What’s New On The Restaurant Scene?

What’s New On The Restaurant Scene?

Anybody else making their restaurant reservations through the Google Maps app? I’ve been doing it for a couple of months now and LOVE it.

It’s so efficient and supposedly it saves restaurants heaps of money. I discovered it by accident when I was checking out a restaurant recently. While making my way around the site looking at reviews and photos, I noticed, for the first time, that there’s now a RESERVE A TABLE button. It works like a charm. Google even gets back to you promptly if they have to actually call to make the reservation, e.g., because of the number of people in your party.

Their default for reservations is SevenRooms but they also use Resy and Open Table. But so far I give SevenRooms top marks for service versus their competitors.

brilliant idea.

Clearly millions of us are already using Google Maps to check out restaurants. My #1 photo on Google, with over 3 million views, is for Restaurant Kodbyens Fiskebar in Copenhagen. A more recent review and photo of Llama San has garnered over 55,000 views in under a month.

With so many diners already on the Google app checking out restaurants, eliminating the need to leave one app to log onto another, e.g. Resy, dials up the UX 100-fold. It just makes so much sense.

I have now shifted to Google reservations whenever possible. Highly recommend.

Scroll down for more on what’s new and trending in the restaurant and food biz
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2020: New Year, New Decade. Are You Ready?

2020: New Year, New Decade. Are You Ready?

What a crazy decade it’s been, right? And as we head into 2020, all I can say is buckle up because it’s only going to get weirder. And while this post is NOT meant to offer any kind of all-inclusive list of trends, I do believe that every topic I have included will impact our lives in the future. One thing I am absolutely certain of: change is inevitable and it’s coming at us faster than ever, mostly because of technology and the power of social media.

My criteria for what to include (or not) in this “next decade” post is based on the work I’ve been doing with trends and culture shifts for the Opinionator since its founding in 2014. It’s been extremely helpful to see which themes have gradually become more prominent, what topics have received the most comments and shares, and, importantly, what countertrends are developing as we become a more pluralistic, multi-track society. Like it or not, we are increasingly moving away from being ONE nation and instead we’re seeking out “our” tribes among the myriad of micro-communities that have sprung up around us.

Looking ahead starts with looking back, then connecting the dots that define the present. Only then, can one get clarity about the future.”

Steve Jobs
Scroll down now to begin this journey into the future!
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Sorry, But Sweetgreen Is NOT The New Power-lunch.

Sorry, But Sweetgreen Is NOT The New Power-lunch.

I recently read an article on how sweetgreen is where millennials are power-lunching!. I hadn’t been in a few years so decided I needed to check out this bold assertion in person. Five lunches later, I’m done.

Here’s what I found

I was excited to try sweetgreen’s three new Fall menu items. All sounded delicious especially the Curry Cauliflower (and it was!).

I also tried one of their bowls and one of their regular salads.

Two out of five menu items were delicious. Three were blah.

To me, that isn’t a ringing endorsement for the menu side of things.

The store itself is clean and easy to navigate and the staff is great.

And I appreciate the calorie listings although skeptical of them since in preparing your salad, they ask you how much salad dressing you want, i.e., light, medium or heavy (and we all know the dressing is where the calories lurk). They also offer a delicious-looking bread that I am sure is not included in the calorie count either. I asked my server about it. She was startled by the question but thought it was a good one!

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“The Market Line” at Essex Crossing Just Opened! Check It Out!

“The Market Line” at Essex Crossing Just Opened! Check It Out!

Phase 1 of what will be a huge 150,000-square-foot underground, multi-level food hall opened this Friday. There were a few start-up hiccups while I was there but it’s going to be absolutely awesome.

The food vendors I saw were fantastic. I can’t wait to go back and do some noshing.

Standouts for me personally included:

However, I expect The Grand Delancey to be the biggest attraction. It’s an upscale beer hall with over 50 beers on tap PLUS they invite you to order in from any of the food hall vendors. Judging by what I saw on opening day, the Slice Joint (serving you guessed it, pizza by the slice), Schaller & Weber and Ends Meat (from Sunset Park Brooklyn) will be the big winners among the beer crowd.

Bottom Line.

I’m definitely coming back here soon. I especially want to have oysters at Essex Pearl and some wine at People’s Wine.

When people ask why retail is collapsing, I say visit a food hall. Noshing has replaced shopping and food halls have replaced malls.

But I’m also starting to worry that we might be getting close to a tipping point. I mean how many food halls can NYC accommodate before they start cannibalizing each other?

I hope I’m wrong because nothing is better than a good food hall – and this one is a mere ten-minute walk from my house.

Scroll down for a walk-thru from opening day.
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2020 Is The Year Of The Vegetable!

2020 Is The Year Of The Vegetable!

The big news continues to be plant-based foods, especially fake meats and non-dairy milks. I’m not a big meat-eater but when I do feel carnivorous, I’m going to go for the real thing not an impostor. However, I do LOVE vegetables and very excited to see them showing up in everything from ice cream to breads to gnocchi.

Here are 5 trends to keep an eye on for 2020
1. Ube Ice Cream

This Filipino purple yam ice cream has been my favorite since I first tried it back in 2017 at Soft Swerve on the Lower East Side. My current favorite restaurant, Wayan, also serves it for dessert.

It’s also been carried by Trader Joe’s since earlier this year. And it’s available at Jollibee, the Filipino fast-food spot, with over 1200 outlets around the globe. There are 3 in the NYC area.

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Make This App For Me, Google? Somebody? Please.

Make This App For Me, Google? Somebody? Please.

What happened to this Google IM2 Calories app that was being hyped back in 2015? Is it too hard to develop an app that would let me wave my phone over any food and get an accurate calorie count based on portion size and type of food? Or is there not enough interest?

I had such high hopes for the Google calorie app but there’s not been a peep about it since 2015. And, of course, I understand that this is a complex problem but c’mon I was counting on Google to come through for me.

In the meantime, I’ve read so much conflicting information about whether people actually change their eating behavior based on nutrition labels and calorie information.

Surprisingly (for me), study after study indicates that even after seeing calorie information listed at restaurants or on food labeling, people are NOT changing their eating behavior.

But, while “most” people may not alter their behavior, I know I have.

Here are some recent changes I made based on seeing the calorie count.

  • I was so tempted to get the new Talenti Gelato Layers ice cream. But after tracking it down at Whole Foods and checking the calories, it went right back into the refrigerated case (320 calories for 2/3 cup!!).
  • Meanwhile, breakfast at Starbucks while traveling is no longer part of my routine once I saw that coffee and a slice of Starbucks pumpkin bread comes in at a whopping 410 calories! Nope. Not having that again – ever!
  • Finally, a quick take-out lunch at by Chloe? Happily selected the Spicy Thai Salad. Delicious and only 450 calories.

Now I’m working on having Ludlow House let me see the calorie count for their insanely tempting (and free) candy bar. Every time I work there for a 4 or 5 day stretch, my weight fluctuates and I know it has to do with my lack of willpower around that candy. Ugh.

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New Apple Alert: No, Not THAT Apple, The Eating Kind.

New Apple Alert: No, Not THAT Apple, The Eating Kind.

Apple growers are calling the new Cosmic Crisp a gamechanger. It’s the hottest new variety of apple to be launched in 20 years, a hybrid between the Honeycrisp and the Enterprise. It will be hitting grocery stores on December 1st.

“I’ve never seen an apple prettier in the orchard than these things are.”

Aaron Clark, Apple Grower, Yakima

It’s the largest launch of a single apple variety ever and it’s backed by a $10.5 million marketing budget. Apple growers have high hopes for it.

The Cosmic Crisp is also the first apple bred in Washington State, which is surprising since the state grows the majority of United States’ apples.

Growers are hoping the Cosmic Crisp will be as popular and generate the same kind of sales as the “Moneycrisp” (their nickname for the Honeycrisp).

Thanks to katu.com I’ve learned there’s actually a lot more to apples than meets the eye, e.g., Washington State grows 12 billion apples each Fall and growers need a license to buy the trees. They also have to pay a royalty on sales of the fruit.

Scroll down for more info on the four billion-dollar apple market.
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Are people cooking more or is the kitchen dead?

Are people cooking more or is the kitchen dead?

Two friends recently told me they were cooking more at home – primarily to eat healthier and for convenience. They suggested other people were doing the same. It made me curious.

So far, zero evidence this is the case. In fact, the exact opposite:

“Only 10% of consumers love to cook, while 45% hate it and 45% are lukewarm about it.”

Eddie Yoon, Harvard Business Review

What I did find is that people aspire to do more cooking. A small study conducted by Peapod (the online grocer) in 2018 found:

  • Three-quarters of the survey respondents prefer a home-cooked meal to going out (but doesn’t say who would cook it for them).
  • The top reason for cooking at home is to save money.
  • Wednesday is the most popular day for Peapod users to cook at home and also the most popular day to use a meal kit which I don’t consider home cooking but 60% of millennials do (vs. 30% of boomers).

Meanwhile, a study by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) earlier this year found people are cooking less than ever before.

  • Millennials eat at restaurants or bars 30% more often than any other generation.
  • They also allocate less time to meal prep – only 13 minutes per day, which is an hour less per week than Gen X—and when they do head to the grocery store, they spend more on prepared foods, pasta, and sweets than any other age group.
  • Biggest finding: the very definition of home cooking has changed. If you buy a prepared meal at the supermarket, bring it home and put it on a plate, that seemingly qualifies as “home cooking.”

Based on my lifestyle and that of people around me, few of us are cooking (even when there are kids in the house). I’m seeing lots of ordering in and lots of take-out.

For me, cooking has been relegated to a rainy weekend activity. It has to be super easy with as few ingredients as possible, e.g., baked salmon with a salad – all in, can’t take more than 30 minutes. I’ve gone so far as to toss old recipes that I used to love because they are just too complicated, take too darned long and are too caloric.

I cook, at most, once a week. I am, however, at Whole Foods every other day picking up fruit, salad, yogurt, milk, etc.

Interestingly, my partner, Brad, cooks for himself almost every night when he gets home from the studio. At 10 pm he’s in the kitchen whipping up a storm making pasta, homemade sauces and most recently, pad thai. It’s all relatively simple but wow, does it ever make a mess of the kitchen.

Read on below for more on the massive growth of food delivery (WORTH A READ!)
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