sliced yellow pepper

The Week in Food: October 19 -24, 2020

We hope you are enjoying your weekend and hope you enjoy the stories, links and commentaries from the past week in food. Among the highlights: small basket e-commerce, paw paws, Whole Foods struggles, Chipotle and James Beard.


  • Markets are stable, employment is weak and the election will be over in 10 days (hopefully).
  • COVID is spiking but at least Physicians are getting better at treating it.
  • Despite trade wars and loss of income, farmers sticking with Trump. However, many ‘farmers’ are actually running fairly large businesses, like the guy headlining the story. It would be interesting to hear from smaller farmers generally and what their views are.

Retail and consumer

  • I should really go back and look at the predictions for 2020 – I am sure they were all wrong and should be darkly amusing. Anyway here are Whole Foods prognostications for 2021. Topping their lists are breakfasts, basics, coffee and ‘upcycling’.
  • Trader Joes is winning but Whole Foods isn’t. The why. Shoppers are trying to be more efficient in their shopping trips, making fewer trips and stocking up. Most retailers have capitalized on this but the Whole Foods experience is not one where people shop for everything they need.
  • As is painfully obvious for start up e-tailers (ahem) very small orders are very expensive to ship. However as As grocery orders get larger, the advantage of lower delivery costs diminishes and the logistics, storage, handling, etc., get worse. (Some spreadsheet nerd could probably find the economic sweet spot on order size for the consumer, if they haven’t done so already.) Small basket e-commerce makes a lot of sense as a Goldilocks solution.
  • As COVID wave 3 (or 2, or is it still 1?) ramps up, certain foods – soups, Spam, snacks, baking supplies -will be in short supply. I have no fears that our readership will cause a spike in hoarding.

Restaurant and Foodservice

  • What outdoor dining will look like this winter
  • A great story for all you wine skeptics out there. The $18 wine got swapped with the $2000 bottle and, for a while, no one was the worse for it.
  • This mini-biography of James Beard is mostly about the context of his promotion and writing about food. But he played a seminal role in getting Americans to thinking critically about cuisine.
  • I am not sure exactly how a restaurant eviction moratorium is going to work. In fact it can’t do much other than give tenants time to negotiate. But NYC has one in place until at least Jan. 1.
  • Chipotle makes a decision to focus on customer retention rather than profits, transforming itself as half of its sales are now pick up/delivery. Hence, they are growing at more than 8%.

Food supply chain

  • Peruvian cuisine depends highly on Aji Amarillo. (Here is Chef Joe V. talking about it.) It is heat-wise between a serrano and a jalapeno but I would argue with more complex flavor. But there are no commercial growers in the States. So most people use paste and frozen. An opportunity for someone?
  • Kimchi production in serious danger as hurricanes devastated Korean cabbage production. If you don’t thinks this a big deal, you don’t understand Korean cuisine.
  • With demise imminent for the Cavendish banana, maybe we can replace it with a native species. I don’ t think I have ever eaten a paw-paw, which are not only supposedly delicious but environmentally sustainable. Learn about them here.


  • Bagna Cauda? A sauce made from slow cooking garlic and anchovies in olive oil? Why have I not heard of this before? I will try it, maybe tonight, and report back.
  • I have spent an eternity of timeless time working with food stylists on shoots. Technology has changed the industry more than a little as this video shows.
  • Apparently Stanley Tucci making cocktails is going to be an ongoing thing. He lost me with his choice of ingredients on his Negroni – quality vermouth is the key – but good luck to him.

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