For the latest in consumer and industry news, top trends and market perspectives, stay tuned to Mintel News featuring commentary from Mintel's team of global category analysts.

In this series, Mintel analysts share their recent food adventures – highlighting the exciting, delicious, intriguing, and the not-so-great food and drink they’ve tried lately. This month, our analysts spotlight meal kits, takeout, and kitchen imagination as much of the foodservice industry’s dine-in options are closed due to the worldwide pandemic.

Baking a portrait

Emma Allmann, Junior Analyst, US

I made a Focaccia Garden! It’s more on the artsy side of the bread-making trend, as you use veggies and herbs to create a beautiful and tasty design on top of your bread. This was my first time ever making any sort of bread, so I had to track down some flour and yeast. Once I got that sorted, it was a breeze. I used the New York Times recipe for focaccia that was easy to follow and directed me to let the dough rest for a full 24 hours, though my bread aficionado friends tell me there is a simpler more time-efficient way.

I used the time I had to snag some veggies and herbs and plan my design. Browsing online you can see some people make incredibly intricate and beautiful designs; however, I didn’t want to overcomplicate things for myself on the first try so I designed a sun out of red and yellow peppers, clouds out of shallots, grass out of thyme and chives, and flowers out of scallions, grape tomatoes and red onions. I am so pleased and proud of how both the visuals and the flavors turned out! The tomato flowers are my favorite to look at because they remind me of poppies but the shallot clouds were the tastiest to eat!

I want to try so many more designs and I want other people to make it as well so I can see the beautiful food art they come up with! This recipe turned out really well but I want to experiment with other focaccia recipes to see if I can find one that takes a bit less time. Though it may turn out that some things are just worth waiting for. I can’t wait to bring this to a dinner party, when we can have those again!

 

Sweet and Savoury Crab delivery in Singapore

Trish Caddy, Senior Foodservice Analyst, UK

I ordered the creamy salted egg crab from Melben Seafood in Singapore for home delivery. Crab is a big deal in Singapore, so it’s no wonder seafood restaurants were very quick to pivot to home delivery when the city-state went into lockdown mid-April.

Like most Singaporeans, I take my crab and sauce selections very seriously, and notably, the sweet and savoury Singapore chilli crab, using local mud crabs, has become the most popular global export. In this occasion, I wanted to try something new. Like the chilli crab, this salted egg variant also tastes sweet and savoury. It melds and marries the flavours of salted egg yolk with evaporated filled milk and uses curry leaves and bird’s eye chillies to enhance the flavour and aroma of this finger-licking crab recipe.

The star of a satisfying crab dish is in the sauce. And to savour it, this dish comes with a side order of mantou, the Chinese-style steamed or fried buns. As I’ve decided to indulge a little, I ordered the fried version to scoop, slurp and dip into that rich and flavourful creamy salted egg crab sauce. Ordering crab in Singapore isn’t always cheap, but if you love your crab then it can be worth the splurge.

 

DIY ribeye meal kit

Melanie Zanoza Bartelme, Global Food Analyst, US

I’ve been following the shift some restaurants have made toward offering foods that consumers cook themselves at home. I’ve tried a heat-and-eat kit from master class fine dining spot Alinea as well as this cook-it-all-yourself kit from Swift & Sons Tavern in Chicago. I’d been looking forward to trying this new neighborhood place before the lockdowns were in place and I was so excited to see they had begun offering meal kits. These offerings really bridge the gap between cooking at home (because we have to) and treating myself to a “night out.” Plus, they offer a level of experience that I’ve been missing from getting to visit restaurants in person.

We did a pretty good job if I do say so myself, and the quality of the food and the clear instructions made it easy to feel confident I’d do a good job. Now if only more of these places offered suggestions for us to make it look as pretty on the plate at home as it does in the restaurant, we’d be set!

 

Michelin-star takeout

Jill Failla, Foodservice Analyst, US

Alinea has a good deal of accolades, from three Michelin stars to a frequently recurring spot on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants roundup, and in 2020. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, restaurants of all kinds are forced to adapt and innovate to keep their lights on, and the Chicago-based fine dining restaurant Alinea is no exception. I ordered the restaurant’s first takeout option launched in March 2020, a comfort food menu of beef wellington, 50/50 mashed potatoes and creme brulee, priced at $34.95 per person, plus the service charge and tax (quite a savings from the restaurant’s three-to-four figure dine-in tabs). The meal arrived well-packaged to preserve the food’s integrity, with primarily recyclable plastic containers, alongside a typed sheet of reheating instructions. Yes, I put Alinea mashed potatoes into my microwave, and they were great.

Overall, it was a fun and delicious experience, with the creme brulee as the standout crowd-pleaser (in my quarantined crowd of two). Since then, the restaurant group began serving slightly more on-brand, six-course meals with artful presentations, although they’re still priced for carryout at $49.95 per person. Something to consider for future takeout!

 

Making dream cardamom buns a reality

Alice Pilkington, Food and Drink Research Analyst, UK

I had a somewhat lifechanging experience last August in Lisbon, where I had the most delicious cardamom bun as part of as an amazing breakfast at Copenhagen Coffee Lab and Bakery (go check it out if you are ever in Lisbon, it’s heavenly!) Since then, I have gladly made a special journey to Fabrique Bakery in London to buy one as well as looking to find the best one that can stand up to the one from Lisbon! As a keen baker myself, but one with not a huge amount of patience, I decided to make them myself (along with the help of my boyfriend, also a chef!), with the lockdown giving us no excuses! With the help of an internet recipe and a great youtube video to show how to shape them, we created some absolute BELTERS of a cardamom bun, and it was definitely one of my proudest baking moments to date!