Category Archives: Food and Drink

Use Your Marbles: Buy a Beer Company and Learn to Ride a Bike

Normally I would share web sites via Twitter, but I have three to share – totally unrelated to each other except for mangled headline that I just came up with and didn't feel like cobbling together three Tweets.

First of all, if you happen to be looking to own a beer company – or at least part of one – here you go:  Please take note all you Pabst Blue Ribbon fans out there!

I love really clever uses of technology, and this is one of the neatest uses I've seen in a while.  A very simple concept being put to good use to teach kids how to ride bikes: Gyrobike

Last but not least, is this cool new store that is based out of Chicago but that I can see going national very easily, called Marbles.  Keeping an aging population's brain well-tuned is going to be a continuing theme for business everywhere,  and this addresses is directly. 

Is Sweet Tea the Next Hot New Flavor?

I was never a big tea fan – I just didn't care for the taste of it.  Then several years ago, I had the first of several tea-related revelations. 

First, my girlfriend (who would later become my wife) convinced me to have some tea to help clear out a head cold.  I tried it under protest, but to my chagrin, it worked. So I kept drinking it.  Next thing I knew, I found I liked the taste of hot tea.

Next, I tried Swiss Premium's "Southern Brew" sweet tea (now simply called "Sweet Tea" with a little banner that says "Southern Style) while on a business trip.  I suddenly understood why people practically worshiped this beverage.  I've been hooked since.

Now that I had experienced sweet tea, I was on the look out for it, and on another business trip to Birmingham, Alabama I found myself at a local barbecue joint (surprise, surprise) and had some of their freshly brewed sweet tea.  Now, here I was, in the deep south, eating BBQ and drinking sweet tea.  A light shone upon me and there were small angels around me, blowing their little trumpets, announcing the complete and total conversion of me from tea hater to tea lover.

Since then, a little restaurant chain you may have heard of – I believe they are called McDonald's – has introduced their own "sweet tea" available in 32 ounce cups (they use the word "cup" loosely – more like "vat").   You're also seeing sweet tea crop up in more supermarkets, and Arizona's own Southern Style sweet tea show up in more and more convenience stores.   I've even seen a gallon of Arizona's sweet tea on local (New England) Walmart shelves.

To me, flavors don't start crossing over into the mainstream though until you see other categories pick them up.  Example: the only place you ever saw "Pomegranate" was in POM Wonderful's obscenely expensive juices.  Once people caught wind of the health benefits and started to enjoy the flavor, it cropped up everywhere – you can now get gum, vodka, popsicles and candles all with the taste and/or aroma of Pomegranate. 

So it was with great interest that I've seen the introduction of sweet tea-flavored vodkas in the last year or so.   In my book, when you see a flavor of vodka hitting the shelf of your liquor store, it means that flavor is getting big. 

I can see why people enjoy sweet tea: it is probably the closest thing to a sugary soft drink that you can drink and not feel overly guilty about it.  Yes, it has sugar in it, but it is usually made with real sugar (not high fructose corn syrup) and has the benefits of antioxidants from the tea, and no carbonation.  It is sweet, but light and refreshing as well. 

It would seem to be well within the realm of possibility that it is only a matter of months before sweet tea breaks out into the culinary mainstream, similar to how martinis, cupcakes, and whoopie pies have gotten press at various times over the last few years as the "hot new trend."  Just remember that you read it here first!

Beef On Weck

I thought Buffalo's only major original culinary tradition was the Buffalo Wing, invented at the Anchor Bar, but this week I found another delicious delicacy: roast beef on kummelweck roll, commonly referred to as "beef on weck" (pronounced "wick").

You all know I love trying the local food, so when I found out about this, I had to try it.  It really is just your standard grade roast beef sandwich that will be made as good as the roast beef is, served with horseradish and au jus on the side.  But the roll is this incredibly and wonderfully salty combination of kosher salt and caraway seeds.  This isn't for those on a low-sodium diet or who don't like a lot of salt.  However, the seeds and salt add not only flavor, but great crunchy texture to the sandwich, kind of like how sticking potato chips or a piece of lettuce adds crisp to a sandwich, but much more savory.

So next time you find yourself in Buffalo (be smart and don't go in February like I did), get some buffalo wings and a beef on weck!

Two Things for the Foodies Out there, and One for the Music Fans

Three web sites that I recently learned about and wanted to share:

Livekick – First for the music fans… I'm always on the lookout for ways to track when your favorite artists are coming to town for a show, and this is another site that has joined the fray that already has Tourfilter, Sonic Living and others.

Drink A Better Brew – Pretty aggressive concept here.  Not only are they putting on beer and food pairing dinners that the public can join in, but if you can get 10 friends together, they will bring the party to your house.  Kinda like one of those Tupperware/jewelery/kitchen stuff/naughty things-type parties that the gals usually have, but geared towards beer geeks.

Foodzie – A shopping site for foodies.  Nothing is cheap, but there's some interesting things on there.  If someone tries Q tonic water, let me know if it is really worth almost $60/case!

In the meantime, hopefully I can find someplace to buy aged provolone.  I tried it for the first time this weekend and it is the first time I've had a cheese that is actually tangy in a good way.   Very rich, flavorfull and this biting tang at the end that made it almost refreshing.

For Barbecue Wonks Everywhere

Its not secret that I'm a barbecue nut, and while I'm not exactly at the cutting literary edge with this book review, I figured it was worth mentioning in hopes of exposing it to a few new pople who might be interested in it.  Cornbread Nation 2: The United States of Barbecue is one in a serious of books that collects essays, poems and short stories about Southern Cooking, and in this specific case, all about barbecue.

In reality, most of hte book is abou tbarbecue – there is about 1/4 of the book that is about Southern food in general, including everything from ice cream trucks in the Virignia area, to the history of Ruth Chris' Steakhouse to geophagists - people who eat dirt.   It is all very interesting though, especially for a foodie who loves Southern food and is all well written. 

One Order of Dirty, Complicated Food Please

After watching the latest seasons of both "Top Chef" and "The Next Food Network Star," you can't help but notice that EVERYONE is concentrating on "clean, simple flavors" which got me to wondering…  at what point did food get so muddied and complicated that this trend started? 

I guess you could make an argument that heavy sauces that mask the flavor of the main protein are a distraction, but if you've ever had a good Bearnaise sauce, then you know its really not anything to complain about.  If I'm going to a fine dining establishment, I want complicated and complex food that makes me go "WOW!" not a couple of sliced tomatoes and a basil leaf that gets passed off as a marinara sauce. 

The Foodie Trend Runs Amok

Photo_121607_001I’ve been hanging onto this picture for a while now, meaning to make a post with it.  It was taken at a Burger King in Massachusetts in February, 2008.  I know that America is becoming a nation of "foodies" but pairing carbonated soft drinks with the food selections at Burger King?   Things are clearly out of control and/or someone at Burger King has way too much time on their hands. 

Flavor Trends

Just how much has the palette of American changed?  Here’s a listing of some of the flavors recently predicted to be among the most popular new flavors for food in 2008: acai, lychee, pomegranate, verbena, goji, noni, guarana, achiote, sofrito, ras-al-hanout, tandoori, chermoula, cumac, pandan and tamarind.  I wonder how many people could tell you what all of them are.   I wonder how many people could have told you that ANY of these existed ten years ago?  I consider myself a "foodie" and I have to say that I couldn’t tell you what all of these are. 

For those who are as ignorant as myself, here’s some links to help clear things up.  To start with, here are the "sweet" flavors that they say will be in the beverage, confectionery, bakery and dairy markets:

  • Acai (side note: Smirnoff just came out with a Strawberry Acai flavor of Smirnoff Ice)
  • Lychee
  • Pomegranate
  • Mint (I’m assuming you know about this one, but it is one taken for granted)
  • Blueberry (hopefully you know this one too)
  • Verbena
  • Goji
  • Noni (also known as "vomit fruit." awesome)
  • Guarana (not really new, but reaching widespread influence beyond energy drinks)

And here are the "savory" flavors predicted to become more popular in meat, condiments, sauces, soups and seasoning markets:

  • Achiote (tried finding this a few months ago – never did manage it)
  • Sofrito (this is a very interesting one – it is kind of like the Latin equivalent of the "trinity" in Cajun and Creole cooking or French Mirepoix
  • Ras-al-hanout (a tough one to define – basically a mix of high-end exotic spices, typically in the Moroccan or Middle-Eastern arena.  Don’t take this link as definitive, but exemplary)
  • Tandoori (yum!)
  • Tea smoked (I have heard of it, and have had food smoked with tea, but never done it myself.  Now I will have to!)
  • Chermoula (somewhat similar to ras-al-hanout in concept)
  • Cumac – I cannot find any information about this.  If anyone can help, please let me know!
  • Kaffir lime
  • Pandan
  • Tamarind (tasting tamarind for the first time is a mind-blowing experience.  I encourage you to pick up some tamarind paste and experiment with it)

One of the interesting things about this list is that many of the them, especially on the sweet side, have purported medicinal/health benefits as well.  Not only are we looking for more and different flavors – bolder, spicier, more challenging – but we’re looking to get health benefits from them as well.