Strangest Food Stories of 2015
2015 was a big year in food news—Danny Meyer ending tipping at his restaurants, Rene Redzepi’s plans to close, move and reopen Noma, Ronald McDonald bringing breakfast to his establishments all day long (hey, just because it was a big idea, doesn’t mean it was a good one). But there was much more, especially as we plumbed the depths of the food world. Here are some of the strangest edible and drinkable items from the last year that had us talking.
Way back when 2015 when just getting underway a new restaurant opening shook the Richmond, Virginia area: Gwarbar. Or perhaps more accurately, GWAAARRRRRBARRRR. The bar and eatery, described as a passion project by GWAR guitarist Mike Derks, doesn’t have quite the same flair as its namesake band—it’s a rather nondescript looking red building. But it does actually have some pretty excellent looking (though badly lit) food porn on its Facebook page. And right now it’s also pulling in a solid 4-star rating on Yelp. It’s not the first time a musician has dabbled in the food world, but a year in it looks like it’s one of the more respectable ones. So…take that Margaritaville.
Extreme Farm to Table
One of the big stories of the last several years has been the rise of “food with a story.” People want to know who the farmers are that raised the crops and livestock that would eventually end up on their plates. But a man named Andy George took this idea to its logical end, by documenting the time, effort and cost involved in making a simple chicken sandwich. He milked a cow in order to make his own cheese, harvested wheat to make bread and, obviously butchered his own chicken. The whole thing took six months and cost George $1500 and hopefully made us all feel a little worse about buying anything off the dollar menu.
Who says no one uses the post office anymore? Not one, but two potato-by-mail services took off this year. Potato Parcel and Mail a Spud both almost certainly started as a joke, but they are still mailing people unboxed potatoes months later for the (low, low??) price of $9.99. Can this be expanded to even healthier options, like Mail a Beet? We’ll have to wait until 2016 to find out.
What list of Internet-friendly stories would be complete without a cute animal…or at least, an animal. Pizza rat captured America’s hearts when it captured a slice of New York pizza and dragged it down the stairs at a subway stop. In a way, that rat dragging a slice of pizza larger than itself through a filthy public transit station is all of us. Although, in another way, it’s just a gross rodent that probably would bite you and give you a disease.
Your childhood dreams of a chocolate grilled cheese came a little closer to reality when Japanese food company Bourbon unleashed what, for lack of a better term, we shall henceforth call Choco Singles. They are perhaps, the greatest innovation to accompany sliced bread.
Speaking of bread, have you smashed your face into any lately? No? Then you are missing out on a major social media opportunity. The Instagram account Breadfaceblog rose to unexpected heights—although, any heights at all are unexpected for videos of an unknown woman smooshing her face into various bread items—amassing almost 27,000 followers. Her mystique continues to grow and is probably best summed up by this exchange with Maxim:
MAXIM: Do you think watching your videos might be arousing for fans?
BREADFACE: I can see that. Putting your face in things in general is sexy.
The cheese produced at the Piggy Palace in the Netherlands is sort of the unicorn of dairy products. For some reason, cheese made from pig’s milk was sought after by many people, including chef Ed Lee, but almost impossible to create. This summer though, the very first pig’s milk cheese went up for auction. An anonymous buyer purchased it for almost $5000 a pound. Erik Stenink, the pig farmer who spent what must have some very unpleasant hours milking the sows, said this was a one time thing for him. Although, for $5000 a pound we bet he could be convinced to try it again.
“Come on Patti!” Those words were screamed, several times, by YouTuber James Wright starting an almost instantaneous rush to Walmart by the entire country just before Thanksgiving this year to pick up one of the sweet potato pies stamped with the Patti Labelle’s seal of approval. The pies may not have been worth all the shouting as the demand has slowed down dramatically during the second half of the holiday season. As of this writing Patti’s pies are available at all the Walmarts near me. Now I just have to decide if I want to drive to Seacaucus or Bayonne.
Many are predicting that seaweed will become the next trendy superfood thanks to its abundance, relatively low carbon footprint and relatively high dose of vitamins and minerals. One thing that may help the ocean plant achieve a new higher status is a bacon-flavored seaweed more than a decade in the making. Researchers in Oregon bred a particular type of seaweed to taste like cured pork and all their work seems to have paid off. The scientists say they hope to get it out to restaurants soon.
The Great “Name Your Kid Quinoa” Contest
The most popular baby names of 2015 were Liam and Emma. Presumably last on that list? Quinoa. But as a promotional campaign for their new quinoa bowls, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse offered up $10,000 in free food at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse to any parent willing to name their newborn after the ancient grain. Who collected on the 10 grand in wings and burgers? We don’t know. BJ’s said the winners are only available if you send them a “self-addressed stamped envelope” requesting the information. At the time of writing ours has not been returned. Maybe we should have tried mailing a potato instead. They seem to arrive promptly.