This post originally appeared on March 5, 2019, in “Add to Cart” — the weekly newsletter for people who love shopping (almost) as much as they love eating. Subscribe now.
Last week, olive oil company Brightland rolled out a “limited edition bottle” with a label created by a Dutch artist using “bold brush strokes with oil pastels and acrylic.” (Food drops: They’re now a thing, I guess.) (Update: The olive oil is now sold out, but the not-limited edition ones are still for sale! Drops, man.)
A limited-edition food label might seem a Bit Much. But aesthetics are a major part of the sell with Brightland, which launched last year. The packaging very clearly caters to a certain kind of trend-conscious shopper with its “highly Instagrammable” look. Clean white background, abstract floating shapes, bright pastel tones of orange and pink — as Chandler Bing would say, could a product label be any more on trend?
As a shopper who tries to maintain some degree of skepticism, seductive packaging has me immediately throwing up my guard: Who wants to be the person who buys the book for its cover or the wine bottle for its label? I strive to resist falling prey to good branding, especially when it comes to food, for which taste should be the most important factor.
In a weird way, that’s why I trust restaurants, at least on this front: With kitchen counters that are out of sight and pantries that require bulk ordering, I assume that restaurants won’t be susceptible to the same packaging and branding tricks when ordering basics such as olive oil, butter, and salt. (The restaurant may employ its own enticing visual marketing to get me in the door, but that’s another story.)
FWIW, apparently I needn’t worry: In a head-to-head taste test, Grubstreet found that Brightland was actually pretty damn good.
Things to buy
- Speaking of alluring visual branding: Pretty much everything in Gertie, a new all-day restaurant in Brooklyn, is enticing to the eye (the aesthetic, similar to Brightland’s, was summed up in Eater Slack as “very Cute LA” and “the most 2019 look of all time”). That includes the glasses, all of which are vintage and sourced from upstate New York — but these vintage frosted Collins glasses, available on Etsy, are a near-identical match.
- If you’re trying to figure out how to bring the orange, pink, and cobalt blue palette that’s ubiquitous in restaurants right now (see: Gertie, Hunky Dory) into your own home, Table Tile Coasters by Areaware are by far the easiest way.
- The chile pepper jumpsuit by Bonobos, part of the clothing company’s new women’s collection, is just begging to be worn by a cool restaurant’s waitstaff.
- Nothing makes me feel dumber than navigating the wine world, so it was a great relief to learn today that, yes, decanters are worthwhile, and should I ever find someone dying to buy me a $320 gift, this Lobmeyr decanter-and-glass set is The One.
Things to know
- If you haven’t already, take note of the mini-boom of instant coffee, with companies collaborating with independent roasters and using appealing, on-the-go packaging. One of the more recent is a “Single Origin Crystallized Coffee” (otherwise known as instant) from Sudden Coffee and Intelligentsia, which not only comes in irresistible single-serve test tubes, but has an edge in the taste department (at least according to tests conducted in my kitchen) over other instants like Voilà and Joe, which collaborated with Swift Cup Coffee for its instant version.
- To any Netflix producers reading this: How great would it be if the next season of Queer Eye (new trailer here!!) had Antoni Porowski recommending products instead of recipes (er, “recipes”)? I’d bet a new paring knife or really good food processor would go a lot further in helping his subjects than a plastic container of guacamole.
- If you’re trying to lay off bread, perhaps you can replace it with a candle? (No, seriously.)
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