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REEF Technology may change how we think of restaurants post-Covid

A pop-up REEF kitchen.
(Here, notably not in a parking garage.) Photo: REEF Technology

Order up! One fried chicken sandwich appears on the digital screen. Batter, dunk, fry, assemble. The spicy habanero fried chicken gets gussied up with a few pickle slices and a slap of butter on a Martin’s potato roll. Paired with macaroni salad and daikon slaw. Like an orchestrated quartet, three chefs seamlessly construct David Chang’s famous Fuku Korean fried chicken sandwiches in a 200-square-foot kitchen. The sandwich is popped into a to-go box and sealed with a Fuku sticker. …

One potential silver lining of the pandemic is repairing broken systems

An empty restaurant.
Photo: Wes Branch via Unsplash

As the U.S. hurtles toward its first Covid winter, here’s a silver lining sentiment to temper the gloom and doom dominating the news cycle: Maybe, just maybe, all this devastation will expose the broken things in American society and create an opening to fix them.

The Great Chicago Fire gave rise to the city’s iconic skyscrapers; the blizzard of 1888 prompted New York City to take its trains and power lines underground; the Great Depression spawned FDR’s New Deal. When the current slow-motion disaster is finally behind us, what overdue changes might emerge from the wreckage?

The restaurant industry, which…

A handful of U.S.-based spice companies are sourcing from domestic growers

A Jamaican man harvesting ramps for Burlap & Barrel
This Jamaica resident along with his colleagues spend each year tapping maple trees in the Adirondacks; this year, their return home was delayed because of the pandemic. Omar, pictured, ended up helping Burlap & Barrel harvest ramps before returning to Jamaica when the season was over. Photo: Burlap & Barrel via Instagram

Earlier this year, Burlap & Barrel pulled off a culinary magic trick: They extended ramp season. The New York City-based spice company has made a name for itself among chefs and home cooks by selling direct-sourced, single-origin — and wildly delicious spices — from across the globe. But this past May, instead of flying to India for turmeric, Egypt for caraway seeds, or Guatemala for cardamom (thanks to Covid-19 travel restrictions), co-founders Ethan Frisch and Ori Zohar drove due north to the Adirondack Mountains to forage ramp leaves during the wild plant’s famously fleeting season.

Frisch, a chef and humanitarian…

Welcome to Montana, where residents took Covid seriously from the start

The interior of a shop with signs about safety.
Photos: Adam Erace

Midway through a week traveling in western Montana, I ran into a notecard hanging in the window of Bigfork’s 80-year-old Echo Lake Café. With pastel sprigs of flora in the card’s corners and a “Welcome!!” rolling across the top in swooping mauve letters, it looked like an invitation to a bridal shower. Instead, it listed the restaurant’s pandemic protocols:

• Tables being spaced out 6 feet

• No counter seating

• All tables, booths, salt and pepper shakers, menus, etc. are sanitized after each use

• Hourly sanitizing of frequently touched areas

• Hand sanitizers placed in several high traffic…

In Transit

Why Dolan Uyghur opted to stay open amid the lockdown

Uyghur cuisine served on an overlay of a map of the region.
Illustrations: Bea Hayward

Welcome to In Transit, a column from the writer Mayukh Sen focusing on how immigrant-owned restaurants across America are coping with the Covid-19 pandemic. Read the first installment, on Guelaguetza in Los Angeles, here.

On his last night in the city of Ürümqi, Abduhemit Abdukeyum didn’t have much time. He couldn’t say goodbye to his friends, his relatives, not even his own mother. All he could do was buy a plane ticket and leave.

It was April 2017. Abdukeyum, who is now the owner of the Dolan Uyghur restaurant in Washington, D.C., was dodging persecution by the Chinese government. He’d…

Small businesses relying on imported foods face new challenges amid rapidly changing pandemic restrictions and a postal service implosion

A crane lifting a shipping container next to a tall stack of other containers in a shipping yard.
Photo: Sasin Tipchai/500px/Getty Images

The key to recreating the beloved street food of Ghana at BlackStar Kebab, a 5-year-old Seattle food truck, is a complex blend of 11 spices and groundnuts that owner Priestwick Sackeyfio has shipped from Ghana every few months. He can’t find many of the spices in Seattle and takes pride in supporting a vendor back home. But a shipment of almost $500 worth arrived in New York on June 25 and never made it out of U.S. Customs.

When the former soccer coach (full disclosure: mine, when I was a kid) checked in with Homeland Security on the status of…

Your local pizza spot is enough, especially when it needs your support more than ever

A person using a pizza peel to remove a pizza from an industrial metal wood-fired pizza oven.
Photo: John Lawson/Moment/Getty Images

I like pizza. It’s fair to say I love pizza. It’s fair to say I’ve held adult-age birthday parties at pizza places. First dates. Second dates. Happy hours. Girls’ nights. Family nights. Late nights. Walking-by-and-smelling-a-slice moments.

I have traveled for pizza — from other boroughs to other states. I hope I will travel for pizza again soon. My first non-home Covid-19 eating experience was pizza. My first non-takeout Covid-19 eating experience was pizza. I’d have a slice right now if one were available.

I also like lists. It’s fair to say I have lists going in multiple notebooks and pads…

The world’s largest sockeye fishery evades the pandemic, but another disaster looms

A boat in Bristol Bay, Alaska, under a beautiful sunset.
A boat in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Photo courtesy of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association

Steve Kurian is a fisherman. The owner, along with his wife Jenn, of Wild for Salmon, a shop in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, that sells wild-caught Alaskan seafood, Kurian travels each summer to Bristol Bay to fish with a small crew on his regulation 32-foot boat in the mouth of one of the rivers that spill out into the Bering Sea on the state’s southwest coast. In a little over a month of hauling drift nets, Kurian nabs a quarter-million pounds of salmon, most of it bright-red, nutrient-rich sockeye. …

The Philly chef and activist aims to bring good food to the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood

Kurt Evans in front of a black backround and studio lights, wearing a shirt saying the US prison system is legalized slavery.
Photo: Vernon Ray

Strawberries are scarce in Strawberry Mansion. The North Philadelphia neighborhood borders the eastern flank of Fairmount Park, where a Revolution-era country house gave the area its nickname in the 1840s when dairy farmers moved in and started serving visitors strawberries covered in sweet cream from their cows. Over 180 years, Strawberry Mansion went from a place associated with fresh food to a place suffering food apartheid.

“Besides little bodegas and Chinese eateries, there’s hardly any food up here,” said 35-year-old chef and activist Kurt Evans.

‘You may not have gotten the exact cut of meat that you were looking for, but the meat was there’

Empty meat shelves at the grocery store.
Photo: Carbonero Stock/Moment/Getty Images

In March and April, workers at a Tyson pork plant in Logansport, Indiana, filed 11 complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), reporting packed areas with no social distancing, lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), and workers who had tested positive continuing to work.

“There are so many positive Covid-19 cases,” one complaint read. “An employee was tested positive, and there are three people that ride with the employee and are now showing symptoms. The employer refused to tell the employees that the employee was tested positive.” On April 25, the plant shut down temporarily. …


Food from every angle: From Medium x Mark Bittman

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