Harlem’s Burgeoning Food Scene

admin | April 29th, 2015 - 4:48 pm

A host of new eateries is diversifying local offerings

Not long ago, eating out in Harlem meant the obligatory trip to Sylvia’s Restaurant on Malcolm X Boulevard for soul food. But when Red Rooster opened a block away in 2011, followed by Harlem Corner Social diagonally across the street, it signaled a change in the local dining scene.

For a long time all you had was soul food or mom-and-pop places. But now people are seeing there are opportunities for so much else.

Bolstered by that confidence, a second restaurant, Angel, will open by the same owner of Red Rooster in two weeks, the latest in a string of openings below 125th Street on Frederick Douglass Boulevard. This month, Streetbird Rotisserie, following the lead of six-month-old LoLo’s Seafood Shack, the month-old bar Mess Hall, and its adjoining coffee shop, Double Dutch Espresso—all clustered around 116th to 119th Streets.

To further propel Harlem’s exploding food culture, the four-day Harlem EatUp! Festival was founded, which will debut May 14, joining the Food & Drink Boulevard event, now in its fourth year.

The buzz was a long time coming.  There were only two businesses on the boulevard back in 2011. It was only a handful—and handful is a generous term.

But the growth spurt has been fast: At six years old, Bier International is already a senior citizen, the four-year-old Lido and Harlem Tavern are teenagers, and the two-year-old Vinateria a toddler.

The Harlem food scene in general is really sort of buzzing at the moment. People are really surprised about the wealth of offerings available now…Frederick Douglass Boulevard, it’s on fire.

Such developments are reported on Harlem + Bespoke, a six-year-old blog covering local culture, business and design. A lot of people were saying the neighborhood wasn’t ready…or that it’s not on the same level as Brooklyn or other neighborhoods you hear about.

The boulevard’s makeover is not the usual cringe-inducing takeover story, but rather is anchored by reinvested interest from locals, and two community organizations.

Every one of the businesses on Frederick Douglass Boulevard is owned by someone who lives in the community.

Once marred by dilapidated buildings, the boulevard now hums with business. A day spa, yoga studio, wine store and epicurean market reflect both a hyperlocal revival and a desire for the service and style typically found in trendy locations.

Newcomers won’t find housing options as plentiful as dining—stock tends to fly off the market. The initial surge in construction in 2009 to 2010 produced mainly starter apartments. Now, inventory in the pipeline weights toward two- , three- and four-bedroom condominiums.

As opposed to when people bought here when it was bargain, they’re buying here now because it’s one of the last real surviving neighborhoods in Manhattan that hasn’t been taken over by the super luxury, and is still attainable.

One-bedroom condos average $800,000, and two-bedrooms price between $1.1 million and $1.5 million.

There is a concern that a saturation point will be reached and not every business will be sustained, and that’s happened in numerous other neighborhoods as well.

Source:  wsj.com, 4-23-2015

4 Secrets for Survival with a New Restaurant

admin | April 28th, 2015 - 4:40 pm

The myth that it’s nearly impossible for a restaurant to succeed started with a TV ad about 10 years ago. The infamous ad had a celebrity chef claiming that 90% of restaurants fail within their first year. And even though no facts backed it up, the statistic stuck. The restaurant industry has a reputation for […]

admin | April 22nd, 2015 - 3:33 pm

[your-recipe-will-show-here “Pizza Panini” 61]

Watermen Preparing for Crab Season

admin | April 10th, 2015 - 1:29 pm

While the Department of Natural Resources’ Winter Dredge Survey for crabs is still a few weeks off, Eastern Shore watermen are gearing up for another season of catching the Chesapeake Bay’s favorite little blue delicacies.

Winter icing of the Chesapeake isn’t just dangerous for watermen’s wallets — too much ice on the Bay means watermen can’t work, and watermen lost about four weeks this oyster season because of it — but ice can be dangerous for the iconic blue crabs, too.

“Right after that ice, we saw a lot of dead crabs,” Talbot County Watermen’s Association President Bunky Chance said.

Chance said ice lowers the oxygen levels in the water, and the older, larger crabs are usually the first to die when that happens.

Watermen were concerned at first when they started seeing “dead crab after dead crab” turn up after they got a chance to get back out on the water near the end of winter, Chance said.

But after the first week back to work oystering, watermen started seeing live crabs move about again — albeit smaller, undersized crabs, which Chance said could suggest a slow start to the season.

A wholesale buyer and distributor on Deal Island in Somerset County, said there has been a change in DNR’s regulations this year that watermen must abide by, a change that only really affects crabbers in the lower Bay.

In an effort to protect spawning-size female blue crabs, DNR raised the minimum size for peeler crabs from April 1 through July 14 from 3¼ inches to 3½ inches. The minimum size for peeler crabs caught between July 15 and Dec. 15 is already 3½ inches. This is an action slated only for the 2015 season.

Last year’s Winter Dredge Survey conducted by the DNR did not bode well for blue crabs. The survey estimated the blue crab spawning female population was just below the minimum safe threshold of 70 million crabs, which sparked state agencies that manage the Bay’s blue crab population to bolster measures to protect the population’s spawning stock.

According to the DNR, raising the peeler size through July 14 will “allow more crabs to molt to maturity and successfully mate and spawn.”

The regulation change affects lower Bay crabbers the most, because blue crabs tend to be smaller in the Bay’s lower waters, due to higher salinity levels in the water. Blue crabs tend to be larger in the Bay’s northern waters, due to lower salinity levels.

Chance said the peeler regulation doesn’t effect Talbot’s watermen as much as it would Somerset’s watermen.

This year’s Winter Dredge Survey isn’t due out until May, according to a DNR spokesman, and officials aren’t commenting on preliminary results.

Overall, though, it looks like it’s going to be a pretty good season.

Prices watermen are getting for a bushel of crabs from wholesalers is about the same as it was last year, around $100 a bushel.

But both also said the season is never set in stone, either good or bad, with crabs. They could be here today and gone tomorrow.

Plus, watermen must consider what Chance described as a “layover time” between oyster season and when crab season takes off in the warmer spring months.

The DNR extended oyster season, which typically ends on the last day of March, by two weeks to make up for some of the four weeks of lost time watermen couldn’t work because the Bay was iced over.

“We still lost four weeks. To get two is helpful, but it’s still a net loss for us on time,” said Chance, who extended his thanks to the DNR and Gov. Larry Hogan’s office for making the oyster season extension happen. “Even though this two-week extension is a big help, it’s still a long gap ‘till those crabs get going.”

Source:  myeasternshoremd.com, 4-6-2015

Where’s the beef: Restaurants Experimenting with Lean Proteins

admin | April 8th, 2015 - 1:34 pm

Although Americans obviously love their steaks and burgers, many are looking at other protein sources as a way to maintain healthier diets and save money when dining out. The nation’s total beef consumption is down from 27.3 billion pounds in 2008, to 25.5 billion pounds in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Clearly, Americans are looking for healthier protein alternatives, and poultry options fit the bill, according to “Who Eats the Meats: A Guide to the Modern US Lean Protein Eaters.”  The report found that more than 31 million households purchased a lean protein at least once a week because they are low in fat and play an important role in strengthening the body’s immune system.

The trend of consumers embracing lean proteins is one that many restaurants are embracing in an effort to offset the cost of beef, which increased 25 percent last year. Prices aren’t falling any time soon, thanks to the droughts of 2012 that decimated cattle. Although farmers are rebuilding their herds, it takes up to three years from gestation for cattle to reach market weight.

That means most cuts of beef will remain high for another year, which has forced many restaurants to increase menu prices.

They can only do so much from a cost cutting or yield effectiveness perspective to keep menu prices flat. They are passing prices onto their patrons.

Fresh to Order, a 15-unit fine fast casual chain, is one restaurant that recently increased menu prices, but it’s impossible to raise them enough to cover the costs, said Jesse Gideon, the brand’s COO and corporate chef.  You can never truly raise enough; guests can never absorb all the true increases. You will price yourself out of business.

Lean proteins taking over restaurant menus

Higher beef costs aren’t only affecting small restaurants; it’s a problem for the big guys, too. Chipotle, for example, raised its steak prices last year and is contemplating another increase later this year.

Restaurants have been embracing and incorporating lean proteins like chicken, pork, turkey and fish into their menus as locally sourced meats and seafoods top our culinary trends list for 2015, said Christin Fernandez, director, Media Relations & Public Affairs at the National Restaurant Association. Poultry and fish items continue to be perennial trends in limited service restaurants and we’re also seeing that like beef, restaurants are incorporating less traditional protein and seafood options like pork cheeks or arctic char.

A tactic that many restaurants are using to offset high beef costs is focusing specials and limited-time offers on non-beef items to save costs and enhance their margins.

Fresh To Order serves poultry, is relying on less expensive cuts of beef and also encourages customers to try new menu items.

They have been gently nudging guests with marketing around alternative items and training staff to recommend other favorites in like and other categories.
Del Taco’s turkey test

While turkey isn’t a staple in most Mexican restaurants, Del Taco added it to the menu last year when it introduced turkey tacos and turkey CrunchTada tostadas. It was the first Mexican fast-food chain to offer turkey as a protein option and is advertising that the 150-calorie tacos contain 33 percent less fat than the beef.

People are substituting turkey for beef to meat dietary needs and health goals, and Del Taco was excited to offer its guests lean, seasoned ground turkey last year now made using Jennie-O turkey. This move provides guests with an excellent beef alternative without sacrificing the delicious Mexican flavors they know and love at Del Taco.

Although restaurants have historically shied away from serving turkey unless it came in sandwich form, that’s changing, according to Mintel’s January 2015 “Emerging Flavor & Ingredient” report. It picked up 23 mentions of unique turkey ingredients on menus in Q3 2014, and 11 of those are posting “menu incidence growth,” an increase in mentions across all menus.

For example, Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint uses beef on its pizzas, it sells three times the volume in hormone-free poultry than beef products.

Over the last two years, they have seen beef prices rise in double digit percentages, however pork has remained flat and poultry has gone down.

Technomic in Chicago, isn’t surprised and expects to see other restaurants using more non-beef items, especially turkey, in a variety of dishes.

They think we will see [turkey] consumption rise across the board … with [the addition of] tacos, burgers and other more traditional items. Turkey is leaner, healthier and less expensive.

Source:  qsrweb.com, 4-2-2015

8 Reasons ProStart is Important – Seriously!

admin | April 7th, 2015 - 1:32 pm

High school culinary and hospitality management students are heading to Disneyland for the 14th annual National ProStart Invitational. Those destined for Anaheim, Calif., won their state ProStart competitions.

Organized by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, the competition is set for April 18 through 20 at the Disneyland Hotel. Wondering why ProStart is important? Here are eight reasons:

  1. It’s one of the largest industry-supported technical education programs in the United States, and it provides students with the skills to pursue restaurant and foodservice careers.
  2. ProStart reaches more than 118,000 high-school students in 48 states, Guam and Defense Department schools in Europe and the Pacific. The program provides training culinary technique and restaurant management, as well as teamwork, communication and professionalism.
  3. Seventy percent of ProStart students plan to pursue post-secondary educations at colleges, universities and culinary academies.
  4. Competing culinary students prepare three-course meals in one hour on two butane burners.
  5. The teams are judged on taste, teamwork, safety and sanitation practices, among other skills.
  6. Management teams develop a business plan for a hypothetical restaurant concept and present it to a panel of industry judges. The students then answer questions about typical challenges restaurant managers face.
  7. Top-placing teams (first through fifth place) win $500 to $5,000 scholarships to help with education expenses. Sponsors include Coca-Cola Co., EcoLab, Georgia Pacific, Golden Corral, Popeyes and the Burger King McLamore Foundation. Several leading culinary schools and post-secondary institutions also offer full scholarships to the winning teams.
  8. All competitors get to meet with schools, recruiters and major restaurant and foodservice employers to discuss higher education and industry careers during the event.

“This Invitational brings together the best and brightest – really the future leaders of our industry – to not only demonstrate what they have learned in the classroom, but also represent their state’s ProStart program on the national level,” says Rob Gifford, the NRA’s executive vice president of strategic operations and philanthropy. “It is the best illustration for the critical tie between the industry and classroom, and makes ProStart a model for career technical education.”

www.nationalrestaurantassociation, 4-2-2015

Evolution of Oven Technology Drives Fast Casual Pizza Segment

admin | April 6th, 2015 - 1:32 pm

One of the major headlines in the restaurant industry throughout the past three years has been the swift growth of the top-your-own pizza segment.

This trend may come as somewhat of a surprise considering that many trace pizza’s origins back to the 1700s and early 1900s in the United States. The differentiator this specific category brings, however, is personalization and speed. You can now walk into any fast casual pizza joint and ask for a pizza (not a slice) topped with whatever you want and receive it either at the register or within 5 minutes at your table.

The idea may seem simple, but it wasn’t until the creation of quick-bake ovens that the segment was able to fully get off the ground. Now it’s full speed ahead.

High speed ovens are a huge enabler (for the segment). Consumers want their pizza fast, but they aren’t going to sacrifice quality. Dough technology has evolved as well and new ovens work well with this food chemistry, such as proof time, blend and protein content of the flour.

Many of these fledgling concepts are even putting their ovens in the marketing spotlight. Chipotle’s pizza concept, Pizzeria Locale, uses an oven that bakes a pie at 1,000 degrees.

Someone had to develop an innovative oven that could cook multiple pizzas in 2 minutes at a predetermined flow-through rate. In other words, the oven cannot be the rate limiting factor as in the Theory of Constraints.

Your Pie, touts their concept’s brick oven that yields a pizza in 3 to 5 minutes.  They then finish it in their brick oven so it gets kissed by the flame.

Firecrust Neapolitan uses a wood-burning oven at 900 degrees for about 90 seconds. And Blast 825° was actually named after its oven, which cooks pizzas in an 825-degree oven.

The technology’s emergence

Of course, the high-heat oven is as old as pizza itself. The difference is now it’s scalable and even more controllable.

Though technology has improved with computer-controlled modules for controlling some of the heat of our ovens, we still believe that our cooks need to have some personal control over the intensity of the flames. This is akin to how the historical Neapolitan pizzaiuli modulated heat when using wood. This personal control allows each cook the flexibility to adjust to each oven full of pizzas.

This type of technology began to emerge in 2002-03 and really took off in 2006-07 when VPN and similar pizzerias began popping up in major metropolitan areas such as San Francisco and New York.

The chicken or the egg?

So, what came first, the oven technology or consumer’s demand for fast, customizable pizzas?

PizzaRev co-founder, who uses a Woodstone open-flamed stone hearth oven, said the fast casual pizza segment is accelerating because of innovative oven technology.

Pizza is a go-to entrée, so with the advent of the very hot oven, we are now able to offer a pizza that previously took 10 or 15 minutes to make to just 3 minutes. This changes the paradigm, especially for lunch, by fulfilling a desire by consumers to have a high-quality offering quickly served, so that they can enjoy one of their favorite foods with minimal time commitment.

TurboChef ovens are used in Pie Five restaurants, because the demand for quick, customizable, personal pizzas has been around for decades, but solutions were not high quality – basically pieces of pizza being reheated in a deck oven.

What has happened is the technology is enabling a quality solution to meet the customer’s needs.

Currently many oven manufacturers are jumping on a bandwagon of rotating deck ovens to (seemingly) address the assembly fast casual segment, but we feel that a static oven performs best.
Because of this, if there is one disadvantage to the high-speed ovens, Kent said it’s harder to train employees than a conveyor oven.

There really are no disadvantages from Pie Five’s TurboChef oven. The equipment is less expensive, doesn’t require a hood/ansel system, produces consistent product, cooks a variety of crust types and can also make desserts and salad shells.

It’s very versatile. It’s not just the technology of the oven, but the ability to adjust temperature, air slow, speed and top and bottom conditions to work with various dough types.

What’s next?

With a full list of advantages, several believe oven technology will continue to evolve and will continue to drive the fast-growing fast casual pizza segment.

The growth will follow consumer demand and technology will enable further growth. What is needed in this cutting edge sector are more pizza oven reviews to keep businesses informed on the innovations coming on to the market.

Some believe oven technology will continue to develop ‘cleaner,’ fresher types of food for consumers. They foresee smart oven technology in the not-so-distant future that will allow consumers to personalize how their food is baked based on their preferences.

Source:  fastcasual.com, 3-30-2015

Source:  meatingplace.com, March 30, 2015

April Sandwich of the Month

admin | April 3rd, 2015 - 12:59 pm

[your-recipe-will-show-here “Ham & Cheese with Pineapple Chutney” 62]

Slider with Asiago & Malt Aioli

admin | April 2nd, 2015 - 3:16 pm

A Saval Family Recipe [your-recipe-will-show-here “Slider with Asiago & Malt Aioli” 56]

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