cooked pizza

The Week in Food: February 8 -13, 2021

Dark winter is here in the Midwest – gloomy and it seems to snow everyday. But food brings comfort, so let’s talk about it. This week we found stuff about plastic- free Zero Grocery, Costco chicken, the future of salad bars, restaurant ventilation, pizza’s role in the pandemic, birria, Jacques Pepin and a 117 year old nun who likes to throw back. Enjoy!

MACRO

  • 48 million in US have been given, averaging 1.62 million doses per day.
  • Job openings rose to 6.646M in December, the most since July.
  • What was interesting and good about the $18B in PPP that went to restaurants is that 70% were under $50,000. Large restaurant chains have the resources to sustain themselves; smaller restaurants do not. We remain hopeful…

RETAIL AND CONSUMER

  • Zero Grocery: the world’s first plastic-free grocer. On-line, no plastics and delivery materials are returned on subsequent shipment.
  • Salad bars and hot bars in grocery store were already trending down before COVID. Most retailers undergoing a re-think.
  • Undercover video of chicken supplier that sells Costco its broilers shows disturbing conditions. This is hardly surprising as conditions are pretty bad in poultry production. But Costco is a responsive corporation so it may help raise standards throughout the industry.¬†
  • On ingredient labels, the distinction between vanilla flavored and actual vanilla is hopelessly blurred. Ingredient labels in general are a muddled mess. More on this shortly.

RESTAURANTS AND FOODSERVICE

  • The actual physics of COVID spread in restaurant HVAC. The six foot rule is practically meaningless as air circulates. I predict that HVAC issues like filtration will be burgeoning trend.
  • I met Jacques Pepin a few years back and he is as charming as he seems. He is also unpretentious so it doesn’t surprise me that he uses a simple hack like instant potato flakes for thickening soup.
  • I have a thing coming out this week on the transition happening in tipped wages. One of the problems with tipping is that workers often get dinged for food quality or other restaurant issues that they have no control over. This week emerged a story of diners punishing servers, particularly black servers with weaker tips because of social distancing rules.
  • One of the charms of NOLA has always been carry-out drinks and there is an emrging trend with legislative backing for to-go cocktails. Arizona is opening open liquor carry and California seeking to allow non-bars to sell to-go. But liquor-only establishments are shut out of the CA bill.
  • You’ll be stunned to learn that pizza sales soared during the pandemic. Big winners: Dominoes, Papa John’s. Speaking of which, there are few things more pointless and annoying than arguments about different regional pizza styles. For the benefit of your friends and family, please approach this slideshow from an educational perspective.
  • $25 Billion in grants for restaurants proposed to help the industry bounce back from the lost year of 2020.

FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN

  • A manufactured rib-eye steak? Rib-eye are the go-to steak for the carnivore. If Aleph can create a marketable version, the trend to lab-grown meat will only accelerate. The really geek-interest part of this company is that the are combining cell cultivation with 3D printing.
  • Shockingly, there are few standards for baby food, which undoubtedly has contributed to the widespread incidence of heavy metals found in baby food. Congressional investigation will lead to new regulations.
  • ¬†More nuttiness from China regarding COVID 19 on the surfaces of imported food. Most of the science shows these traces of virus are not viable and therefore not dangerous but now they have caused a panic about cherries and so no one is buying.

LAGNIAPPE

  • 117 year old nun in France credits her longevity a variety of alcoholic beverages. There’s hope for me yet.
  • Tiled countertops will drive you insane. Don’t do it.
  • Non-alcoholic beer has improved flavor and has done well. How much is COVID related?
  • Everywhere you turn, everyone is into birria. Traditionally, goat slowly braised, usually in beef stock but now is done with any number of combined meats (lamb, oxtail). The point is slow roasting with chiles and other spices.
  • I prefer using wooden spoons when cooking but I don’ want to spend the necessary time cleaning them and this TikTok video shows you how gross they can get,. This is why mine go through the dishwasher and need to be replaced frequently:

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