The Week in Food: January 10 – 15, 2021

The year swings into full gear as your diet and exercise plans are starting to fail. Our survey of the week reveals Chobani coffee, Ben & Jerry’s pet food, good times for Chipotle and the opposite for Dave and Buster’s, kidney bean poisoning, rabbit and the rebirth of the whiskey sour. Cheers!

MACRO

  • We went from a 9/11 death toll every day to a D-Day level now. Next is Shiloh, I guess, and a new, more contagious strain of COVID is becoming dominant. So much for optimism.
  • PPP loans start gain next week, giving hope to restaurants trying to hold on.
  • Retail sales fell for the third straight month and unemployment claims approached 1 million, with more than a third coming from restaurant and food service.

RETAIL AND CONSUMER

  • Chobani is entering the ready to drink coffee arena in a test of brand mobility. Competition is already fierce.
  • Many retailers are offering financial incentives to their employees to get vaccinated.
  • Being stuck inside has caused to revert to foraging: people aren’t eating meals, just snacking all day long. A fun little video on the commitment many have to snacking, including what people will shave their head for.
  • Ben & Jerry’s enters the pet food business which is, of course, ridiculous and they will make a fortune.

RESTAURANTS AND FOODSERVICE

  • I thought is was just a coincidence that nachos were both a dish and a man’s nickname. Turns out…a short history of Nachos.
  • New tipping rules will eliminate the 80/20 rule. This favors restaurant owners and may cost workers $700 million a year.
  • Kudos to Chipotle for their unusual success during the epidemic but I think one of they keys to their success is their customer demographics. They skew young and having diners who are adaptable , casual and device oriented has surely helped.
  • On the other hand, a concept which is particularly exposed too the problems of pandemic dining is Dave & Buster’s. Predictably, things are not going well.

FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN

  • You should be eating more rabbit. It is lean, nutritious and environmentally friendly. A number of years back I had the rabbit liver pate at Cochon in NOLA and it was one of he best things I have ever eaten.
  • For the conspiratorially-minded, the largest owner of US farmland is…. Bill Gates. Personally and through Cascade investments, Gates owns close to a quarter million acres.
  • Spanish produce stuck in snow.
  • Among food stolen in 2020: millions of bees stolen in California, a whole truck of Jack Daniels, at least two food trucks and $300,000 in pistachios.
  • With evidence of forced labor, the Trump administration banned tomato and cotton imports from China’s Xinjiang region.

LAGNIAPPE

  • Peanut butter in my mole? I have made a mole in the traditional manner and to do it right it takes all day. This recipe reduces steps and time, which makes it more interesting to me than the peanut butter add, which seems performative.
  • Sours, as in Whiskey Sours, fall into two categories: delicious and appalling. They have not been popular for a long time, likely because the dominance of pre-made sour mix made them a super easy and terrible tasting drink. However creating your own oleo saccharum, that is the essence of peel extracted with sugar, gives you a drink that is refreshing, complex, delicious. It’s super easy: a couple seconds muddling, a couple ounces of sugar and a couple hours of waiting. It store a long time in the fridge and uses up your excess peels. Here is a discussion from Liquor.com.
  • This is has great potential as a plot device – lectin from Kidney beans can cause something prosaically called kidney bean poisoning if not properly soaked and cooked.
  • Side dishes feel particularly redundant these days. Okazu – Japanese side dishes – emphasize a couple of ingredients but adding umami for variety and satiety.
  • In the 17th century the Dutch ate their Prime Minister. I am being neither hyperbolic not metaphoric.

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