Category Archives: Fun Facts

History & How-To: Shrub Cocktails

Ruth Hartnup, Flickr Commons

Bar owners and restaurateurs nationwide began reinventing the Prohibition Era speak easy quite a few years ago, launching a craze for classic cocktails and the dashing mustachioed barkeeps who create them. But naturally, as when any style trend becomes conventional, foodie taste makers have had to move on to something new… or, in this case, truly old.

Introducing the shrub, a drink recipe colonial Americans brought with them from England.

A shrub is an alcoholic or non-alcoholic mixed drink built on the flavor of a shrub syrup (aka “a shrub”), which is a reduction of fruit, vinegar, and sweetener.

Shrub syrups are ideal for making use of cosmetically imperfect produce or an over-abundant harvest, something chefs new to managing their own farm-to-table yields may find valuable again here in the 21st century. Though the syrup is traditionally prepared with equal parts vinegar, sugar, and fruit, the possible flavor combinations are limitless when vegetables, herbs, and spices are used in addition to, or in place of, the fruit.

How To Make a Shrub Syrup:

Combine 1 part fruit and 1 part sugar, allow to rest until sugar has dissolved and combined with fruit juices to create a syrup. This could take up to a few days. Strain out the solids. Add 1 part vinegar and let the mixture mellow to taste. Once it’s ready, add it to this simple cocktail recipe.

Fruit Shrub Spritzer Recipe:

Should You Highlight The Mediterranean Diet?

It’s the beginning of the year, and that means the beginning of new diets and exercise plans for everybody. By late February, many people who may have started the year with good intentions have fallen off their plans. One diet that would be easy to handle, as it allows a variety of tasty foods, is the Mediterranean diet that’s been surging in popularity in recent years.

Nation’s Restaurant News reports on the diet, pointing out that it’s less of a specific diet and more of an eating focus “with an emphasis on healthful high antioxidant-, fiber-rich ingredients such as fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, and healthier fats derived from olive oil, nuts, and seafood.” Both the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association have highlighted the diet as ways to manage health for years, with it encouraging a variety of foods.

The diet doesn’t prohibit meat and meat products, but just minimizes them, especially in comparison to fish. Olive oil, fruits, and veggies are generally considered tasty components of meals that most consumers enjoy. The concept comes from the traditional diets of those in Greece, Spain, and Southern Italy. It features a significant amount of monounsaturated fats, which have been suggested to lead to a reduction of coronary heart disease risk, improve cholesterol regulation, LDL cholesterol reduction, and features other anti-hypertensive and inflammatory effects.

Naturally, these health benefits are ideal for many, focusing on not just losing weight and gaining more energy, but towards adjusting many ailments. The addition of red wine to the diet adds antixodants with their inclusion of flavonoids.

NRN’s suggestions on how restaurants can include this diet include

Enhance the natural flavor of dishes through herbs and spices rather than salt. Basil, cilantro, ginger and saffron are just a few accents that can complement any sauce, dressing, marinade, soup or entrée.

Boost the use of fruits and vegetables. Bring color and variety to salads and seafood dishes with fresh, seasonal fruits, and add hearty vegetables to chili, soups and noodle dishes.

Provide alternative sources of protein. Use proteins such as omega-3 rich salmon, tuna or shrimp, or make substitutions available in place of traditional meats in entrées and salads.

Use extra-virgin olive oil in place of butter and highly saturated dressings.Use it to flavor salads and drizzle over vegetables and pastas. It can also be used in low-heat food preparation.

Add texture with fiber-rich foods. Infuse texture into dishes by adding fiber-rich beans and legumes into salads and side dishes, and nuts and seeds as toppings.

Replace refined grain breads and noodles with whole grains. Use brown rice, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta and wild rice in place of refined grains wherever possible.

Naturally, a new focus on wine in your restaurant could also find its way into the diets of your customers. Many of the items on your menu might fit with these suggestions, so it shouldn’t take too much to adjust your menu to highlight the diet.

Three New Coffee Locations Make News

Coffee shops are a big deal, especially in the early mornings when people are off to work and the evenings when date-nights and meet-ups are common. Worldwide they’re making their stand, and whether it be the big boys like Caribou or Starbucks or the smaller, single-owner restaurants, coffee is an integral part of many people’s daily lives globally.

“Globally” is being put to the test during these Winter Olympics. Technically, the Starbucks chain is not allowed to have a presence at the Olympics, as they’re not an official sponsor. McDonald’s is, which leads to them being the only official coffee distributor during the event. It seems that NBC has decided that their desire for Starbucks coffee during their exclusive coverage is more important than sponsorship, according to The Wall Street Journal. They’ve crafted their own, unique and hidden Starbucks in their coverage base.

How do they manage to staff a secretive Starbucks?

Bringing in the joe is a delicate exercise. NBC flies in a rotating crew of some 15 baristas from Starbucks coffee shops in Russia, sets them up with accommodations in Sochi, and pays their regular wages. As with past Games, Starbucks has gladly cooperated with the effort.

All told, the barista battalion is larger than the Sochi Olympic teams of some 57 countries.

Technically, the company can operate as it’s not for public consumption and is limited purely to NBC’s offices. This hasn’t stopped Starbucks cups finding their way around the Olympic village, leading people to try to track down their source. They can only offer espressos and lattes, and no black coffee.

While Starbucks is supportive of this “hidden” restaurant during the Olympics, they are not supportive of a Starbucks that opened up in Los Angeles. Technically, it’s not a Starbucks; the coffee shop doesn’t have any official ties to the company.

It’s also called “Dumb Starbucks”.

It was launched with a technicality: it’s an art show, and the coffee is the “art.” According to The New Yorker, it’s a creation of Nathan Fielder (with an assist from Dan Horowitz). Since the launch of Dumb Starbucks, it has been shut down, but will be seen on Comedy Central’s “Nathan For You” later this year.

If Dumb Starbucks is controversial enough, don’t forget that Hot Cup Of Joe opened up on Valentine’s Day in Spokane. In comparison to the “Bikini Baristas,” Hot Cup Of Joe features shirtless male bartenders. As they find themselves with significantly more female customers than male, they’re offering a $1 discount to all male customers.

Do you sell coffee in your restaurant? You most likely don’t need to hide it, and shouldn’t expect a “Dumb” variation to pop-up. With a shirtless staff, you might find yourself with increased attention, but it may not be for your drinks. Any coffee shop that needs to drum up business would benefit from thinking outside of the box like these people have done.