a look ahead
Michelin meals at home, cocktails-to-go and other 2020 trends I hope we keep in the new year
Well, it’s the new year.
At the start of this, I was a bit of a covid skeptic, I quickly became a concerned recluse and I’ve since evolved into someone who has gone 10+ months without a haircut, hasn’t dined inside at a restaurant since the first week in march, has turned on the contact tracing feature on my phone, donated to food banks and restaurant support organizations, ordered loads of takeout from local spots, tipped generously and tried to do my part during these insane times.
And just when I came to terms with my new see-no-one lifestyle, there was a whole other set of… I don’t even know what (attempted coup?!) that… I just can’t.
I’m talking about food.
There were a lot of things that both surprised and delighted me last year and things that I hope we’ll carry with us into this new year ahead. A brief look:
🌟Michelin-quality meals at home. Last year, most restaurants adapted quickly to the chaotic government mandates and digitized and delivered faster than they did the previous ten years. While it must have been unbearably stressful to be a restaurant owner this year, it was, in many ways, wonderful to be a restaurant supporter. It was easy to abandon cooking in favor of supporting our local businesses - so we ate out a lot this year. We had take-out from some of the bay area’s best restaurants and lots of new or small restaurants that we’d been meaning to try. Tough-to-get-into places like Commis suddenly became more accessible via takeout (though still not quite accessible on pricing) and thanks to light traffic we could pick up from other special occasion spots across the bridge like State Bird, Lazy Bear and Rich Table. With a full time job, long commute and a toddler at home, in pre-covid days, there was also pretty much no way I was getting out to regularly dine at incredible east bay places like FOB Kitchen, Teni East, Juanita and Maude or Co Nam - so being able to eat amazing meals like these at home was a real treat.
🧻General Store 2.0 - at the start of the pandemic there was a mad dash for supplies at grocery stores which led to shortages of key staples. But thankfully because restaurants have access to a healthy supply chain of toilet paper, milk and butter - a welcome surprise this year was that restaurants started acting like general stores and selling these provisions. This felt odd at first to go to a favorite spot like Pizzaiolo and see a tower of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, but now I’m onboard. I recently bought a stick of butter I needed while picking up lunch at Rick and Ann’s, and am always down to grab a spare roll of TP wherever I may be. The general store+restaurant concept is great for consumers to buy some last min items while top of mind, and I’m sure it can be a nice little margin boost for the businesses if they have shelf space. Interestingly, I just learned that Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo owners of their namesake LA restaurant (and one of my favorites Animal), just acquired a local grocery store, as reported in the New Consumer. So maybe grocer+restaurants are here to stay?
🍹Alcohol to go. Thanks to lifted alcohol restrictions, you can get drinks to go from wonderful places like Rose’s Taproom (pictured below) with their great selection of beers plus incredible spritz and shandy kits (cranberry thyme is my favorite), Snail Bar, a natural wine shop in Richmond now delivers around the east bay, The Kon Tiki which you know I can’t get enough of, as well as restaurants like Mago and Grand Lake Kitchen which both mixed up some creative creations to imbibe at home.
👋🏼And some other changes that I hope we carry into the new year: overall less bay area traffic, no more clammy handshakes, being more aware of your community and how to help, working from home, people caring more about germs and personal space, house slippers, spending more time outdoors, prioritizing comfort over fashion, and more time with my family, of course.
And the last thing that surprised and delighted me this year was my own neighborhood. When I first moved to the Bay Area, I would often say that there wasn’t a real, durable community out here in the same way there was where I grew up. It was my belief that until you’ve shoveled your neighbor out of five feet of snow or gathered around in the only house on the block with a generator during a power outage, you don’t really recognize the value of the people you have nearby. But I changed my mind about that in 2020. It felt like all of the challenges in the year brought out the neighborliness in everyone, and its a neighborliness that was always there, just under the surface. On our block, we started doing outdoor happy hours on Fridays, had a socially distanced gift exchange for Christmas, coordinated our fire prevention efforts and one of our neighbors organized a fundraiser and collected coats for people who need them this winter.
So often people just kind of pass neighbors without much thought - but 2020 helped make things feel like the way neighborhoods should be. A community.
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In the next edition, we’ll get down to business and talk about pizza. 🍕