2020 has been a big year for Travis Scott in the food game. He got a limited-edition meal collab with McDonald’s, and to close out the decade, he’s shooting his shot with alcohol giant Anheuser-Busch on a new hard seltzer.
Called Cacti, this hard seltzer differs from others on the market in that it’s inspired by tequila. As such, the brand is made with Mexican premium blue agave, and contains a whopping 7% ABV. That puts it significantly higher than White Claw (5% ABV) and other competing seltzers in the market in terms of how lit you’ll get.
Travis Scott’s Cacti line is going to launch nationwide in Spring 2021, and the Cactus Jack-inspired beverage will come in three flavors: Lime, Pineapple, and Strawberry. They’ll be available in 12-ounce cans in a 9 count variety pack, as well as 16-ounce and 25-ounce single cans.
“We’ve listened to all the advice, only to be shut down over and over again and not to be compensated… There’s no science that shows outdoor dining is unsafe! I’m not an asshole, [Governor Gavin Newsom] is.”
The above viral clip from Slapfish owner Andrew Gruel has resonated strongly with restaurant owners around the country. Gruel, whose seafood chain has locations nationwide, is echoing frustrations that governments aren’t doing enough to help restaurants while forcing many in the industry out of business.
Meanwhile, the industry is hurting at an unprecedented level. Data from the National Restaurant Association shows an estimated loss of $215 billion in the last eight months across the restaurant industry nationwide. Over 100,000 restaurants have already closed, and estimates figure that over a third of all restaurants could shut down by June without some sort of relief.
Shutting down small businesses right ahead of the holidays, with no relief, while the rulers break their own mandates is not going to end well.
Restaurants have been doing everything governments tell them to do for the most part. They’ve added capabilities for outdoor dining, spending thousands of dollars to do so. Chef Jason Quinn of Southern California’s esteemed Playground, for example, was paying thousands of dollars monthly for a heated tent setup that all got shutdown when outdoor dining was banned.
For many, they feel that banning outdoor dining is a step too far, especially when research has not definitively proven that it leads to a spike in coronavirus cases. Outdoor activities with social distancing are actually encouraged, such as walking in parks or camping, and the CDC does consider outdoor dining to be lower risk than indoor dining as well.
Of course, any form of activity where you come into near contact with others has some level of risk for transmission. The safest thing to do would be to shutter everything, but doing that requires stimulus money paid out to restaurants and businesses. Otherwise, they won’t be reopening once those hypothetical lockdowns end.
“All of this following rules is being predicated on being assisted by the government,” Quinn told Foodbeast.
From local to state to federal level, there has been minimal help for struggling restaurants. Outside of a potential meager stimulus package from the city of Los Angeles and the dimming hope of a restaurant bailout bill passing in Congress, there’s little funding out there to ensure restaurants have the ability to reopen after the current period of pandemic lockdowns.
Congress does have the legislation on hand to help out, with the RESTAURANTS Act potentially providing up to $120 billion in relief. While it has passed the House of Representatives, the Senate has fallen flat in helping out one of the most crucial industries in the country. The bill has yet to even be taken up in legislative sessions there.
Meanwhile, the latest round of bailout funding from Congress doesn’t funnel any money into the restaurant or hospitality industry, leaving owners struggling to survive.
Foodbeast has spoken to several restaurant owners since the latest shutdowns began. While some, including Slapfish, are keeping outdoor dining open, and some are sticking with the government lockdowns, all of them had the same message: Without funding and help, independent restaurants likely won’t last much longer.
“Over the last 10 years, food has become an important part of our culture,” Quinn said. “If we lose all of these small restaurants and just end up with Cheesecake Factories and f**king Arby’s and shit, then we’re gonna have lost a lot of really important work.”
“Even the aid has been manipulated in a way that … the majority goes to big guys, not small guys.”@damicheleusa owner Francesco Zimone speaking on the current restaurant environment and what the industry needs to survive. pic.twitter.com/2WEU1nyJRX
Regardless of whether governments should lock down restaurants or open up outdoor dining, they need to be funding restaurants at a level where they can survive, lest the “backbone of the American economy” collapses. They’re currently sitting on their hands and doing little to nothing, meaning that it’s up to us, regular people, through takeout orders and tips and whatever other ways we can support, to help keep these businesses going.
The FDA has given the green light to the usage of “GalSafe” pigs, a genetically engineered variety that is designed to prevent meat allergies from getting triggered when consuming pork.
GalSafe pigs were developed by biomedical firm Revivicor, who received the first-ever joint approval for their pigs in both food and medical uses. This means that in the future, we could see these pigs both being consumed and used in place of standard pork cells in current medical treatments.
Red meat allergies can be triggered by contracting “Alpha-gal Syndrome,” which is a condition that causes us to react to a specific sugar called “Alpha-gal” that is common in many mammals (excluding humans). These allergic reactions can range from mild to severe.
Alpha-gal Syndrome is believed to be transmitted via the bite of the Lone Star tick, but more research needs to be done to determine the role that the ticks play there.
These GalSafe pigs have been genetically engineered to have the Alpha-gal sugar removed, preventing those with Alpha-gal Syndrome from getting an allergic reaction when eating meat from these specific animals. They would also not get these allergic reactions from any medicines developed with cells from these specific pigs.
Revivicor’s safety studies focused on the potential for allergic reactions to occur in medicinal uses of the GalSafe pig cells. The FDA also reviewed the safety of consuming pork from these pigs, and determined they would also be safe to eat, finding that the Alpha-gal sugar was removed across multiple generations of pigs. However, safety of eating was not evaluated for those with Alpha-gal syndrome, meaning that more research needs to be done there before confirming that those with meat allergies can eat the pork with full confidence.
For those concerned about any potential danger of eating genetically engineered foods, it should be noted that there is a global consensus from scientists that such foods are safe to eat.
The FDA also found that the pigs were no more environmentally harmful or at risk of a food safety outbreak than standard pigs. GalSafe pigs have more stringent living conditions than standard pigs, so if anything, they might be getting slightly better care.
While GalSafe pigs have been approved to eat, it may take a while before pork products from these pigs start becoming available for sale. These are just the second-ever genetically engineered animal approved for eating, after AquAdvantage salmon, a product still not available for purchase yet.
When it is available, however, Revivicor has indicated that they intend to sell it by mail order, not through grocery stores.
Sake has to be one of the most versatile alcoholic beverages in the world. With all of the different types and flavors available, the options in your grasp when it comes to picking a sake are almost endless.
One thing they all have in common, however, is their synergy with seafood when it comes to umami. Research has shown that sake is much better at enhancing the sensation of umami in our mouths when compared to other alcoholic beverages like white wine.
This is because sake contains an umami compound called glutamic acid that can interact with the umami compound in seafood, called inosinic acid. The two react on our taste buds to boost the effects of umami, and sake plays a large part in supplying the glutamic acid for that burst of flavor.
Foodbeast and Instagrammer George LaBoda @atlasandmason got to try this out firsthand while visiting Hermanito, a restaurant in Los Angeles, California. There, he met up with sake sommelier Bryan West to sample three different sakes with Hermanito’s Hamachi and Uni Agua Chili Sunomo. Each of the sakes had different properties that affected LaBoda’s perception of umami.
One of the properties discussed was the ability to blend sakes, which was the case for the bottle of Hyaku Moku Alt. 3 from Kiku-Masamune Sake Brewing they started with. This blend of Junmai Daiginjo and Junmai Ginjo has a collection of fruity aromas to it. LaBoda also noted that the sake and seafood together opened up flavors he couldn’t perceive with just the dish on its own.
Another property of sake the pair dove into dealt with the polishing of rice. A higher degree of rice polishing doesn’t necessarily translate to a higher quality of sake. Instead, it refers to the amount of protein left, which means that something less polished has more protein available to create a unique range of umami flavors.
None of the above necessarily has to be the “ideal” or “correct” pairing for a dish. If anything, the different qualities of the sakes show that each can provide a unique experience to the meal. However, the one commonality they do have is that synergy when it comes to umami.
Hermanito’s Hamachi and Uni Agua Chili Sunomo will be available, with the Hyaku Moku Alt. 3 sake to pair with, through the month of December as part of the Unlock Your Palate campaign by JFOODO.
You can learn more about the relationship between sake and seafood, as well as other restaurants featuring it, through JFOODO’s website, or by following the hashtags #UnlockYourPalate and #SeafoodAndSake.
Pizza Hut Taiwan has a drool-worthy collection of holiday season pies they’re slinging right now, both of which are based on popular dishes not just in Taiwan, but around the world.
One of these popular pies is the Beef Wellington Pizza, based on the celebratory British dish. Beef Wellington is extremely popular around the holiday season, when people tend to splash out on fancy cuts like filet mignon that are required for the meaty feast.
A traditional Beef Wellington meal would consist of beef wrapped in puff pastry with mushrooms, plus sides of mashed potatoes, vegetables, and a sauce like a red wine reduction.
Pizza Hut’s version holds true to all of those components, albeit with slight twists. The beef they use is slow cooked in red wine and balsamic vinegar to emulate that reduction, and squares of puff pastry are baked into each slice. Balls of mashed potato and corn are embedded into the crust and on the pizza itself, which comes with spinach, mushrooms, and red peppers.
While it’s not an actual Beef Wellington topped like a pizza (which would be really cool), it is a hearty and tasty tribute to the British classic. Now to see what Gordon Ramsay thinks about it.
Hot pot fans also have an interesting pizza to tuck into, as Pizza Hut Taiwan has collaborated with hot pot chain Tripod King to debut the Fire Spicy Hot Pot Pizza.
This pizza is inspired by the “Mala” style of hot pot, which features a spicy, numbing broth made with tingly Sichuan peppercorn. The pizza itself is brushed in a Sichuan pepper oil, and is made with hot pot spices. On top of the pizza is cheese and an array of meats you’d find in a hot pot, including chicken meatballs, brisket, tendon, shank, and honeycomb tripe.
Curious to see how this slice would fare if dipped into an actual pot of spicy, numbing broth. I’m actually drooling just imagining that flavor combination.
Pizza Hut Taiwan’s Beef Wellington Pizza is available for sale through January 4th, while the Spicy Hot Pot Pizza is being sold in limited quantities until stocks run out. Those of you in Taiwan, I’m incredibly jealous.
The Popeyes chocolate-stuffed beignets discovered in Massachusetts back in September 2020 are officially launching nationwide.
Popeyes had initially confirmed an eventual nationwide release of these beignets to Foodbeast during their test release in September. Now, Instagram Stories from multiple influencers and models shared on the official Popeyes account confirm that the beignets are arriving nationwide.
Additional Instagram Stories from the influencers, as well as a release from Popeyes, confirm that the beignets will be dropping on Monday, December 14th for a limited time.
Similar to how they are served in New Orleans, these beignets consist of fried dough and are dusted in copious amounts of powdered sugar. Popeyes is adding an extra twist by stuffing the inside with oozy melted Hershey’s chocolate.
Popeyes is pairing the beignets with some new exclusive merch: a “Beignet Camo Hoodie.” While meant to emulate powdered sugar to cover up potential beignet messes, the speckles of white also look like snow. Could make for a fun general winter hoodie.
For those looking to game their way through the pandemic, searching for next-gen consoles like the Xbox Series X and the new PS5 might be a bit of a headache. The two are selling out rapidly, and restocks can’t come fast enough.
Now if you’re one of the countless gamers looking to secure any of the two sought after gaming systems, Wendy’s might be able to help. The next-gen consoles are potential prizes in a new menu collab the fast food chain is doing with a few popular Twitch streamers.
In a move straight out of the McDonald’s playbook, Wendy’s is creating customizable meals from their existing menu based on the orders of prolific names. Rather than top musicians like Travis Scott or J Balvin, however, Wendy’s is working with gamers on Twitch instead for a set of five different orders. These “meals” are as follows:
The TFUE Meal: A 10-piece order of Crispy Chicken Nuggets, a small fries, and a Minute Maid Light Lemonade.
The Myth Meal: A Classic Chicken Sandwich, a small fries, and a Coke.
The FLIGHT Meal: A 10-piece order of Spicy Nuggets, a small fries, and Hi-C Fruit Punch.
The xChocoBars Meal: A Big Bacon Classic, a small fries, and a Diet Coke.
All of these meals are exclusively available on UberEats, and come with a “Prize Pass” in each bag. Those passes contain pin codes that can be redeemed on a website to attempt to win gaming hoodies, gift cards, or one of the coveted gaming consoles.
The meals are available on UberEats from December 8th-12th, and you have until December 15th to enter the codes to try to win. Best of luck, and hopefully you’ll not have to attempt to beat everyone else out the next time one of the gaming systems is in stock.
While Pokémon is extremely popular around the world, you won’t find too many food products featuring the pocket monsters inside the United States. A lot of products, including cereal, Heinz Ketchup, and Eggo waffles were introduced back in 2000, but have all been discontinued since. Outside of a couple of food releases in 2009, Pokémon hasn’t seen much of a resurgence in your local grocer’s aisle.
For Pokémon’s 25th anniversary, however, General Mills has teamed up with the titular fictional universe to create a special new Pokémon cereal.
The new “Berry Bolt” breakfast box features red and blue berry-flavored corn puffs, alongside yellow marshmallows that feature the franchise’s figurehead, Pikachu.
Pokémon is celebrating its 25th year of getting folks to obsess over catching fictional monsters in 2021, so this may be just the first food product we see featuring Pikachu and other characters as the year progresses.
For now, however, you can find the brand new Pokémon cereal at grocery retailers nationwide.