Food Allergy Poseurs Need To Stop. They’re Driving Me Crazy!

Food Allergy Poseurs Need To Stop. They’re Driving Me Crazy!


One in 10 Americans have food allergies, but twice as many claim to have them based on a recent study of 40,000 people. What’s up with that?


The place I work goes overboard in asking people about their allergies. It drives me nuts.

This past week I was working at a communal table and overheard somebody ordering the crunchy Asian green salad. It happens to be my favorite, so my ears perked up. The menu describes the dish in detail. It contains cabbage, cashews, carrots, and a ponzu dressing.

My tablemate placed her order and returned to her laptop. That’s when the server asked the obligatory “any allergies?” All of a sudden, she developed an allergy to cabbage and cashews, basically the whole salad. When he asked if they should make a traditional salad for her, she waited a minute and then added she was also allergic to tomatoes. Why not just ask for a green salad with that terrific ponzu dressing – that was clearly the only reason she ordered the Asian green salad.

I may be all wrong about this, but for a specific subset of the population, instead of saying they don’t like a particular food, they feel more comfortable claiming to have an allergy.

I hear fewer guys profess to have allergies – they’ll just come out and request a menu substitution, e.g., “hold the mushrooms.” The women I run into here, all have allergies. I’m starting to feel that an allergy makes you special; it gives you a certain kind of VIP status.

I did some research on this and found an insightful piece in that sheds some light on why people feign allergies.

  • Sometimes, it’s to avoid stuff they don’t like.
  • In some instances, they have a food intolerance (not an allergy).
  • In many cases, they’re trying to lose weight and find claiming an allergy is a more socially acceptable reason to avoid eating certain items (since people will take a supposed medical condition more seriously than a weight-loss diet).


Bottom Line.

Judging by where I work, I would have to believe that three-quarters of the young women in NYC have food allergies. I think that’s absurd.

Or as somebody recently noted, 5000 years of eating bread and in the past decade, everyone is allergic to gluten.

All the evidence I can find indicates the growth in the category is mostly marketing driven. As noted in a recent  “Global Food Allergy Market” report for 2018-2025,  “rising awareness about food allergies, the high unmet needs coupled with novel product introduction in the market are  factors contributing to the growth of the market in the near future.”

I would say that’s 100% correct.

Read More >

Share this post on:

It’s National Prosecco Week. NYC’s Masterclass Was Outstanding

It’s National Prosecco Week. NYC’s Masterclass Was Outstanding


The most exciting rumor? A Rosé Prosecco may be in the works!


For this 2nd Annual National Prosecco Week (June 3-9), the goal is to reposition Prosecco as a perfect meal accompaniment. Food pairings are what they believe will drive the business for 2019 and beyond.

Sponsored by the Prosecco DOC Consortium, masterclasses are being held in New York, Miami, Nashville, Los Angeles, and Seattle. There are also ‘Pizza and Prosecco’ events; a digital media and marketing program; and influencer activations.

The New York masterclass I attended was led by Elana Abt, Wine Director at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria. She was amazing!

Curiously, the event took place at a Lebanese restaurant (Ilili) versus an Italian one. As odd a choice as that appears to be, the food was delicious, and did indeed pair well with Prosecco. If I were in the Flatiron district, I would come back to Ilili for lunch or dinner. Their dip tasting was exceptional – I especially loved the Mouhamara. And the desserts were to die for!

The most important topics brought up by the attendees revolved around sustainability and whether the wines were organic. There is a lot of confusion about why a Prosecco, made with organic grapes cannot be categorized as an organic wine. Nobody had a solid answer.

Another sticking point, the different standards for organic certification between Europe and America.

All that confusion aside, we did learn that Prosecco sales are booming with production up over 100% since 2012.

Of the ten Proseccos we tasted, the one I will be ordering when out and about is the Torresella Prosecco DOC Extra Dry. It’s flinty and minerally, which is what I gravitate to in white wines. It’s from an area around Venice.


Scroll down for pics from the Master Class.

Read More >

Share this post on:

NYC’s Restaurant Scene Is Fantastic At The Moment!

NYC’s Restaurant Scene Is Fantastic At The Moment!


I had three new restaurant experiences this week. When it comes to eating out, things have never been better!


Let’s start with the newest:

TIME OUT MARKET (55 Water Street, Brooklyn)

It opened this past Friday, located in the same building as Dumbo House. Right on the waterfront with glorious views of both the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.

  • The Market is on the ground floor level and also on the rooftop.
  • All the articles I read indicated you could take the food you purchased in the downstairs market up to the roof. NOT SO FAST. You can only take it up to the rooftop if it is packed “to go” – not if it is plated.
  • And that may be because the restaurants located on the rooftop level are more upscale, e.g., Nur, David Burke. I’m reasonably sure those restaurants are also paying more for that rooftop location and do not want the “downstairs” folk taking all that prime seating upstairs.
  • I also noticed (surprisingly) that the vast majority of restaurants were from Manhattan, especially from the Lower East Side. Does this signal the end of the hype around Brooklyn as a culinary hot spot? I think it might.
  • All that nitpicking aside, the Time Out Market is knock-your-socks-off fabulous, definitely worth the schlepp to Dumbo from Manhattan or other parts of Brooklyn. The very best food hall I’ve been to – ever!

Highlights include:

  • Fish Cheeks – I had the most divine (and spicy) coconut crab curry. Thank you, Susan Bell, for the recommendation!
  • Bessou – located right next to Fish Cheeks. Their crispy rice cakes topped with spicy tuna looked beyond good as did their salmon bento (I will be back for that). Since I had already ordered the crab curry, I was full, but the sight of that food inspired me to go out in the drenching rain on Sunday to eat at Bessou’s Bleecker Street restaurant. (Review below).
  • Ice & Vice Ice Cream
  • Nur (upstairs, will come back for this also).


Read on below for my review of The Fulton (Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s fabulous new waterfront restaurant on Pier 17 in the South Street Seaport, and Bessou. Plus additional photos from Time Out Market.

Read More >

Share this post on:

NYC Delivered Big Time On The Culinary And Hospitality Front This Week!

NYC Delivered Big Time On The Culinary And Hospitality Front This Week!


Two major restaurant experiences this week PLUS a new rooftop hotel bar 


I had dinner at The Polo Bar in midtown on Monday and at Wayan in my neighborhood on Tuesday. Both phenomenal in entirely different ways.

I’ll start with Wayan because it’s newer (opened in February).

Wayan (20 Spring Street)

This comes to us from Cedric Vongerichten (Jean-Georges’ son). He was born in Bangkok, Thailand while his father was the chef at the Oriental Hotel. Cedric has major culinary chops and has worked at his father’s restaurants as well as such notables as El Bulli in Barcelona.

Wayan serves Indonesian food (which I am not familiar with). My friend, Bruce Bromley, did his homework, however, and we ordered well.


Read on below for more.

Read More >

Share this post on:

Is Retail Doomed If Food And Drinks Are Not Part Of The Equation?

Is Retail Doomed If Food And Drinks Are Not Part Of The Equation?


Lots of conversations lately about why there are so many retail vacancies and why many of us have lost our passion for shopping.


People always assume it’s because the rent is too high but then as we get into it and explore our own shopping patterns, it becomes clear that something else is afoot. We’re all way more interested in food than we are in almost any other kind of shopping.

I noticed a great example of this change in behavior this Saturday while walking on Mulberry Street on my way to lunch. A brand new (and very chic) Aime Leon Dore store has just opened (photo above). It’s an upscale streetwear store and it comes with a café and outdoor seating and that’s what is clearly making the money. The store was empty but there was not an empty seat at the café!! Big learning there! On a side note, the Aime Leon Dore store was formerly a restaurant (Balaboosta) so kitchen was already on site. It would be interesting to know if they looked for retail space with kitchen or if the space afforded them an opportunity to do a cafe.

But there’s more to learn from how my friends and I spent this past Saturday in NYC. The day provides a perfect real-time lesson in how our habits are changing.

Over the course of 12 hours, I spent approximately $140 – all of it on food and drinks.

  • We had lunch in Chinatown, a few of us went on for drinks at CitizenM’s rooftop bar and I soldiered on for an amazing dinner at 10 Corso Como in the Seaport with friends who were in town from DC.
  • We also checked out the brand new Essex Market (which was jampacked I’m happy to report). We were tempted to buy some fish but decided to pass on it since we were not going home directly.

Bottom Line.

What did not cross my mind, over the course of 12 hours, was shopping for anything other than food and drinks.

And it was not for a lack of options – we walked by plenty of stores in Soho and on the Lower East Side but my mind was on experiences to share with my friends, NOT on acquiring one more thing for my closet.

In full disclosure mode, my friends from DC had spent the afternoon shopping. Natalia is a shoe obsessive and helped the local retail economy quite a bit on this visit. For context, that’s one person out of 8 who loves shopping.


Scroll down for pics from our Saturday on the town.

Read More >

Share this post on:

Essex Market Opens And Gets A Big Thumbs Up

Essex Market Opens And Gets A Big  Thumbs Up


The new Essex Market is going to be a phenomenal success. I dropped by early one morning before it got too busy and chatted with a few shopkeepers. They’re excited!


It opened this week in a brand new 37,000 sp ft space that’s part of Essex Crossing. It’s not 100% operational yet, a few empty spaces remain and the downstairs is yet to be developed. However, from everything I saw, it’s going to be huge hit. It’s clean and roomy (triple the size of the old market) and the seating space upstairs will be enormously popular. The laptop crowd has already discovered it.

Those of you who know me well, know about my Nordic obsession. You’ll therefore completely get why the biggest draw for me would be the Nordic Preserves stall with its amazing selection of gravlax and smoked fish. Thrilled to meet the owner, Annika Sundvik (pic above left).

Another major draw was New Star Fish Market. They had all my favorites (e.g. salmon, cod , halibut) at far, far better prices than what I typically pay for fish on-sale at Whole Foods.

Essex Market is so close to Ludlow House (where I typically write 3-4 days a week), I can see myself picking up stuff for dinner here several nights a week.


Scroll down for photos of Essex Market from its very first week.

Read More >

Share this post on:

Why Is Organic Under Fire From Science?

Why Is Organic Under Fire From Science?


I’m not a big organic shopper (I think it’s a bit of a scam) but lately it’s been hard not to notice the all-out war being waged by science against the organics industry.


And, of course, that makes me not only curious but also skeptical about why we’re seeing such an onslaught of negative news. It makes me suspect the science lobby (as in Monsanto etc) may be behind some of these studies. However, I am also not convinced that the organics industry (or the newly hyped meat-alternative industry) are completely on the up and up either.

Wading through numerous studies (many from Canada and Europe), has left me more confused than informed. There’s so much conflicting information around our food supply and what’s good for us vs. what’s harmful. You don’t have to go back more than a year or two to find all manner of discrepancies e.g. soy used to be good, now it’s bad, almond milk was good but now oat milk is better. And while veganism still seems to be growing, I’m also reading about prominent vegans e.g. Anne Hathaway, moving away from absolute Veganism to adopt a more flexitarian lifestyle.

And then there is this provocative finding: organic farmers may actually use more pesticides than conventional farmers?

One recent headline particularly caught my attention: “Why the chemical-free organic industry has a pesticide problem

It’s from the Genetic Literacy Project, based in Cincinnati, founded by Jon Entine, a  science writer and senior fellow at the Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy at the University of California, Davis. Their funding comes primarily from the John Templeton Foundation (which seems a bit wacky).

But, it is unsettling to see so many questions being raised about “organic.” Several studies have pointed out that “organic” is one of those feel-good phrases that we have absolutely no way of measuring or testing for ourselves. You buy a banana that is described as being organic, but is it? Does it look or taste uniquely organic vs. a conventionally grown banana?

Additionally, with so much of our organic produce imported, it makes it even more suspect – especially the items imported from China which has very lax standards for organic.

Another major change in our diets is the move from meat to plant-based alternatives including lab-grown meats (the latter sounds super yucky to me).

Sales of plant-based products saw a 23% boom in 2018, according to the Good Food Institute but they still represent less than 1% of the total meat market in the country.

Read on below for more data on both organic and FoodTech.

Read More >

Share this post on:

Nothing Signals A Restaurant Is On “Death Watch” More Than This

Nothing Signals A Restaurant Is On “Death Watch” More Than This


WorkChew, Spacious and KettleSpace transform restaurants into co-working spaces during off-peak hours. But what they are really doing is warning customers and suppliers that a restaurant is in deep trouble!


In NYC, over the last couple of years, I’ve observed this dance of death all too often. Generally, it takes less than 6 months after the “Spacious” sandwich board appears before the restaurant is permanently closed.

One reason I am so familiar with this scenario is that the very first Spacious sign – in 2016 – showed up in my neighborhood on the Bowery. That was at Daniel Boulud’s DBGB Kitchen and Bar. DBGB had started out as one of those super hot, impossible to get into places. It was not my kind of scene and I never went there but eventually, I noticed it being emptier and emptier. However, what I do recall distinctly is that less than a year after the Spacious sandwich board went up, the restaurant was permanently closed.

Same thing happened at La Sirena, Mario Batali’s horrible and short-lived restaurant at the Maritime Hotel. Also, at Public on Elizabeth Street.

Spacious’ track record for signaling “the end is nigh” is impressive.

Nevertheless, with so many restaurants struggling to survive these days, more are giving co-working a whirl. Some owners are suggesting the stigma may even be wearing off.

For example, Justin Sievers, the managing partner of Andrew Carmellini’s Bar Primi in Nolita told the NY Times: “Laptops used to send the message that we’re failing as a restaurant, but that’s changing.”

Or perhaps not.

Saxon & Parole was on Spacious but appears to have ended that relationship. I know they took great umbrage when I posted a picture of their restaurant with the Spacious sign and suggested it signaled the end of yet another Bowery hot spot. Seems like they’ve decided to revert to restaurant only. As an interesting aside, AvroKO the design firm, owns Saxon & Parole and they also designed the Spacious Flagship on 53rd Street (could they be investors in Spacious?). And perhaps my Instagram post made them reconsider that stigma question?


Read on below for more on the newest startup in this space, WorkChew (based in DC) as well as some of the top restaurants currently available as coworking spaces during daytime hours in NYC.

Read More >

Share this post on: