Finding Love in the Frozen Food Aisle,” wrote: “grocery stores are making a calculation that customers will stay, shop longer and come back more often.”

An Oregon chain added sofas, fireplaces, seating areas and food services. One in North Carolina created a village concept adding shops around the perimeter and a communal table in the middle where every Friday a group of crafters meets and bingo games take place at other times.

“ ‘There is little money to be made directly from people using a store as a place to hang out,’ says Deborah Weinswig, chief executive of Coresight Research, a retail think tank, who says the benefit may be in a ‘halo effect,’ where shoppers develop a warm perception of a brand.” Chaker reported that one shopper increased his visits from twice a week to daily. Retired, he works two hours on his novel in his supermarket’s seating area, sipping their coffee and munching a muffin. Meanwhile he’s met people from other parts of town.

Photo: groupon.com

A Colorado market owner “says about 25% of his stores are devoted to nonretail space, whether that’s tables in a cafe, performance areas for local musicians, or a designated community room where neighborhood groups meet. Fostering a sense of community, he says, ultimately helps drive traffic. ‘Sure, we could put more aisles in and could pack more product, but then you lose the social hub of community,’ he says.

Tastings with enthusiastic attendees who clog aisles make it tough for hardcore shoppers in a rush to get their chore done and get out. For others, according to Chaker, they’ve found love in those very aisles. Now married, one couple danced in the lunch area when they heard a favorite song.

Do you see a future for supermarkets as America’s answer to chi houses, bistros and pubs? Do you think it’s a concept that might really catch on for those who dislike the bar scene? Will it save supermarkets? What are the best gathering spots in your life?

Photo: alamy.com

Service of Meal-Kits: Less Work for Mother and Father—Or Is It?

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

I founded Delivered Delicacies in the dark ages. I brought prepared foods and the best-of bread, pasta, desserts and more from Manhattan vendors and dropped them off at my clients’ homes and apartments in Brooklyn Heights. In the day, the Heights was a food desert.

Good idea yet there were many reasons the business failed: Too small a pool of potential customers; most didn’t share my passion for great cheese, pâté and other goodies and didn’t get the concept of topnotch prepared food. I soon learned that there was a reason that none of this was available in the neighborhood.

More than Brooklyn has dramatically changed since then: Americans everywhere increasingly appreciate first-class food. It’s no surprise that the meal-kit business has taken off. According to Heather Haddon’s Wall Street Journal article some brands are still thriving in spite of the title, “Once-Hungry Investors Pass on Meal-Kit Startups– Investors are losing their appetite for meal kits.”

A meal kit comes with fresh ingredients and recipes. You cook. An article on Buzzfeed.com in November, noted prices for three meals for two from companies that deliver nationwide ranged from around $72 for Sun Basket and Plated to around $60 for Gobble, Hello Fresh, Home Chef, Marley Spoon and Blue Apron.

Haddon wrote that in the last five years some 150 new meal-kit companies opened so “A shakeout was perhaps inevitable,” according to investors and analysts. I heard a commercial on Bloomberg Radio for Hello Fresh this weekend.

Some “still expect the sector to continue to grow as people look for easier ways to cook at home. Meal-kit sales are projected to grow to more than $6 billion in 2021 from around $2 billion in 2016, according to consultancy Pentallect LLC. Also, meal-kit companies targeting certain diets and taste preferences, such as a paleo diet, could perform well, backers say.”

Hurdles to food startups, wrote Haddon, include larger rivals and some “say meal-kit startups have lost all novelty with Amazon, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Peapod LLC, as well as supermarket chains such as Kroger Co., getting into the business. Bigger companies typically don’t depend on subscriptions and can sell meal-prep kits more cheaply.” Wal-Mart must have tracked my online research because I got an offer for their meal-kit out of the blue last week!

Another significant challenge to the meal-kit business is the expense of keeping subscribers. In a survey the negatives consumers pointed to were the expense, “the burden of having a subscription,” and delivery difficulties. One woman dropped out because too much food was going to waste; another grew bored with the concept and frustrated “with all the packaging.”

I would hesitate before investing in a finicky industry like food that is so impacted by trends, the latest being deliveries of meals from high end restaurants. Do you think meal-kits have the kind of legs one forecaster predicted, noted above, of a $6 billion industry by 2021? [though who, in three years, will remember they said this?]. Let a major thing go wrong with a bunch of meal-kits or if enough people tire of the concept, poof, the kits will go up in smoke. Have you tried a meal-kit? Would you be interested in doing so if you haven’t yet?

Service of Second Careers Started Later in Life

Monday, December 11th, 2017

Photo: zootscoop.com

 

Folks are living–and remaining vigorous and creative–much longer than before and are reinventing themselves after award-winning careers, sometimes doing both at once. Here are three inspiring examples.

The Voice of Radio

Len Berman

I listen to “Len Berman in the Morning” on WOR 710 radio. Len made a name for himself as a beloved TV sportscaster before he hung up his mic for a few years. Three years ago he launched a radio program to wake up the NYC metro area with a partner.

He’s the star now in a tough market, a flourishing generalist–and a gentleman–in a medium that is his to dominate with his guest co-hosts sharing thoughtful, funny, honest—but not disrespectful—fast-paced commentary.

He mentioned on-air the other morning that although he’d been offered another sports TV gig when he left NBC, he didn’t accept it. He must have been waiting for something new and exciting—and certainly challenging given the punishing length and time of the show, 6 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Since becoming the principal player, he seems to be having a wonderful time.

 Fitting Furniture

Michael Miller in the American Fine Craft Show Brooklyn Museum booth

I first met Alexandra and Michael Miller at my client’s American Fine Craft Show at the Brooklyn Museum where they exhibited furniture. Before I saw their whimsical tables and sideboards in person, I’d worked with images of their work that they describe as “handcrafted furniture featuring marquetry and inlay to create imaginative visual stories.” These hinted that the Millers were hip 30-something designer-artisans. They are the former–hip–but not the latter. Before launching Everyman Works, LLC two years ago, they designed and sold prints for packaging, illustration, interior décor and textiles around the world.

So where did furniture fit the picture? “Our decision to open the business came from the outcome of an injury,” said Alexandra. “Michael was convalescing and bored with reading and jigsaw puzzles. He decided to do a bit of marquetry, something he’d enjoyed as a boy. Having made the piece, the idea of applying it to a small table took hold and when it was finished, we both knew there was the germ of a good idea in front of us. Using a contemporary approach to an ancient craft was intriguing.

“We didn’t always dream about doing this; we never thought we could do it better than anyone else; and we were pretty certain we wouldn’t make a lot of money! However, the desire to create is deeply entrenched in us both. Our imaginations and design abilities are, as yet, no less diminished due to age – so why not use them,” said Alexandra.

“Our friends and colleagues were at first astonished and then supportive; our family incredulous and then anxious! They asked ‘Why, are you doing something so risky at this time in your lives?’”

As to the future of their business, they hope “that everyone would have a piece of Everyman Works furniture in their homes!!!” Alexandra added, “Seriously, we hope to keep designing to our own truth; encourage others to view furniture differently; and to make enough money to remain independent for as long as possible.”

Fudge Sauce for Thought

Francine Ryan

Francine Ryan founded “Francine’s Outrageous Fudge Sauce” in October. She continues to be president/CMO of The Ryan Group, a thriving enterprise which she describes as “Not an ad agency. A solutions agency.”

For a decade Francine gave the sauce–she created the recipe–to clients as a holiday gift. She now sells it at high end venues such as the Golden Goose Gala in Garden City, N.Y. and the Monmouth Conservation Foundation holiday event in N.J. There India Hicks, Princess Diana’s bridesmaid, former model and owner of a lifestyle brand, was one of her many customers. (Hicks later posed happily with a spoonful of sauce for posting on Instagram and purchased the sauce to take with her to England – perhaps to serve at dinner with her godfather, Prince Charles?) “Once potential customers get a taste, 75 to 90 percent will buy a jar,” Francine said.

Francine Ryan, left, with India Hicks

The business is a family and friends affair. “One son in law signed me up for an LLC; a dear friend is trademarking the name; another son in law is building a website, a son and daughter work on sales and marketing and my husband, who named it, designed the label and is contributing the creative for the website.”

Her friends were enthusiastic with one exception, a fellow in the food business. He asked: “Why are you doing this at this stage of your life?” She replied: “Why not?”

Another, who dresses some of NYC’s most prestigious retail windows said “What an incredible idea,” admitting that she was jealous and also wants to do “something that’s mine.” A grateful recipient of the sauce agreed with the second friend and reminded Francine that Stonewall Kitchens, now owned by Heinz, was started by two men selling blueberry preserves at fairs in Maine. A former editor of a major magazine said “It is absolutely fabulous and I’m not putting it on ice cream or anything else except my tongue.”

It’s far too soon in the life of this fledgling business for Francine to predict far into its future. For now she envisions applying for certification so she can sell at Farmer’s Markets in upscale environs, at more events, and perhaps at select retailers where customers can taste the sauce on ice cream. She’s also looking into a local commercial kitchen to produce more jars from bigger vats. Currently she produces 100/day. Want to order a bottle or two? Call 917-796-7586 or email francinesfudge@gmail.com.

This successful marketer of sophisticated products and concepts glows like an ingénue when she watches the reactions of people tasting the sauce. “It’s the best feeling in the world when only you can make something that people are mad for. I can continue as long as I want to; I love stirring the vats and having my family involved.”

Do you have a dream second career in the back of your mind at a time you might otherwise be considering hanging up your work gloves? Can you share the names of others who have similarly ventured into uncharted waters?

Photo: Pinterest

Service of Self Restraint

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Photo: jbsa.mil

Many stretch their money to give a little or big something to family and friends at this time of year. If you don’t put self restraint to work, you literally pay the price. I had a great idea for a gift for 2 good friends but to implement it meant spending a ridiculous sum. It’s not every day you think of the perfect gift for people who have everything but common sense said “move on.” I did so far.

Photo: foodiesnyc.com

There’s a new bakery that also sells sandwiches and salads near my office. I’ve been in twice to reconnoiter and I’ve left empty handed. One small beautiful pastry, that may or may not be tasty, costs what a scrumptious, though not as glam, cake does at Trader Joe’s. The price of an éclair, gone in two bites–far smaller than standard size–is $4.95.

Photo: yelp.com

I love flowers but daily pass by the many delis that sell tempting sunflowers and roses in peach, yellow and magenta. It makes no sense to buy them for myself. In summer, our apartment gets too hot when we’re not home so they don’t last long and in winter, the shock of the overheated apartment, when they come in from the cold, kills them pronto. And anyway, I have a collection of orchids, many of which, as I write, show signs of blossoms to come. When they bloom in winter I’m enchanted. In spring I cut daffodils, lilacs, peonies and daisies.

Self restraint isn’t any easier if faced with dietary restrictions. It rarely fails: people are forced to give up things they most love to eat. Was anyone advised to avoid grouse or liver ? [the two foods I most dislike].

Are you good at self-restraint? What are your tricks for avoiding temptation?

Photo: cartoonmovement.com

Service of Pretentious Behavior in Restaurants, in Business & at Home

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Photo: hssaz.org

Who is taken in by pretentious behavior? Such conduct has always turned me off.

Foodie Foolishness

Photo: myhumblekitchen.com

Number 10 of “The 19 Types of Food Snobs, Ranked by Obnoxiousness,” by Andy Kryza and Matt Lynch, stuck out to me. They wrote in Thrillist,com: “It’s been two years since The Repatriated Expat moved back to the US after a magical six months residing in Spain. And yet, the backhanded comments about how ‘it’s so weird to be eating dinner before 10 pm,’ the observations that the gin and tonics ‘just aren’t the same,’ and the refusal to consume any red wine that isn’t Rioja have not lessened in the slightest.” This was my favorite–fun post.

Office Folderol
I started working just as executive secretaries no longer placed calls for bosses. They went like this:

  • Secretary No. 1: “Hello, Mr. Jones calling to speak with Mr. Snodgrass.”
  • Secretary No. 2: “Mr. Snodgrass, Mr. Jones calling.” Snodgrass would get on the line and wait until Jones’ secretary got hold of him—unless Jones had left the office by then and it all started again.

The practice never made sense to me: Why waste four people’s time to accomplish one task?

A similar dynamic happens today sometimes. If I expect a response, I need either to copy—or email—the person’s assistant–even if he/she knows me. It’s pretentious. Why? Many other women and men juggling as many as three busy lives—demanding jobs, onerous family responsibilities and often time-sucking pro bono obligations—get back to me directly and without the fanfare.

Expensive Fashion Accessory

Photo: pinterest.com

In a book review about Meryl Gordon’s “Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend,” I read about Bunny’s sending a private jet to pick up a scarf that was in another of her homes to coordinate with an outfit she was planning to wear. Was Bunny [photo left] spoiled or pretentious? Maybe someone tattled on Mrs. Mellon: Is a person being pretentious if nobody is supposed to know what they do?

Do food snobs drive you nuts? Can you name superfluous, affected business behavior? Are pretentious people aware of the impact of their behavior? Do some not realize that they are?

Photo: redbubble.com

Service of Portions: How Much is the Right Amount?

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

You can’t miss the bus stop poster sponsored by savethefood.com [photo above] on Third Avenue which declares “Every American Wastes 290 pounds of food a year.” It continues, “Cook it. Store it. Share it. Just don’t waste it.”

And the website is full of tidbits such as a family of four “loses $1,500 a year on wasted food.” Percentages of wasted foods include 50 percent of seafood, 48 percent of fruits and veggies, 38 percent of grain products, 22 percent of meat and 20 percent of milk.

According to its website, savethefood.com is a © of the Natural Resources Defense Council [NRDC]. The NRDC describes its mission “to safeguard the Earth, its people, its plants and animals and the natural systems on which life depends.”

Photo: pinterest.com

A friend shared an experience that illustrates the issue. Over Labor Day she attended a catered party for 70 at a home in the Hamptons—salmon, all sorts of bar-b-q, salads, dessert bar–and was shocked at the amount of leftover food. Not a scrap was subsequently eaten by the large family and their guests because they had other engagements over the weekend, she said. She suggested to the host that next time he coordinate with the caterers to arrange for a hookup with a charity to donate leftovers at the end of a party.

Compost collection @ NYC farmer’s market

We have friends who make enough food for an Air Force squadron when they have company but they send guests home with goody bags filled with toothsome treats. We made three delicious meals out of what we were given the other week—nothing wasted.

Another dear friend serves barely enough for two when there are four at his table. The conversation is generous and we enjoy the evening but admit we grabbed a snack when we got home. My parents had a friend like this. She followed suggested portions on packaging to the letter. My dad always ate before going to dinner at her place.

What steps do you take so as not to waste food? What, if anything, do you find yourself throwing out most? Do you make more food than you expect people to eat when you have company or do you try to make just enough?

Photo: tripadvisor.com

Service of Out to Lunch

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

Photo: activepbx.com

Two headlines touting Wall Street Journal reporter Julie Jargon’s recent articles make a point: We’re being more careful with our time and money.

They were:

Going Out for Lunch Is a Dying Tradition: Restaurants suffer as people eat at their desks; no more three-martini sit-down meals” and

Diners Are Finding $13 Burgers Hard to Swallow: Number of outlets peddling gourmet toppings has nearly quadrupled since 2005, but sticker-shocked consumers opt for home grilling instead.”

I’ve always been statistically insignificant but both headlines ring true to me, with some adjustments.

The three-martini lunch may have lasted longer in some industries than in others but it hasn’t been in evidence for eons in my experience for health, budgetary and reasons of time constraints, to name a few in no particular order. And speaking of time, with deadlines that relentlessly hit a person’s handheld so as to spoil digestion as well as conversation, who can afford to make it a habit to leave their desk at midday?

Photo: bbc.com

In any case, a sit-down luncheon meal rarely includes time for three of any kind of drink, soft or hard.

I rarely even order out for lunch when once I did daily. The 11 under-30 tech people whose office is where I too roost do far less frequently. Instead our refrigerator is full of containers from home ready to be warmed in microwave or toaster oven and homemade sandwiches on rustic bread. On occasion they’ll order pizza as a group. Two years ago there was a constant stream of food deliveries from breakfast through afternoon snack.

Photo: baconhound.com

As for the deluxe burger’s fall from grace, in addition to people cutting down on lunches out it could be that the concept is past its prime given that it’s been around for a dozen years which is a stretch for any food trend in these parts. Perhaps the cool and hip have moved on leaving the smart to make delicious burgers at home for a fraction of the price.

Have your luncheon habits changed? Are we missing something by giving up business lunches? Do corporate cafeterias take a bite out of the restaurant business? Have you cut down on your burger consumption in general? Do you think you’re getting good value for $13+ burgers?

Photo: bloomberg.com

Service of Humiliating, Harmful Strategies to Get Paid: Lunch Shaming

Monday, May 8th, 2017

Photo: canadianfamily.ca

Photo: canadianfamily.ca

The headline alone of Bettina Elias Siegel’s article in The New York Times, “Shaming Children So Parents Will Pay the School Lunch Bill,” is enough to sink hearts and for readers to scream: “What are they thinking?” To embarrass a child in front of others for something they have done is horror enough but to do this over something over which the young one has no control is unthinkable. Adding injury to insult is that it involves an essential life-sustaining activity, eating, and it is fomented by school administrators who, of all people, should know better. Further, there’s a huge element of waste involved.

I wrote about school lunches four years ago in a different context: Service of Equality: Free School Breakfast, Lunch and iPads.” In that post I wanted NYC to pay for breakfast and lunch for the children whose parents couldn’t afford to buy them but thought that giving free iPads was a bit much when there are viable, far less expensive tablet options.

Recently Siegel wrote: “On the first day of seventh grade last fall, Caitlin Dolan lined up for lunch at her school in Canonsburg, Pa. But when the cashier discovered she had an unpaid food bill from last year, the tray of pizza, cucumber slices, an apple and chocolate milk was thrown in the trash.”

What’s the strategy here: It’s better to toss good food than give it to a hungry child? That’ll teach a parent who isn’t there who may not have the money to pay in the first place.

Photo: thebalance.com

Photo: thebalance.com

News in the rest of the article doesn’t get much better. Siegel further described “lunch shaming,” as the nasty approach is called. “The practice is widespread — a 2014 report from the Department of Agriculture found that nearly half of all districts used some form of shaming to compel parents to pay bills. (About 45 percent withheld the hot meal and gave a cold sandwich, while 3 percent denied food entirely.)” Instead of a real lunch some are given two pieces of bread with a thin slice of cheese.

Photo: money.usnews.com

Photo: money.usnews.com

Siegel described a cafeteria worker in Pa. who quit when forced to take away a child’s lunch. A child in Alabama went home with a stamp on her arm: “I need lunch money.”

There’s no free lunch and there’s the lunch bill to pay. What to do? Some qualify for a federal free meal program though others are afraid to apply because of their immigration status. Communities ask for “random acts of kindness” and organize fundraisers and GoFundMe pages. A Texas-based 4th grade mentor, Kenny Thompson, paid the bill when he saw the lunch lady refuse food to a child whose mother, he knew, was in the hospital. Next he founded “Feed the Future Forward,” and through fundraising events and donations hopes to wipe out over $50,000 in debt. To qualify for the refund money, however, Thompson makes schools sign a pledge that they won’t give children with unpaid bills a meal different from the other kids.

Lunch shaming is nothing new. Siegel quoted a mother whose son won’t eat peanut butter as the result of an incident two decades ago. How did it catch on and why do communities permit it? What gets into the minds of administrators who lose sight of their clients—children—when addressing a problem? How can parents permit such cruelty in a place they entrust their children?

Feed the Future Forward

Service of Least Favorite Foods

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

Garlic

When friend Daniel McHenry, who like me is not a fussy eater, told me the only foods he dislikes are raisins and coconut, it gave me the idea for this post.

Next I Googled the subject and found this list from Kitchen Daily of the “ten most hated foods in the US: Brussels Sprouts; Garlic; Cheese Fondue; Tofu; Celery; Oysters; Mayonnaise; Mushrooms; Licorice and Cilantro.” I didn’t read how the list was determined because my bet is that the items would change according to the backgrounds and region of the country of the people responding to the question.

The only thing I dislike on the list is tofu and I love garlic,Cilantro cheese fondue, mayo, cilantro and my husband makes great Brussels sprouts so I like them now. I might not go out of my way for a stick of celery but I don’t hate it.

Clearly the Kitchen Daily folks didn’t consult George H. W. Bush who in March 1990, according to The New York Times, “declared today that he never, ever wants to see another sprig of broccoli on his plate…” That was one of the things I remember him for along with pleas for a kinder, gentler world and “read my lips, no more taxes,” but I digress.

I would never order liver, grouse, snake, animal guts or unusual parts like brains. And in spite of the March 30 Wall Street Journal article by Annie Gasparro, “Millennial Entrepreneurs Think Americans Should Eat More Bugs,” I’ll let someone else give that trend a taste. I’m not adventurous enough to find out if I like bugs or not. I can hardly look at most when they are alive.

What about you? What foods do you avoid?

bugs to eat

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