On the Changing Role of the Restaurant Critic and People Tipping Less in Times of Crisis

The Intelligence Brief is our weekly compendium of food and drink news sourced from outlets all over the world, including right here at home.

This past Friday came with news of 521 new cases of Covid-19 in the province. BC health officials also expressed some concern about active cases reaching the highest number we’ve seen in 6 weeks. As vaccine supply increases and rollout continues, there is some hope that the rising cases will be a blip rather than an ongoing trend. While the province waits to see how quickly increased vaccinations will affect Covid rates, we continue to cover how the food and beverage industry is faring.

First up, in case you missed it, there’s been some good news for the industry: a temporary move in 2020 allowing BC restaurants to purchase liquor at wholesale prices has now been made permanent.

I can’t believe it’s not….not butter? Canadians left confused by the recent change in texture in the country’s butter supply.

The hard truth of the matter turns out to be increased palm oil in the diet of Canada’s dairy cows.

Despite challenging times, the city continues to see new restaurant openings including Marche Mon Pitou, a new French-inspired cafe and bakery in South Granville.

Food truck turned brick-and-mortar: The Vancouver Sun’s Mia Stainsby pays a visit to the recently opened Mogu Fried Chicken.

As companies weigh the pros and cons of mandating the vaccine for employees, this Brooklyn tavern fired one of its servers for asking for time to weigh her own options.

Speaking of New York, NYC restaurant workers have noticed a significant drop in tips since the city instituted it’s Covid-19 surcharge.

“A new report out today has revealed that dozens of New York restaurant workers saw their tips reduced after the city temporarily allowed restaurants to tack on an optional surcharge of up to 10 percent last October to recoup funds lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A majority of the restaurant workers surveyed for the report also said their tips had declined after trying to get customers to follow safety protocols, and that restaurant owners weren’t consistently enforcing safety guidelines at their establishments.”

Because most of us could probably use a drink these days, consider trying Grape’s and Soda’s Forager’s Gimlet.

Eater on the ongoing fight to get hazard pay into the hands of grocery store workers.

“Many national grocery chains voluntarily paid hourly hazard wages early in the pandemic. But the trend began to lose steam in the late spring and early-summer as company after company quietly eliminated their bonuses. Grocery store employees continued showing up to work in increasingly dangerous and challenging work environments as cases surged across the country during the devastating fall and winter months. Their paychecks didn’t reflect the new reality of widespread infections and deaths.”

The Globe and Mail’s Alexandra Gill pays a visit to Ophelia and gets a delicious taste of what could have been without the pandemic.

Will that be for here or to go? Eater explores the future of the restaurant meal kit and whether they will be a mainstay post-pandemic or fade away as restaurants begin to operate at capacity once more.

Speaking of which, while local restaurants continue to operate at limited capacity, the state of Massachusetts will lift all capacity caps starting today.

Eater explains how the role of the restaurant critic has changed over the course of the past year:

The image of the traditional restaurant critic — an older white man, surreptitious in appearance yet hearty in appetite, issuing snobbish judgments from behind a white tablecloth— was out of date long before the pandemic hit. White men aren’t the only ones who have worthwhile opinions on restaurants; upscale iterations of French or Italian cuisine aren’t the only foods worth talking about; and anonymity, the sacred shield of the restaurant critic, doesn’t necessarily work the way it used to.

How the Canada Space Agency is asking researchers to create food that is literally out of this world.

“In anticipation of future missions to the moon, to Mars and beyond, space agencies such as NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, as well as the Privy Council Office’s Impact Canada Initiative, have launched the Deep Space Food Challenge. It’s a call for researchers, scientists and other innovators to develop food production systems that will allow astronauts to grow their own food on long-term, deep space missions.”

The Globe and Mail explains the science of distillation and why most distilled spirits are, in fact, gluten-free.

Finally, because we could all use a bit of entertainment these days, please enjoy this story on the little-known world of competitive giant vegetable growing.

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