Tag Archives: michael whiteman

Restaurants Without Seats? Big Trends In 2017

4 Jan

Food trends are fascinating; we are obsessed with what we eat. But more importantly, these trends tell larger stories about who we are. Looked at yearly, they depict the shifting sands of consumer behavior.

For example, I’ve just learned that ordering food delivered from restaurants surges, improbably, on … Valentine’s Day! It’s not because of the death of romanticism in America or because restaurants are heavily booked. Just the opposite: Lured by the ease of Internet ordering and speedy delivery by Uber or Amazon, people increasingly are “eating out” at home and abandoning restaurant dining rooms.

So a big trend for 2017 will be companies opening experimental kitchen-only restaurants whose sole purpose is to send prepared meals to your home. They are called “phantom restaurants” (also known as ghost restaurants) because no one ever visits them. They’re located in low-rent locations but staffed by real chefs and cooks. Even Olive Garden, just last week, said that it was considering building kitchens in warehouse districts that could deliver to a major city, an idea earlier floated by the fast-growing Panera Bread company.

I’ve attached an article on this very subject by Financial Times’s restaurant critic Nicholas Lander as reprinted in last week’s blog by Jancis Robinson, one of the world’s premier wine experts (and someone I’ve adored for decades). Expansion of delivery-only kitchens is reshaping the restaurant business — and perhaps also our waistlines. Or it may simply satisfy an innate desire to nest.

Every year I write about food trends as gleaned from the best in the business, and there are many exciting ones on the horizon. Is seaweed the next kale? Are wildly creative sandwiches reshaping how we think about breakfast? Will congee be the next new thing? (I am crazy about it; any time of the day.) There’s all this and lots more in the 2017 food and beverage forecast from Baum+Whiteman International Restaurant Consultants, which you can read about here. Most intriguing in this report is an analysis of why vegetables are becoming the new “comfort food,” and whether that means we’re saying goodbye to mac-and-cheese.

What are some other trends on the horizon? Well, gentrification of the $4 “chopped cheese” for one. A sandwich, made famous in the bodegas of Harlem and the South Bronx, went viral this year, causing a stampede to the upper reaches of the city. This mélange of ground beef, American cheese and condiments, all piled on a hero bucks the trend of highly contrived, super-creative, attention-getting food served elsewhere at more like $4 a bite.

Another trend? Chef magicians turning food-waste into delectable things to eat. I am one of them and among the first to fry carrot tops to use as a garnish, and definitely the first to boil the peelings of fresh asparagus to resemble fettuccine. I also make “compost soup,” and transform leftover bits of iceberg lettuce into a wondrous vegetable by simply sautéing with olive oil and lemony sumac. I pulverize old gnarly carrots into “nibs” and toss them with couscous. So good. And essential to creating a sustainable planet.

Other trends? Chefs who use menu language in new ways and intentionally break from traditional forms. I now teach a class at the New School for Social Research (in New York City) called “The Language of Food,” which looks at menus as a form of literature. And chefs, like poets, use the fewest possible words to express desire and hunger, getting to the essence of a dish quickly, like good haiku. More? Specialty drinks with LED lights inside the ice cubes has a certain poetry of its own, as does “candy floss” (the British word for cotton candy) used in brand new ways.

More? It’s time to click on Whiteman’s forecast for 2017 – sporting the 13 hottest food & beverage trends in restaurant & hotel dining, not to mention 23 prescient buzzwords. According to Nick Lander’s in December’s Financial Times, “Michael Whiteman is a striking example of a lifetime well spent in the American hospitality business.” As the guy who (with his partner Joe Baum) created the world’s first food courts and five of New York’s three-star restaurants, including the legendary Windows on the World and the Rainbow Room, he knows a thing or two about what’s happening.

London Now: Restaurants to Watch

26 Nov

candles-aboveOn a recent trip to London with trends guru Michael Whiteman, I had the luxury of drinking the world’s best martini – made with Cotswolds Gin. The distillery, located 1-1/2 hours outside London (in charming Shipston-on-Stour) is an alluring introduction to the idyllic landscape, known for lush patches of lavender and gentle hills. Ask proprietor Daniel Szor to give you a tour. Eat at the nearby gastropub, “The Kingham Plough” (20 minutes from the distillery), and then head on to bustling London, a world-eats destination, and stay a few days. Giving thanks, here, to MW (husband) for succinctly mapping the brilliance of three of London’s best new dining spots.

Without a great city street map you’d be pressed to find Beast, but every London cabbie knows the location. Beast comes from the creators of the sizzling Burger & Lobster chain but this time the menu focuses on humongous king crabs and great steaks from several countries. You pass massive tanks holding angry, prehistoric-looking crabs and lobsters with claws almost the size of your shoe before entering a bustling underground room full of wooden communal tables with candelabra. There’s a festive roar, mostly from men spending more than your last paycheck. A short assortment of starters (shrimp tempura with Cajun mayonnaise and avocado is sold by the piece but everyone seems to order a platter) leads you to “The Beasts”, all sold by the gram.

Next to us, four petit women from Paris shared some starters and a king crab beast that arrived on a silver platter; they then collapsed into a caloric stupor and gasped “fini.” Three of us, on the other hand, hoovered up a miraculously sweet crab and then carved into a great slab of corn-finished double sirloin from Nebraska grilled over charcoal. We’re partial to grass-fed Basque Holstein, but they were out that night and our other choices were beef from Scotland, Australia and Finland.

Our meal was rounded out by thrice-fired potato wedges and a green salad topped with juicy smoked tomatoes, which were infinitely better than expected. Do not request bread to sop up the salad juices or meat drippings because there is none.

The knowing wine list is full of big bruisers and first growths and, as befits a steakhouse, Beast is rightfully expensive. Don’t be surprised if this celebratory restaurant migrates to New York or Dubai where there already are busy outposts of Burger & Lobster.

Beast

3 Chapel Pl, Marylebone

+44 20 7495 1816

beastrestaurant.co.uk

Portland is the ideal neighborhood restaurant: smallish, warmly lit, gastronomically ambitious, acoustically sensible and fairly priced. For this reason, most people take taxis to this restaurant in the Fitzrovia neighborhood. Portland is one of three admirable London places run by Will Lander (the others being Quality Chop House and nearby Clipstone). The menu appears concise but then you’re struck with the “I want everything” dilemma. A recently bestowed Michelin star is so well deserved.

A smooth chicken liver parfait is offset by crisp chicken skin, candied walnuts and pickled grapes, and Devonshire crab is rolled with lovage into a thin slice of kohlrabi — both exercises of texture as well as taste. Evidently not one for gastronomical grandstanding, chef Merlin Labron-Johnson, who previously worked at Belgium’s famed In De Wulf, transforms complexities of ingredients into watercolors of flavors, as in foie gras with endive, clementine and raisins soaked in Alsace muscat — bitter flavors balanced by sweet. Roasted heritage carrots get the same attention with brown butter, aged nutty comté and toasted buckwheat. Cornish cod with green cauliflower, sorrel and smoked cream, and hay-baked guinea fowl with chestnuts and mushrooms were sublime and comforting on a rainy London evening.

Our waitress, fresh from Gramercy Tavern in New York, provided flawless service and there was nothing she didn’t know about the food.

The wine list is an endless work-in-progress since it changes almost every week, and is full of thrilling things you’ve never heard of — which is no surprise since Lander’s mother is the estimable wine writer Jancis Robinson (his father is food writer and critic Nicholas Lander).

Portland

113 Great Portland St.

+44 20 7436 3261

portlandrestaurant.co.uk

StreetXO is a rollicking transplant to London of a tapas bar in Madrid. That statement is akin to saying that Audi is an automobile. StreetXO is an underground, wackadoodle fusion restaurant where Michelin-starred chef David Muñoz layers Asian flavors onto traditional Spanish tapas, with occasional detours to Mexico. The resulting food erupts with umami and spices. A croquette that in Spain would be bound with a simple béchamel here is filled with sheep milk, XO sauce, lapsang souchong and kimchi, then topped with a slice of toro. If you fancy crunchy pig’s ear dumplings and pickles spattered, Jackson Pollack stye, with strawberry hoisin sauce, this place is for you.

There’s a long, brightly lit open kitchen “counter” where a gaggle of chefs— dressed puzzlingly in strait jackets — prepare these over-the-top inventions and serve you directly, each dish accompanied by an explanatory recitation. This is where you want to sit since the remaining space is night-clubby black, dark red and rather gloomy, but probably appropriate for date nights.

We particularly enjoyed a show-stopper of octopus, tomatillo and green apple mole (a faux guacamole) with “fake Chinese wok noodles” that turned out to be an amazing umami-laden tangle of enoki mushrooms. Muñoz’s steamed club sandwich is a pillow-soft bao with suckling pig, ricotta, quail egg and chili cream. And so it goes — tandoori chicken wings with pickled onion, trout roe and bonito flakes; Iberian pork belly with mussels in escabeche and sriracha; paella with sea urchin, chicken, bergamot and yellow aji — a carnival of animals and seafood.

StreetXO had opened only a few days before we dropped in and London’s trendoids already were clamoring for reservations.

StreetXO

15 Old Burlington St, Mayfair

+44 20 3096 7555

New Food Trends 2015

17 Dec
gallery_nrm_1418407250-p2000194

Vegetable-flavored ice cream

At the end of every year, platoons of food professionals — consultants, chefs, writers and research firms — race to predict the trends that will influence foodies all over America and ergo the world. According to Carol Tice from Forbes, the forecast released in mid-November by Baum+ Whiteman international restaurant consultants, was “one of the most fascinating.” You can check out their full report of 11 dining trends plus 22 hot restaurant buzzwords for 2015 here.

Although I am married to Mr. Whiteman, his prognostications were unknown to me until they were released on Nov. 11th. The trends sit in telling categories: how the importance of technology will profoundly change the way restaurants function; how the notion of authenticity has less relevance, and how our lust for new and different has resulted in “restless palate syndrome” — meaning that we can’t leave simple food alone. One upon a time we liked salty, sweet, spicy, smoky, fatty and bitter flavors — but now we want them all at once. In other words, “too much ain’t enough.”

The report, picked up by an Arabic newspaper, focuses on the importance of hummus, which Whiteman says, is probably the most mispronounced word in our country’s food vocabulary. It gobbles up shelf space in our supermarkets because of a profusion of flavors added to what simply is a chickpea dip eaten in Israel and Arab countries. It now comes in dizzying variations including red pepper, chimichurri, lemongrass-chili and even chocolate mousse! (I’ve recently discovered a hummus ice cream in Tel Aviv).

Or take beer. Cocktails with beer are finding favor in trendy bars. Meanwhile, Micheladas are creeping up on us. Micheladas are Mexican beer concoctions that invite you to dump in all manner of spices — bloody Mary mix, chipotle-tomato juice, soy sauce, beef broth and tequila …you get the idea: beer for restless palate people who’ve become blase about just a pint of IPA.

They also note in their predictions that honey is being “enhanced” with ghost peppers; that bourbon is being flavored with honey and chili pepper or with pumpkin pie spices; that while the fixation of everything-bacon may be abating, now there’s ‘ndjua, a light-up-your-mouth spreadable sausage from Calabria that’s finding its way onto pasta, melted over pork chops, even blended into vinaigrettes as sauces for fish. “If bold flavors are a trend” they say, “this eye-stinging, red-peppered mushy salami is next year’s bold flavor.”

Do strawberries taste sweeter on a black plate or a white plate? On a square plate or a round plate? Their forecast about “neurogastronomy” — how your mind and body can be manipulated to enhance how you sense and taste food –is required reading. So is their comical rant about overpriced avocado.

Among their predictions: The death of tipping, and a reduction in the vast earnings gap between tipped waiters and low-paid cooks and dishwashers; fine dining chefs ditching flowers, linens, reservation systems and expensive china, instead going downscale to develop fast-casual restaurants; insects as food as we search for renewable sources of proteins; savory ice creams and yogurts as consumers realize how much sugar they’re getting in sweetened cold treats; the war on waste is gaining traction; pistachios will be the nut of the year; authentic Jewish delis and also Jewish-ethnic mashups; savory waffles and waffle sandwiches; matcha (green tea powder) in fancy beverages and even seafood stocks and sauces; night markets, building on food truck rodeos, growing around the country with multi-ethnic festivals that bring thousands to riverfronts and public squares.

In their trend called “Soda Fountain Crashes the Bar,” Baum+Whiteman sees childhood treats boozed up as adult shakes and smoothies with bourbon, gin, Frangelico, Galliano, Chartreuse.

Even coconut and cucumber waters, promoted as somehow being “purer,” are being overlaid (or adulterated) with flavors like coffee and mango and with energy-boosting ingredients. Now maple water and birch sap are being tested.

Finally, clever computer programs now allow high-end restaurants to sell tickets for dinner rather than take reservations. Eating out could become as hateful as dealing with the airlines, the consultants say, with cancellation penalties and price shifting based upon demand for seats or time of day.

My adds? Cabbage. Food as medicine. Page oranges from Florida. Tahina is the new mayonnaise. It will come in as many colors (and flavors) as a box of crayons. See you in 2015.

You can also check out the National Restaurant Association’s list for the coming year, Carol Tice’s report from Forbes, and this article from Cosmopolitan.

Singapore Food Critic Loves My Mac-n-Cheese

31 Jul

MAC-AND-CHEESE with Cauliflower and Creamy Red Pepper Sauce, one of over 80 recipes from “Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs” (recipe below).

It’s amazing how recipes circulate around the world. Back in the early ’80s it took about two years for “blackened redfish” to migrate from New Orleans, where it was invented by Paul Prudhomme, to Chicago. But that’s because the primitive media of culinary exchange were cooking magazines and Wednesday’s newspaper food sections.

By the time the blackening fad arrived in Australia, redfish had been over-harvested to near-extinction, recovering only after trendinista chefs moved onto something else. These days, of course, food news and recipes shoot around the globe in no time flat via the Internet — which is why we’re suddenly inundated with gilded “gourmet” hamburgers and bizarre pizzas everywhere in the United States.

I’m reminded of this by an email that just arrived from Singapore, where one of my own recipes recently appeared. Two years ago, Michael Whiteman, my husband The Restaurant Consultant, worked with Richard Helfer, the former far-thinking president of Raffles Hotels, to help create a fast-casual rotisserie chicken restaurant prototype that was slated to colonize numerous corners of Singapore and then beyond.

On one of his trips he brought as a gift a cookbook, which I’d written with my daughter, called Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs. Every recipe is healthful and colorful, with major emphasis on swapping fresh vegetable purees for otherwise fattening cream and butter. For example, zucchini gets whirled into a gorgeous jade-green sauce for pasta primavera; cauliflower gets star billing in a delicious side dish called “Looks Like Mashed Potatoes;” and creamed spinach is enlightened with a puree of (yes!) cottage cheese.

Helfer named his chicken chain Charly T’s, after a fictional gastronome who roamed the globe in search of recipes that would sate his infinite lust for chicken. Knowing that go-withs and flavorful sauces are at least as important as a well-lacquered bird, Helfer paid lots of attention to side dishes, one of which he happened upon in the aforementioned cookbook.

A Singaporean food writer alarmingly named “Little Missy Greedy” recently visited the newly opened second outlet of Charly T’s to write about how to make the restaurant’s celebrated mac-and-cheese — and there it is, straight from Eat Fresh Food: my singular recipe that incorporates, among other ingredients, red peppers, chipotle powder, honey and cauliflower florets. Its gorgeous bright orange sauce is made from cooked red bell peppers and garlic that get pureed together until silky. The seven step-by-step photos all have captions in Chinese, which happens to be Greek to me — but you can make this at home with your kids and be rewarded for being a terrific parent. You’ll love it because it looks like it’s oozing with cheese, but it has much less fat and is more nutritious than regular mac-and-cheese. And now it’s among the trendiest dishes in Singapore. Singapore Sling, anyone?

MAC-AND-CHEESE with Cauliflower and Creamy Red Pepper Sauce

4 oz. very sharp yellow cheddar
2 medium red bell peppers, about 12 oz.
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
8 oz. ziti or penne rigate (or elbow macaroni)
3 cups small cauliflower florets
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Procedures

Shred the cheese on the large holes of a box grater and set aside. Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds. Cut peppers into 1-inch pieces and put in a small saucepan with ½ cup water. Cut the garlic in half, lengthwise, and add to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium, and cover. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the peppers are very soft. Transfer the contents of the saucepan, including the water, to a food processor or blender. Add the butter, honey, chile powder, and salt to taste and process until very smooth. Return to the saucepan. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cauliflower and cook for 12 minutes, or until tender. Drain well and shake dry. Transfer to a large bowl. Heat the sauce and pour it over the pasta. Add the cheese and stir well. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle with chives. Serves 4 to 6

Someone is Killing the Great Consultants from Brooklyn

29 Nov

This year we consumed four Thanksgiving dinners. This is my husband’s* account of dinner #3 hosted by another one of the most fabulous home cooks we know. Recipe below.

The New York Gazette

Someone Is Killing the Great Consultants from Brooklyn

Brooklyn, NY — Nov 28 – Two famous restaurant consultants were found in their car here last night in a complete daze. Rushed to Methodist Hospital nearby, they were diagnosed as having overdosed on L-tryptophan along with uncontrollable surges of melatonin.

The couple, whose heads were flopping about like Stevie Wonder dolls, reported that earlier that evening they had consumed large quantities of an extraordinary turkey cooked by the master himself – a seasoned amateur named Geoffrey Weill of North Bergen, NJ. According to the couple, from various accounts pieced together by the hospital’s staff, they were lured to New Jersey with the promise of a modest Thanksgiving dinner, only to be assaulted by an array of irresistible comestibles, their will to resist greatly compromised by champagne being poured down their empty stomachs.

Medical experts says that this condition frequently is induced during the Thanksgiving period with intent to do harm, although the couple, whose names were withheld pending notice of next of kin, appeared to be unscathed. There still was money in their pockets and credit cards unused.

Law enforcement officials said that no specific law was broken since the couple was not harmed but that they were exploring the legal implications of being seduced to cross state lines with malicious intent.

A Methodist Hospital spokesperson reported, shortly before midnight, that the couple would recover. However, in their delirium they talked about a mystical cranberry relish with pomegranate syrup; a stuffing so wonderful that it must have possessed ingredients that were medically antagonistic to human genes, and some superlative orangey-yellowish vegetable whose name they could not recall.

Calls to the home of Mr. Weill went unanswered and his whereabouts were not immediately known. He and his wife were described by neighbors as ordinary sort of people with a reputation for staging fabulous dinners. No one recalled anyone in their neighborhood ever falling prey to foul play after dining with the Weills. Checks of credit card usage at nearby supermarkets revealed that Mr. Weill had indeed purchased a turkey at Pathmark earlier in the week, this turkey being larger than any 24 people could safely consumer, and observers say that based on car counts there were no more than a dozen adults in the house that evening.

A turkey carcass was discovered in the couple’s car, suggesting to police that they had been given the promiscuous remains of that turkey and that they had consumed, perhaps with the urging of their hosts, all the remaining meat since only the bones were left as evidence.

My Once-A-Year Turkey Broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups finely chopped onions
1 large meaty turkey carcass
4 chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
6 cups, more or less, leftover roasted or raw vegetables
4 cloves garlic

Heat oil in a very large pot. Add onions and cook over high heat, stirring often, for 15 minutes until dark brown. Crack turkey carcass in half and put in the pot. Add remaining ingredients and water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, lower heat and add 1 tablespoon salt. Simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Strain soup into clean pot and reduce until desired flavor is reached. Makes about 2 quarts

* My husband Michael Whiteman (baumwhiteman.com) is an international restaurant consultant who (with partner Joe Baum) created the Rainbow Room and Windows on the World.

%d bloggers like this: