A newsletter on upcoming food and beverage trends that offers a curation of brands and aesthetics written by Andrea Hernández.
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Why are we still herd dining?
Tablescapes as a competitive sport
A Surrealist Martha Stewart
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Spoonful of News
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Restaurants As Modern Herd Eating
When the pandemic hit, restaurant dining was one of the things we had to part ways with for a while, and the change was felt drastically around the world. Why did we become so nostalgic for restaurants? Well first and foremost, we are human after all, at least the majority of us, except maybe for the likes of Lil’Miquela and your ocassional reptilian, but we are also animals, (read this to the beat of Miike Snow) consider that even animals eat together and drink together, it’s part of us feeling like we belong to something greater. With our generation in particular, restaurant has gone back to its roots of being “restorative” in from the french restaurer. Just as grocery shopping is seen as therapeutic to us (hello Trader Joe’s) so does dining offer a similar effect, functions as a way to do social exchange, and brings to mind just how much we share with others in that moment: tastes, space, culture.
No, can you believe how far we've come
In the New Age?
Freedom to have what you want
In the New Age we'll all be entertained
Rich or poor, the channels are all the same
— “Total Entertainment Forever” Father John Misty
What does distinguish us from our mammalian counterparts is that we have taken that need and desire to have a shared experience, into entertainment, and across ages, dining has become theatrical in many ways, through its courses, the attire, whether it’s literal, as in accompanied with music, etc. And being stuck indoors with ourselves, our pets or our families, many of us began to crave that entertainment, to the point that we saw many trying to replicate indoor dining experiences in their homes. Enter the rise of tablescapes, restaurant meal kits, grazing and DTC direct-to-catering. These became the easiest ways for us to be able to give our brains that much needed serotonin boost, and put our sourdoughs to rest.
Wait, fuck, where are you going? I saved you a seat right next to me, the meal’s about to start.
Tablescapes As New Status
The Millennial legacy is one to be proud of, (chin up 90s kids!) not only have we made fermented ketchup a trendy accessory but we have also elevated napkins to fashion. Tablescapes, which before pandemic were something you probably outsourced to an event planner or a rental service for a special occasion, or alternatively went the DIY route (with great effort and cost) after consuming copious amounts of Pinterest tutorials, became the latest signaler amongst millennials, at a time where you couldn’t boast that you were at the latest hot spot, you turned your own house into it. Needless to say, at a time where none of us were going out, our wallets started to look at out dining area with sultry eyes.
Tablescape, like almost everything, is a trend that trickled into mainstream, from fashion and entertainment events, where celebrities, influencers alike could elicit FOMO to their quasi, non-controversial average viewers, like you and me. It was a signal of being somehow “in the right place, at the right time" an elevated experience that could suspend you from reality, if only until the hors d’oeuvre lasted. The more we spent time indoors, the more we craved turning our average dining into soirees of sorts, it became sort of like a madmen in a lab, except instead of lab equipment, we were armed with plates, table cloths, napkins, glassware and serving bowls.
Tablescape rentals existed pre-pandemic, but isn’t the whole idea of renting pretty basic, what if I don’t want to give this back? Ok fine, not like I’m like trying to burn money in this economy, particularly since VCs stopped subsidizing Uber rides, but I digress, why has NO ONE packaged this, like an IKEA meets tablescape, at an affordable price? Imagine removing the hassle of having to curate an entire tablescape on your own? Just the number of open tabs alone is a reason of concern to me. Can’t we just bundle them, choose from different “aesthetics” and price changes depending on the number of sets, this is a genius idea, and you’re welcome, just remember me when you IPO.
Tablescapes, as with other adopted behaviors during the pandemic, are here to stay, as the generation who grew up projecting their lives in tiny grids in an effort to “say something” has quickly picked on just how much great content these make overall. Not to say that we aren’t also always looking for more hassle-free ways to get our friends to come over and indulge in beautiful things, particularly after the year we all collectively went through.
Claire Olshan, Surrealist Martha Stewart
Dadaism was an art movement of the European avant-garde in the early 20th century, in reaction to horrors of the war, the art, poetry and performance produced by dada artists was often satirical and nonsensical in nature. Not that I would ever want to compare what we have lived to something like war, but I will take the liberty to say, we had been living a pretty bland life, consider just how much every brand out there began to look alike, enter Dada snacks.
Stemming from our last issue, wherein I told you that product porn is the new foodporn, what founder Claire Olshan has done in an industry that had become so dull, was a resurrection of creativity in the snack aisle. When I first came across Dada a few years back, I was instantly enamoured with their Dali-esque aesthetic. In a surrealist manner, it made food fun again, and in a way brought back that sense of nostalgia of excitement around a snack that I used to cherish as a true 90s kid. But she did not stop there, Claire is what I call the surrealist Martha Stewart, it began with creating these elaborate Dadaist tablescapes that added to experiential effect around something as mudane as, cauliflower.
The Dada universe expanded from snacks, to what elevates snacks, in what ways are we presenting them? And true to their brand, these entertainment accessories, consider it a genius product line extension, now include surrealist bowls, serving boards, napkin rings and spoons. I can only imagine it will continue to expand, as the rise of tablescapes shows no end in sight, and I’m very much looking forward to Dada consuming us all, inviting us to indulge in irrationality a bit more, and isn’t that what food is all about? Non-sensical, only sensorial.
—On Instagram, if you search the hashtag, #charcuterieboard you’ll find over 800,000 posts displaying meats and cheeses on cutting boards.
—Charcuterie boards experienced a +25% bump in menu mentions, in response to the increasing popularity of grazing boards; overall, consumer interest in cured meats on charcuterie boards is up 67% year-over-year.
If you’ve been here long enough, you know that I’ve been preaching the theory that Lunchables were just early indoctrination into charcuterie boards for our generation, but these charcuterie boards were usually a thing you had at some trendy restaurant or you tried to make at home, for special occasions, does anyone remember the charcuterie chalets from winter’s past? Some of them are absolutely hilarious but also poses the question, millennials, are we ok? However, during 2020 there was uptick in a particular type of charcuterie, grazing boxes.
Grazing boxes have become a booming business, at a time where people wanted to feel entertained, these made the perfect in between. There are some, like this company in the UK, that even perfected the concept, what I call “adult Lunchables” pairing their grazing boxes with tiny champagne bottles, GENIUS. There is another company that dubs themselves, “the Sweetgreen of grazing boxes” —that should tell you exactly wha you need to know about this trend. The grazing box has also led to more restaurants getting creative of their to-go concepts, consider this Australian company, Lox in a Box, this is perfect not only for skipping making brunch for your family, but also for taking with you to a park and having an impromptu picnic with friends.
Seriously, why haven’t more restaurants adopted this? Particularly in the US with more states allowing for to-go cocktails, it would seem only natural that you can now indulge in impromptu picnics with your friends and make the best of the outdoors, considering what a year we had. Grazing boxes have become so popular, it has become sort of an Olympic sports of sorts, with some of these becoming so haute, that it seems at times you’re having less of a snack and more like edible art pieces. These boxes are the perfect, “planned a picnic, but it wasn’t a hassle” as opposed to the opulent and expensive outdoor picnic services, all you need is a blanket and some good company.
Grazing boards have also let us to a whole new level of charcuterie, grazing cups, even grazing bouquets and the most outlandish one yet, barkuterie accompanied by doggie wine, but this a story for another time.
Curated some grazing boxes for you based on a few cities:
Grape and Fig: The ones who have perfected, adult Lunchables along with alcohol.
Berry and Brie: Cute name, but even cuter looking grazing boxes.
Garner and Graze: It’s like, there’s so much alliteration that can be done.
Casero: These look beautiful and I love the see through of the packaging.
La Dama: These grazing boxes take on a life of their own.
Kured Co.: They want you to think of them as the “Sweetgreen” of grazing boards, k.
Grazy: Love the simplicity behind their branding yet the boxes look dope af!
Sorella: If grazing boards are an Olympic sport, they win, all of the tiers.
Graze and Raise: Is this like the new “rise and grind” lol?
Lady Larder: Beautiful presentations and variety of options to choose from.
Grazing Box Co: This company was like, this is what we are, literally.
Miami Grazing Company: This one also falls along the same lines, lol.
Graze and Gather: Again, the alliterations, lol.
Burke and Black: They have their grazing boxes available in different sizes, though we all know, no one really goes for the “personal”
Graze Anatomy: Tell me you’re a Millennial, without telling me you are, lol.
Living Platter: Love this name because their stuff legit seems to come alive, they even made possible, cute individual watermelon cakes? WTF.
Total Entertainment Forever
Here’s a curation of companies that can help you entertain next time:
Party by the Numbers: Absolute genius concept, that you can rent, both the set up and the catering by the actual number of people you will be hosting, the even include a FREAKING BAR CART!
Savorly: LIFE FUCKING SAVER! These are cute puff pastries that you can just dump in oven and bake with ease so you can serve them as expensive hors d'oeuvres for your guests.
Roundhouse: Based in Australia, I love how they guide you to build your dream tablescape.
Casa Mia: This is by far the most complete service I’ve found around hosting and tablescapes, you can also choose whether you want to rent or keep.
Butler: Room service but outsource it, included here because it seems like a genius way to get an elevated experience as travel comes back.
Spoonful of News 🥄
Pepsi is pulling a Coca Cola and getting into hard seltzer.
Better Brands launched a healthier bagel using tech.
Miso Hard Seltzer launches this weekend.
KIT Brooklyn is a new curated food shop you can find the likes of the infamous Solid Wiggles.
Acid Pickles is drop culture meets literal condiments.
CAMP spice wants to upgrade your camping cuisine.
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