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Upstate New York Get an Official Regional Food Trail

By Adam Campbell-Schmitt

Troy Warren #foodie-all

The “Upstate Eats Trail” guides travelers via regional dishes like Buffalo wings, salt potatoes, and garbage plates.

New York City may garner much of the glory when it comes to the state’s dining scene. After all, the metropolis is home to dozens of name-droppable restaurants and the most Michelin stars in the nation. But as we all know, every corner of the country has its own local dishes and traditions that can be just as delightful to track down as a coveted Manhattan reservation. From Buffalo to Binghamton, cities and towns a few hours northwest of the Big Apple have their own food cultures, and they’re finally being connected with the official Upstate Eats Trail.


 

Launched this week, the 225-mile trail connects four of the bigger cities in the Western and Central New York regions—Binghamton, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse—and explores the dishes that locals have adopted or originated, “culinary traditions going back generations to a time when the region boomed with the opening of the Erie Canal and the flood of immigrants who followed,” the website explains.

The trek isn’t necessarily limited to those cities, with some smaller towns and stops highlighted. The trail follows a chain of “regional restaurants, roadside stands, corner taverns, diners and ice cream shops” as curated in a collaboration between those four main cities’ tourism organizations.


 

So what can one expect to eat along the way? You’ll be stopping for the well-traveled Buffalo-style chicken wings at the famed Anchor Bar, Syracuse’s salt potatoes at Bull & Bear Roadhouse, Binghamton’s chicken spiedies (skewer-cooked meat sandwiches) at Lupo’s S & S Char Pit, and Rochester’s infamous garbage plate at Nick Tahou Hots, a whole mess of potatoes or fries, macaroni salad, hot dogs, hamburger patties, and condiments (that, as a former Central New York-area college student myself, I can confidently confirm epitomizes the term “drunk food”). Don’t forget frozen custard, beef on weck, hot pies, barbecue, cup and char pizza (AKA ‘roni cups), white hots, snappy grillers, and sponge candy.


 


 


 

The website’s FAQ section suggests at least 2 to 3 (but more likely 4 to 5) days to complete the loop, and also has some useful information on other activities in the region, including wineries and breweries to hit up.

Find more information at upstateeatstrail.com.


 

 

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Six Japanese-Inspired Sweets We’re Obsessed With Right Now

By Antara Sinha | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

When you can’t travel to Japan in person, these confections offer a little bit of a trip all on their own.

Through a riot of texture, color, and precision married with ingredients like miso, red bean, and yuzu, Japanese confectioneries capture our imaginations and our taste buds wherever we encounter them. These six Japanese-inspired confections, ranging from chocolate bonbons to luscious cheesecakes and, of course, some truly magical mochi, draw on their makers’ heritage and childhood memories. Call it the ultimate indulgence, but when it comes to dessert time in Japan, we’re all just kids in a candy shop.

SUGOi Sweets


 

These iridescent, hand-painted bonbons from chef Elle Lei are filled with memorable flavors such as milk tea, guava cheesecake, and mango–passion fruit caramel. There’s not a single dud in the box of 24. $69 at sugoisweets.com

K. Minamoto Confections


 

Think mochi, sugar-coated fruits, sweet red bean paste–stuffed cakes, and more delivered to your doorstep. We recommend ordering the variety box of their seasonal treats to sample the whole lot of offerings. from $26 at kitchoan.com

Lady M Confections

Inspired by desserts from his childhood trips to Tokyo to visit his grandmother, Ken Romaniszyn’s Lady M Confections makes delicate yet towering dessert centerpieces: mille crêpes in flavors like green tea, chestnut, and pistachio. $95, at ladym.com

Patisserie Tomoko


 

Pastry chef Tomoko Kato’s crowd-favorite chewy mochi stuffed with truffle-like fillings in flavors such as fudgy Earl Grey chocolate ganache, green tea, and black sesame make for an explosive combination of gooey textures and bright flavors. $59 at goldbelly.com

Deux Cranes Chocolates and Confections


 

To develop flavors like matcha-almond-yuzu and miso-almond for her geometric chocolates, Michiko Marron-Kibbey draws from her Japanese heritage and a stint studying pastry in Paris. $12 at deuxcranes.com

Basuku Cheesecakes


 

Borrowing technique from Basque cheesecakes as well as jiggly, soufflé-style Japanese cheesecakes, Basuku has achieved cult status. They often sell out almost instantly, and nationwide shipping is in the works. $35 at @basukucheesecakes on Instagram


 

 

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The Two Things Martha Stewart Always Keeps In Her Freezer

By Margaret Eby | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

For last minute entertaining, Martha knows a good cocktail solves most things.

As the days grow warmer and longer and vaccination rates steadily climb, outdoor entertaining becomes more of a possibility. Picnics, casual gatherings in the backyard, and socializing with less fear of COVID-19 seem to be in our future once again. But, well, after so long maintaining social distance, I’m pretty unused to the idea of having people over. So when I got a chance to talk with Martha Stewart, queen of entertaining, I asked for her tips and tricks. 

The first: what’s something she always keeps in the freezer? “I always keep my two favorite kinds of vodka,” Stewart told me. “Belvedere and Zubrowka. So that’s always in my freezer. I don’t drink alone, just when I have a friend here or guests for dinner or cocktails. That’s the only time I drink, but I always have that in the freezer.”

How best to drink that cold vodka? Don’t worry, Stewart has that covered, too. “Fresh squeezed pink grapefruit juice, vodka, a bit of lime, and lots of ice,” she told me. 

Recently, Stewart and her friend and collaborator Snoop Dogg teamed up with BIC EZ Reach lighters, a model that’s a hybrid between the traditional lighter and a longer barreled one typically used for lighting candles and grills. The versatility of the lighter means that it’s great for entertaining, outdoors and otherwise. “Finding the matches is always a problem,” Stewart said. “There’s always that moment when you open a pack of matches that you got in some fabulous restaurant, and then you see that there’s only one match left and you have eight candles to light. It is not going to work. This is so much easier.”

Stewart uses the lighters to light the pilot lights of her ovens, which she keeps off until she starts cooking. “I do that because I was told by the gas company how much gas, natural gas, those pilots use on a monthly basis.” Stewart said. “And I said, no, never again. So I keep all my pilots off on my stoves and use a lighter rather than waste natural resources.”

They are also, of course, useful for grilling—an excellent way to begin entertaining again. If you’re nervous about wading into the waters of having people over, outside is a good place to start. That’s not all Stewart had to offer.

“Do it slowly, that’s what I suggest,” she said. “Make something that you feel very comfortable making, maybe something that you learned during the last year and two months. And entertain! People are dying to go to other people’s houses. They really are.”


 

 

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Maine’s Seaweed Farmers Are Already Having a Record-Setting Year

By Jelisa Castrodale | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

Lobster fishers have been steadily increasing hauls of this kelp crops in their off-season.

We’re already a month-plus into spring and in Maine, spring isn’t just about April showers (rain or snow) or May flowers: it also marks the start of the state’s seaweed harvest. According to the Associated Press, Maine is the spot for the United State’s seaweed farming industry, and this year already looks like one for the record books. 

Atlantic Sea Farms, which works with more than two dozen seaweed farmers, told the outlet that it expects this year’s briny crop to tip the scales at more than 800,000 pounds, which almost doubles last year’s harvest of 450,000 pounds—a state record at the time. 

Over the past several years, Maine has moved from collecting wild seaweed to farmed varieties, and the annual harvests keep getting bigger. In 2018, the total haul of farmed seaweed was around 54,000 pounds, then grew to 280,000 pounds in 2019. A projection from the Island Institute suggests that the annual take could top more than 3 million pounds by 2035. 

“The uses for seaweed go beyond food products,” Afton Hupper, an outreach and development specialist at the Maine Aquaculture Association, told National Fisherman. “Seaweed can play a huge role in self-care, which is becoming a top priority for people as they continue to spend time at home in 2021 and are looking for ways to boost their overall health and wellness.”

That’s not to say that the seaweed industry hasn’t faced pandemic-related challenges: Atlantic Sea Farms previously told the Associated Press that they also had to hurriedly find new sales outlets, following restaurant closures and drastic reductions in wholesale orders. Fortunately, the company was able to get its products into supermarkets and other retailers, which kept it afloat—no pun intended—last year. 

“Four ounces of a kelp in smoothie cubes is not the same as kelp on every salad in Sweetgreen that’s going out the door,” Bri Warner, chief executive officer of Atlantic Sea Farms, said in December. “We’re being very creative about how we sell.” 

The farmers that Atlantic Sea Farms has partnered with are mostly lobstermen-and-women, who grow kelp during their off-seasons from lobster fishing. The heterokonts they harvest are then turned into fermented seaweed salad, kimchi, a beet and kelp kraut, thaw-and-eat kelp for pastas or salad bowls, and frozen pureed kelp cubes that are smoothie-ready. 

“[W]e were so glad this year to have seen our partner farmers absorb some of the shock of the volatility of the lobster industry through their kelp farming income,” Warner said. “These industries are entirely complimentary—different seasons, same basic equipment—and we are excited to show that kelp farming is a viable supplemental income source […] I hope that some of the innovation that was found during these incredibly difficult times continues to expand and lift all boats in the long term.” 


 

 

 

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A Guide to the Essential Regional American Pizza Styles

By Gowri Chandra | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

 

Before the 1950s, most Americans didn’t know what pizza was. Arriving to the U.S. in the late 1800s, it was considered a cheap “ethnic” food, eaten mostly by marginalized Italian Americans in hole-in-the-wall restaurants or on the street. 

As Krishnendu Ray writes in his book The Ethnic Restaurateur, it was only when Italian Americans climbed the socioeconomic ladder and were considered to be white that their food, in turn, gained acceptance and appreciation. 

The shift began in the ’40s, when soldiers were coming back from World War II. They’d been exposed to pizza in Europe, and now craved it back home. Some of these GIs opened restaurants; others were just inspired to take their families to existing Italian restaurants, which started reaching a cross-cultural clientele. 

American appetites were changing, and technology was too. This allowed for mass production in the decades to come: Frozen pizza and big-name chains popularized the dish across the country, especially in the Midwest and West, where there weren’t large Italian communities. And where there were—industrial centers like New York, New Haven, and Detroit—you saw regional Italian-American cooking styles emerge in the ’40s or ’50s. These eventually swept westward, until you saw the emergence of a California pizza style in the early ’80s.

The post-WWII economy allowed more people to start businesses, spend money, and entertain. Pizza, as it turns out, was perfect for parties—and kids loved it, too. Its versatility meant that you could top it with just about anything and eat it a couple times a week without feeling like you were having the same meal. All of these factors played a significant part in pizza’s solidification as an American symbol, as Carol Helstosky points out in her book Pizza: A Global History.

In this survey of regional American pizza styles, there are several varieties that we wanted to include but couldn’t, due to space—the beautiful, busty BeauJo’s pies of Colorado, or the cracker-thin, Provel-topped crisps of St. Louis. It should also be noted that styles in general are tricky to define. What’s called “Detroit-style pizza” in most of America is simply “pizza” in Detroit. In other words, it’s often outsiders who create the labels that then get bandied about by others, including national chains trying to capitalize on the hype. 

As of a decade ago, there were 70,000 pizzerias in the United States. Here’s to 70,000 more. 

New York 


 

As the nexus of Italian immigration in the United States, New York is where the American pizza restaurant is said to have been officially born in 1905, at the hands of Gennaro Lombardi. (His spot claimed the first pizza-business license in the country, though there were most certainly under-the-radar street vendors and informal pizza operations before then, as Helstosky writes in her book. In recent years, Lombardi as the originator of New York pizza has come into question.)

When identifying a New York pie, its large, floppy slices are a dead giveaway; it’s the widest and most pliable of all regional styles. It’s thin, but not as thin as its Neapolitan ancestor, which is mandated by Italian law to be about a tenth of an inch. New York slices, on the other hand, are double that, give or take. And foldability is a universally agreed-upon element. Do you have to fold it when you pick it up and eat it? It’s probably New York style. (That’s also true of both Neapolitan and New Haven pizza, but the slices are generally smaller.) This simultaneously allows you to catch grease and and carry it around with you, harkening back to pizza’s 18th-century origins: a fisherman’s breakfast in Naples, proletariat and portable, eaten on the street. 

Like all things Americanized, the New York slice is oversized compared to both its Neapolitan ancestor and its regional counterparts: 9” or 10” long. It has a crisp bite but retains its chew, thanks to the high-gluten bread flour with which it’s made—in fact, this is another defining characteristic of New York pizza, according to pizza researcher Liz Barrett. While some swear New York’s mineral-rich tap water plays a role, the jury’s still out on that one. Also, Barrett asserts, New York pizza must be hand-tossed, never pan-stretched. 

How else is New York pizza different from Neapolitan style? It lacks the pillowy air pockets of Neapolitan’s airy cornicione, or rim. And unlike Neapolitan style, which is defined by its minimalist sauce of raw tomatoes and salt—protected by Italian law—New York sauce usually has some herbs. The mozzarella is hard and aged, whereas Neapolitan pizza must feature fresh mozzarella as the only cheese, if it has any at all. This is due, it’s thought, to the gas ovens that many New York pizzerias now use. As opposed to hotter-burning coal and wood ovens, pizza takes longer to cook in this environment, and raw mozzarella can either turn rubbery or result in soggy crust, necessitating the aged, low-moisture stuff. 

New Haven 


 

At first glance, a New Haven pie looks a lot like a New York pie. It’s similarly circular, flat, and large, with cardboard-thin crust. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see the slices are a little smaller—so it’s never really sold by the slice and still molten towards the middle—and the pie’s a bit wobbly shaped, even oblong. That’s partly because the dough is allowed to ferment longer, usually overnight, making it more relaxed. Under the scorch of the oven, it stretches into irregular form. 

The crust is noticeably thinner and crispier than its New York counterpart, but still with that slightly fermented chew. And on some pies, the toppings  stretch all the way to the edge, nary a cornicione or rim in sight. When present, this edge is flatter than that of a New York pie, which itself is typically flatter and less airy than its Neapolitan progenitor. It soon becomes evident that “abeets”—a phonetic abbreviation of “apizza,” a nod to the Neapolitan dialect of New Haven’s Italian immigrants—merits its own word. 

First, there’s the char. So much char. Your fingers will be sooty with it after you pick up a slice. On another pizza you might be tempted to send it back due to burntness, but on apizza, it’s a defining feature. And indeed, it brings a welcome crispness and sweetness. This is thanks to the coal ovens that continue to define New Haven pizza. Although coal was also a historic precedent in New York, it eventually got phased out for being too labor intensive and increasingly expensive, as the heyday of coal mining waned in the mid-1900s. (Not to mention the crackdown of environmental laws.) Today, with the exception of old-school places like Lombardi’s and Totonno’s, most New York pizza places use gas, oil, or gas-assisted coal ovens, despite the resurgence of coal-fired pizza in the mid-2010s. While it’s true that other New Haven pizza spots like Bar and Modern now use gas and oil respectively, somehow coal continues to be more closely tied with pizza here than it is in New York. 

You’ll hear that coal burns at 650 F, or even 900 F. But that number can be as high as 1000 degrees, according to the late Gary Bimonte, who, as co-owner of New Haven’s legendary Pepe’s and grandson of founder Frank Pepe, made an indelible impact on New Haven pizza and American pizza at large. Unlike moisture-heavy wood, coal burns hotter and drier, with a biting heat. As a result, coal-fired pizzas cook faster, lending apizza its characteristic crispness. 

And no discussion of apizza would be complete without talking about two styles of toppings. First, the plain pie, also called a tomato pie. Covered only with sauce, it appears cheese-less, evoking a Sicilian sfincione or Spanish pan con tomate, which are variations of tomato on bread. Although there’s no opaque mozzarella (that’s extra), there’s a barely discernible dusting of a hard cheese—it might be pecorino romano—which adds a layer of umami.

That was one of the first pies sold by Frank Pepe in the 1920s, who’s universally acknowledged to be the creator of New Haven-style pizza. He started out delivering pizzas to Italian workers in the city’s rubber and hardware factories, and later opened Pepe’s in the city’s Little Italy in 1925. Today, it continues to be the most famous and longest running New Haven pizza restaurant, with close competition from Sally’s—opened in 1938—a couple blocks away.

Pepe is also credited with creating the famous white clam pie, featuring freshly shucked quahogs that are nearby Rhode Island’s culinary calling card. The clams on this pizza are barely cooked, still perfectly briny, evoking the sea. Along with the tomato pie, the white clam pizza is a requisite New Haven order. Line up with Yale undergrads and New England weekenders as you bar hop between Pepe’s, Sally’s, Modern, and Bar—in just that order.

Detroit 


 

Despite the popularization of Detroit-style pizza in the past several years, most people still don’t think of Detroit as a pizza city. But they should. Rivaling the Detroit coney dog, Motown is also dough town, as some call it. Nationalized in recent years by chef-driven pizza shops—Roy Choi’s now-defunct Pot Pizza in L.A., and Emmy Squared in Brooklyn—as well as national chains, Detroit pizza has seen a meteoric rise in American consciousness in the past five years, but we don’t dare call it a trend. It’s been around for three quarters of a century. 

Detroit pizza is most immediately identified by its rectangular shape, but so is grandma pizza—a similarly square product most often associated with Long Island. While both share Sicilian origins of sfinciuni—tomato sauce slathered on focaccia-like crust—Detroit-style is undoubtedly thicker and heftier than grandma, while still being surprisingly light. 

The shape of Detroit-style pizza, however, is simply a function of something more important: the blue steel automotive pan it’s cooked in. It’s the kind that was used in car factories to hold hardware parts and catch grease, at least in decades past. And as the now-famous story goes, Gus Guerra got these pans from a factory-worker friend, while his Sicilian mother-in-law furnished the recipe. It would go on to make him the universally acknowledged originator of Detroit-style pizza.

The year was 1946, and Guerra was running a bar that would later become Buddy’s Pizza. GIs were coming back from the war, opening up fish and chip shops in Detroit after having been stationed in England. Elsewhere across America, other soldiers who’d spent time in Italy brought home an awareness of a thing called pizza. Both helped mobilize Italian Americans who’d previously only cooked at home or for other Italians, to expand offerings outside their cultural groups. At the same time, non-Italians were starting to become more receptive to what was still, at that time, considered “ethnic” food. 

Due to business disagreements, Guerra eventually left Buddy’s to start Cloverfield Pizza in 1953. His son is still involved with it today. While Buddy’s gets most of the press, Cloverfield still has a lot of heart—and is arguably closer to the soul of Detroit-style pizza. These two restaurants, along with Loui’s—opened by another Buddy’s employee—form the must-visit trifecta of Detroit style pizza. 

Other defining features of Detroit pizza? The wet dough, which lends itself to that airy rise. Although the resulting crust is thick, it’s lighter than what you might expect when you pick it up (that is, if you don’t go in with a knife and fork, as many do). Tradition dictates that toppings are pressed directly onto the dough, then sprinkled with cheese, and last, ladled with sauce—this helps prevent a soggy crust. While Buddy’s still does this with their original style pizza, most of the time you’ll end up seeing toppings on top, if only for the reason that customers seem to like it that way, because they can see what they’re getting. Cheese runs all the way to the edges of the pie, and caramelizes just so, making the corners crisp real estate. It’s almost always brick cheese that’s used, or some blend thereof—it’s buttery, cheddar-like, and, by definition, from Wisconsin. Because brick cheese is fattier and a touch softer than cheddar, it’s super melty for those cheese pulls. 

Chicago Deep Dish


 

One of the most recognizable of all regional variants, “Chicago style” has become synonymous with deep dish. This irks some Chicagoans, however, who defend the tavern-style pizza that exists in its shadow—the cracker-thin, square-cut crusted pie is thus named because it’s light enough to snack on at the bar, and is arguably eaten more frequently.

Let’s be clear: Chicago deep dish is indeed a beloved symbol of the city. But unlike in New York, this pie isn’t as daily a custom for obvious reasons: its heft. It’s a true Midwestern meal, perfect for unforgiving winters. You have to order it as a whole pie—it’s a social affair, not a snack. (Although personal pies do exist, it’s kind of like eating barbecue by yourself: You could, but it just doesn’t feel right.) 

Perhaps the biggest misconception with Chicago-style deep dish pizza is that it’s heavy. While it is indeed filling (“one’s a meal”), the crust itself is surprisingly light and buttery when done right. (Lou Malnati’s, one of the city’s most storied deep-dish restaurants, has actually trademarked the term “Buttercrust.”) It’s almost flaky, yet sturdy, retaining its architectural integrity to contain the toppings within. 

Chicago’s is truly a pizza pie: Vertical walls of biscuity crust encase a filling that’s a good inch thick. Mozzarella is layered at the bottom, hidden from sight—this helps insulate the dough beneath from getting soggy from the toppings above. Because of the long cook times—at least 30 minutes—if cheese were on top of the pie it would either burn, or turn hard and gluey. Toppings are then put on top of the cheese, and sausage, if added, is put in raw. Sauce, usually with crushed whole tomatoes, is slathered on last, with a light dusting of parm. Like any good pie, when you cut into it, it should retain its structure despite the generosity of its filling. You should be able to see the strata of crust, cheese, meat, and sauce. 

Like many other regional styles, Chicago deep dish came into being in the early ’40s, when GIs were coming back from the war and Americans were getting adventurous with “ethnic” foods—which included pizza. Texan Ike Sewell originally wanted to open up a Mexican restaurant like the ones he’d grown up with, but his friend and business partner Ric Riccardo had recently come back from Italy with fond memories of Neapolitan pizza. When they tested recipes, though, Sewell kept wanting it bigger and heftier, in true Texas fashion—that’s according to Penny Pollack, former longstanding dining editor at Chicago Magazine. Eventually, the deep dish was born at Uno’s. While some locals avoid the place because of its hype, the place is an institution: If you want to try deep dish in Chicago, you can’t not go to Uno’s. 

And then there’s Lou Malnati’s, which was started by the son of Rudy Malnati Sr. He might have developed Uno’s recipe in the first place, since Sewell and Riccardo didn’t cook. In 1971, Rudy’s son, Lou, broke away to start his eponymous restaurant. Together with Giordano’s—famous for its stuffed crust pizza, which features an extra layer of crust on top—it’s safe to say that these three are a solid trifecta of deep dish in Chicago. 

California 


 

There’s a story about Madonna, I think, going to see a Shakespeare play. I have no idea if it’s true or not. At the end she says, “It was great, but so full of clichés.”

To the uninitiated, that’s what California pizza looks like. Not defined by a particular crust or shape, it seems to lack a distinctive style of its own, instead described with terms that are vague yet commonplace. There’s talk about farmers’ markets, seasonality, and local produce. It might have toppings like goat cheese, house-made sausage, garlic scapes. But these things are only expected, in a certain class of cooking, because California made it so. It invented the cliché. Actually, three chefs did: Ed LaDou, Alice Waters, and Wolfgang Puck. 

It’s not that seasonality didn’t exist before these West Coast minds; rather, it hadn’t become the predominant food philosophy in restaurants across America. In the ’80s, we were still crawling out of the dark ages of canned food and microwaves. Consumer food culture, with its fig jam and squash blossoms, hadn’t yet washed over the country. Farmers’ markets weren’t yet normcore. Goat cheese was still an oddity. 

So in 1971, when Alice Waters started churning out salads with organic endives and blood oranges in Berkeley, it was a revelation. Her leeks and duck confit, freed from the confines of stuffy French restaurants where they’d long been relegated, received a similar welcome—and ended up on her pizzas at Chez Panisse. 

In 1980, Ed LaDou was across the bay in San Francisco, concocting pizzas with ricotta and pâté. Rumor has it that Wolfgang Puck tried one of his pies, and then poached him to work at Spago, which Puck opened in 1982 to instant success. 

From there, the now-famous smoked salmon and caviar pizza was born, rising to fame via Spago’s celeb-studded West Hollywood location and the open kitchen concept that Puck pioneered, which allowed his restaurant to become equal parts theatrical and see-and-be-seen. But it wasn’t just about ritzy ingredients. Puck simply putting goat cheese on a pizza was a showstopper. Aside from LaDou and Waters and maybe a handful of other chefs, no one had really done it, and certainly not to this level of popular success. The public wasn’t used to it, and didn’t know what to make of it. Puck and LaDou redefined pizza. 

California style isn’t just about unexpected ingredients, though, or fancy Euro-inflected ones. Nor is it about forcedly global toppings like lemongrass or tandoori spice. Although it can be, and sometimes is. 

You can see this in California Pizza Kitchen, for whom LaDou developed the first menu: Its Thai chicken pizza changed the game. While part of California pizza is its anything-goes mentality, it’s also more than that. It’s hard to define—it’s more of a vibe. 

Roy Choi’s now-defunct Pot Pizza was an L.A. pie personified, with kimchi cutting the fat of cheese on his Ktown special. And so are Travis Lett’s pies at Gjelina, the goop-iest of all L.A. restaurants. Nettle, duck prosciutto, pomodoro, Calabrian chili, burrata: This is all on one pizza at Gjelina. Lett’s menu reads like a punchline of 2016 chef culture, but despite it—because of it?—it too is classically L.A., and utterly delicious. Mozza, Pizzana, Hail Mary, Ronan, Casa Bianca, Tandoori Pizza: So many restaurants have indelibly added to the beautiful mess that is L.A. pizza, and thus California pizza at large. It’s as winding as L.A.’s highways, with no single style emerging. And, in true California style, the plurality of styles is its style.


 

 

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This Home Cook Is Recreating Airline Meals He Ate Before the Pandemic

By Mike Pomranz | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

When lockdown grounded his air travel YouTube channel, Nik Sennhauser got creative.

Airplane food may not have the greatest reputation, but dining on a plane is undeniably an experience. And for many people who have seen their travels grounded due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even the most mediocre of airline meals may suddenly have a nostalgic appeal. In fact, a cottage industry has sprung up of airlines offering their food for at-home consumption—like Finland’s Finnair and Russia’s Ural Airlines.

Nik Sennhauser has certainly missed dining on planes. For six years, the Glasgow, Scotland, resident who daylights as a business support manager has been documenting his air travel on his YouTube channel, SoPlane. The global pandemic put a serious dent in that project (he hasn’t been on a plane since February 2020), so instead, he turned to a new lockdown hobby: recreating airplane food in his own kitchen.

The first time was a bit of a fluke: “I started out just plating random meals, basically whatever I was planning on cooking that day and plating it using my airline dishes,” he told me via email. “I have had an airline trolley for two decades now, stocked with airline glasses, plates and trays I have accumulated over the years. It was a spur of the moment in January when I wanted to change up our Sunday routine which had become quite monotone due to the lockdown here.”

His breakthrough moment came when he had the idea of recreating an actual meal he had on Austrian Airlines. “[The airline] is known for its superb catering provided by DO&CO,” he continues. “The meal I recreated was a special premium meal you had to pre-order, hence, it was a little fancier than your regular airline meal.”

From there, the concept took on a life of its own, becoming a food-focused social media spinoff over on his FlySoPlane Instagram account. There, he now has over two dozen posts of the meals he’s recreated over the past few months—which don’t just feature photos of his food, but a photo of the original meal as it appeared on his flights as well.

“Most of the dinner meals are meals I actually had on a plane,” he says. However, he’s also branched out a bit, taking inspiration from current aviation news, recreating a British Airways boxed home cooking meal, and even seeing if he could upgrade one of his economy meals into a business class meal.

Sennhauser admits he has a much stronger background in the flying side of airplane meals. “I am not really a good cook,” he told me right off the bat. “I also don’t actually enjoy cooking that much! It’s been a learning journey for me, working with recipes.”

As a result, many of those recipes come from the lone cookbook his mother gave him: Die Gute Oesterreichische Kueche, aka The Good Austrian Kitchen. Other than that, he finds recipes online or on YouTube. “The main thing for me is a recipe that is easy to follow,” he says. “A well written recipe really works, and I am proof. It may take me double the time to cook them, but I get there in the end. And during lockdown, it’s not like I have had anywhere else to be anyway!”

And despite airline food’s hit-or-miss reputation, Sennhauser has one big rule. “The meals I make have to taste good,” he adds. “They are not just made for Instagram. They are our actual meals. I make my husband sit down and eat off a plastic tray every weekend. Plastic tray with exciting tasty food is acceptable. Plastic tray with pretty looking but disgusting food might lead to divorce.”


 

 

Categories
HT Foodie

Taco Bell Is Celebrating the ‘Taco Moon’ by Giving Away Free Food All Over the World

By Stacey Leasca | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

 

This year, we’ve already experienced the “wolf moon,” the “snow moon” and even the “pink moon,” but the next moon may be the tastiest one yet.

Taco Bell recently announced its plans to take over the night sky on May 4 during the crescent moon phase with its very own “taco moon.”

“On May 4, the world’s largest and brightest object in the night sky will resemble a favorite indulgence, the taco — a new lunar phase* we are affectionately calling the ‘Taco Moon,'” the company shared in a statement.


 

It added that important asterisk to note while Taco Bell “does not claim to own copyrights to a lunar phase of the moon,” it “stands behind the fact this really does look like a Taco Bell taco.”

And, when the Taco Moon arrives on May 4, hungry fans in the U.S. craving a treat can score a free Crunchy Taco between 8-11:59 p.m. in-store or all day through the app or online.

But, Americans aren’t the only ones who can score a freebie. Some international locations are getting in on the action, too.

“Taco Bell has been an established brand in the U.S. for nearly 60 years and we are thrilled by the accelerating fandom we’re seeing globally,” Julie Felss Masino, president of Taco Bell, International, shared. “As we’re opening more and more restaurants internationally, we know the May 4 moon will take us to new ‘heights’ as we introduce ourselves to new future fans in a delicious way.”

Participating Taco Bell restaurants include some locations in the United Kingdom, Australia, India, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Puerto Rico, however, in those markets, guests will get a local favorite like a free Crunchy Taco with the purchase of a beverage in Guatemala and the option of a free black bean or seasoned chicken Crunchy Taco in India.

Can’t get to a Taco Bell on the night of May 4? Those in the U.S. will have the chance to score two additional offers all day on May 4 and May 5. Both offers, Taco Bell explains, are fully customizable, available online and for delivery. And, Taco Bell Rewards beta members get bonus points on either promo, making it a win-win. 

Visit TacoBell.com/TacoMoon for more information on how you can score more delicious deals.


 

 

Categories
HT Foodie HT Movie TV

Guy Fieri, Fired Up: The Food Network King, With a Massive New Deal, Pushes for More Restaurant Relief

by Mikey O’Connell | HollywoodReporter.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all #reviews-all

 

Once mocked by white-tablecloth elites, Fieri just signed a landmark pact for a TV chef as he steps into a respected elder statesman role in the food world — raising millions for workers unemployed due to COVID-19: “I was pissed.”

Guy Fieri’s 1968 Camaro is conspicuously absent from the lineup of vintage wheels abutting his Windsor, California, ranch in Sonoma Valley wine country.

The cherry-red convertible seen in 400-plus episodes of the star chef and car collector’s culinary travelogue Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives is en route from points east, where production resumed this past winter, but the platinum blond is spending a few days at home between shoots. Like most people, Fieri is taking baby steps in the return to normalcy — though his pre-pandemic status quo meant supplying Food Network with a dizzying 80 annual hours of original programming. Fieri was among the first to film remotely in 2020, appearing on air within a week of nationwide lockdown orders, so he naturally was back on the road as soon as he was allowed.

“Here’s my research for Hawaii; we’re getting ready to go shoot there next,” says Fieri, sliding a spiral-bound agenda of eateries across the table that separates us. Some businesses anointed by his Midas touch have seen sales climb fivefold after Fieri scarfs their creations on TV, a stat that carries new significance for the host given the calamitous effect of the downturn on the restaurant business. “Then I’m trying to finally put Puerto Rico together,” he adds, grabbing another binder. “They need some love.”

This March afternoon at Fieri’s home isn’t unlike catching up with a busy friend who just happens to have an Emmy statuette and a few bottles of the tequila brand he owns with Sammy Hagar on the kitchen island. One of three wine country properties Fieri keeps in his native Northern California, this has been where he, Lori, his wife of 26 years, and sons Hunter and Ryder have spent most of the past year with their three dogs. The smallest, a Chihuahua named Smokey, is Fieri’s favorite — as the handmade “Enter slowly please; small dog” sign at the end of his long driveway suggests.


 

Where Fieri, a volcano of enthusiasm on camera, subverts expectation is in his almost subdued hospitality. Not a nacho, battered chicken thigh or jalapeno popper in sight, the man synonymous with on-camera caloric intake instead pulls me a double shot of espresso. “I got really good at this over the last year,” he says, nodding to the coffee machine.

Fieri sharpened this skill while also in the past year raising more than $25 million for food workers left unemployed by COVID-19 closures. He is now devoting most of his energy and, under a landmark new TV deal, his creative output into rebuilding the industry that once poked fun at his unrefined aesthetic and bacon-bedazzled menus. These days, it’s hard to not take Fieri seriously. As he plans to beat the drum for restaurant relief even louder — and as those hardest hit by America’s selective recession start to fall out of the news cycle — the goateed gastronomist’s sense of purpose may be the thing to finally eclipse his brash persona.

“Nothing can replace what this kind of recognition, appearing on TV, can do for these people and their businesses … for their lives,” he says, taking a sip of coffee. “I need to keep doing this because it just needs to be done.”

***

Thirteen months ago, as the pandemic began and the country’s collective anxiety skyrocketed, Fieri was not scared or nervous. He was too angry. “I don’t get pissed or lose my shit,” he explains. “But I was pissed.”

Restaurants were closed from coast to coast, and, by Fieri’s estimation, most — the types of mom-and-pop places featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives — maybe had a 10-day runway before the money dried up. It was mid-March 2020, and he was on his elliptical machine — Fieri comes up with a lot of his ideas during cardio — when he decided to ask his business manager for contact info for CEOs of major corporations. He drafted personal emails to power brokers like Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, soliciting donations for an emergency relief fund that would ultimately award more than 43,000 grants — of $500 each — to out-of-work line cooks, servers and other restaurant professionals.

Today, in a crisp black button-down, Fieri opines on the crisis with an undiminished passion. “I’m not into shaming people and telling who didn’t donate, that’s not my style,” Fieri says, as he credits getting huge sums of money from PepsiCo, Uber Eats and Procter & Gamble before taking a pause. “Jeff, by the way, didn’t help us,” he shares.

“There is no better salesman than Guy,” says Food Network president Courtney White, whose most bankable talent has fronted 14 series on her network. “There’s a power to his enthusiasm. It gets people to rally around his vision, whether it’s a pitch for a show or in raising all that money.”

While he was hitting up Fortune 500 companies for donations, Fieri sold White on making the Discovery-owned network’s first feature-length documentary, Restaurant Hustle 2020: All on the Line. Co-directed by Fieri, the doc follows four chefs trying to stay in business at the height of the pandemic. It premiered in December, and a follow-up is in the works for this summer. Fieri also pivoted the recent season of Food Network’s chef-competition show Tournament of Champions — his first project back in a studio after shooting at-home versions of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and Guy’s Grocery Games — to redirect all its prize money (more than $210,000) to struggling restaurateurs.


 

His philanthropy long has been known in Sonoma County, where he’s fed frontline workers and displaced neighbors impacted by area wildfires. But this latest crisis is playing out on a much larger stage and finds Fieri, who turned 53 in January, moving into the type of elder statesman role previously reserved for white-tablecloth ambassadors like José Andrés and Tom Colicchio.

Tally the long line of show credits and the millions in contributions, and it becomes challenging to reconcile the Fieri of 2021 — emergent folk hero — with the Fieri who first materialized on American TV in April 2006, newly crowned winner of a nascent reality competition (The Next Food Network Star). In that first year, he went from anonymous restaurateur to making less than $1,000 an episode on his first cooking show (Guy’s Big Bite) to launching the career-defining Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

“We built a five-year plan for him, and he blew through it in, like, three,” says longtime agent Jason Hodes, partner at WME, whose colleagues used to tell him to “hug the rocket” as Fieri accumulated series and licensing deals. “He’s a true household name, just one that people can’t seem to pronounce correctly.”

Despite opening most every show with a familiar “Hi, I’m Guy Fieri,” swapping out the “r” in his last name for an Italian flourish that sounds more like “Fiedi,” his preferred pronunciation eludes most of his huge audience. An average 73 million viewers, per Food Network, watch at least one piece of Fieri programming quarterly. And while he hasn’t worked full-time in a kitchen for two decades, he’s involved with more than 85 restaurants globally and recently partnered with Planet Hollywood CEO Robert Earl on an ambitious delivery-only concept, Flavortown Kitchen. If you live in a major U.S. city, chances are you can have a Fieri-sanctioned Bacon Mac N Cheese Burger delivered in the same time it takes to watch an episode of Guy’s Ranch Kitchen.


 

 

Categories
HT Business HT Foodie

McDonald’s comes roaring back as restrictions ease

By The Associated Press

Troy Warren #business-all #foodie-all

The bounceback for McDonald’s as restrictions were lifted across the U.S. was so strong in the first quarter that the company surpassed sales during the same period even in 2019, long before the pandemic broadsided the country.

McDonald’s revenue jumped 9% to $5.1 billion for the January-March period, better than most had expected.

Last year at this time stores were closing globally and the world sheltered from spiking COVID-19 infections, so an improvement in sales during the same stretch this year was expected. How easily it topped 2019′s first-quarter sales of $4.95 billion, however, was not.

U.S. same-store sales, or sales at locations open at least a year, rose 13.6% in the January-March period. Fewer diners visited, and many dining rooms remain closed. But those who did visit ordered more. McDonald’s said new products, including a crispy chicken sandwich and spicy nuggets, helped draw customers.

Any restaurant company with drive-thrus, such as McDonald’s, escaped the worst of the economic damage over the past year because they could continue to sell food even during the worst stretches of the pandemic. The Chicago company has drive-thru windows at nearly all U.S. stores and two-thirds of stores in its biggest European markets. And at least 30,000 stores worldwide now offer delivery.

Worldwide, same-store sales rose 7.5%, well above the 5% gain analysts forecast. Strong sales in China and Japan helped offset softness in France and Germany, the company said.

Net income rose 39% to $1.5 billion. Adjusted for one-time items, the company earned $1.92 per share, easily beating Wall Street’s forecast of $1.81, according to analysts polled by FactSet.

McDonald’s shares were flat in premarket trading Thursday.

Other major fast food chains are seeing a similar rebound as most of the world emerges from the pandemic. Revenue at Yum Brands — which owns Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC — jumped 18% in the first quarter. The company reported this week that same-store sales rose 9%, with an especially strong performance in the U.S.

Like McDonald’s, sales at Yum restaurants outpaced sales two years ago before COVID-19 shook the world.

Starbucks also reported better-than-expected results for the quarter this week, with sales up 11%.


 

 

Categories
HT Foodie

Goldfish Crackers Team Up with Frank’s RedHot Sauce for Spicy New Flavor

By Tim Nelson | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

The snack that smiles back now comes with a kick.

Let’s face it: we’ve probably spent so much time over the past year eating snacks that even our old favorites are starting to taste a little stale. Heck, even Goldfish may have lost their flavorful zip at this point. 

Maybe the best way to win back our tired tastebuds is to spice things up — literally, in this case. That comes via collaboration with Frank’s RedHot to create their first-ever hot sauce-flavored Goldfish cracker. 

For existing fans of Frank’s RedHot (who may have already been putting the stuff on their Goldfish, for all we know), what’s going on here should be pretty familiar. Each fish-shaped cracker making up Goldfish Frank’s RedHot is imbued with that classic combination of vinegar and aged cayenne peppers. You’ll still get that satisfyingly salty undercurrent of Goldfish, but with an added kick of vinegar and acidity that elevates the flavor profile into something worth shoveling into your mouth at a high rate of speed. 

So what was the inspiration for Frank’s and Goldfish joining forces? Apparently, the collaboration was something Goldfish fans have clamored for, especially adults who feel they can handle the heat.

“We learned that adults are big fans of Goldfish and it’s an appetite we’ve never fully satisfied,” Campbell Snacks’ CMO Janda Lukin said in a press release. “‘Hot’ is the #1 most requested Goldfish flavor across social, so we wanted to bring the heat with an unexpected partnership between Goldfish and Frank’s that fans will love.” 

If you find yourself loving the idea of RedHot Goldfish, you’ll find this limited-edition snack anywhere you can buy “regular” flavors of Goldfish starting in May. If you really want a bag, you can get one ahead of time by following @GoldFishSmiles on Instagram, unlocking an augmented reality filter via their story, and posting one of your own that tags the account (with #Sweepstakes). Posting in exchange for spicy crackers? What’s not to love. 

Hopefully this is the start of something special, that sees Goldfish collaborating with all sorts of other hot sauces across the Scoville unit spectrum. Ghost pepper Goldfish? Someday, my friend. Someday.