Food

Airport amenity of the week: free snacks at O’Hare and Midway Airports

Free food at the airport? Yes, thank-you.

The Taste of Chicago music and food festival takes place in Chicago’s Grant Park July 10 to 14, 2019, but there are also free tastings and special discounts being offering for travelers passing through O’Hare International and Midway Airports this week.

And although it is only Wednesday, we’re declaring this StuckatTheAirport.com’s Airport Amenity of the Week.

LAX food truck serves up tacos

Eating at airports. We’ve all got our go-to places at the airports we often travel to and through. And there are foods we seek out wherever we might land.

For taco lovers, there’s a new option at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Chicken Street Taco’s on wood

Leo’s Xpress, associated with Los Angeles’ famed Leo’s Tacos Truck, is the latest local food concept in LAX’s rotating food truck concept by restaurateur HMSHost and its Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise partner Havana House.  

The indoor truck is located in the LAX Terminal 4 food hall.

At LAX, Leo’s Xpress menu offers donw-to-earth prices and offers travelers a great range of authentic taste of Mexican street food.

Along with the popular Al Pastor tacos – named among the best in LA – Leo’s serves freshly made tacos, quesadillas, burritos, alambres, and tortas. Each can be accompanied with a selection of toppings from the salsa bar.

Early morning to late-night travelers can also savor Leo’s all-day breakfast menu of Huevos Rancheros, Breakfast Tacos, and Breakfast Burritos.

Leo’s Xpress at LAX originated from Leo’s Tacos Truck which has been serving its fresh and affordable tacos since 2010. It started in West Los Angeles and expanded to four truck locations from Koreatown and Echo Park to the Valley. While Leo’s developed a loyal local following, it’s received national recognition appearing on various best of food truck lists in top publications including Fodor’s Travel and PEOPLE.

Have a favorite spot to recommend at LAX or another airport? Please send it along.

Fresh airport eateries in Las Vegas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Seattle and Charlotte airports

More reasons to go the airport hungry.

Pret a Manager landing at U.S. Airports

Several U.S. airports will soon have branches of U.K.-based grab-n-go coffee and sandwich chain Pret a Manger. The cahin is known for its freshly prepared foods and organic coffee.

There are currently “Pret” shops in Chicago and a few other east coast cities, but at the end of May, a Pret opened in Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport in the Terminal 3, E Gates.

In June, a Pret will open at Los Angeles International Airport’s Tom Bradley International Terminal. In July a Pret will pop up at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

New places to eat at Detroit Metro Airport

There are some new restaurants in Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport’s (DTW) North Terminal. 

The restaurants include: 

Cantoro Italian Market Trattoria, a local, family owned and operated Italian market crossed with a modern corner store; 

Air Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffett’s airport restaurant with a local twist;

Detroit Street Café featuring Zingerman’s Coffee;

And Atwater Brewery, a Detroit favorite, that debuted downtown in 1997 with the mission to bring German brew-styles to the area.

DTW says these restaurants are the first of a phased dining redevelopment project to open. Cantoro Italian Market Trattoria opened on April 18 and is located pre-security in baggage claim. Atwater Brewery opened on June 1 and Air Margaritaville & Detroit Street Café featuring Zingerman’s Coffee opened on June 5.

Skillet sizzles at SEA-TAC Airport

Whether or not your flight is taking off from the North Satellite at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, you might want to make your way out there to have a meal at Skillet.

Born in a food-truck and a favorite in several Seattle neighborhoods, Skillet has brought many of its menu favorites to SEA airport. The entrees include brunch favorites such as Fried Chicken & Waffle, homemade Doughnut Holes and the gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly Chilaquiles.

I guess I’ll have to forgive them for closing the Skillet in my neighborhood…

O’Hare Airport cook-off crowns 2019 winner

On Tuesday morning Terminal 2 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport began to smell.

But in a good way.

The source of the smell: aromas from the fifth annual Channel Your Inner Chef  culinary competition hosted by airport restaurateur HMSHost and the Chicago Department of Aviation. 

During the 30-minute in-terminal cook-off four finalists from across the country created an original recipe using any of the ingredients available to them from a shared pantry revealed at the start of the event.

At least one of the ingredients had to be something picked that day from O’Hare’s hydroponic Urban Garden.

The contest took place in front of an audience of invited guests and travelers on their way to or from their flights.

Each contestant had a cooking station to work at that included a knife tied to the table, a reminder that the event was taking place on the secure side of the terminal.

I was in the audience for this year’s competition and was pleased to see winners from past years (all women) paired up as mentors to this year’s contestant chefs and on stage to help out during the first few minutes of the contest.

Then each finalist went to work on their own, whipping up dishes that included a pasta, a unique take on shrimp and grits and a Brie Schnitzel.

A panel of local judges evaluated the contestants on their recipe, presentation, showmanship and, of course, the taste of their dish and crowned Greeley, Colorado resident DeAndre Smith as the winner.

His winning dish: a pan-seared chicken breast with a brown sugar glaze accompanied by pickled rainbow carrots with Fresno peppers, fresh lemongrass, ginger and rice wine vinegar, along with a yam purée with cumin and almonds and flash fried kale.

“I thought about what my dish would be before I came to the contest and was just hoping the ingredients I needed would be here,” Smith told me, “I had to make a few adjustments, but it worked out.”

Smith’s prize is roundtrip airfare for two, as well as a VIP experience for two to the James Beard Awards Gala in Chicago.

Even better: Smith’s dish will soon be featured on the menu of an HMSHost-operated restaurant at O’Hare.

Singapore Airlines joins farm-to-flight trend

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Where is the food and produce you eat on a plane grown?

Starting in September, the answer for passengers on Singapore Airlines’ passengers leaving Newark for Singapore will be “indoors, nearby.”

Singapore Airlines is working with indoor vertical farming company AeroFarms, which has reclaimed an abandoned steel mill in an industrial area near Newark International Airport and transformed it into a 1-acre, indoor vertical farm.

The farm, which grows produce ‘aeroponically’ without soil, pesticides or sunlight, can produce the equivalent of 390 acres of locally grown produce with up to 30 harvests each year and will grow a customized blend of fresh produce for SIA’s Newark-to-Singapore flights starting in September 2019.

“Imagine boarding a plane and enjoying a salad harvested only a few hours before takeoff — literally the world’s freshest airline food,” said Antony McNeil, director of food and beverage for Singapore Airlines.  “The only way to get fresher greens inflight is to pick them from your own garden.”

Singapore Airlines shared examples of farm-to-flight dished business class and premium economy class passengers might be able to choose from on Newark to Singapore flights:  

Soy Poached Chicken:Pickled Ginger Vinaigrette, Zucchini Ribbons, with Sweet Potato Roesti, Soy Beans and AeroFarms Baby Pac Choi

The Garden Green: Poached Asparagus, Broccolini, Avocado with Shaved Fennel & Flaked Hot Smoked Salmon, with AeroFarms medley of Baby Ruby Streaks, Watercress and Arugula, with Lemon Vinaigrette

As I reported last year in a farm-to-flight feature for USA TODAY, Singapore Airlines’ joins several other airlines in being super creative and eco about the food served on its flights.

Korean Air has its own company farm.

Jedong Ranch sits on 3,700 acres of South Korea’s lush Jeju Island and has been operating since 1972, when it was purchased by the former chairman of the airline’s parent company, the Hanjin Group.

Back then, South Korea had a beef shortage, so breeding livestock was the first order of business. Early on, the herd was made up exclusively of imported Angus cattle. Today the ranch is home to more than 2,200 head of prized, grass-fed Korean native cattle known as Hanwoo.

The organic, antibiotic-free meat from these animals, and from the farm’s flock of approximately 6000 free-range chickens, is sent to Korean Air’s flight catering kitchens in Seoul for use in meals served to first and business-class passengers. Some of the meat and eggs from the farm are also available, at premium prices, for purchase locally.

In addition to raising cows and chickens, the ranch’s hydroponic greenhouse also produces more than 210 tons of fruit and vegetables, including red peppers, cherry tomatoes and blueberries for   first and business class in-flight meals.

JetBlue’s garden at JFK

In 2015 JetBlue created a 24,000 square-foot milk-crate garden outside Terminal 5 at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport. Designed to both create a welcoming green space and promote local agriculture, the garden generates more than 2,000 pounds of blue potatoes, kale, carrots, leeks, arugula, garlic, mint, basic and other herbs for local food banks. 

Japan Air Lines agritourism attraction

In 2010, Japan Air Lines is scheduled to open an agritourism attraction on land near Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. The ‘JAL Agriport’ will offer visitors a chance to pick strawberries, harvest sweet potatoes, picnic, or purchase fresh produce grown in the region. JAL says it also plans to use some agriport produce in lounge menus and in-flight meals.

And Emirates announced last year that it was joining with Crop One to build the world’s largest vertical farming facility near the airport in Dubai to help create a supply chain of “high quality and locally-sourced fresh vegetables, while significantly reducing our environmental footprint,”the airline said in a statement.  

A tasty trend for sure.