Like many baseball teams, the Boston Red Sox minor league farm team, the Pawtucket Red Sox, was forced to cancel its 2020 season due to the coronavirus. But this season would have been a celebration of the team’s 50th anniversary of playing at the Pawtucket, Rhode Island field at McCoy Stadium, and its last year ever. The league announced it would be moving the team to a field in Worcester, Massachusetts, as of 2021. To salvage the planned 50th anniversary celebrations, team vice chairman Mike Tamburro hatched a plan based on local officials’ announcement that limited outdoor gatherings were still permissible. Starting in June, Tamburro and his team launched “Dining on the Diamond,” an outdoor picnic held on the stadium’s well-manicured outfield. The first weekend’s 20 tables and two seatings sold out in 88 minutes with hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries and nachos on the menu. The picnic quickly grew to include a third seating, more tables (spaced 14 feet apart), and an expanded menu offering lobster rolls, a barbecue platter, and chicken Caprese. The events have been staffed by team officials, and diners at each table receive a miniature keepsake replica of McCoy Stadium to take home. Dining on the Diamond has been a home run, as more than 2,600 families are currently on the waiting list and those who’ve scored a table have relished the opportunity to put their toes on the outfield of their baseball heroes. “This kind of idea could be groundbreaking for the industry going forward,” said Tamburro. “Can you imagine Fenway Park doing this when the Red Sox are on the road?”
By the end of this year, the International Culinary Center (ICC), formerly known as the French Culinary Institute, will be closing its doors in Manhattan, New York. ICC has entered into a licensing agreement with the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), which has locations in Manhattan as well as Los Angeles. ICC plans to reopen as soon as New York City enters Phase 4 of its reopening plans, allowing enrolled students to complete classes until the end of the year. At that point, the two culinary schools will effectively become one as part of the agreement. Many notable New York City chefs have graduated from ICC, including Blue Hill’s Dan Barber, David Chang, Angie Mar, and Christina Tosi. Chefs Jacques Pepin, André Soltner, Alain Sailhac, and Jacques Torres have also been longtime instructors at ICC. Rick Smilow, president and CEO of ICE, hopes that ICC’s instructors will continue to teach as part of the combined school’s programming. Smilow says he “expects to bring aspects of their expertise, unique offerings, and heritage to ICE.”
Britain’s new “Eat Out to Help Out” initiative offers diners a 50% discount of up to £10 per person on meals from Monday through Wednesday. The plan includes the equivalent of up to $625 million in discounts. “This moment is unique. We need to be creative,” said Finance Minister Rishi Sunak. The discount can be used unlimited times and will not apply to alcohol. Sunak also announced a temporary cut in VAT sales tax, bringing the usual 20% down to 5% for eat-in or hot takeaway food from restaurants, cafes, and pubs. As in other countries, Britain’s foodservice industry has been devastated by the pandemic. Once employing 1.8 million workers, the industry is now suffering thousands of job losses. “The measures announced today are extremely positive…and they should give many businesses in our sector much-needed help to get going again in earnest,” said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry lobby group UKHospitality.
The oldest restaurant still operating in the world dates back to 803 CE, according to a list put together by NetCredit financial services. St. Peter Stiftskulinarium in Salzburg, Austria is widely regarded as the world’s oldest restaurant, and its signature dish is tafelspitz, a Viennese classic of simmered beef with apples and horseradish. The world’s next oldest restaurant is Historische Wurstkuchl in Regensburg, Germany. Founded in 1146, this restaurant is world famous for its charcoal grilled sausage and sauerkraut. Just a year later in 1147, The Old House was founded in Maesteg, Wales. This historical eatery has been fully restored to its original glory and still features a signature dish called the Old House Pie with a filling that changes daily. In China, Ma Yu Ching’s Bucket Chicken House in Kaifeng, Henan, first opened its doors in 1153, and the restaurant still serves buckets of chicken to this day. .
Noah Sheidlower, a sophomore at Columbia University, has collected over 6,000 takeout menus from restaurants in the northeast U.S. and Canada. Begun when he was 12 years old, Sheidlower’s collection got its start when his father handed him a menu from a Queens, New York empanada restaurant. “I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” Sheidlower says. Stored in plastic bins, cardboard boxes, and plastic bags, the menu collection once had an organizational system, which has since fallen by the wayside due to the collection’s sheer size. Growing up near Queens gave Sheidlower plenty of opportunities to explore the borough’s diverse culinary scene in search of good food and menus. He even published a Queens food guide based on his explorations. Family trips throughout the Northeast U.S. and Canada also allowed the menu hobbyist to compare local specialties across regions. While college studies now take most of Sheidlower’s time and attention, his menu collection could be an invaluable resource for a culinary library, such as the ones at the New York Public Library and the University of Toronto.
The Oglala Lakota chef Sean Sherman began his Indigenous catering and education company, the Sioux Chef, in 2014. The Sioux Chef has since won two James Beard Foundation awards for his leadership and a cookbook. Over the next few months, Sherman and his partner Dana Thompson will open the Indigenous Food Lab in Minnesota as part of their nonprofit organization, North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS). The Indigenous Food Lab will feature a restaurant, a training kitchen, and an education center, as the NATIFS furthers its mission of Indigenous food education.
Sherman and his team will invite Indigenous communities from around North America to use the lab to both learn about, share, and serve dishes from North American regional food systems. The restaurant will be open to the public, abiding by social distancing guidelines during the pandemic. The restaurant will only serve pre-colonial food, so there will be no dairy, wheat flour, refined sugar, beef, pork, or chicken on the menu. Instead, the restaurant, training kitchen, and education center will feature traditional Indigenous North American foods like wild rice, corn, beans, bison, and foraged mushrooms, which will be sourced from local Indigenous farmers.
As with other meal delivery services, Grubhub’s business has skyrocketed during the pandemic and now averages 500,000 food orders per day. To help show what Americans are eating, the company recently released its “State of the Plate” report based on user data. The runaway success of Popeye’s chicken sandwich last year prompted other restaurants to add the item to their menus, and as a result, chicken sandwiches saw a 299% increase in orders in the first 6 months of 2020, according to Grubhub. Orders of plant-based burgers rose 291%, and those for iced lattes rose over 200%. Meal kits have also been popular with 55% more orders for do-it-yourself burgers, lobster rolls, salads, pizzas, and gyros compared to last year.
Similar to an American pullman loaf of bread, Japanese milk bread has a softer, creamier texture from a unique method of cooking the flour in the dough. Milk bread is usually made with the tangzhong method, similar to a making a roux, in which water, milk, and flour are mixed into a slurry and heated in a saucepan until thick. This pre-cooking gelatinizes some of the starch in the flour, and when the slurry is added to the dough, it creates a creamier, fluffier, softer texture in the finished loaf. Japanese milk bread also gets a rich texture and some sweetness from additions of butter and sugar. In Japan, this type of bread is used in everything from egg salad sandwiches to katsu sandos (breaded and fried pork cutlet sandwiches). It’s as common as sliced white sandwich bread in the U.S. Now, Japanese milk bread is showing up on more and more U.S. restaurant menus. According to research from Datassential, the bread can be found on 400% more U.S. restaurant menus than 4 years ago.