High-end apartment pop-up dinners, Dan Barber breeds flavor into squash, and how Muchacho infuses salsas with unique personalities

Menu Talk: Pat and Bret dig into the latest food and drink trends and restaurant news.

This week on Menu Talk, Restaurant Business Senior Menu Editor Pat Cobe and Bret Thorn, senior food and beverage editor of Nation’s Restaurant News, share their take on some recent happenings in the world of food and drink.

Bret is settling into his new Brooklyn digs, discovering the vast assortment of pickled and smoked fish available in his new neighborhood. And buckwheat—that’s the grain of choice in the shops that surround his apartment.

But on to vegetables. In researching a story about squash, Bret talked to Dan Barber, chef-owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and founder of Row 7 seed company. The chef worked with a breeder at Cornell University to focus on growing vegetables for flavor attributes along with disease resistance and yield. Row 7 is now growing more flavorful squash that Barber is fermenting or whipping into a spread that subs for butter.

A company called Resident is organizing chef-driven dinners as high-end pop-ups held at luxury apartment buildings and lofts in New York City. Residents hire chefs to create multi-course dinners in event spaces in different locations, and tickets are sold to diners via Tock.

Pat was recently a guest at a “Nikkei Twist” dinner in which private chef Will Ono created a five-course Colombian-Japanese menu. Off-duty private chefs, restaurant sous chefs, line cooks and other culinary pros develop the menus and cook at these events. There’s also a sommelier at the dinners to pair wines. It’s a new kind of dining platform that’s becoming a win-win for both chefs and consumers.

We listened to clips from Bret’s podcast with Joe Schaeffer, VP of Culinary for Atlanta-based Electric Hospitality, about Muchacho, the group’s Southern California-inspired taqueria. Schaeffer created six unique fresh salsas using a variety of chilies, some raw, some roasted or simmered, to infuse each with complex flavor.

“It’s not about mild, medium,and hot,” he said. “Each of the salsas has a different actual personality.” Schaeffer and his team make the salsas in small batches and the textures are as differentiated as the flavors. Some are emulsified to make them creamier, while others are chunky, and still others have a coarse texture from pulverized nuts and seeds.

Muchacho is an all-day coffee bar with breakfast tacos and some sandwiches, but in the afternoon, they switch up the menu to a more straight-up taco and burrito place with a laid-back California vibe. Electric Hospitality also operates Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall and cocktail bar Ranger Station.

Menu Talk is a collaboration between Restaurant Business Senior Menu Editor Pat Cobe and Bret Thorn, senior food & beverage editor of Nation’s Restaurant News andRestaurant Hospitality. You can subscribe to it wherever you listen to podcasts.

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