2017 is going to be interesting, to say the least.
New politics are shaping up and causing a huge ruccous across the country. The economy will need to be watched and the world is changing daily right in front of us. But in the drinks industry, it is important to take a moment and see and think about what this all means to us and where we are headed and how to best deal with some of it. I was asked to compile a "Predictions List" for 2017, so here it is...
Beaujolais will continue to make a strong comeback on wine lists. The strength of the wines from smaller domaine producers who own and farm older vines and make serious wine will continue to resonate with buyers and consumers alike. Plus the food pairing ability of Gamay will reach more people as they experience these fabulous wines. Not your mother’s bubble-gum ripped Nouveau, anymore; this is serious wine.
Academic Wine Writing will continue to displace ratings as the preferred manner to buy and sell wine. What the wine tastes like to you is all that matters, and scores are simply a snapshot in time of one person’s opinion. While these things tend to sell luxury magazines, they are frivolous to anyone looking for more than a cursory “shelf-talker” about the wine. People want to know about where the wine comes from, who made and how, and what is the best thing to serve it with – that is hard to communicate in a number.
Local breweries will continue to open at an alarming rate (we are now topping 5000 in the US), but some will begin to close. The bubble is getting bigger, and while the American beer drinker is keeping these businesses afloat, and there is still plenty of market share to steal from the big producers, at a certain level there will be a weeding out of the less quality oriented and marginal styles. We can only handle so many IPA’s, and as the local markets get flooded and these breweries look to expand to other markets, their “local” niche becomes less impactful to the consumers.
More people will realize that gin is OK and it is really just flavored vodka (in a good way). More interesting cocktails come from gin as the base than vodka, but many consumers are pre-disposed to not liking a cocktail if it lists gin, just for the gin, and ask for vodka instead. I often encourage people to try the cocktail first and then decide if they like gin or not, and often the case that they come back and say “I don’t like gin, but this is good” – duhh!
The term “craft” will continue to be overused on more and more bar programs, despite the fact that many of them are not really crafting anything. Having a well-educated bar team where information is passed down in a credible manner, having the right tools and knowing how to use them, having products that your staff is trained to understand and knows how to use (as well as not use) for certain applications, knowing good hospitality and manners, and making things like fresh juices, syrups and infusions from scratch – are all signs of a crafted bar program. Not a list of cocktails that sound like they came from an old book.
Wine lists will focus on regional styles and be tailored to work with the cuisine of the restaurant rather than trying to be formulaic and have something for everyone. In other words – a focused approach to building lists and themes for restaurants is key to success and being able to stand out in an ever increasing field of competition. This means education for staff, and learning to taste wine effectively with food is needed.
Let's look back in a year and see if was on target with any of this nonsense...Cheers and Happy New Year!
If you work in the hospitality industry and are not following EATER - you should be.
Eater sends out daily "news" bits about what is going on around the country, but also what is happening in your city or selected cities of interest. I personnaly follow Austin, TX, Boston, Ma, and NYC, but the choices are wide. I like it as it keeps me up to date on trends and topics, plus when I am stuck for ideas I can see what is going on in other parts fo the country.
Today, EATER posted its Best of American Restaurants list - good read, with many top level folks out there. Again, I want to know what the best of the best are doing - not to copy, but to be inspired and get great ideas.
Here is the link to the 2016 Best Restaurants in America list
Here is the link to EATER home page
Every year around the holidays/end of year, I am asked to write a few notes on prediction or ideas for gift giving. This year, I was given a list to focus on by one local blogger and I decided that since I did spend so much time writing it, I would reproduce here as i doubt she will actually use all of my thoughts. If she does then I will repost, but for now, here is my current list of shopping ideas for those who like to make what they eat and drink...
This list was compiled for Alycia Chrosniak of CT Eats Out
Piece of kitchen equipment for the home cook:
Membership to a good CSA. My family has belonged to a CSA for years – splitting a full share with our neighbor. There is plenty of great food from Spring all the way through Christmas. While this is not a “piece of equipment”, what are you doig I the kitchen but cooking food. Membership in a local CSA helps local farms, which is a local small business. The money stays in the community, people have jobs, and you have great food.
Our CSA is Oxen Hill Farm in Suffield. Great thing is they do a weekly pick-up in Wet Hartford Center so you are to driving to Suffield. The Winter Share (Thanksgiving to Christmas Season) is a great add-on for loads of cold crop veggies. First week in December, and just got 5 types of squash, cabbage, tons of potatoes and carrots, Brussels sprouts, lettuce and kale. Money well spent, all organic and fresh picked this week.
If you want a more standard equipment recommendation – I would say the best thing is a good chef’s knife and a sharpener. I see a lot of relatives and friends with big blocks of all kinds of knives, but many of them are made of cheap steel, not used for what they are designed for, and often not sharp. I have a Global 8” Classic Chef’s knife, it is sharp and the most used tool in my kitchen. For sharpening, I have a standard steel, but what is needed is a block or sharpener that can rebuild the edge from time to time. I have a Henkels multi stage knife sharpener, and it is great for periodically rebuilding the edge on my knives. Well worth the investment on both counts.
Piece of kitchen equipment for the baker:
Mini loaf pans for making things like pumpkin bread, which is a perfect gift item when cost matters, you need something in volume or on short notice, such as for teachers, co-workers and neighbors. Drop one in a holiday bag with a little ribbon and its good to go. Schemer a little cream cheese between two slices of fresh pumpkin bread and you are in heaven.
Piece of bar equipment for the mixologist:
Product knowledge. The best way to get better at mixing and have a lot of fun along the way is to learn about the ingredients, how they interact, and best techniques for building classic or innovative recipes. Books are my suggestion and my three current fav’s are:
Liquor or wine you love:
L’Ecole No 41 Chenin Blanc, 2014, from Walla Walla
A beautiful expression of this varietal, and no one expects it from this region.
Pied à Terre Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013, from Sonoma County
Small wine production, and owned by a fellow Somm from NYC. Edgy style of cab that is not overly polished – a great food wine.
Specialty food item that you enjoy (spices, bitters, type of salami etc):
I usually have several styles of Miso in the fridge at all times. I use it for simple soups, but also add it to more complex soups, many f which are not even Asian in basic flavor. This is my go to whenever a recipe calls for a bouillon or I have no base for a sauce or stock. Great depth of flavor concentration, it can easily be used as a glaze for Tempeh or Chicken. Plus as a fermented product, it’s a lot healthier for you than salty flavor subs.
Gift for the host/hostess:
Champagne (the real stuff, not just ordinary bubbles). Look, a decent bottle of Champagne will cost you about $45. If the party you are going to is not worth that much then it probably is not that great a party. It’s just the classy thing to do. Pol Roger White Label Brut non-vintage is my favorite (hint-hint).
Food charity or non-profit to donate to:
Journey Home CT - journeyhomect.org
These guys work really hard to help people get off the streets and into shelters and other safe places on a daily basis, right here in our back yard. Journey Home’s team works to not only help people solve the issue of where to get a meal or sleep today, but look at the longer term solutions to ending homelessness in general. They are dedicated and effective.
A 25 year drinks industry expert, Brian has worked on just about every side of the beverage business, specializing in wine & spirits education, staff training, creative consulting, and of course service. He lives and works in Connecticut, where the number of working Somm's is limited, but he hopes through the effort of this site and its related events, that will change.
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