Fuhgeddaboudit!

Fuhgeddaboudit
Brooklyn

I am organizing a sensory trend excursion in Williamsburg for a large group of people and I recently called a few independent coffee roasters with retail shops and bakeries to arrange a store visit.  I wanted to purchase an iced drink and a pastry for 25 people and have the owner speak about the history of the shop and what makes it unique.  One would think this is a great business opportunity; a shop owner could introduce interesting products to potential new customers.

To my surprise, apparently I was wrong. Not 1 but 7, independent retailers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn turned me down. I’m still shaking my head in disbelief that they walked away from guaranteed business.Their reasons were:

  • “We can’t accommodate you since we cater to our local customers and it would be disruptive to our shop.”
  • “We can’t accommodate you; it just doesn’t work.  Our local customers get upset if we reserve tables.”
  • “We can’t accommodate you. It will interfere with our business flow and we are not staffed for that many customers, but you can come in and order independently.”
  • “We are too small and we can’t fit you.”
  • “We always keep the focus on our loyal clients and maintaining their shopping experience and don’t want to detract them.”
  • “We work very hard to accommodate and please our neighbors and it is not in our capacity to be able to please the market.”

I thought for sure in this economy and competitive business environment, finding an independent retail store to accommodate us would be an easy task.  I’m not sure what the store owners’ long term business growth strategies are, but from a business perspective, I think these store owners are shortsighted for multiple reasons:

  • I am guaranteeing the shop business for 25 people without the business owner having to chase business or market their company; I came to them.
  • The shop has a captive audience of 25 people for twenty to thirty minutes.  The business owner has the opportunity to talk about their business and show their products.
  • Their business is being exposed to people who have no idea their business exists.
  • Business 101 – we all know word of mouth travels, good and bad.
  • Although it may inconvenience the store’s local customers and be a little more disruptive than normal for thirty minutes, it’s a short finite period of time during a week day. In the big picture it’s thirty minutes out of a full day and will not negatively impact their business.
  • Additionally, one would think that local customers would be happy and supportive to see the store is doing well and attracting business.
  • If locals pass the shop and see a large group of people, their curiosity might be piqued and they might want to stop by to see what’s going on. Bonus, more customers.
  • I understand these indie shops aren’t designed to fit a large group of people at one time, but work with me.  I suggested taking shifts and having half the group go in and the other half wait outside and then switch.

I believe these stores have missed an opportunity and are thinking small.  Think small and be small. Although I am intrigued by their store concepts and executions, I’m disappointed in their customer service.  I’m not inclined to rush back to support their local businesses nor recommend them. I think I’ll fuhgeddaboudit!

Not So Krazy for Kale

Fresh Kale

Kale, the new superfood darling, is a cruciferous vegetable member of the cabbage family.  I remember when it was that green, curly vegetable that restaurants used as a garnish to decorate the plate.  I’m not a big fan and haven’t been converted yet.

According to Starchefs.com “chefs take note of kale for its bold appearance and complex flavor.” It’s so popular it’s being eaten raw, juiced, sauteed, baked, blanched, steamed, fried etc. High in fiber and nutrients, kale is reported to have anti-cancer health benefits. Raw foodists have been juicing and eating it for years, but it’s now going mainstream.

Get juiced…

Organic Avenue recognized the benefits of kale early and offers a variety of kale products including the Green Monkey Smoothie crafted with banana and kale and Green LOVE* super juice features pear, lemon, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, parsley, collard greens and romaine. Swiss chard, Tuscan kale, spinach, cucumber, ginger, Kohlrabi, and fresh herbs are all in Good Means Go juice from newcomer Creative Juice. Kale Me Crazy will join the juice bar trend and launch in March in Atlanta. For those who prefer an alcoholic drink, there’s the Garden Variety Margarita with Blue agave blanco tequila, ginger & kale juice, lime juice, agave nectar and smoked sea salt from The Wayland.

Eat it raw…

Pure Food and Wine serves a Tuscan Kale with Shaved Fennel and Orange salad with orange blossom scented honey, fennel pollen, and candied almond crumbs while Fatty ‘Cue offers a Kale & Chicory salad with cincalok and green peppercorn dressing. Just Salad offers Winter Crunch Superfood made with Iceberg-Kale-Red cabbage, multigrain croutons, apples, wheatberries, broccoli, and shaved Parmesan. You know kale has hit critical mass when restaurant’s like Cheesecake Factory add it to their menu and serve Fresh Kale Salad.  Watch out, because according to The Globe and Mail, the French are beginning to embrace it.

Some like it hot…

Red Medicine serves a Young Turnips with roasted banana, banana vinegar, fermented black bean, creme fraiche, and kale while Scampo offers Norwegian salt cod ravioli with roasted pork belly and Tuscan kale.

Snack attack…

Brad’s Raw Food sells a variety of kale chips such as Vampire Killer-Leafy Kale and Nasty Hot-Leafy Kale and Earth Chips has Cheezy Kale and Chocolate Kale flavors.

The future…

The Chicago Tribune’s Food trends for 2013: What’s the next kale? article suggests that “vegetables will continue to move to the center of the plate” with kale being the current superstar. QSR supports this trend and sees ‘More fruits and vegetables’ as 10 Trends for 2013, and foresees kale “becoming more popular as a healthful option at some fast-casual restaurants and on college campuses.”

Is kale a fad or is it going to be part of our diet for good?

P.S. Watch as this leafy green trickles into beauty care products like Dr. Alkaitis’ Universal Organic Mask and Mor’s Emporium Black Collection Kale & Watercress.

What’s Ahead? 2013 Culinary Trends To Watch For…

Out with the old, in with the new. It’s a new year and here is a list I compiled of some interesting predictions for what food & beverage trends are ahead in 2013. Let’s see how accurate they are…

Technomic’s Take: What’s Ahead in 2013?

National Restaurant Association Food – What’s Hot Food 2013 Chef Survey? and What’s Hot Alcohol 2013 Bartender Survey?

Sterling-Rice Group Cutting-Edge Dining Trends of 2013

McCormick® Flavor Forecast® 2013

Nestlé Highlights Top Food & Beverage Trends to Watch in 2013

Eater Trendwatch 2013: Food Media Predicts the Future

The 2012 StarChefs.com Trends Report

Time Top 10 Food Trends of 2012 and more

 

Who Dat? New Orleans Style

I was invited to a high school friend’s wedding in the French Quarter, New Orleans last weekend.  When my husband agreed to watch the kids for the weekend I booked my ticket before he could change his mind. Who can pass on a girls weekend away in an eating capitol?

I often tell my clients to find inspiration and to facilitate creativity you need to be in tune with your senses at all times. When traveling, one must absorb the culture, observe the different behaviors and taste the local ingredients.  Well I proudly followed my own advice and ate, drank and danced my way through New Orleans.

I love oysters – raw, cooked, fried, you name it. My trip began with a visit to Drago’s known for their Charbroiled Oysters.  Like no other oyster I’ve had, these were succulent, salty, buttery, garlicky, cheesy, and delicious.  It was the perfect combination of textures and tastes. As if that wasn’t enough, we ordered a dozen raw oysters to follow and they were fresh, cold, crisp, and briny.

After dinner, the festivities began and we met the bride and groom to be and our high school friends by the Riverwalk and Spanish Plaza. We worked our way to The French Quarter and had cocktails at French 75 Bar (attached to Arnaud’s). It had an old school atmosphere with the bartenders in tuxedos, funky monkey lights with crystal tassels and a variety of specialty drinks.  I settled on the Caibiscus crafted with Cachaca, Falernum, Hibiscus tea, Grenadine and Lime Juice.  Our evening continued with a few cheesy bar stops along Bourbon Street – I had to pass on dancing at The Beach and drinking Tropical Isle’s Hand Grenade cocktail.  However, a visit to Bourbon street wouldn’t be complete without a final stop at Pat O’Brien’s. I don’t particularly like the Hurricane cocktail, but the saying goes “when in Rome do as the Roman’s do,” so I tasted it. I was craving dessert and ordered a White Russian or two instead.

French 75
French 75

Another must do, was Cafe Du Monde, which was our final destination at 1:00 am.  The beignets were fabulous…not too hot, not too cold, not to fluffy and not too dense, all just right, drowning in confectioners sugar. I’m still raving about them to the point where my second grade daughter told me “Mom, why don’t you just write a small moment about them.”  There is a reason Cafe Du Monde is an institution and open 24/7.  Even though they sell their signature beignet mix, I’m convinced you can’t recreate the same experience at home. Whenever you try something for the first time and really enjoy your experience, the next time you try it you’re chasing the high. There’s got to be a science to it…the difference in water, frying oil (assume it’s been used multiple times), the actual shape & size and the heavy handed use of powdered sugar. That’s just the physical aspect of the beignets, but the waiters and waitresses with their white paper soda jerk hats and black bow ties hustling about, all create a memorable experience. I have the same theory for NY bagels and Philly pretzels.  BTW – my black dress didn’t stand a chance, I was covered in powdered sugar, but it was worth it!

Cafe Du Monde Beignets
Cafe Du Monde Beignets

Saturday morning began with a quick jaunt to the the Audubon Aquarium. Had time permitted, I would have liked to visit the Insectarium – oh well next time.  Eating was essential and we had to grab a quick bite before the wedding so we met our friends at Killer Poboys in the back of the Erin Rose bar.  They only offer a selection of five poboys that are all “internationally inspired and chef crafted.”  Although I’m not a big fan of cilantro or coriander, the Coriander Lime Gulf Shrimp (with marinated Daikon and carrot, cucumbers, herbs and the house special aioli) piqued my interest.  It was delicious!  The coriander was perfectly balanced and not overpowering, the shrimp were plump and fresh and I loved the doughiness of the bread with a hint of crisp, flakiness.

Clownfish & coral
Clownfish & Coral

Our adventure continued as we headed to the French Quarter Wedding Chapel, which on their website states “Please do not come more than 15 minutes before scheduled wedding time it could cost the couple.”  Keeping this in mind, it was no surprise that when we arrived I felt like I was in a Quentin Tarantino movie…dollar bills hanging from the chapel ceiling, Tiffany lamps haphazardly arranged, an old boom box, a few pews, a couch, four living room chairs, folding chairs and wedding knick-knacks randomly placed. Elvis’ appearance was an added touch, but I had a hunch he’d be there. When I first received the wedding e-vite to attend a “chapel” wedding, I mistakenly thought it was going to be held in Las Vegas and expected Elvis. The bride in jeans, with a white blouse and flip flops and an unshaven groom in jeans – both holding Styrofoam cups filled with a cocktail, seemed perfectly suited for the setting. Vows were exchanged with Elvis singing/asking the groom if “he would take the bride to be his hunka-hunka burning love?” As we toasted the newlyweds with champagne, we were beaded and given white handkerchiefs.

Ceiling of French Quarter Chapel
Ceiling of French Quarter Chapel
Dragonfly Tiffany Lamp
Dragonfly Tiffany Lamp

For a real New Orleans experience, we gathered outside the chapel and to our surprise there was a 2nd line brass band. With a police escort, 35+ guests practiced their “woos” and waved their handkerchiefs high in the air as we paraded and danced through the French QuarterTourists and on lookers watched as we threw beads at the crowd and drank from our red solo cups, which the reverend allowed guests to generously fill as he drove his electric wheel chair with a cooler attached alongside the parade. We paraded for a mile and ended at Mojito for cocktails and appetizers. We sipped on housemade mojitos, snacked on crab cakes, listened to the band, and enjoyed the wedding celebration.

2nd Line
Wedding 2nd Line
Traveling bar
Traveling bar

At 6:00 pm it was time to eat again and we needed our grand finale, hurrah meal. The night before I had asked the local Pat O’Brien’s bartender to recommend her favorite restaurant and off we went to Jacques Imo’s in Uptown. This restaurant did not disappoint… I was fond of the watermelon mojito. As they say the rest is history.

It was a whirlwind two day weekend, but the most unique, non-traditional and memorable wedding I’ve ever attended. I truly appreciated being a part of the moment.