Cool Yule

November 25, 2009

Christmas is one month away as of today. I’m stunned, to be honest. I really can’t believe that the year is almost over (life is moving so fast that I almost feel like it’s flashing before my eyes!)

Given the symmetry of the date, I’ve chosen today to launch my holiday gift guide series that I’m calling Cool Yule. Anyone can toss a bottle of wine in gift bag and make a gracious offering; however, giving gifts that are on trend and show off your good taste is so much better, don’t you think?

At about $300 I’ve chosen a high ticket item to kick off Cool Yule 2009; however, it’s just so perfect for the oenephile (that’s a wine lover, btw) on your list. This wine essence set features 40 aroma flasks that can be used to help train your nose and isolate the aromas in wine.

Besides being a great gift for a wine lover, it’s also fun to pull out at a wine tasting, so if you’re planning one during the holidays, it might make a good gift for yourself, too.

Smaller kits featuring 12 aromas commonly noted in white or red wine are also available at a considerably lower price.

Contact Browne & Co. in Canada for information on availability in your area.

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Topline Trends Tuesday: Is tea cooling down?

November 17, 2009

TA3

Curious about what’s happening with the tea trend? So am I. So, I asked tea aficionado and graphic design expert Adrian Doran to attend a tea event in Toronto and report back to us.

His findings are interesting. While reports show that consumers are as curious as ever about the health benefits of tea, it seems that food service professionals still haven’t realized how to incorporate tea successfully into their commercial concepts:


Tea Report 2009

 

By Adrian Doran

Ever consulted a wine sommelier at your favourite restaurant? What about their tea sommelier? Do they even have one? More importantly, ever wondered why a meal of exceptional quality and service ends with a tea bag?

At the recent launch of Jeff Fuchs book The Ancient Tea Horse Road, Bill Kamula, instructor at George Brown College Chef School and Louise Roberge, President of the Tea Association of Canada, spoke about the traditions of tea and it’s future – the first batch of graduates from the College’s Tea Sommelier course.

“Tea is where wine was 20 years ago” said Roberge. “Then it was, red or white? Now, we’re aware of region, vintage, so on.” She believes the course will produce the generation of food service professionals that will lead the education of the public.

The tea industry seems to be waiting for a breakthrough. Tea consumption has grown hugely but it’s coming from far behind. A tea-equivalent of Starbucks isn’t even on the horizon and attempts to promote new tea drinks and introduce new customers to classic varieties can feel gimmicky – milk-infused oolong, anyone? There’s even some resistance from the foodservice industry – wine sommeliers seem curious enough about tea to expand their knowledge but not enough to fully commit to a 44 week course.

Kamula admits that the first dozen graduates included few foodservice professionals. “Some are from the distribution side, some are buyers. We had one lady who plans to open a bed-and-breakfast, with afternoon tea, even some Starbucks middle-management but few who plan to go into the restaurant industry.” So, if the market isn’t knowledgeable enough to drive the decisions about tea, it’s going to take a while.

At the end of an exceptional restaurant meal, do you even want to decide between early and late harvest oolongs or are you happy with a bag of Tetley’s?


Double-duty packaging

October 23, 2009

bird house wine boxReduce, I support. Recycle, I support. But, reuse, I love!

Check out this great ‘green’ package. It’s a wine gift box that is also a hummingbird house! So clever.

As we proceed into the holiday dinner and cocktail party season, many people will pick up gifts, flowers or bottles of cheer to take to their hosts. What other smart double-duty packages can be used to carry a gift and then be used for something else? Gift bags don’t count – I want you to dig deeper today, dear readers.

PS: Here are instructions on how to make a wine bottle birdhouse.


A new kind of aromatherapy

October 8, 2009

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As I mentioned on Monday, I’ve been counting my calories the last couple of weeks so when I read about vaportinis, the inhaled cocktails that have no calories but all the booze buzz, I was more than intrigued!

The idea was born in Helsinki where vodka is poured over hot coals and revelers inhale the vapors, but modified for indoor use by Red Kiva lounge in Chicago. They’ve created inhaled cocktails that sound like they’re equal parts vaporizer and bong. The picture above shows the vessel Red Kiva uses to serve their inhaled cocktails. It works like this: inside the bowl, alcohol is heated to 110°F until it starts to vaporize. Then, you breathe in the vapors through that little glass straw. It all sounds ultra weird but the idea of a calorie-neutral cocktail almost compels me to hop a plane to Chicago for the long weekend.

How about you? Intrigued or turned off?


Juicy

September 30, 2009

coconutmilkHave you noticed hipsters and athletes swigging crystal clear coconut water yet? They’ll be common soon thanks to folks like Madonna who are replacing their Evian bottles with this drink.

Harvested from green, young coconuts, sales of coconut water doubled last year and, with huge marketing initiatives planned, they’re expected to continue to grow.

This juice isn’t just popular because celebs drink it. It contains lots of beneficial things such as electrolytes and potassium and performs much like a sports drink by increasing endurance and preventing cramping. The advantage coconut water has over sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade is that it provides these nutrients without any artificial colours, flavours or additives. Brand leaders at this point are O.N.E. and, of course, Mother Nature who has the least ergometric but most biodegradable coconut water package.

Have you tried coconut water? I’ve had it when traveling in India and Indonesia but I don’t remember really loving it to be honest. I think I’d rather just stick with my trusty filtered tap water. What about you?


Topline Trends Tuesday: Cider presses forward

September 22, 2009

Cider

Photo credit: Sea Cider Farm

One of my fondest memories of my first trip to France was the excellent artisan hard ciders served in champagne-style bottles in Normandy. Although often cloudy and not as pretty as the sparklingly clear apple cider drinks I’d had in Scotland before that time, Norman ciders were more nuanced and really fantastic served with a big bowl of mussels meuniere.

Today, apple cider is a growing category in the liquor store. It’s not the Scottish-style pub cider that’s taken off or the Norman-style cider that we’re seeing more of but the sweet, sparkling ice ciders from Quebec and the wonderful range of still and sparkling quaffing ciders from British Columbian growers like Sea Cider Farm.
Do you ever serve cider when you entertain? If not, would you consider it?


Topline Trends Tuesday: Coffee talk

July 28, 2009

iStock_000003030567SmallWhile retail experts expected grocery store coffee sales to grow 2.4% in 2008, the changes in the economy led many consumers to choose a homemade cup of java over a $4 latte. As a result, sales grew by 6% and are predicted to stay as strong as a Starbucks espresso.

In other coffee related news, the makers of Dippin’ Dots ice cream pellets are applying their super cold technology to coffee concentrate so that soon homecooks will have another, hopefully better, instant coffee option.

And, for those who still splurge on coffee shop coffee, a new website and iPhone application from Dunkin’ Donuts now makes placing large orders easier. The person making the coffee run can send out a group alert asking people what they want; then, those people can place their orders online. The person going to Dunkin’ Donuts can print out the order or look at it on his or her phone.

Personally, I’m not a huge coffee drinker. I usually have a cup a day, so buying my coffee from a coffee shop doesn’t have a big impact on my budget. What about you? Has the economy changed your coffee drinking habits in any way?