Viewing entries tagged
Culinary

The Rocking Food

The Rocking Food

I’m still winding down from the delicious, busy, and exciting long weekend that is the yearly South Beach Wine & Food Festival down in Miami. This was my fourth year heading down with the Connect Group and Chef Marc Forgione and over the years I’ve been to many events that range in theme and offerings. But the overall format of these events is generally the same: walk-around tastings with 30-40 different chefs/restaurants or a sit down dinner with multiple courses.

This year The Connect Group had the pleasure of activating King’s Hawaiian sponsorship events during SOBEWFF which included The Art of Tiki on Friday night and Bacardi on the Beach with Beats by Rev Run & DJ Ruckus. Now, I’m not knocking the standard food festival events, they do a great job of marketing the chefs/restaurants and promoting their sponsors. And obviously people love attending them! But as with most things, the more different and unique an event is, the more it stands out.

At first, Bacardi on the Beach seemed like it would be like one of the standard walk-around food festival events. After an hour or so though, it became apparent that this was more of a standout event. It wasn’t just that the crowd was younger and more diverse than the other tentpole events. What made this event truly stand out was that the star wasn’t the food. The music was.

Bacardi on the Beach was a music event that happened to have food. And that doesn’t mean the food wasn’t important. If anything, I would say that the focus on the music enhanced the food even more. I find that at a lot of the tasting events, eating can seem like less of an enjoyable experience and more of a sport as some people are determined to run around and try as many dishes as possible. Sometimes it can even get ugly. I was once elbowed in the face by an older woman for a dumpling, no joke. At Bacardi on the Beach, people were dancing and singing and having a great time. I know it might be a stretch to say this but I truly think the dancing and working up a sweat and overall fun/light mood made people really enjoy what they were eating.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve been to a non-food festival with a heavy emphasis on food. Now in it’s seventh year, Governor’s Ball is a 3-day music festival that takes place on Randall’s Island. The food definitely isn’t an afterthought at Gov Ball. It gets it’s own “lineup” and the vendors are all curated by popular food website The Infatuation. A couple of years ago I also had the chance to go to Life is Beautiful, a 3-day art and music festival in Downtown Las Vegas. Life is Beautiful takes a different approach to food and actually makes the chefs part of their programming with a dedicated cooking demo stage and chef-hosted elevated food stations in the VIP areas.

Though food at music festivals isn’t a new thing, I’m always looking at new and exciting ways to combine food with lifestyle events or re-invent the typical food festival experience. Sometimes I think we forget that it doesn’t always have to be JUST about the food as there are lots of ways to inject a memorable food experience into other fun activities.

- Cassie

What's on the Menu That's Gluten-Free, Organic, non-GMO, No Dairy, No Sugar?

What's on the Menu That's Gluten-Free, Organic, non-GMO, No Dairy, No Sugar?

During our holiday break, my family hosted two giant Christmas dinners and I went to San Francisco for 4 days so I did some seriously indulgent eating and drinking. This is why my friends were able to convince me, a self proclaimed cheese and soy sauce-a-holic, to commit to a 2-week no sugar, no gluten, no dairy (aka “no fun”) diet.  My first thought when I committed to this ridiculous-sounding diet was “what the heck am I going to eat???” Turns out, the answer is a lot.

Over the last couple years, the food industry has seen a huge boom in healthy, organic, and all-natural products. Many brands are focusing on either developing or acquiring health-centric foods, largely due to the fact that there has been a 30% growth of consumers in the US with food allergies. General Mills was one of the big brands to release gluten-free products, seeing a predicted growth in sales of $10.6 billion for the category, and has released several gluten-free versions of their products, including Cheerios.

And even though our society has long been obsessed with the newest diet or health trend (remember “South Beach Diet” or Olestra?), it seems as though this will be less of a trend and more of a cultural shift. Consumers are even willing to pay more money for products that promise to be healthier and/or aid in weight loss. According to Forbes, 88% of those polled are willing to pay more for healthier foods and this includes all age demographics.

This shift towards being more health-conscious isn’t only with consumer products. According to the National Restaurant Association site, more than seven out of 10 adults try to eat healthier when they go out to a restaurant than they did two years ago.  And the government is even trying to help us on the path towards more healthful eating, creating a law in 2010 that requires U.S. Restaurants with more than 20 locations to display calorie counts. It may not have been the main factor to help significantly lower sales at McDonalds but it certainly makes people question their order when they see the “563 calories” under a Big Mac.

What does this all mean for brands and restaurants? I don’t think it’s necessarily time to get rid of the deep fryers and baked goods. But I do think restaurants and chefs, who historically have had a “no substitutions” attitude when it comes to their dishes and menu, should pay close attention to this shift towards healthy and allergen-free eating and adapt their menus accordingly. It also means that if I continue with my “no fun” diet for another two weeks, I’ll have lots of choices when I go to the grocery store.

- Cassandre Pallas

 

 

'Tis the Season for Brands

'Tis the Season for Brands

2016 marks my first holiday season living in New York City. As I try my best to cheerfully walk up and down the crowded streets of New York, I can’t help but notice that the holidays are everywhere you look- from the elaborate window displays on Fifth Avenue to the Rockettes performing at Radio City. There is no shortage of holiday spirit. This Christmas craze is not only exciting for consumers, but it also presents a lot of opportunities for brands to get their names out there and integrate themselves amongst the holiday cheer.

Urbanspace, which was founded in 1970 as Urban Space Management, was created to develop environments rich in creativity where artisans and entrepreneurs can succeed. Every year starting right around Thanksgiving, Urbanspace creates four or five pop-up holiday markets throughout the city, one of these markets is located in Union Square, and was named “THE holiday destination for New Yorkers and tourists alike.” This pop-up offers great opportunities for brands to gain exposure during the holiday season. Places like Union Square are key because they present both consumer and business to business opportunities for brands. From the millions of commuters passing by each week, to the wide range of art, music, food, etc. vendors that are selling their own goods, brands can’t go wrong setting up shop here. Milk Bar, the sister bakery of the Momofuku restaurant group is a great example of a well-known vendor that keeps coming back year after year because of their annual success.

Another Urbanspace holiday pop-up market with interesting branding opportunities is located in Bryant Park. Along with smaller vendors (as seen in Union Square), this pop-up market has larger sponsorship opportunities dedicated to select areas. For example, the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park. Clearly sponsored by Bank of America, this area includes an ice rink, Polar Lounge, and a Snackbar by Public Fare. Another integrated sponsor is Southwest Airlines. To help spread the word about their brand, Southwest Airlines has created “Southwest Porch at Bryant Park,” which offers a full bar, an al fresco lounge, and plenty of power outlets so guests can hang out while refueling their devices (which we all know is very important these days),

The holiday season is one of the most important times for brands. Whether restaurants such as Milk Bar, or a huge corporate company like Bank of America, the November and December months are key for brands looking ahead to the New Year. These holiday pop-up markets are the perfect way to gain visibility in some of the most crowded areas of the city, and offer a lot of potential for new customers and business to business opportunities. So even though most businesses will probably never run as smoothly as Santa’s workshop, getting involved in pop-ups like the Urbanspace Markets is a great way to spread holiday cheer, as well as create new opportunities for individual brands.

- Kate Moelis

Savory is the New Black

Savory is the New Black

We just wrapped up Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week here in New York City and while fashion doesn’t exactly scream “food and eating” (cue the “models don’t eat” jokes), the culinary and fashion industries have a lot more in common than one would think.

The culinary world, much like fashion, is driven by seasons and trends. Chefs becoming obsessed with using liquid nitrogen or exotic foraged ingredients one year is analogous to fashion designers basing their entire season’s collection on a color or theme. Considering both the fashion and food worlds measure success with retail/purchases, it makes sense that they both rely on trends to influence customers’ desires to continuously make new purchases. In the words of Heidi Klum on Project Runway, “In fashion, one day you're in and the next you're out."

Because the culinary and fashion are industries that are always evolving, it pushes people to experiment and innovate, causing the same short bursts of hype and media attention. Think of Dominique Ansel’s cronut or David Chang’s bleeding veggie burger: food items that exploded in the media and are so popular that people line up around the block for hours just to taste one. The same media/consumer frenzy can be found in fashion. Remember the years-long waiting list for the Hermes Berkin bag?

There is also a level of luxury and “must-have” appeal that comes with pursuing the finest food, not all that dissimilar to getting your hands on the hottest $3,000 handbag. A twenty-plus course dinner at Per Se will set you back well over a thousand dollars for two people and a reservation is so hard to come by that you’re lucky to secure one several months in advance. Even though Per Se has been open for years now, it continues to be one of the most difficult tables to get because people desire the status and bragging rights of simply saying they’ve eaten there.

These obvious parallels between the fashion and the food world have also produced some delicious (pun intended) collaborations. Supermodel Karlie Kloss is such an avid baker that she decided to join forces with Pastry Chef Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar to produce her own line of cookies. One of the best-selling cookbooks last year wasn’t written by a world-renowed chef, but rather Sports Illustrated supermodel Chrissy Teigen.

But what I’ve found the most interesting while working at The Connect Group are the creative ways the fashion world is incorporating culinary into its own marketing efforts. For example, a few months ago when Louis Vuitton announced its first perfume, the company asked Chef Marc Forgione to create a tasting menu for their media launch event that incorporated fragrance notes from the perfume into each of his dishes. I think we’re seeing this constant evolution and dovetailing between the two industries because there’s one thing that really will never go out of style: good food.

Cassandre Pallas