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Food and Beverage

The Greatest Snack You've Never Heard Of

What’s it like launching a snack brand based in an ethnic food culture your customers have likely never encountered?

We recently had an opportunity to sit down with Anshu Dua, founder of The Chaat Company. His New York-based brand is launching a new line of Indian street-food-inspired snacks, bringing the flavors of Indian chaat culture to the American snack aisle. We talked about the challenges of starting a new brand, when and why to pivot, overcoming entrenched ethnic food clichés, and how Americans’ openness to new food experiences is transforming the food landscape.

Check out a quick sample below:

And click here to watch the full video on our YouTube channel:

This New Industry Is Growing Like A... Weed

Marijuana is having its cultural moment in the sun. Legalization campaigns are finding success around the US, and a new generation of entrepreneurs, chefs and designers are reexamining every aspect of the marijuana experience, transforming a once-illicit practice into a stylish - and socially acceptable - lifestyle.  

Significant credit for this push should be given to CBD oil. CBD is a hemp extract that lacks THC (the chemical compound in cannabis that gets users "high") but is believed to hold a nebulous range of benefits centered largely around reducing stress and inflammation. Though the jury is still out on its efficacy, CBD has been popping up everywhere, helping to put forward an image of marijuana as a mainstream supplement. Our intrepid testers, Penn and Dave, decided to see if a little CBD would enhance their workday - check out our video to see how the test went.

Sampling an Insect Sundae

Chapulines, or fried grasshoppers (also sometimes called crickets), are a popular snack in Mexico. But they can be a little tough to find here in NYC - so when we heard that La Newyorkina was offering a limited-edition ice cream with the little guys on top, we had to jump at the chance to give it a try.

Talking with Nora and Phoebe of Aida

It's well known that millennials aren't hitting the town as often as previous generations - and who can blame them when there are so many great shows to binge? But it doesn't mean they've given up on entertaining, either - particularly if a glass of wine is involved.

To learn more about how 20-somethings are bringing the party home, we sat down with Nora O'Malley and Phoebe Connell of hip NYC wine bar Lois to discuss their latest venture, a line of packaged snacks called Aida that promise to elevate the cheese plate for the Netflix generation.

Crunch Time for the Super Bowl

With the Super Bowl coming up this Sunday, we find our thoughts turning to salty, crunchy snacks. Fortunately, we're not the only ones: everyone seems to have a new idea that elevates, transforms or even parodies the humble chip. Below are some of our favorite examples of real (and tongue-in-cheek) crunchy snack innovation - perhaps they'll spark some creative ideas for your own party.

London now boasts a restaurant that serves chips - er, crisps - exclusively. It's called, somewhat confusingly, HipChips, but we assure you that they're talking about the crunchy stuff, not fries. Grub Street has the lowdown.

Taco Bell is once again stretching the bounds of Tex-Mex, this time with a nacho chip made entirely from chicken. The Volcano Crispy Chicken Chip is currently being tested only in Knoxville, Tennessee, so start booking those flights.

Looking for something a little higher-end?  Swedish brewery St. Eriks has launched a potato chip designed to pair perfectly with their premium beers. And it comes with a premium price tag: roughly $55 for precisely 5 chips, nestled in a very handsome gift box. They're currently sold out, but perhaps you can snag a pack or two for next year's party.

Tostitos has chosen to focus not on the chip itself, this year, but the bag: their limited-edition Super Bowl bag features a built-in alcohol detector (it can't officially be called a breathalyzer), and can even call you an Uber in case you've overindulged.

And, only fitting as the last item on our list, is FailChips, a brand of chips that have been pre-crushed. If you love those bottom-of-the-bag bits, just tear off the corner of the FailChip package and pour them right into your mouth. Sadly, this one is just a parody brand created by Mail Chimp as part of a marketing campaign. But we do think they've really hit on something here...

Sampling Rolled Ice Cream at 10 Below

On an exceptionally hot day in early September, we decided to take a trip to Chinatown to sample Thai rolled ice cream - a dessert trend that's been sweeping the city. Does it deserve the long lines and hyperbolic reviews? Watch and find out!

Talking Beer with Zach Mack

The craft beer revolution continues to grow, but its poster child - the hoppy, bitter IPA - is giving way to new varieties that boast sweet, sour and even salty flavors. With so many different brewers making so many new brews, it can be difficult to predict where the next big trend will emerge.

To help us find out, we sat down with craft brewing expert Zach Mack, owner of East Village beer geek mecca ABC Beer Co. to discuss the state of the craft beer revolution, the emerging trend of community-supported brewers, and why there's still room in this world of lambics and saisons for a classic mainstream lager.

Non-Dairy Indulgence with Jawea

Just in time for summer, we sat down with Mike Rosenthal, founder of Jawea frozen desserts, to talk about flavor inspiration, health claims, and how a non-dairy frozen dessert can actually be better than ice cream. Check out the video to learn more...

Nano-Batch Kombucha

In the last decade, kombucha has taken over premium beverage cases around the world. But has the once-obscure hippie darling gone soft? This week, we sat down with a super-premium small-batch kombucha brewer to talk ingredients, pasteurization, and the importance of sticking to your roots.

Post-Natural

Every few months, New York faces another 'it' food - an item so novel, Instagrammable and, hopefully, delicious, that we can't help but line up for it. Over the last decade and a half, we've been happily indulging in delightful abominations like the Ramen Burger, the Cronut, and milkshakes from Black Tap that may or may not feature an entire slice of cake. But the Raindrop Cake is truly something different - a translucent sphere of gelatinous perfection that has the Brooklyn food world mesmerized.

Made with only water and agar, this otherworldly dessert is paired with roasted soybean powder and a pool of brown sugar syrup. Fans say flavor isn't really the point of this hypnotic snack, though: what's earned it so many fans is its delicate, smoother-than-gelatin texture. If you're interested in trying it, you'll have to brave the formidable line at Smorgasburg - there's no word yet on a permanent location.

Chinese Breakfast Crepes Land in NYC

Proper Jian Bing - a savory crepe with a devoted following in China - are notoriously hard to find stateside. We stopped by the Mr. Bing pop-up in downtown NYC to see what goes into making these street-food treats, and we walked away hooked. 

Consumer Eyes checks out the Wonder Vault

Consumer Eyes checks out the Wonder Vault

On Tuesday, Oreo set up fun installation on West 18th street in NYC to debut their Filled Cupcake flavor. That's too close to our offices for us to pass up, so we went over to investigate. Check out our video to see what we found in the vault.

Third-Wave Coffee Inches Toward Indulgence

It's no revelation that America loves sweet, rich coffee drinks - the kind of beverage that's more like a dessert than a morning pick-me-up. But at the very top end of the category, where coffee shops from Silver Lake to the Lower East Side employ rarified means to extract the perfect flavor from obscure single-origin beans, minimalism has long been king. It's coffee you drink black, with the variation between menu choices being more about extraction method than mix-ins or syrup drizzles. 

But lately, we've noticed some interesting items creeping into Brooklyn's coffee menus. They might not be frappuccinos, but they're definitely not an ascetic cup of pale pour-over brew, either.

Consider a CE favorite, the Krokodil at Dillinger's Cafe in Bushwick. A red-eye made with condensed milk, its sweetness recalls Vietnamese iced coffee without being cloying. And nearby, Little Skips offers a cup called the Jake and Taylor, sweetened with maple syrup. 

The biggest step toward indulgence, though, is coming from Supercrown, a cafe and roastery that combines a careful sourcing of beans with some seriously indulgent concoctions. The drinks - which are presented more as cocktails than coffee-bar formulas - feature ingredients like lemonade, Mexican Coke, matcha and 75% cacao chocolate.

What does this mean for mainstream American coffee tastes? Well, perhaps they'll simply continue as before; truly high-end third-wave coffee culture had never really penetrated the mass market in the first place. But if the pendulum is truly swinging away from minimalism at the top of the market, we can expect their most exciting discoveries to trickle down, cronut-like, to coffee shop menus across the country.

Using AR to Cut Through Shelf Clutter

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Do you ever feel a little lost when you scan the craft-beer section at your local grocery store? Letsee Beer, a new app from South Korea, uses augmented-reality tech to identify any beer and immediately show user comments and reviews. Mashable recently called it "like Shazam for your beer," and it's a great example of a developer finding an effective real-world use for AR, a technology which often feels like a solution in search of a problem.

There's a bigger point to be made here, though. Craft beer is certainly a booming market, with so many new varieties that brewers are actually running out of new names for their beers. But the broader food world is experiencing a similar trend, with major players increasingly seeing their markets filled with lots of agile little competitors. And while consumers love the variety and regional stories these smaller brands present, there's also a point at which it starts to look like a lot of noise. 

The opportunity to help consumers hone in on the right item exists everywhere - and on every shelf of the grocery store. As smaller players take a larger slice of the pie, expect to see similar attempts to help intimidated consumers take advantage of all that choice.

Expand Your Halloween Candy Horizons

Expand Your Halloween Candy Horizons

We love Halloween candy just as much as the next office, but in this line of work, it's easy to get... a little jaded. So when our candy cravings strike, we tend to look for unusual flavors, hand-crafted ingredients, and truly cool packaging. Where are we getting our kicks? Click through for our favorite candy hookups -

Lollipops are a great carrier for just about any flavor - and Austin-based Lollyphile takes this to its furthest extremes. Along with the classics, the small-batch lollipop maker offers boundary-pushers like Blue Cheese, Absinthe, IPA, Cereal Milk and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Licorice alone is certainly an acquired taste, but in our travels we managed not just to fall for the stuff - we fell for its most extreme form, the sharply salty licorice candies popular in Scandinavia. If you follow us on Instagram, you may already know about Tyrkisk Peber - with a spicy kick to go along with the salt and licorice, these Finnish hard candies can best be described as a sensory overload. Stateside, a couple companies have started producing salty licorice; our favorite is Jacobsen, from Portland, OR. The fact that it comes in such cool packaging doesn't hurt, either.

And finally, for truly novel candy, you can't do much better than Japan. Here in New York, it's not hard for us to get our hands on the trendiest snacks from Tokyo, but it can be a challenge if you don't live in a big city - which is why services like Japan Crate are so great. Subscribe, and every months they ship a selection of up to 2lbs (!) of crazy Japanese candy and treats right to your door. 

Kelp: Kale of the Sea?

Kelp: Kale of the Sea?

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If you've been snacking on those little dried sheets of seaweed, you're not alone - the market for seaweed snacks is growing 30% annually. Entrepreneurs are now looking at kelp as a sustainable, climate-change-resistant crop with a strong potential to become the next hot ingredient.  

The versatility of seaweed might be old news to anyone who eats a primarily Asian diet, but it will be a huge leap if it achieves mainstream popularity across the entire United States. Who's driving this revolution? Check out Grub Street's post to learn more. 

On The Hunt For The "Miracle" Moringa

On The Hunt For The "Miracle" Moringa

While most leading-edge foodies are only now hearing the “superfood” buzz around moringa leaves, they’ve been on the CE radar ever since some of us discovered them on our far-flung tropical vacations (the pic above is from a surfer bar in Nicaragua).

It’s easy to see why the leaves and pods are touted as miraculous; they’re the rare vegan equivalent of milk and eggs: high in digestible protein, calcium and iron, not to mention vitamin C and antioxidants.

But you may be wondering, how do they taste? Wonder no more; here are the results of our office taste test: the matcha-like green powder has an earthy aroma similar to cut grass, perhaps mixed with a hint of that other kind of grass that isn’t legal in all states. The flavor is similar to a green or fermented tea, which explains why it had such a bland taste when we tried it as a tea. But our colleague Tiana Sahedo, remembering her childhood in Guyana, assures us the best way to enjoy moringa is to sautée the leaves with herbs and spices and eat it like spinach.

Sounds like another taste test is coming soon…

Consumer Eyes checks in with the Union Square Farmers' Market

With the Union Square Farmers' Market right across the street from our offices, we love to walk over and see what's new. And now that summer is slowly giving way to fall, we thought it would be a great time to get some of the vendors' takes on which items were most popular this summer, which are selling well now, and which they're most looking forward to offering as the season progresses. Take a look!

Reconsidering the 80s at Oleanders

Reconsidering the 80s at Oleanders

One of the most-hyped NYC restaurant openings of the summer is fast approaching, and what it isn't is as interesting as what it is. Reclaimed wood by the yard? Nope. Simple farm-to-table dishes that celebrate heirloom ingredients? Sorry. Prohibition-era cocktails? Nowhere to be seen.

We're talking, of course, about Oleanders, the new restaurant opening at the McCarren Hotel in Brooklyn. What it is is a fern bar - one of those distinctly late-70s, early-80s temples of preppy mildness, filled with leafy plants, Tiffany lamps and lounge seating. Food leans toward staid classics like lobster thermidor and meatloaf, and cocktails are of the sweet '80s variety.

Oleanders is certainly an outlier, and might turn out to be an anomaly - but the excitement around its arrival also shows that the leading-edge Brooklyn crowd is increasingly ready to look beyond craft culture for inspiration. And where they go, the mainstream is sure to follow.

Pic via Eater