Everything you never knew you needed to know about food, beverage, and lifestyle.

Welcome to 2021 everybody. We made it! It’s so shiny! And nice… much better than 2020. At least it seemed like it was going to be that way for a bit. What’s that old quote? Everything is new, everything is the same? Something like that.

Still, 2021 promises to be a big big year for travel, food, wine and more! With vaccines already being distributed across the globe, there is hope the world can get back to it’s old normal by the end of summer. That means we will have a surge, a tsunami, a volcanic outburst of stir-crazy, vitamin-D deficient, unshaven people rushing into every restaurant, bar, and hotel available. All we have to do is stay the course. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

So let’s keep up and stay up. Here’s the best of the best of the month so far. This is your first update of the year.

Popping Bottles, Thousands of Bottles

With the New Year comes champagne (and other sparkling wines). It’s tradition, and our obligation to pop bottles should not be ignored or avoided.

In fact, over 360 million glasses of sparkling wine are consumed every year on New Year’s Eve. That’s enough glasses to give one to every single person in America. Of course, not everybody drinks sparkling wine on New Year’s (children, religious-abstainers, bores and barbarians) and so some of us have to pull a bigger weight.

No problem. I and others are happy to do it.

Believe it or not, the now ubiquitous New Year’s drink was once looked down upon as inferior in quality to its non-carbonated neighbors. Champagne and other sparkling wines’ history stems from a mistake. Partially fermented white wines bottled too soon would cause the remaining yeast to continue to ferment in the bottle creating carbon dioxide; and carbon dioxide trapped in liquid equals carbonation.

It took a while to catch on, but with some help and refinement from champagne masters like Dom Perignon and royal patrons like Louis XIV, champagne eventually gained it’s now lauded reputation.

And we are all the better for it! So when you pop a bottle of champagne, don’t just think of it as a culmination of  the year, or the expression of celebratory release, but the end point of hundreds of years of history, which you are now happily participating in.

McDonald’s Entering The Fried Chicken Sandwich Ring

For no other reason except apparent boredom and lack of general creativity, McDonald’s has decided to throw their hat in the ring with the other fried chicken sandwich giants like Chick-fil-A and Popeye’s. They will be launching three versions of a new fried chicken sandwich nationwide this year.

Why would they do this? I hear you asking. Oh the finer points of corporate culinary decision making are truly baffling. I suppose the executives at McDonald’s figure if they can squeeze a dollar out of any unsuspecting rube, they might as well do it.

Lord knows how much people lose their minds over chicken sandwiches. Chick-fil-A has created an empire behind the popularity of their chicken sandwiches, while Popeye’s release of their own chicken sandwich caused such tasteful incidents as: stabbing employees, fisticuffs in line, and more stress accumulation over a mediocre fast-food gimmick than scientists could accurately record. It’s depressing to be honest.

Of course, the real question is will McDonald’s sandwich be tasty? (Spoiler Alert: NO). Our we doomed to chicken-sandwich mediocrity? Is there salvation out there for any chicken sandwich aficionados? Probably, but I promise you it’s not coming in a drive-thru line.

More Tariffs, More Problems

US officials recently announced a new round of tariffs targeting grape-based spirits like Cognac and Armagnac, as well as any wine over 14% abv coming from the EU. The 25% tariff on the spirits is in addition to a tariff imposed in October that targeted French, Spanish, German, and UK wines at or below 14% abv. The new tariffs also impact airplanes parts and other goods.

These new tariffs are part of a trade war that started off as a long-standing dispute between Airbus and Boeing, but which took on a renewed vigor while President Trump was in office. The former administration believed the trade-war would lead to improved trade-deals with the EU, as well as better national security, and help for American workers. With tit-for-tat tariffs on products ranging from wine and other European delicacies, to Kentucky bourbon and Levi jeans, there appears to be no end in sight.

French officials fear a loss of one billion euros if the situation doesn’t change. Of course, that’s the whole point of the trade war. But in a economy already hit by COVID-19, it seems a bit harsh to continue on the tariff path, especially when it’s debatable how effective the tariffs actually are.

With President Biden now in office, hopes are up for a change in policy. Still, it will be some time before any changes to trade-policy take place, if at all. For now, consumers, importers, and stores are left picking up the tab.

I, for one, propose we send a congregation of rappers to the White House to explain the importance of Hennessy to the culture. Maybe that can get the process moving.



Albertsons Ditches Their “Essential” Workers

Prop 22 opened the door. Grocery company Albertsons has decided to walk through it. Less than a year after praising their in-house delivery drivers for working through the Covid-19 pandemic, the company has decided to ditch the employee model, in favor of gig-economy workers.

The Albertsons drivers, who were called “first responders” by the company, were also unionized, while drivers who participate in app-delivery services such as Instacart, Doordash, and Postmates are not.

The supermarket chain giant, which owns grocery chains such as Pavillions and Vons has called the move a “strategic decision.”

The strategy in play is that the company can now pass on the task of paying the delivery driver’s wage to the customer. Delivery drivers often live and die by the tip they incur. Prop 22, which was passed during California’s November general election, allows ride-sharing and delivery-app companies to keep their drivers classified as independent-contractors, meaning they don’t have to pay minimum wage, or give employees benefits like insurance and sick leave, despite their business models being entirely reliant on those drivers.

Prop 22 also saw an unprecedented level of funding from companies like Instacart, Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and Postmates, to the tune of over 200 million dollars. With a system now in place that allows companies to relegate sects of their employees as “independent contractors,” Albertsons is the first, but likely not the last to make such a move.

By Aldo Moreno