2013 Trend Prediction – Fast Casual Dining Takes a Turn for the Better (Tasting and For You)
As an Account Supervisor in the hospitality practice at Zapwater, I’m fortunate enough to get a sneak peek at the next big trends in food. The last few years we’ve seen a rise in demand for farm to table dining and local and seasonal ingredients. Now, it’s to be expected that our favorite restaurants provide only the freshest, most seasonal dishes. Come 2013, this will not only continue, but will expand into the fast casual sector in a major way.
Full disclosure: I’ve spent the past 8 months working with the amazing LYFE Kitchen. I’ve watched the relatively small brand (one location open in Palo Alto, one set to open February 2013 in Culver City) make huge headlines. Their mission is straightforward: Eat Good. Feel Good. Do Good. Sounds simple, but the amount of care put into deciding each and every detail from the bamboo flooring to sourcing local growers is inspiring.
Americans are more and more conscious of the quality of food we’re consuming not just when dining at high end restaurants, but each and every time we sit down to enjoy a meal. We’ve seen the rapid expansion of Chipotle and our own homegrown favorite, Protein Bar, which proves that this is a country hungry for better for you, delicious food.
I’m not the one with the crystal ball here, Wired Magazine called the LYFE Kitchen “the future.” I’m just here to tell you to look out for great-tasting, good-for-you things in 2013!
Mary Doyle, Account Supervisor
DEL FRISCO’S TAKES CHICAGO BY STORM
After months of planning, construction, hiring and training, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House opened its doors to the public on Saturday, December 1, 2012. But before the first steak was served, a premiere fete on Thursday, November 29 offered a first look of the stunning 24,000 square foot restaurant. More than 1,000 guests filled the three-story space for an evening of decadent dishes, cocktails and wine. In case you missed it, below are some highlights of the historic evening!
From the moment guests stepped food on the red carpet, they were greeted with wine and champagne.
Inside, the night got off to a spectacular start as Alderman Brendan Reilly joined Del Frisco’s CEO Mark Mednansky, Regional Manager Ray Kasperski and Big Shoulder’s board members in a ceremonial ribbon cutting.
From there, the party moved to the second floor main dining room where guests enjoyed a beautiful raw bar complete with custom ice sculptures and fresh seafood. Additional signature bites, including steak and lobster, offered a preview of Chef Jim Teutemacher and Chef Anthony Reyes’ menu.
On the third floor, the party kicked into high gear with Chicago’s favorite band, the Gold Coast All Stars. The band performed classic hits and some new favorites, because it’s not a party without Call Me Maybe!
If you haven’t made your reservation yet, do it now! Del Frisco’s will be the hot spot for holiday shopping lunches, after work drinks and, come summer, patio dining on Oak Street!
In recent years, chefs have become a new type of celebrity thanks to shows like Top Chef and Iron Chef. Though they’re not always in the press for the positive (I won’t name names…) there is at least one chef who is doing some pretty amazing work for no other reason than to bring top quality food to Milwaukee diners.
Chef Mark Weber of Mason Street Grill in Milwaukee recently traveled to Maine to source fresh lobster for his summer menu. With the assistance of brothers John and Brendan Ready of Ready Seafood Co., Chef was able to experience the work of a lobsterman firsthand. Just as Ready Seafood Co. prides itself on knowing where every lobster comes from, Chef Weber takes pride in knowing the effort that goes into obtaining the highest quality food for Mason Street Grill guests.
Sure this was no episode of Deadliest Catch, but there were stories of finger injuries at the claw of a ten pound lobster and sightings of rare orange lobsters that are one in ten million! The result of Chef’s hard work is a delicious lobster menu all summer long at Mason Street Grill. So Chicagoans, if Chef can travel to Maine to catch your dinner, the least you can do is make the hour and a half trip to Milwaukee to enjoy it!
GET CHEEKY WITH IT AT THE ANTHEM!
The gorgeous weather that spoiled us back in February has returned and I expect to see all of the patios mentioned in an earlier post to be jam packed this week. In particular, The Anthem in Wicker Park is debuting its new patio for the Cheeky Sadie Hawkin’s (Vice Versa, Turnabout, you know the one) event on Thursday, May 17th from 6-8 PM.
It’s your once in a lifetime chance to relive your glory days (or redo your not-so-glory-days) while sipping on everyone’s favorite seasonal brews from Leinenkugels, margaritas and exclusive Cheeky Punch. Other goodies include his and her passed apps and spiked popsicles for dessert. DJ Megan Taylor will spin some of the 90’s and early 2000’s hits that are guaranteed to bring back some fond memories. My fingers are crossed for some Sister Hazel, New Radicals, Barenaked Ladies and maybe a little K-Ci and JoJo to slow things down.
So invite your favorite guy pal, be it your boyfriend, hubby, gay best friend, co-worker, etc., and grab your tickets here for $20 in advance or $25 at the door. It’s a Thursday night, so no excuses, we all know what a typical Friday at the office looks like during the summer.
HOT TIMES SUMMER (ER, MARCH) IN THE CITY
If typical small talk is a conversation about then weather, then Chicago has been all about the small talk this month, myself included! I close emails with, “enjoy this beautiful weather!” I talk myself into going out for lunch because “I must get out and enjoy this beautiful weather!” I even dusted off my JCrew rain-flats because “they are just so much more appropriate for this beautiful weather!” Luckily, some of Chicago’s bars and restaurants have been quick-to-adapt and set up their patios and the rest will be opening before we know it. In likely the earliest ever patio roundup, here are my recommendations for the best outdoor seating in the city!
Market – West Loop
Since our office re-located to the booming West Loop, it seems every other day we’re hearing about an amazing new place coming to the neighborhood. One of the staples is Market – with a sidewalk café, beer garden AND roof top with skyline views, you can have a new experience each and every visit.
Pops – River North
The drinks are refreshing, the scene is exciting and who doesn’t feel fancy sipping bubbly in downtown Chicago? Insider info: It’s their 30th anniversary and during the month of April, a glass of Pol Roger is available for just $9 – normally $23. But it’s not on the menu, so tell them we sent you!
ROOF on theWit – Loop
If we’re taking outdoor seating to a new level, then why not the 27th floor? The views are amazing, especially on the overhang. Plus, the DJ’s have been known to set the tone for a fun night on the town.
Justin’s – Southport Corridor
There isn’t much worse that heading to a patio and realizing there is a 5 hour wait. Which is exactly why I love Justin’s – I can scope out the scene from the comfort of my living room. The neighborhood spot is easy, low key, and perfect for a week night drink.
The Anthem – Wicker Park
They had me at veggie burger, then they went and added a patio. It’s their first spring season open, so I expect it to be a hot spot. Not to mention that the energy on Division street makes you never want to leave. With all of the open air windows, the patio feels like an extension of the uber-retro sports bar.
These are just a few of my personal favorites and I hope to visit many more this summer. Given the additional time, I should have no problem making my rounds. For a list of spots broken down by hood, check out Chi Bar Project. But hurry, before the April snow!
WHY I AM NOT WATCHING THE BACHELOR
I’m willing to bet that right now there are two groups of readers. The first group doesn’t want to read this because they are devoted Bachelor fans who can’t fathom why someone wouldn’t watch. The second group is anti-Bachelor who doesn’t need to hear my reasons for not watching. So let me start by saying, I have been a loyal devotee to the Bachelor and all of the groundbreaking spinoffs. I’m not totally sold on the finding true love angle, but it’s reality entertainment at its best, and who doesn’t love Chris Harrison? Alas, I’m on an indefinite Bachelor hiatus, and this is why.
Haven’t I Seen You Before?
Yes, I’m aware that the Bachelor and Bachelorette franchises have been recycling former contestants for years. It’s something I have tweeted Chris Harrison about, in fact. This year was just the final straw. I wasn’t a fan of Ben to begin with and I just can’t respect someone who sells his soul to the same devil that watched him get down on one knee to propose, all the while knowing he was going to be rejected. Now that I think about it, the only sane reason that Ben would come back for more is to promote his winery. In which case, Ben himself isn’t even there for “the right reasons.” So come on ABC, there are millions of desirable singles out there, take a chance on someone new.
Enough with the Mean Girls!
On that note, ABC, how about casting some appealing you ladies? None of these crazy gals are on the show to fall in love. They simply tipped the drama scale during their casting interviews and were brought on so Chris Harrison could state that this is “the most dramatic season in Bachelor history.” Which, from what I’m hearing and reading, may actually be a true statement. When former contestants such as Tenley Molzahn, Kiptyn Locke and Natalie Getz are tweeting up a storm about how difficult it is to watch these mean girls, something is not right. Girls are by nature a wee bit catty (especially when living in a house together and dating the same guy), so surely natural drama will unfold without specifically casting high-drama ladies.
My Schedule is Already Full
Simple as that. With the return of Gossip Girl (OMG is Blair really going to marry Louis?!), enduring drama of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (Did you know? $25,000!) and newcomer It’s a Brad, Brad World, (Eight pages in Details!!) my DVR is fully booked on Monday nights. Not to mention I might be out a boyfriend if I add one more show to my list.
There you have it. The top reasons why I am not tuning in this season to watch crazy girls claw each other’s eyes out over a runner-up.
TOP 25 THINGS TO EAT, DRINK AND COOK-2012 TRENDS
Bon Appetit just released their annual list of what will be hot in all things food and wine for the coming year. After close review, I selected a few predictions that I will personally be backing in 2012.
As a self-proclaimed carbovore, nothing excites me more than learning about new varieties of pasta. Penne, Cavatelli and Farfalle will forever hold a special place in my heat, but there’s always room for the likes of Paccheri, Garganelli and Trofie.
Craft beer and cocktails were huge in 2011, but next year calls for a marriage of the two. I’m a novice when it comes to beer cocktails so I’m planning to start with the best at Trenchermen. Opening in Wicker Park next March, Trenchermen promises a wildly exciting cocktail menu (thanks to beverage director, Tona Palomino) that includes the likes of “Beer” – stout paired with a raisin infused bourbon and nutmeg. I’ll have another!
You’re probably familiar with amaranth’s sibling, quinoa, and if you like that, you’ll love the grain of the future. Not only is amaranth a complete source of protein, but it’s packed with calcium and protein. I’m anxiously stocking up on recipes, so if you have any, send them my way!
Sometime after college, I became a breakfast person, possibly because I was finally waking up in time for breakfast, or because I typically go to bed on a belly full of carbs. Either way, my stomach starts growling within an hour of waking up each morning. Best solution I’ve come across? Breakfast cookies! Erin Baker’s Morning Glory is a great way to start each day. With flavors like Double Chocolate Chunk and Carmel Apple, they even make a nice afternoon snack too!
To check out Bon Appetit’s entire list of 25 things to eat, drink and cook in 2012, click HERE.
Just last week, the Zapwater team held their annual Thanksgiving potluck at David’s new home in the West Loop. With strict instructions from Annie that the dishes must be homemade (read: no running to Whole Foods an hour before to grab a last minute meal), I was a little nervous about what to prepare. Luckily, my mom happened to be in town the night before our gathering and helped me whip up a delicious broccoli and cheese rice casserole. Mind you, this isn’t at all difficult to prepare, but who doesn’t want a little help from their mom in the kitchen?
The next day, Zapwater closed the office early to celebrate an early Thanksgiving and eat our weight in carbs. For a vegetarian, this meal was a dream come true. Though I didn’t delight in David’s (surprisingly) well received Turbaconducken, I did enjoy more than my fair share of macaroni and cheese, stuffing muffins, sweet potato casserole and corn casserole. After back-to-back rounds of savory food and a slice of apple pie I must say, Zapwater knows how to cook! I’m even contemplating asking my co-workers for their recipes so that I can contribute to my family Thanksgiving next week.
But for those that are still a little hesitant to put together and entire Thanksgiving meal, there are other options. TheWit hotel in Chicago is one place that offers a Thanksgiving Take-Out/Fake-Out. For $300, guests can pick up a succulent maple brined, oven-roasted turkey with all the fixings for a group of 8-10. Just be sure to place your order by November 17th by calling 312.239.9588.
Good Luck and Happy Thanksgiving!
Oh My, Bow Tie!
Unless you’ve been avoiding TV, magazines, blogs and social media, you’ve surely heard about the upcoming Guinness World Record event hosted by TheTieBar.com. In honor of National Bow Tie Day (yes, it exists) and just because it’s a pretty cool thing to do, The Tie Bar will attempt to set a World Record for “Most People Tying Bow Ties at the Same Time.”
The best part? Everyone that attends will receive a FREE commemorative bow and help raise money for a good cause. The Tie Bar is donating $15 to Goodwill for each person that shows up to help make history.
So call a friend, and have that friend call a friend, and join us at Wrigley Square at Millennium Park this Sunday, August 29th at 2 PM. But save the “I can’t tie a bow tie” excuse, because the Zapwater team is solid proof that just about anyone can master the notoriously difficult task. Our successes are below.
Check out this video and try it for yourself.
IS THAT CD REPEATING?
Yes. I have very different taste in music. But there is one thing that my staff will tell you about me. If I find a song I like, I play it over and over and over. See Vicci Martinez’s rendition of Dog Days are Over.
Some might say that I do it to the point of annoyance. My wife has said that I ruin songs.
David M. Zapata