Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Latest Folks to Get Food Envy? Think Meatballs and Salad

Time to share a few food secrets.
One: I obsess more about meatballs and lingonberry jam than I do about shelves and end tables. Two: I’m far more curious about clever ways to grow robust lettuce and veggies than I am about how to make a smartphone.

Now I’ll explain:
On the Ikea front, it turns out that A LOT of Ikea shoppers like the iconic Swedish meatballs at the in-store cafes more than they give a hoot about the white furniture. As a result, there’s a chance we’ll see Ikea restaurants in the near future. Don’t laugh, the company already tried out some pop-up restaurants in London, Paris and Oslo. 

Ikea sold $1.8 billion in food in 2016, (compared to about $36 billion in total sales.) And almost a third of the people who eat there, including me and my Mom, ignor the furniture and traipse through the maze of aisles just to get the cafĂ© for a fun   meal.  As a result, stand-alone Ikea cafes are officially on the drawing board.

Along with the regular beef meatballs, they added chicken and vegan versions, which boosted meatball sales 30%. My fave are chicken balls: I’ve shared my somewhat Swedish recipe below.

About my second secret: Panasonic, Toshiba and Fujitsu are expanding beyond electronic gadgets and quietly growing vegetables in giant indoor farms. Toshiba, for instance, started cultivating spinach, lettuce and sprouts in an idle factory in Japan this year. They are selling the vegetables to grocery stores and restaurants, and expect to bring 300 million yen a year (about $2.6 million).

Apparently it costs about the same to grow food in high-tech factories as on a farm, with far less water and fewer bugs. We’ll have to see where this goes, but it sure brings greenhouses to a whole new level.

Back in another era —about 30 or so years ago—my family co-founded a startup in Sonoma County that grew snow peas indoors, without regular soil. Boy, oh boy, were those peas tender and sweet. And boy, oh boy, was it a tremendous a lot of work. But it looks like we were waaayyy ahead of our time. Now it’s a thing for tech titans. Who would have guessed?

As promised here’s the meatball recipe. Hope you enjoy.

Swedish-American Chicken Balls

2 lbs. ground chicken

2 large eggs

½ cup bread crumbs

½ cup each: chopped parsley, chopped onion

½ tbsp. each: allspice, nutmeg, garlic powder

1 tbsp. each: salt and fresh ground pepper

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine all ingredients and roll in tight, golf-ball size balls and put them on a baking dish that has been oiled. Cook for 20 minutes or until a thermometer says 165 degrees. This makes about 2 dozen.

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