Food & drink

Shaken not stirred

Like the trend for buying vinyl, there is a similar trend towards making and drinking authentically created cocktails. A new bar, Drink, has opened in New York that projects the kind of clean clarity suggested by its name. There is no menu: the mixologist (archaic – from 1856) has a brief chat with you and then prescribes what you didn’t know you wanted. It is almost like giving medicine (hence bar names like Apothecary and Apotheke).

It seems we have a longing for the retro and the sensory, and are tired of compromising quality in the name of convenience. We have become used to drinks laden with sugar, or alcohol laced with juices and fruits, but may have never tasted the true flavour of a drink on its own. Consumers of alcopops become desensitised to alcohol and, as a result, drink too much. It is unlikely that authentic cocktails will do anything to curb binge drinking but they do show a return to uncompromising retro quality.

The Atlantic, January/February 2009, 'Old-fashioned', W. Curtis.
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Search words: cocktails, Drink, ice, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, no menu, mixologists.
Trend tags: Authenticity, simplicity

Wine drinkers have too much bottle

Wine drinkers who favour their wine in extra-thick, extra-dark bottles may want to do their drinking in secret. These bottles are an environmental no-no, costing more to transport than any other kind of bottle, and many bottles are imported empty, filled, and then sent back to where they came from. They are also heavier to lift, and you can’t see inside them (a good thing in some instances due to the fact that light can damage wine). The producers most prone to use them come from North America, South America, Spain, and Italy – more macho societies? It is also a good marketing ploy to make the wine look valuable.

Even if vintners use the lighter, clear bottles (easier to recycle), those working in drier regions still use large quantities of irrigation water. They are also heavy users of non-recyclable polystyrene packaging, although some have claimed they are just re-using what someone has already sent them. The best method of packaging is to use cardboard. Wine drinkers might want to add the eco-test to their taste test next time they choose a bottle from the shelf. Airlines should certaintly take a serious look at this issue due to possible weight (and hence fuel) savings.

Ref: Financial Times, 7-8 February 2009, Red and white go green.
Search words: wine bottles, North America, South America, Spain, Italy, clear glass,glass, irrigation, polystyrene.
Trend tags: Sustainability
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The French go British

We hope this is not a sign of things to come in French gastronomy. The French are adopting the sandwich as their plat du jour at lunch. There are several good reasons for this: the smoking ban has upset certain diners, working women like them because they can eat quickly and then go shopping, and they’re comparatively cheap in a downturn. The French consumed 1.3 billion sandwiches last year, including triangles of bread and the famous baguette. They dined in boutique sandwich bars, on foie gras with onion confit, and in retail chains, such as Paul, Lina’s and Daily Monop.

Younger people (25-34) eat twice as many sandwiches as older ones (45-54), in part because they eat at their desks. With the downturn, it is also cheaper to buy a sandwich gastronomique for eight Euros than to buy a sit-down lunch. A new sandwich chain, Goutu, is designed to cater for this hungry, but economical market. We should not be surprised that the French recently hosted the Sandwich World Cup. Nor that a young Englishman - Seth Ward, the chef at Michael Caine’s restaurant in Exeter – won it with a fancy beef sandwich called Rustic Ruby.

The Economist, 7 February 2009, Sandwich courses. Anon.
Search words: recession, gastronomy, sandwich, lunch, youth, price, chains.
Trend tags: Convenience, low cost, mobility
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Hot food trend

We said last time that we have a rampant taste for new flavours, especially from places we have been or would like to go for holidays. Along with chimichurri, peri-peri, and masala, chilli is making a huge impact on our palates and in spite of having no taste, colour, or smell. It is even painful to eat but the body, once it realises, releases endorphins and creates a high. Ah! - no wonder we like it.

Chilli contains pure capsaicin and it seems that people throughout the western world are developing a tolerance to its effects. No longer prone to the famous British bland diet, “heat geeks” are eating nagas - peppers that are so hot that merely breathing them in makes the nose tingle. Chefs are advised to wear gloves and Tesco will not sell them to children. Expect a trend for children to steal peppers!

Fortunately, capsaicin is not addictive and does not cause loss of control or illness if deprived. It even has medical benefits, by preventing the feeling of pain for people with rheumatoid arthritis or amputees. Only humans eat chilli, and rats, dogs and chimpanzees have not been persuaded to try it unless they had an extremely close relationship with the giver. Seems like another case of mad dogs and Englishmen.

The Economist (UK),20 December 2008, Global warming: Why the world has taken to chillis. Anon.
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Search words: chilli, capsaicin, naga, pain, endorphins, Tesco,
Trend tags: Extreme experiences


Eat your leftovers

Who has ever eaten tongue and wants to eat it again? Hispanics do and, until recently, have had trouble finding good quality offal for their diets. Cargill Meat entered the branded beef market in June 2007 with Rumba Meats. Since then, sales have more than doubled and revenues are projected to reach $100 million annually, thanks to slaughterhouse leftovers. The term for this is “creative repurposing."

Cargill is not the only company to benefit from someone else’s garbage. Terracycle converts organic garbage full of busy worms into plant food, Diamond Safety buys finely ground used tyres and makes them into playground covers and athletic fields, and Pringles uses discarded potatoes to make potato flakes for dough that is rolled to make chips. Many small companies already use the concept of recycled garbage and don’t get the recognition they deserve because their markets are so small. The more big companies start to do it, the more people will take notice.

Fast Company, February 2009, Bite your tongue. Ben Paynter.
Search words: Cargill Meat, tongue, branded meat, creative repurposing, immigrants.
Trend tags: Recycling
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