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Crémant d’Alsace: The French Sparkling Wine You Should Be Drinking More Of

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Champagne may still be king, but France produces plenty of great sparkling wine beyond the Champagne region too, and for a fraction of the price. There are eight appellations for crémant sparkling wine that’s produced in the same méthode champenoise with secondary fermentation in the bottle, resulting in a dryer wine with tighter structure and finer mousse compared to sweet prosecco. Crémants are required to be hand-harvested with a minimum of one year aging including nine months on lees, a labor-intensive production that ensures higher quality at a more affordable price simply because these wines don’t have the brand recognition of champagne.

You’ve most likely seen crémants from the Loire and Burgundy, but Crémant d’Alsace is an underrated gem, representing more than a quarter of the total production for the Alsace region and more than half of all French crémant. The Crémant d’Alsace appellation was only recognized in 1976, just one year after the Loire and Burgundy, so this is still a relatively new category. Bottles generally retail for $25 and under – as much as you’ll pay for a glass of champagne at a restaurant or bar.

Vineyards in Alsace ALLIMANT-LAUGNER

Julien Dopff pioneered sparkling wine-making in Alsace, after seeing and tasting champagne at the 1900 Paris Exposition and learning the secondary fermentation method in Épernay. He began by importing grape must from Champagne, but ultimately realized that creamy pinot blanc and Alsace’s other white grape varietals are excellent for making sparking wine as well. The crémant designation allows for the use of a wider variety of grapes than in champagne and in Alsace, sparkling wine is made predominantly from pinot blanc, pinot gris, riesling, auxerrois, chardonnay and pinot noir grapes.

Today, Dopff creates 10 different crémants, although only half of those are exported to the United States. The biggest producers of Crémant d’Alsace that you’ll find in the US include Lucien Albrecht and Pierre Sparr but there are many others. Some growers are reluctant to use their best grapes for crémant because they can fetch more making single varietal grand cru still wines. But here are five of the best:

Dopff Crémant Brut Nature Bio

This organic wine is made with zero dosage, for a bone dry 2.7 grams/liter of residual sugar. A foundation of pinot blanc is augmented with 35% auxerrois and 10% pinot noir for a bright yellow crémant with floral aromas. A creamy mouthfeel with notes of toasted apple make this one refreshing to sip on its own, and excellent with a variety of cheeses, seafood and pizza.

Allimant-Laugner Crémant Rosé

Strawberries andcherries pirouette across the palate in this elegant light salmon brut rosé madefrom 100% pinot noir, like all crémant rosés in Alsace. The family estate dates back to 1724 and today 29-year-old Nicolas Laugner works in the vineyard and cellar with his father. Half of their total crémant production is exported to the United States, so it’s readily available on the West Coast and Colorado.

Nicolas Laugner JEAN-PAUL KREBS

Domaine Muré Crémant d’Alsace Rosé

Domaine Muré is famous for their excellent pinot noir and the brut rosé is no exception. Only 5,000 bottles of this wine are produced each year and the delicate raspberry aromas bely a strong finish. This wine is made more like a still wine, without too much exuberance in the bubbles. Véronique Muré and her brother Thomas represent the 12th generation in the family business, which began in 1650. Véronique is also president of Les diVINes d’Alsace, an organization of women wine professionals in the region. You’ll find bottles in Texas and the Midwest.

Veronique and Thomas Muré DOMAINE MURÉ

Boeckel 2016 Crémant Extra Brut Chardonnay

Thomas Boeckel has the oldest chardonnay vines in Alsace, planted by his father in 1968, which he’s using to make an incredible organic crémant that could truly be mistaken for champagne with its fine mousse and racy lemon zest flavors. Boeckel only produces between 4,000-6,000 bottles each year with his small lot on the Zotzenberg Grand Cru and this wine will only get better with age.

Rietsch Crémant d’Alsace Extra Brut

The playful penguin on the front label hides a seriously complex wine, a crémant made with grape must for the tirage, thus using only wild, natural yeast for secondary fermentation. The current vintage is made from a blend of auxerrois, chardonnay and pinot gris grapes from the 2015 and 2016 harvest with hazelnut and brioche notes, persistent bubbles and a lingering saline finish.

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Impossible Foods In Full Scale-Up Mode With Burger Manufacturing Deal And FDA Approval

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In another big week for the plant-based meat industry, Impossible Foodshas entered into a co-manufacturing partnership with major food producer OSI Group to help the California-based startup increase the production capacity of its flagship product, the Impossible Burger. The company’s key ingredient, heme, which makes its burgers “bleed,” alsogot approval from the US Food & Drug Administration today, opening up retail stores as a new channel for the plant-based burger business.

The news follows a mixed quarterly earnings report this week for Impossible’s closest plant-based rival, Beyond Meat, and the announcement of a $720 million share sale that sent Beyond’s stock tumbling 15% yesterday. Increased demand for short bets on further declines in the stock price cause signal further trouble for the record-breaking stock.

Analysts put Beyond Meat’s mixed earnings, which included greater-than-expected revenues but significantly lower earnings per share, down in part to a need to ramp up production. Demand for plant-based meat is growing rapidly—up 37% from April 2017 to 2019—but both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have struggled to keep up with demand. 

Both have entered into high-profile distribution partnerships to sell their plant-based burgers, and also sausages in Beyond Meat’s latest deal with Dunkin’ Donuts. But they have experienced outages that could continue, Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown admitted on the earnings call.

By partnering with OSI Group today, Impossible Foods, which now supplies 10,000 restaurants on two continents, is trying to do something about these shortages that have left some of its earliest customers without supply.

Emilie Hebert, the vegan blogger behind Emilie Eats, told CNET she was disappointed that smaller restaurants couldn’t get the supply they need.

“These restaurants took a chance on carrying a meatless burger when it was not yet the nationwide sensation we see today,” Hebert told CNET. “I love that we have a meatless option at large chains, but I wish Impossible Foods had ensured that they would be able to keep the burger in stock at their already participating restaurants before taking on these large contracts.”

OSI and Asia potential

OSI Group, an Aurora, Illinois-based company, is a private company but one of the largest food producers in the world, with $6.1 billion in revenues and a footprint across 17 countries and 65 facilities. Impossible, which told CNN this year that it was “not sparing any expense” in keeping up with demand, did extensive due diligence on how to scale production of its products before selecting OSI for the job.

The collaboration will start by adding short-term capacity to Impossible’s California facility but roll out further this year and thereafter.

“OSI has already installed equipment to make the Impossible Burger, and we’ll start seeing new capacity every week,” said senior vice president of product and operations Sheetal Shah in a statement. Shah joined Impossible Foods in May and oversees numerous functions including manufacturing, supply chain and logistics.

Vegan Meat Is Impossibly Popular
CAMBRIDGE, MA – JUNE 25: Soy-based vegan Impossible Foods beef is mixed with other ingredients before being prepared as meatballs at Clover Food Labs in Cambridge, MA on June 25, 2019. As the popularity of plant-based foods grows, keeping up withBOSTON GLOBE VIA GETTY IMAGES
According to the statement, working with Impossible will “help fulfill the OSI Group’s commitment to sustainable food production — one of the core prisms through which OSI management makes operational decisions.”

OSI could help Impossible build out its Asian business after launching the Impossible Burger in Singapore in March leading to a quadrupling of sales in restaurants in Hong Kong, Singapore and Macau; OSI certainly has the region covered with facilities in China, India, Japan, Philippines and Taiwan.

Production is plant-based’s biggest challenge

These latest moves indicate the challenges now facing the plant-based meat industry and that’s ramping up production. One founder of a production technology company thinks the whole system of plant-based meat manufacturing needs to be overhauled before it can become a true alternative to meat as many believe it could be.

“We’ve made advances in plant protein characterization and food science that have made plant-based meat more realistic than ever,” Christie Lagally, founder and CEO of Rebellyous Foods, wrote in an editorial on AFN last week. “But we haven’t solved these engineering issues that are largely responsible for high costs and low volume.”

She largely points to the antiquated nature of the extruders that process the crops into their meat-like food products.

“To this day – despite the high level of sophistication of these machines and their ability to make excellent protein products – extruders still haven’t been sufficiently re-designed for the ideal requirements of mimicking meat, like consistent moisture retention and achieving species-specific texture. Coupled with a lack of internal sensing or fiber evaluation, these limitations pose major problems for consistency and quality control without expert operators. Nonetheless, food extruders can carry a price tag of almost two million dollars for a single unit, severely restricting the production capabilities of startups in the sector.”

There are also imminent challenges in sourcing the raw materials needed for these products, especially startups relying on smaller-scale crops like pea protein as the main feedstock, according to Gerard Essink, founder of Bridge2Food, a conference organiser putting on the 13th edition of its plant-based foods summit this October.

“The demand for pea protein could outpace the supply when the current growth in demand from food service and retail will expand as rapidly as it now. Almost every week there is a new major global food service operator starting it extending their plant-based foods range”

Impossible, which has always relied on large-scale commodity crops, famously switching to from wheat to GM soy earlier this year for the Impossible Burger 2.0, is not likely to run into supply issues — although will ironically increasingly compete with the livestock sector for feedstock — but could continue to face manufacturing challenges as the company grows. However, with a recently filled coffers from a $300 million in Series E funding and approval by the FDA of its key ingredient heme as a color additive, it looks like Impossible will soon be hitting retail stores too. If this partnership with OSI clears up any remaining capacity challenges, there’s little getting in their way.

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San Francisco’s Best New Restaurant Is Also Shockingly Affordable

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When Laura Ozyilmaz was 19 and traveling in Turkey with her family (from Acapulco), she became so enamored of the culture and food that she announced, “I’m going to marry a Turkish man.” Just a few years later, she met Sayat Ozyilmaz, an Armenian Turk, in New York City, and he proposed within six months. Their honeymoon adventure? A two-month stage working in 24 different restaurants to explore their own culinary desires and ambitions.

The pair, along with co-founder John Litz, opened Noosh on Fillmore in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights in March of this year. Despite its completely casual ambiance and accessible menu, the food is among the most nuanced and complex to hit SF in a long time. And it’s incredibly affordable for our beloved but increasingly off-the-rails San Francisco. Laura says the concept, to serve food following in the tradition of the Ottoman Empire, is catching on — they’re already serving 1,000 guests a day, and there is usually a line out the door. I walked in to learn more about the Georgian wines they’re currently featuring through August, and I ended up with a culinary education.

Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz, co-founders of Noosh. KIM WESTERMAN

Noosh is named after Sayat’s Armenian grandmother, whose recipes punctuate the menu. Sayat’s father ships special spice mixes from Istanbul, including one with marigold (which is the color of turmeric but has a more bittersweet taste profile) that makes its way onto the kale and mushroom flatbread, intensifying and elevating an otherwise simple dish.

Despite the volume of food produced in the kitchen, Laura is still making homemade halloumi cheese every day, this version served with honey and preserved green fig — again, a depth of approach that we usually don’t see at $8 per serving.

Homemade halloumi cheese, grilled and served with honey and preserved green fig. KIM WESTERMAN

Kebabs get equally attentive treatment. For $9, you get two generous skewers of beef that’s been cooked sous vide before being grilled, served with whole-charred cherry tomatos.

Beef kebabs with whole-charred tomatoes. KIM WESTERMAN

Dishes and cups are enamelware designed to invoke the aesthetic of the coastal Turkish town of Bodrum.

Two small plates that seem familiar open up entirely new worlds. Muhammara is made with red peppers, and here it’s garnished with roasted almonds and Urfa peppers, lending a subtle, smoky sweetness. And the yogurt, similar to labneh, is smoked with cherry and hickory wood and served with cucumbers sprinkled with Aleppo pepper. Both are served with homemade pita crafted all day to order in the restaurant’s wood-burning oven.

Muhammara with Urfa almonds. KIM WESTERMAN

Smoked yogurt with Aleppo cucumbers. KIM WESTERMAN

Beverage director Andrew Meltzer walked us through an array of wines from Georgia, a country whose winemaking traditions date back throusands of years before Europe got in the game. He first poured a bone-dry 2015 Orgo Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine that would go with anything on the diverse menu. He also taught us about the traditional roots of the amber wines that are still gaining traction among U.S. wine-drinkers, rendered orange by elongated contact with the grapes’ skins. The Orgo Rkatsiteli is a mellow wine that builds in intensity as you sit with it, traditionally fermented in a qvevri (earthenware amphora) to lend minerality and texture.

Andrew Meltzer discussing the Georgian wines he selected to pair with the menu at Noosh. KIM WESTERMAN

For dessert, try the “wild pistachio coffee,” which is actually menengiç, a relative of sumac that is ground into a paste and served like Turkish coffee (and has no caffeine).

“Wild pistachio coffee,” or menengiç, and chocolate muhallebi. KIM WESTERMAN

The lunch and dinner menu is one in the same, and the restaurant serves all day, with prices ranging from $6-$8 for appetizers, $12-$13 for sandwiches, and $7-$9 for kebabs. The Georgian wines featured through the end of August are available as a flight of five for $39, yet another bargain for a deep-dive into these impressive bottlings, several of which are available only at Noosh.

Noosh is the best new restaurant in San Francisco, with inventive and intentional food, lovingly made and served at a remarkably affordable price.

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People Prefer Convenience, Efficiency and Entertainment Over A Crowded Bar, Says New Study

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Gone are the “Cheers” days of hard boiled eggs and peanuts on the bar where everybody knew your name. Welcome the new hospitality industry, where “eatertainment” holds sway, so says SevenRooms, which markets itself as “a data-driven hospitality platform that combines operations, marketing and guest engagement tools.” The eight-year-old New York-based company provides services in 250 cities internationally through a reservation widget that promotes direct reservations and does not charge a fee for direct bookings. The widget also establishes a relationship with guests before they arrive at the hospitality venue, and that relationship provides detailed profiles to better serve guests, including such personal information as allergies and purchasing data. It boils down personalizing the experience.

SevenRooms releases today, August 2, 2019 its “Entertainment the New Nightlife ” a report from which the company says it has learned that “people’s preferences for nightlife have shifted away from crowded bars with loud music and toward venues that offer convenience, efficiency and entertainment. “

According to SevenRooms, “Consumers expect technology to enhance the way they live their lives, and dining out is no different.” To better understand to what extent consumers want technological advancement form the hospitality industry, the company conducted an online survey with the help of YouGov, a research company that boasts “a global community of millions of people and thousands of organizations engaged in conversations that cover beliefs, behaviors and brands.”

The study revealed that those same consumers who expect a personalized dining experience, expect an invisible touch over an invasive bombardment of the senses, and that nightlife priorities have been changing as “more and more Americans are saying no to exclusive venues with lines around the block.” 

Of those responding to the study, 64% said they will not stay at a bar or club which is over crowded; 50% will leave when the music is revved up; 39% refuse to wait more than ten minutes for a drink; and 34% will not stay if the place does not serve food.

As is to be expected in today’s “social media” society, 35% of people responding are more likely to go to a bar or club that has been recommended to them by friends or family; 33% will choose the bar or club they know over deciding to go to one they have never been to before.

Says Joel Montaniel, CEO of SevenRooms. “In today’s increasingly competitive landscape, a cold beer in a neighborhood bar isn’t enough for a night out; today’s consumers want great food, entertainment and drinks all in one place…nightlife venues that can deliver these experiences will thrive in the year ahead.”

According to the report, 24% of respondents seek venues close to home that combine club activities, food and drink all in one place, and 21% said they would spend more money on a night out at an “eatertainment” venue over a traditional bar or dining venue. As examples, SevenRooms cites the nationwide Dave & Busters and one of its clients, Topgolf. Even wineries with venues are in on “eatertainment.” Two of SevenRooms’ clients are in Napa Vally: Brown Estate and Long Meadow Ranch. Another winery client, Childress Vineyards is in North Carolina.

Responders to the survey seek a few specific things from an “eatertainment” venue: concert or comedy (30%); movie nights (9%); arcades (9%); and a resurgent interest in bowling (7%); 25% said they think an “eatertainment” venue is perfect for date night, for a birthday party, or for just hanging out to watch sports. And while activities and beverage alcohol (12% seek craft beer) draw customers to these venues, 28% said quality food is their number one consideration when choosing a bar or club for a night out. 

Montaniel says, “Whether it’s for a special occasion or a night out with friends, people are looking for experiences that combine food, drink and activities all in one place and I don’t see that changing in the year ahead.”

 YouGov polled 1,248 individuals online for four days beginning May 31, 2019. The company claims their weighting of the responses represents all U.S. adults over age eighteen.

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