MRM News Bites: Remembering a Restaurant Industry Legend

Each week, Modern Restaurant Management magazine compiles restaurant industry headlines in MRM News Bites. This time, we celebrate the life of a restaurant industry legend and plenty of restaurant openings. Send items of interest to Executive Editor Barbara Castiglia at

Celebrating the Life of Frank Pellegrino Sr.

Rao’s iconic co-owner, Frank Pellegrino Sr. passed away on January 31 in the presence of his family and loved ones. He was 72 years old.

Frank Pellegrino Sr

In a statement, his family told MRM:

“While the entire Rao’s family mourns his loss, they also celebrate his life, and know he’d be adamant that the show must go on. Presiding over a hallowed New York establishment elegantly entrenched in a bygone era of Packards and Parodis, Frank Pellegrino was an impeccable curator of the City’s gritty, glorious past. It was under Pellegrino’s inspired stewardship that Rao’s became the City’s most coveted dining destination, a place where the A-list and the hoi polio found common cause in food, song and unbridled revelry. Rao’s counter-intuitive quirks were pure Pellegrino, the place is perpetually festooned in Christmas decorations and is closed on weekends. The interminable waiting list, the celebrity sightings and mouth-watering fare were an experience that spawned faithful satellite locations in Las Vegas and Los Angeles as well as a thriving food company. Pellegrino was the last of the great hosts (here we speak of Toots Schor and Elaine Kaufman), his exquisite style and effortless elan brought the room to life, his voice, especially when leading the raucous throngs through a chorus of “My Girl”, could bring down the house. The only aspect of Frank Pellegrino that exceeded his stentorian voice was his heart; he worked tirelessly on behalf of Mount Carmel Holy Rosary School and The Ronald McDonald House, and donated countless tables that were auctioned off for staggering sums that benefitted myriad causes.”

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to either Mount Carmel Holy Rosary School or The Ronald McDonald House. A memorial Mass will take place on Feb. 14  at 11 a.m. at Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel 473 E. 115th St., New York City.

Organic Fast Food Debuts in Illinois

 Nic’s Organic Fast Food, the nation’s 1st QAI certified organic drive-thru chain, will open its first store at 2101 Plum Grove Rd. in Rolling Meadows, IL in early 2017. Founded by Nicolette and Benjamin Brittsan, Nic’s was launched to deliver a classic fast food experience with a conscience. 

Nic’s Organic Fast Food presents fresh iterations of well-known fast food favorites, all certified organic and reasonably priced. From breakfast to organic burgers, organic fries to organic ice cream cones, and everything in between, Nic’s maintains an elevated level of quality while maintaining the ease and efficiency of the traditional fast food business model.  Everything at Nic’s is without hormones, antibiotics, GMO’s, preservatives, artificial flavors or colors. Meats are humanely raised and sustainably sourced. 

In line with its 100 percent certified organic menu, Nic’s Organic Fast Food offers a diverse selection of beverages including Idaho-based Tractor Sodas, an all-natural soda company, waste-reducing boxed water, organic iced tea, and organic juices, Nic’s also serves organic and responsibly-sourced Allegro Coffee in hot and flavored iced varieties.

The interior features a bold green and white color palate and the welcoming and familiar space reflects the simple, wholesome philosophies of the brand. While innovating the industry with all-organic options, Nic’s stays true to the essential fast food aesthetics with nostalgic exterior and interior details consistent across all locations: a drive-thru window, vibrant LED-lit menus, soda fountains, and outside, a soaring sign visible from the highway. Each location also features a life-sized Nic the Farmer statue.

Most Romantic Restaurants 

In celebration of the romantic dining experiences we have on and around Valentine’s Day, OpenTable,  unveiled the 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in America for 2017. These awards reflect the combined opinions of more than 10 million restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 24,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Highlighting winners in cities both large and small, the complete list features restaurants in 36 states, and includes Fearrington House Restaurant in Pittsboro, NC, The Inn at Little Washington in Washington, VA, and Orchids at Palm Court in Cincinnati. Proving Virginia really is for lovers, the state boasts 13 winning restaurants, followed by Florida with 10 and Ohio with eight. California, Colorado, and North Carolina have seven each, Texas has six, New York and Washington each have five winners, while Nevada has four. Arizona, Illinois and South Carolina earned three apiece. Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all have two standout restaurants. Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Tennessee are also represented.

Orchids at Palm Court © 2014 Mark Bealer
Studio 66 LLC

The list is dotted with restaurants located on picturesque properties and eateries showcasing cozy dining rooms with incredible ambience.  American and French cuisines dominate, and Italian, steakhouse fare, and fondue are also popular.

“These winning restaurants understand that sharing a delicious meal is a universal rite of courtship at any stage of a relationship,” said Caroline Potter, OpenTable Chief Dining Officer. “Whether diners are out celebrating Valentine’s Day or simply connecting over a flirty dinner, this year’s honorees excel at setting the table for romance.”

The list is generated solely from more than 10 million verified OpenTable diner reviews collected between December 1, 2015 and November 30, 2016. All restaurants with a minimum “overall” score and number of qualifying reviews were included for consideration. Qualifying restaurants were then scored and sorted according to the percentage of reviews for which “romantic” was selected as a special feature.  

Chef Edward Lee Expands in Louisville

Chef Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia and MilkWood officially announced a third Louisville, KY restaurant, Whiskey Dry (412 South 4th St.) expected to open late this spring in the Fourth Street Live! complex in downtown Louisville.

Chef Edward Lee

The restaurant is a fresh new take on the traditional whiskey bar, bringing guests creative burgers alongside an impressive list of over 200 whiskeys from around the world. Lee is working with friend and whiskey consultant Noah Rothbaum, Chief Cocktail Editor of The Daily Beast, on the whiskey program, which features whiskeys not only from Kentucky but also from Ireland, Scotland, Canada, Japan, and elsewhere. 

Stacie Stewart, who has worked with Lee at MilkWood since it opened in 2012, leads the bar program at Whiskey Dry. Stewart has created a cocktail program with classic whiskey drinks and some newer interpretations designed to demonstrate the best qualities and nuances of each distinct whiskey.

The food menu at Whiskey Dry is dedicated to burgers, with Lee and his team making burgers, buns, ketchup, condiments, and pickles, from scratch. Said Lee, “A burger is really a complex combination of flavors – smoky, umami, fresh, vinegary, salty, and sweet. To me, the complexity of a good whiskey makes it the only drink able to stand shoulder to shoulder with a good burger.  In many ways, the flavors of a good burger are mirrored in a good whiskey.”

Of the decision to open at Fourth Street Live!, Lee said, “I feel honored to be representing the independent Louisville restaurant scene in a venue that attracts so many out of town visitors to our fair city.”

Detroit Piston Andre Drummond Partners with Halo Burger

Halo Country LLC, owner of the Flint-based and Michigan icon Halo Burger, is partnering with Detroit Piston’s All-Star Andre Drummond.  Drummond will serve as Halo’s first-ever spokesperson by promoting the Halo brand and its burgers.  He will also assist with Halo’s community involvement projects, supporting outreach initiatives in Flint, Detroit, and throughout Michigan.  In addition, Drummond will develop his own signature burger to be unveiled in the spring of 2017.

Andre Drummond

The relationship between Halo Burger and Drummond evolved out of mutual admiration, love for the game of basketball, and a shared vision of community service. 

“While we are in awe of Andre on the court, his involvement with kids and the community really caught our attention.  He shares Halo Burger’s passion for community involvement and we are very excited to have Mr. Drummond as our brand ambassador,” said Chance Richie, CEO of Halo Country, LLC.   “Andre is the embodiment of our ongoing mission at Halo Burger. He delivers an amazing product on the court, while exhibiting a strong commitment to charitable causes in Michigan” continued Richie.  We are extremely proud to align Halo Burger with such a truly great person and are thrilled to have Andre represent our brand.”

“I am really excited to work with Halo Burger,” said Drummond. “Not only am I a huge fan, but I also share the same values and believe that we need to support and give back to the people that make our communities great and even better since we will do some good along the way.”

Drummond’s partnership with Halo Burger will include participation in charity events, public appearances, endorsements, and of course, Andre’s exclusive Halo burger the “Dre Burger.”

Since acquiring Halo Burger in January of 2016, Halo Country, LLC has been committed to improving stores, developing new employee training and incentive programs, and getting even more involved in the communities they serve are just a few of the initiatives under the new ownership.   Halo raised more than $40,000 for the community of Flint in 2016 alone.  The Drummond partnership underscores Halo’s commitment to connect with and imbue excitement and opportunity into Flint and the state of Michigan.   “We’re a local business trying to be good citizens in our communities.  We believe this is the beginning of a beautiful partnership that will shine an incredible light on our region, showcasing that there are good things to come,” continued Richie. 

Halo has been serving the Flint area (and the state of Michigan at large) fresh, never-frozen hamburgers since 1923.  Halo Burger’s locations include six in Flint, two in Grand Blanc, and one each in Burton, Birch Run, and East Lansing.   In addition, Halo Country recently opened at the Palace of Auburn Hills and launched a new Halo Mobile food truck. 

Liberty Commons at Big Rock Brewery Opens

Oliver & Bonacini and Big Rock Brewery  launch their collaboration, Liberty Commons at Big Rock Brewery. Located at the corner of Liberty St. and Atlantic Ave. in Toronto.

Liberty Commons Beer Shop

Liberty Commons’ culinary vision is driven by O&B Corporate Executive Chef Anthony Walsh, District Executive Chef John Horne (Canoe, Auberge du Pommier), and newly appointed Chef de Cuisine Ryan Lister (formerly of Canoe). Overseeing the brewing program at Liberty Commons are Big Rock Brewmasters Connor K. Patrick and Dan Ellis.

Liberty Commons’ menus are largely inspired by quirky and imaginative twists on fine comfort food, with many dishes creatively integrating Big Rock Brewery’s quality craft beers.

“We’re thrilled to be working closely with Chef Ryan and his incredibly talented staff to craft beers that both complement and enhance the outstanding dishes being created,” said brewmaster Dan Ellis. “We are excited to brew under the same roof as such flavour experts and we fully intend on utilizing that tremendous resource to push the envelope.”

“We want Liberty Commons to be a place for the neighbourhood to come together over knockout food and brews,” said Chef Anthony Walsh. “Here, there’s a connection between food and beer that’s so much more than just a pint. From stocks and sauces to batters and brines, beer flows naturally throughout all aspects the restaurant.”

Highlighting a wide range of styles and unique flavours, Liberty Commons offers eight Big Rock taps, which feature their signature beers, seasonal offerings and plenty of rotating experimental brews made exclusively in house. All of Liberty Commons’ draught brews can be enjoyed as pints or in tasting flights. 

Designed by award-winning firm DesignAgency, the venue combines contemporary and industrial elements, and showcases brewer’s tools, including six fermenting vessels. Set in a two-level heritage space, Liberty Commons occupies the entire lower level and features a lively bar and dining room, as well as two customizable private dining rooms: Barrel Room and Drink Tank. Plans for a patio complete with lounge seating and outdoor fireplaces are also in the works.

The main level houses Big Rock Brewery’s Beer Shop and tap room, where guests can enjoy a pint while casually dining on select menu offerings from Liberty Commons, as well as take home Big Rock’s freshest brews  – in bottle, tall can, or growler format.

Restaurant Branding Master Class

Type Directors Club announced the inaugural class in its new series of Master Classes being held in New York City, beginning February 27 through March 20. A two-hour, four-week class on Restaurant Branding, taught by Douglas Riccardi of Memo Productions is designed to allow designers to hone their skills on a restaurant branding project of their choice under the guidance of one of the industry’s best. Riccardi specializes in restaurant branding, with clients such as Mario Batali, Del Posto, Eataly Birreria, and Schnipper’s. Class location is Type Directors Club, 347 West 36th Street, Suite 603, New York City.

The master-class series is targeted to any graphic designer who is currently working with a restaurant client or who wants to build their portfolio, find out what satisfies demanding restaurant operators and chefs, and understand the latest trends in this fast-changing field.

To register, click here.

Southern Glazer’s Upgrades NJ Facility and Signs Agreement with Beam Suntory

Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of New York, the New York division of the largest North American wine and spirits distribution company, plans to immediately upgrade and repurpose its existing Port Elizabeth, NJ storage center to augment existing distribution operations located in Syosset, New York. The storage facility will be upgraded with the latest distribution automation technology and equipment to enhance customer service and to support growing demand in the New York Metro marketplace.

“It’s been nearly 12 years since Southern Glazer’s entered the New York market, representing some of the world’s leading wine and spirits brands,” said Larry Goodrich, EVP and General Manager of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of New York. “As a result of our successes, we’re making this new investment in our infrastructure so we can meet the needs of our customers. We are confident that upgrading this facility will help us enhance service to existing customers and facilitate our ability to effectively and efficiently service our retailers as we continue to grow our business in New York.”

The 286,000 square foot Port Elizabeth facility, currently being used for storage, will be able to service over two million cases annually. Southern Glazer’s existing 350,000 square foot Syosset distribution center will continue and operate as-is, in coordination with the Port Elizabeth facility.

“With another record year behind us, all indications are that our growth will continue,” added Roy Kohn, VP of Operations for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of New York. “As we rapidly work to bring this facility on line and fully operational by late summer, we’ll also be assessing our long-term needs for continued expansion in New York. On behalf of the Southern Glazer’s New York leadership team, we want to thank our dedicated employees for their ongoing support and we look forward to continuing to work closely with both local and NY state officials as we develop our long-term expansion plans including working together to find an additional permanent location in Metro New York.

Larry Goodrich added, “Our focus has been and continues to be providing leading-class service to complement the brands we serve. This initiative is geared to support and deliver on that promise.”

In other news, the company signed a new 37-state corporate distribution agreement with Beam Suntory, the second largest premium spirits company in the U.S. market. With the new performance-based agreement, Beam Suntory’s leading portfolio of brands will be distributed across Southern Glazer’s U.S. network in 21 open markets through 2030. Southern Glazer’s, which also represents Beam Suntory’s brands in 16 control states, is Beam Suntory’s largest distribution partner in the world.

“Beam Suntory has had very long and successful relationships with both the Southern and Glazer’s families,” said Tim Hassett, President, Americas, Beam Suntory.  “Working with the combined Southern Glazer’s organization, we are confident that we will continue building on our historical strong performance together with a common commitment to further accelerating the growth of our brands on- and off-premise.”

“We are excited to extend our business relationship and represent Beam Suntory’s world-class brands across our unmatched national network,” said Wayne Chaplin, CEO of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits.  “This long-term strategic alignment will enable us to deliver even more value – with a more efficient and effective route to market and the most thorough data insights – so we can help drive growth for Beam Suntory’s brands for years to come.”

FRC Grant Submission Open

The Foam Recycling Coalition opened its grant submission process to support increased recycling of packaging made from foam polystyrene. The FRC, part of the Foodservice Packaging Institute, seeks applicants looking to start or strengthen a post-consumer foam polystyrene recycling program.

“In the past two years, the Foam Recycling Coalition has awarded nearly $225,000 in grants to communities in the United States and Canada” said Lynn Dyer, president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute. “Almost one million more people can now recycle foam polystyrene directly due to these investments.” 

Denver’s Alpine Waste & Recycling and Colchester County, Nova Scotia, received FRC grants in 2015, with Georgia’s Athens-Clarke County, Minnesota’s McLeod County and Redding, CA joining them in 2016. The funding assisted with the purchase of equipment that provides foam polystyrene recycling services to their communities.

Both public and private organizations involved in managing residential curbside recycling programs or material recovery facilities are eligible to apply for funding.

This initiative helps fund infrastructure for the collection, processing and marketing of products made from foam polystyrene. It targets post-consumer foam polystyrene products, which includes foodservice packaging (i.e., cups, plates, bowls, clamshells, cafeteria trays) and other types of packaging, such as egg cartons; meat trays; and protective packaging (used when shipping electronics and other fragile items).

The FRC distributes up to $50,000 for each grant. Grant amounts are determined on a case-by-case basis dependent upon equipment needs. Although no cash match is required, additional costs may be incurred by the grantee for related items such as site preparation, provision of conveying system, electrical infrastructure, freight and other installation costs.

Grantees are required to communicate the addition of foam polystyrene in their recycling program, both directly to households and in their regular communication materials. Grantees also must commit to collecting, processing and marketing foam polystyrene for a minimum of three years, which includes reporting on the volumes to FRC.

Formed in 2014, the Foam Recycling Coalition focuses exclusively on recycling foodservice packaging made from foam. Its members include Americas Styrenics; Cascades Canada ULC; CKF Inc.; Chick-fil-A; Commodore; Dart Container Corp.; Dyne-A-Pak; Genpak; Hawaii Foam Products; INEOS Styrolution; NOVA Chemicals Corp.; Pactiv Foodservice/Food Packaging; and TOTAL Petrochemicals & Refining USA.

Applications must be submitted by April 17  for priority consideration. The FRC will announce grant recipients throughout the year.

To obtain further information and a grant application, click here.

Wine Keg Project

The Gotham Project and Free Flow Wines today announced the opening of their joint-venture, a co-operated state-of-the-art facility, called Filling Station East.  Located in Bayonne, NJ, Filling Station East is dedicated to packaging premium imported wines in reusable steel kegs for the US wine on tap market. 

This collaboration allows Gotham Project and Free Flow Wines to create a coast-to-coast national platform with a dedicated fleet of over 150,000 stainless steel kegs.  Used exclusively for wine, these kegs can now be transported efficiently across the country for Gotham Project and Free Flow Wines customers. By not having empty kegs returned long distances, both companies can reduce costs and the carbon footprint of their products.

The new 12,000 square foot facility will also act as an east coast hub for wine on tap training, education and marketing.

Both Gotham Project and Free Flow have spent the last seven years pioneering the wine on tap market, which is on track to exceed 300,000 kegs (650,000 9-liter cases) in 2017. Together, the two companies will individually, and collectively, continue to build the wine on tap category.

“The national platform for wine on tap, created by the combination of launching the Filling Station East and collaborating with Free Flow to optimize keg logistics reduces the average distance kegs need to travel to get to consumers and back for re-filling,” said Gotham Project Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Bruce Schneider. Free Flow Wines Co-Founder and CEO, Jordan Kivelstadt noted, “We have seen tremendous interest from our winery customers to fill at the Filling Station East to offer imported wines on tap to US customers.”

“There is a huge demand for wine on tap nationwide and the Filling Station East will allow us to increase import offerings and continue to accelerate adoption of the fastest growing on-premise wine format,” continued Kivelstadt.

Cochon555 Wrapup

After a decadent afternoon of feasting on over 1,500 pounds of heritage breed pork raised on family farms, almost 600 guests gathered with glasses full of everything from Verdelho and Pinot Noir to Smoked Old-Fashioned and Rum Swizzle cocktails. With Brooklyn as the first Cochon555 tour stop in 2017, it was a moment that was a year in the making. Cooks and guests, winemakers and distillers, all were waiting for Cochon555 founder Brady Lowe to crown New York City’s “Princess of Pork,” bestowing not just the title, but a place in the national finale, Grand Cochon, in October.  Representing the Large Black breed of pig raised by Spring House Farms, the winner was Chef Nicole Gajadhar. Nicole Hakli of ACME took home honors in the Somm Smackdown Competition for his/her pork pairing with Under the Wire, 2013 “Alder Springs Vineyard,” Sparkling Chardonnay, while barkeep Anthony Bohlinger won for his Hasbrouck Heights cocktail with orange bitters, lemon, orange peel-infused orgeat, bitters and Breckenridge bourbon in the Punch Kings Cocktail Competition.

Cochon555 offers guests a unique way to sample food cultures near and far, putting the focus on creating a safer, more honest, and delicious food system. National in scope, the culinary tour will go to some 14 cities in total. The event also benefits a greater – and absolutely delicious – cause in the form of Piggy Bank, a farm-in-the-making devoted to sharing free heritage breed genetics and business know-how with small and family farms. 

This year’s competing chefs included winning Chef Nicole Gajadhar of Saxon + Parole, Chef Ryan Bartlow of Quality Eats, Chef Greg Baxtrom of Olmsted, Chef Aaron Hoskins of Birds & Bubbles and Chef Chris Szyjka of Chef’s Club by Food & Wine. The chefs prepared boldly flavored dishes using whole heritage-breed pigs from family farms in a nose-to-tail, whole animal showcase for a crowd of pork-loving gourmands. Chef Nicole triumphed with a large black, a rare breed of pig originating from Chinese breeds brought over to England. The Large Black is characterized by its short black hair, large shoulders and long body. These timeless qualities – representative of the breed – worked in tandem with the six winning menu items, including Bloody Sunday with blood noodles, salt-cured & smoked loin, coconut broth and crispy head; L.E.S. Egg Roll with pork shoulder pastrami, black garlic, ginger cabbage, cilantro and a tamarind sauce; Into the Woods & Out to Sea with smoked-brined butt, mushroom and truffle whipped lardo, uni and smoked trout roe; Belly Full of Goodness with belly and liver mousse, Fuji apple bourbon jelly, smoked pignolia and a black ‘piggie’ pretzel; Let That Tutu Twirl, a cotton candy with pork dust and blood macaron chocolate-caramel jowl ganache; and Porctail with a pork mist, mescal, aiji dulce, chicharron, yellow pepper and bergamot.

A culinary competition featuring five chefs cooking five whole, heritage breed pigs with innovative flavors and timeless cooking techniques, Cochon555 challenges chefs to use every bit of their accumulated knowledge and inspiration. Each chef is given a 200-pound heritage breed pig and tasked to create, prepare and present a “Judge’s Plate” of 6 dishes scored on utilization, global influences, cooking techniques, and overall flavor, among other categories. This year’s experts and celebrity judges included local luminaries such as Brad Famerie of Public/Saxon + Parole, Matt Lambert of Musket Room, Bryce Shuman of Betony, Thomas Schneller of CIA, Francis Derby of The Cannibal and more.

“The competition gets more intense and dynamic with every year, and this year’s New York City chefs showed precisely why the city is still the watchword for culinary excellence in this country,” said Cochon555 founder Brady Lowe. “Winning Chef Nicole’s dishes were bold, modern, thoughtful, and full of the kind of flavors that only enhance what heritage breed pigs have to offer.”

Communal feasting is an integral part of the Cochon555 culinary fabric. Beyond the 30 chef-competitor dishes – all told, some 1,500-plus pounds of heritage pork from family farms – guests also sampled beef tartare prepared by Chef Danny Hobby of The Cannibal Liquor House paired with the wines of Antica Napa Valley; farmhouse cheeses from Savile Row, Columbia Cheese and Formaggio Kitchen; a pop-up bakery from La Brea; a Salami Snack Bar from Creminelli and Divina; a ramen noodle soup bar paired with the racy white Wines of Germany; organic pâté offerings from Les Trois Petit Cochons; a Luxury Butter Bar featuring Sabatino truffled butter, foie gras, and more; and an innovative take on pastry presented by Perfect Puree of Napa Valley and Chef Angie Mar of The Beatrice Inn.

Cochon555 events are also theaters for innovative spirit, wine, and cocktail experiences. Libations included Smoked Old Fashioneds with Breckenridge Bourbon; The Manhattan Project presented by Poached Jobs; the Tiki Bar featuring Angostura Rum; a Courvoisier Cognac ‘neat’ tasting with hand-crafted chocolates; and a Heritage Rum Cart. New pours incorporating the historic bitters and luscious rums of Angostura were unveiled at the Swizzle Bar. An  array of wines grouped under the “5 Winemakers” banner featured Scholium Project; Pax Wine Cellars; Element Winery; Silver Oak and more. Other experiences included the Welcome Lounge featuring Buffalo Trace; non-alcoholic sodas from DRY Sparkling; Wines of the World and Azzurro Wine Company

Kings of Kobe Debuts in NYC

Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen now beckons hot dog and hamburger enthusiasts with the debut of Kings of Kobe at 790 9th Avenue. The bricks-and- mortar embodiment of a popular Summer 2015 New York City pop-up of the same name, the new eatery is dedicated to the presentation of all natural American Wagyu “Kobe style” beef in the guise of hot dogs and hamburgers in brioche buns and graced with imaginative toppings.* Witness the Manhattanite, wasabi aioli, caramelized apples, frisee, shaved cheddar; the Banh Mine, marinated cucumbers and carrots, cilantro, sriracha aioli and  the Sweet Munchies, Coca-Cola soaked caramelized red onions, cream cheese, among the offerings for dog devotees, as well as theBetter Than Caesar, burrata, baby arugula, stone fruit relish and the Queen Rules, prosciutto, pepper Jack, frisee, sweet garlic jam from the burger half of the menu.  

Snacks such as Mac & Cheese Balls, roasted garlic aioli and Waffle Dogs,Cheddar, spicy maple syrup and sides like Sweet Potato Tots, spicy maple aioli and Red Onion Rings, complement the menu’s 10 main beef attractions (augmented by the Vegan Republic, three bean and roasted vegetable burger, roasted tomato, vegan herb mayo.) On the beverage front, beer, wine, milk shakes and sweet bubbly teas will be some of the options available.

Kings of Kobe is brainchild of managing partner, Etai Cinader, a life-long hot dog and hamburger aficionado, who considers them gastronomic symbols of an equalitarian American way of life. “Hot dogs and hamburgers embody the essence of the American social experience; no matter the social status or political views, everyone enjoys a great dog or burger,” noted Cinader. “Kings of Kobe was created to honor hot dogs and hamburgers by enhancing them in a manner consistent with New Yorkers’ cosmopolitan palates.”

The new brand’s tagline is “The Burger & Hot Dog Monarchy,” a theme carried out in the Ninth Avenue space with the statement-making black and gold palette. Any possibility of eye boredom is dispelled by the massive mural that colorfully dominates one wall depicting a regal lion surveying the skyline of his realm, that of iconic New York City buildings and an enchanting turreted castle. The work by emerging street and stencil artist Lambros was commissioned by Kings of Kobe to symbolize the new culinary monarchy.

Guiness Brewery to Open in Baltimore

Continuing the momentum from Diageo Beer Company USA’s positive half year financial results, Diageo today announced its intention to build a US version of Dublin’s popular Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Baltimore County, Maryland. As currently planned, the company would build a mid-sized Guinness brewery and a Guinness visitor experience with an innovation microbrewery at the company’s existing Relay, Maryland site. This new brewing capability and consumer experience, combined with a packaging and warehousing operation, would bring the company’s investment in Relay to approximately $50 million. The new brewery would be a home for new Guinness beers created for the US market, while the iconic Guinness Stouts will continue to be brewed at St. James’s Gate in Dublin, Ireland. Visitors would be able to tour the working brewery, sample experimental beers brewed on-site at the taproom, and purchase Guinness merchandise at the retail store.  While finalization of these plans is still contingent on reaching agreement on several considerations, the project would represent a significant investment in Maryland in terms of economic development, job creation and tourism. 

“Opening a Guinness brewery and visitor center in the US will enable us to collaborate with fellow brewers and interact with the vibrant community of beer drinkers,” stated Tom Day, President, Diageo Beer Company, USA.  “Given the success of our Open Gate Brewery in Dublin and the popularity of beer tourism in the US, we are confident that Americans will welcome the opportunity to come experience Guinness brewing in Baltimore County. We appreciate the support we have received so far from state and local officials and look forward to continuing to contribute to the local community.”

The project would re-establish a Guinness brewery in the US after 63 years of absence.

The project would re-establish a Guinness brewery in the US after 63 years of absence. The new brewery and visitor experience would become part of Diageo’s production facility in Relay, site of the historic Calvert Distillery which opened in 1933. Relay was chosen as the preferred location for this project for several reasons, including the site’s proximity to major East Coast tourist and population hubs, availability of skilled employees, and space to build and adapt existing structures on the property.  While many specifics are still being evaluated, it is estimated that this project could generate approximately 40 jobs in brewing, warehousing and an agile packaging operation, which may include canning, bottling and kegging. In addition, the Guinness visitor experience part of the project could create approximately 30 jobs. A significant number of construction jobs would likely also be created during the building phase, and the company would endeavor to hire as many local firms as possible to conduct this work.

“Guinness’ plan to build a brewery at its historic facility in Relay, MD is great news for job creation, manufacturing, and tourism in our state,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “Beer tourism attracts millions of visitors to towns and communities across the country every year and I look forward to welcoming Guinness to the roster of excellent breweries we have here in Maryland.”

Maryland restaurateur, Mark Loundas of Bill Bateman’s Bistro commented, “What an exciting announcement for tourism in Baltimore Countyand the state of Maryland. I know that this Guinness brewery project will benefit the entire hospitality industry including hotels, beverage alcohol retailers and other tourist destinations throughout our region.”

Diageo hopes to receive approvals and to begin construction this spring with the goal of opening the brewery this fall to mark the 200th anniversary of Guinness being first imported into the US.

Culinary Challenge Finalists

S&D Coffee & Tea (S&D), the largest coffee and tea manufacturer and supplier to restaurants and convenience stores in America, has selected the finalists for its 7th annual Culinary Challenge at Johnson & Wales University Charlotte (JWU).

Students were invited to submit original recipes that incorporate S&D coffee and tea extracts or coffee grounds and meet this year’s theme, “Food Truck Frenzy.” On January 27, a judging panel of Charlotte-based food truck owners participated in a taste test to narrow the pool down from 20 to the top 10.

The 10 finalists vying for the $5,000 grand prize are as follows (name, hometown & original recipe name):

  • Lorenzo Delgado, Kannapolis, NC, “Not Your Average Cup of Joe”
  • Ashley Gabrielsen, Sayville, NY, “Doughnut Panic”
  • Gillian Howard, Memphis, TN, “Coffee Shwarmas & Ginger Mint Tea”
  • Chainey Kuykendall, Mount Airy, NC, “Coffee ScenTEAd Abura Soba” 
  • Garret Lochner, Florence, SC, & Megan Hoag, Raleigh, NC, “Gulab Jamuns in Cinnamon Coffee Syrup”
  • Dustin Marshall, Akron, OH, “S&D Coffee Brined Jerk Chicken Lollipops”
  • Olivia Pedroff, St. Petersburg, FL, & Maria Meacher, Virginia Beach, VA, “The Caffeinated Pig by Rollin Gnocchi”
  • Francisco Saad, Charlotte, NC, “Coffee & Chili Rub ‘Pick Me Up’ Tacos”
  • Brandon Staton, Virginia Beach, VA, “Brandough’s Bao”
  • Nicholas Wishart, Hillsboro, OH, “Over the Rhine”

These chefs-in-training will now be paired with one of the food truck owners who will serve as a mentor, helping them prepare to compete at the Culinary Challenge’s live culinary event on Feb. 14, held in the Hance Auditorium on the JWU campus.

The top student chef chosen that evening will receive a $5,000 grand prize, and the winner’s food truck mentor will receive a $5,000 donation to the mentor’s charity of choice. Seven other students will also receive cash prizes.

Alto-Shaam Introduces Heated Shelves

Alto-Shaam’s newest merchandiser product line now includes individually controlled heated shelves that keep food warm for hours at the highest level of quality.

Featuring exclusive Halo Heat® fanless technology for precise, even temperature, these merchandisers hold a variety of grab-and-go products, including rotisserie chickens, pizza, sandwiches, and more.

“The individual shelf control gives operators flexibility over their holding needs,” said Robert Simmelink, corporate chef for Alto-Shaam. “Different food items can be held at different temperatures, allowing operators to merchandise a cross-section of menu items. The merchandisers highlight the best of your food to increased impulse purchases by on-the-go consumers who need meals that work with their busy lifestyle.”

These merchandisers improve store profits with more consumers looking for hot, ready-to-eat meals. Convenient, fresh meals are displayed to sell to customers in the aesthetically pleasing and customizable merchandiser. The customizable banner (available through Alto-Shaam’s third-party supplier) can enhance a company’s brand image while the shelves include LED lights to draw attention to the food.

Other enhancements include:

  • Even heat distribution
  • Lighted shelves for added visibility
  • Convenient power switch located at the front of the unit
  • Glass sides for an open view
  • Fully skirted to conceal casters
  • Simple operation and cleaning

Countertop models are available in 24-inch and 36-inch widths. Floor-standing units are offered in widths of 24, 36 and 48 inches. The merchandisers can be purchased separately or as part of a full system package to cook, hold and merchandise rotisserie chickens, pizzas, sandwiches and more.

“We work with our customers to determine the best solution for their needs based on sales projections, food they are holding, and packaging type,” said Simmelink. “Unique equipment system solutions are tailored with innovative products that exceed their expectations.”