Breaking Down a Trend: Cook-It-Yourself Restaurants

Breaking Down a Trend: Cook-It-Yourself Restaurants

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

Once upon a time, eating outside of the home in a restaurant on the weekends was a special occasion. After a week of preparing your own meals, there was something exciting about going out for a good dinner prepared and served by someone else. As the food scene has evolved, eating out is now a daily occurrence for many. Why cook your own meal at home where you have to prep and clean up, when you can go to a restaurant, sit back and relax while being served? If this is the benefit of dining out, why is it a common trend to cook your own food in a restaurant? 

From Korean BBQ and shabu shabu to hot pots and fondue, it is as popular as ever to go to a restaurant where the servers bring you the ingredients to cook your own food. It seems we have come full circle. Now we are paying others so that we can “cook our own meal.” 

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Beverage Insights from the Inaugural USBevX Conference

Beverage Insights from the Inaugural USBevX Conference

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

Times have changed for the beverage industry. The growth and proliferation of wine brands, craft beers, and spirits offer consumers more of a selection than ever before. Whereas in the past a consumer could be tagged as a “wine person” versus a “beer person,” today’s customers have a repertoire. The wine drinker now enjoys a cider by the pool and a cocktail before dinner. The beer drinker may enjoy a glass of wine with dinner and a glass of scotch afterwards. Wine is being enjoyed at Super Bowl parties and other sporting events that were traditionally seen as beer venues. And now, craft beer and cocktails are being paired with food. 

Everything has been mixed and remixed, and what we drink has as much to do with our mood as it does the occasion. This is the new normal. It is a complex market, one of constant change, and for those of us working in the industry, we are trying to understand not only what the “new normal” looks like, but also how to work within it. This was the topic at hand at the first annual USBevX Conference in Washington, D.C. in February.

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Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: Encanto Pisco

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: Encanto Pisco

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

Encanto Pisco, started in 2010, is a brand made “from the heart” by three seasoned industry friends: award-winning distiller Carlos Ruben Romero-Gamero, bar owner Duggan McDonnell, and sommelier Walter Moore. The three men first met at McDonnell’s bar, Cantina, in San Francisco and with their knowledge in various aspects of the business (distillation, cocktail creation and wholesale), they created Encanto Pisco. Moore first experienced pisco in Peru in 2009. “I had already begun to do some consulting with spirits brands, but hadn't yet experienced pisco. It was a revelation for me. I wanted to get my hands into pisco and the beautiful grapes behind it.”

Pisco, a grape brandy made in Peru (and Chile), has a long history with San Francisco. Beginning in the mid-1800s, it was the spirit that fueled the Gold Rush as it arrived on ships from South America that were bringing labor and supplies. Pisco can be made from eight designated grapes. Once the wine is made, it is distilled to make a brandy using the solera system, as with sherry, and then the blending takes place. It is Encanto Pisco’s goal to make the best handcrafted artisanal pisco. Through long-standing relationships with growers and a detailed focus on the winemaking process, distillation and blending, every step of the process is hands-on. The result is a smooth, terroir-driven product.“As a sommelier, I wanted something sippable,” says Moore. “And as a bartender, Duggan wanted something mixable. Carlos wanted something brilliant that reflected his 32 years of experience as a distiller.”

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Inside the Operations of FEW Spirits

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

Paul Hletko has brewing in his blood. His grandfather was a brewer in the Czech Republic but lost his business in World War II, and, despite moving to the U.S., continued to fight to get his brewery back until he died in 2008. Hletko wanted to pay homage to his grandfather and, with a passion for whiskey and gin, opening a distillery seemed like a natural option.

Hletko started as a home brewer in his hometown of Evanston, Illinois, just north of Chicago. While a brewing hobbyist, Hletko worked as a patent attorney and had also worked in the music business, doing everything from playing guitar to running a record label to designing custom guitar effects. He began to plan the distillery, and it took five years before it was operational. Hletko was juggling two businesses but knew it was time to exclusively focus on distilling spirits. 

“I was no longer able to do both and it was a real gut check,” he says. “The mind will tell you all sorts of things that it wants you to believe, like you need the money or that people will laugh at you or that you aren't good enough to do it or whatever it takes to keep you in your comfort zone. But I had to make a choice between doing what I wanted to do and doing what I had to do.” 

The shift from home brewer to commercial distiller occurred in 2011 when FEW Spirits opened its doors. Read More

Top 3 Trends at the 2016 Winter Fancy Food Show

Top 3 Trends at the 2016 Winter Fancy Food Show

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

As the 2016 Winter Fancy Food Show returned to San Francisco, there was no shortage of snack foods, sauces, chocolates, ice creams, and more. In fact, in the show’s 41-year history, the 2016 Winter Fancy Food had the strongest attendance with close to 20,000 attendees. There were 1,500 exhibitors from across the United States and 28 countries were represented. Located in the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the show covers 215,000 square feet, which is the equivalent of four football fields. That’s a lot of food — and a lot of walking.

Among the thousands of food products, the below three themes seemed to prevail:

Snacks & Sweets Get Healthier

Snacks are not a new trend, but there is a continual increase in healthy snacks that are high in protein, low in fat, and use all-natural ingredients. Whether on the go or just in need of an afternoon pick-me-up, the brands that caught our attention were:

  1. The Good Bean: Started in 2010, founders Sarah Wallace and Suzanne Slatcher were the first to market these all-natural roasted chickpea snacks. Chickpeas are high in protein and fiber and low in fat, but they are also nut-free and gluten-free, so they can be enjoyed by all. With flavors like sea salt, smoky chili lime, sweet cinnamon, Thai coconut lemongrass, cracked pepper, chocolate, and mesquite barbecue, these beans are crispy and crunch like chips but have as much protein as almonds and as much fiber as broccoli. The Good Bean has also launched bean chips, a protein blend of chickpea, navy bean and red lentils, that is closer in texture and taste to corn chips.
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