June 3rd, 2019

What’s the Story with Za’atar?

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Product Innovation

Za’atar makes waves with vibrant flavors

Za'atar

Za’atar continues to grow aggressively in popularity throughout the country, but it’s still far from well known. Currently early in the adoption stage, za’atar has, however, been featured heavily in culinary and lifestyle magazines.

You can hear all about za’atar in publications like Specialty Food Magazine, Fine Cooking, and even the Boston Globe. But what’s all the fuss about? What makes za’atar so special?

Let’s check it out.

What is Za’atar?

Za’atar is both a Middle Eastern herb that’s very rare and almost never exported (so you likely won’t find any here in the states) and a spice blend. For the purposes of this blog, when we refer to za’atar it’s the spice blend we speak of.

Za'atar

You can find za’atar in dried (most common), oil-based (more common), and fresh (least common) formats in most grocery stores. Za’atar is usually made from a mixture of spices like oregano, marjoram, thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, and salt. There are many different styles, like chimichurri, but some combination of the previously listed ingredients is always present.

What’s it Good With?

This is really what makes za’atar special. Its flavor profile can adapt to lots of different cuisines and applications. It works as a dry rub, marinade, sauce, salad dressing, finishing spice, salsa, snack topping, or pretty much any other application you can imagine.

Its Middle Eastern heritage finds it most commonly applied to items like hummus, lamb, and vegetable salads, but this pigeonholes its versatility. I find za’atar equally delicious on proteins like chicken or tofu, on crackers, cheese, and even fruit like pears and apples.

Za'atar

The point is, za’atar has a friendly, exciting flavor that plays well with many other foods.

How Can I Take Advantage of Za’atar?

Well, that of course depends on what you’re in the business of making. Try chicken wings with spicy za’atar sauce, or a zesty pizza made with za’atar marinara. A citrus za’atar glaze goes great on chicken or pork, or a fire roasted green chile and za’atar smothered bison burger.

Whatever you decide, you can rest assured za’atar will grab the curiosity of your guests with its unique, vibrant blend of flavors.

Cheers!

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May 20th, 2019

Time to Adopt Hatch Green Chiles

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Grocery

Hatch Green Chile on the Cusp of Proliferation

Hatch Green Chile Trend

Hatch green chiles are quickly making their way out of the Southwest and onto menus nationally. This smoky, not too spicy pepper currently maintains a massive following in the Southern and Western states. You can find Hatch chile festivals in Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and California, among others.

In fact, Texas-based Central Market grocery stores celebrate Hatch green chiles with a month of Hatch infused products. You can find everything from salsa and sandwiches, to Hatch lemonade and cream cookies.

That’s all well and good for this segment of the country, but what does it mean for the rest of the states?

Hatch Some Love

According to Nation’s Restaurant News and Datassential, Hatch chiles are currently in the Adoption stage on a national level. Therefore, the flavor is gaining popularity, but is still considered unique enough to be trendy. Independent casual dining and progressive fast casual restaurants tend to pick up the trends in this stage.

This is best evidenced by the 97% increase in menu mentions nationally over the last 4 years. Taco Bueno capitalized on the trend last year with its Hatch green chile menu. Other restaurants like Habit Burger, BJ’s Brewpub, and Chuy’s Mexican Restaurants also maintain Hatch green chile builds on their menus regularly.

Time to Pepper in Some Flavor

While it’s difficult to estimate the time between adoption and proliferation, it’s safe to say that Hatch chiles will be in adoption soon, and if the current trends predict the future, ubiquity shortly after. It would be smart to jump on this train as soon as possible.

Hatch Green Chile

Photo courtesy of Chuys.com

There’s no easier way than with a bright and smoky salsa or a Hatch chile concentrate for mixing into creams, aiolis, and other sauces. There’s an endless amount of possibilities once you get your imagination rolling. Personally, I think a Hatch chile ice cream sounds pretty darn good, how about you?

Comment below with your favorite Hatch recipes or questions about this blog.

Cheers!

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May 6th, 2019

New Pizza Flavor Opportunities

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Pizza

Fast-Casual is Driving New Pizza Flavor Ideas

New Pizza Flavors

Due to its worldwide ubiquity, we are always searching for new pizza flavor ideas. Thanks to the rise in fast-casual pizza restaurants, with their lower price point and menu flexibility, experimentation is becoming expected.

With that expectation, it’s important for pizza flavor trendsetters to forecast ahead of the curve and try new things. So, what kinds of flavors should pizza restaurants be experimenting with? How about…

Regional

One big way to attract excitement in your local market is with regional flavor ideas. Restaurants along the BBQ belt should be experimenting with different BBQ sauce-based pizzas. It’s important to maintain popular trends within this category, however. Spicy, smoky, bourbon-based, and chile specific (i.e. ancho chile BBQ sauce), are great ways to tack on unique twists. Build that up with exciting new toppings like pulled pork, brisket, pickles, or fried jalapenos.

Pizza Flavor Trends

New York still reigns as the Buffalo chicken capital of the country, and with no end in sight for the love of spice, why not double down? How about a Buffalo chicken pizza made with buffalo sauce infused queso, or Buffalo caramelized onions for a sweet heat mix? Even changing up proteins can go a long way. Buffalo ground beef with a creamy blue cheese drizzle could be a way to reinvigorate the customer base.

Breakfast

Breakfast Pizza Flavor Trends

Breakfast is all the rage right now, and breakfast pizzas are an easy way to harness this trend. Try a shakshuka pizza made with a spicy harissa and roasted tomato sauce topped with feta, kalamata olives, and crispy onions. Or go fusion with a zesty Piri Piri chili sauce, smoky Spanish chorizo sausage, and sweet bell pepper.

Or go all-American with a hash brown pizza topped with sriracha ketchup, grated cheddar cheese, and thick cut bacon. Finish it with a little green onion and you’ve got a winner!

Exotic

If you really want to try a wild card go for a more exotic build. A Korean BBQ pizza made with gochujang sauce, candied pork belly, and fresh bok choy will challenge palates and perceptions. Or if you’re looking for something smokier, how about a guajillo chile sauce topped with sliced Andouille sausage, pickled red onion, and some fresh cilantro.

Pizza Flavors

Personally, I’m a fan of a good Indian red curry pizza with fire grilled chicken, thick cut yellow onion, a drizzle of citrus yogurt sauce, and a dash of fresh mint. If you’re looking for a fresh take on a classic, try this Hawaiian/Mexican hybrid. Al Pastor style pulled pork, tangy pickled pineapple, Hawaiian Kona coffee sauce, and fire-roasted red peppers.

The World is Yours!

Literally! Global flavors are the driving force for current food trends. Finding ways to introduce international flavors into familiar builds will go a long way in staying current. The uniform love for pizza makes it the perfect medium for flavor experimentation, especially in the fast-casual arena.

Cheers!

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April 22nd, 2019

The Global Breakfast Boom

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends

Breakfast is Back!

Global Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. At least that’s what our mom always told us, right? Who’s to know if it really is the most important, but thanks to the rise is global flavor trends, it just might be the most delicious.

Datassential reports that breakfast currently ranks in the 94th percentile for future growth. This means that breakfast is predicted to beat out 94% of all other foods, beverages, and ingredients over the next 4 years. This illustrates a great opportunity to capitalize on the love of breakfast in conjunction with the rise in global flavors.

Global Breakfast

Indian

Indian Breakfast

Photo courtesy of BBC.com

Many restaurants have already jumped on this hype train. At Rooh Progressive Indian Restaurant in San Francisco, you can find a bevy of unique Indian/American mashups on their brunch menu. The Masala omelet frittata, for example, is made with a creamy masala sauce, red chili paste, and house made cilantro oil. The Kashmiri duck kulcha (a type of Indian flatbread) combines savory duck and bacon with a savory chili chutney sweetened with apricot.

Mexican

Mexican Breakfast

Modern Mexican fare has moved beyond the classic breakfast burrito. In Austin, TX, the land of the breakfast taco, Manuel’s Regional Mexican Cooking offers a brunch specialty called Torta de Papa. These are potato and corn masa cakes stuffed with black beans, venison chorizo, and smothered with a roasted pasilla chile sauce. The specific call-out to pasilla chiles also aligns with the Specifically Spicy trend we discussed in the New Hot Sauces blog.

You could also go all in on the Sopa Con Huevo Estrellado. This is a grilled masa boat filled with black bean paste, an over easy egg, queso fresco, and a smoky chile de arbol sauce.

Others

Peruvian food continues to hold strong interest nationwide as well. At Llama in Brooklyn, you can grab one heck of a unique brunch. The Tacu Tacu plate is made with fresh pork sausage, a fried egg, creamy avocado, and a dousing of spicy adobo sauce.

Global Breakfast

Photo courtesy of oliveandfincheatery.com

On the Asian side of things, you can try the Japanese style breakfast bento box at The Lobster Club in New York City. It combines a shiitake scramble with rice, savory miso soup, and a strip of teriyaki glazed salmon.

And don’t forget about shakshuka. This stewed pepper, tomato, and onion dish seasoned with harissa is quickly becoming a staple menu item across the U.S. Just check out Denver based Olive & Finch. Their shakshuka served in a mini cast-iron skillet is driving both excitement and sales within the local community.

Beat the Competition

And yes, that is an egg pun. But seriously, with the projected popularity of breakfast, be sure to set yourself apart from competitors with unique, global breakfast offerings. This is much easier than it seems with the use of flavorful sauces like harissa, gochujang, and Indian red curry. A simple way to take your breakfast global!

Cheers!

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April 8th, 2019

New Hot Sauces

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, New Foods and Flavors, Sauce

A Wave of Global Flavors Brings Us New Hot Sauces

New Hot Sauces

In our last blog we discussed new trends in hot sauces revolving around global influences. We saw how Asia, the Middle East, and Africa are helping to drive the hot sauce flavor boom.

In this week’s blog, we’re going to discuss how hot sauces and chilies are imposing their will into other food categories as well.

Specifically Spicy

In the wake of all these wonderful chile-based sauces hitting the market, consumers are starting to recognize their favorite varieties. A new trend for consumers wanting a specific chile in their sauce is becoming prevalent.

New Hot Sauce Trends

For example, La Meridana is making waves with their variety of Habanero hot sauces. They come in different flavors, like green, red, and mango. Sriracha flavor has been popular so long it’s starting to find it’s way into lots of other foods. For example, popcorn, protein bars, and chickpea puffs.

Ancho is another chile getting its own stage. With a smoky sweet profile, Ancho is a perfect fit for hot sauces, BBQ sauces, and pretty much anything else. Just check out Frontera’s Ancho Pepper Adobo sauce. If Rick Bayless is doing it, it’s probably a good thing. Also, peruse Sauce Piquante’s lineup featuring jolokia, fatali, and arbol.

Chile-Based BBQ

New Hot Sauces

Photo courtesy of kuhne.de

BBQ sauce has never been a stranger to spice. Cayenne and chipotle are pretty much standard fare in BBQ these days. But now, food manufacturers are getting creative with new flavors and chilies.

Kuhne, for example, just launched their “Made for Meat” line of BBQ sauces. A standout of this is the Grilled Paprika Sauce. A nice twist on a familiar flavor. Wildly Delicious’s line of Badass BBQ Sauces also feature a pair of unique flavors: Roasted Garlic & Smoked Sriracha Mop Sauce, and Ghost Chili & Mango BBQ sauce.

Even brands like Williams and Sonoma are ahead of the curve with their Ghost Chili Garlic BBQ sauce. If ghost chilies are officially mainstream, I think the floodgates are effectively wide open.

Sweet & Fruity Hot Sauces

Coming along for the ride with the unique new chilies are the fruits and sweeteners that help balance them out. Sweet and spicy just seem to fit together like peas and carrots, or pigs and blankets. Or whatever you think fits together. You get the idea.

Hot Sauce Trends 2019

As we saw previously, La Meridana’s habanero sauces featured a mango variation, but they also have a papaya habanero sauce. Mexican chamoy sauce also uses fruit to balance heat. It’s made using pickled fruits, like apricots, and ancho chilies blended together with lime juice and spices to form a thick sauce or paste. It’s gaining a lot of steam in restaurants nationally for its unique sweet, spicy, and tangy profile.

Chocolate hot sauces, hot honey, and even kimchi jam also fit into this category in their own unique way. No matter how you pair it, people like a touch of sweet with their spice.

New Hot Sauces in Restaurants

Many mainstream restaurants are not shying away from the spice trend with unique new hot sauces and flavors. Mod Market is highlighting their Merida Salad made with a guajillo lime vinaigrette. CAVA Mediterranean restaurant makes a Spicy Lamb Meatball with harissa and cilantro, along with a savory tomato-based harissa spread.

The Thirsty Lion Gastropub and Grill hits the mark on its menu with the gochujang and kimchi fried rice. Minnesota based BBQ Chain Famous Dave’s marries sweet heat with their Pineapple Rage hot wings. Finally, don’t be surprised to find an Ancho Chile Salmon on the menu of your local Chili’s.

Ciao for Now

Now that you’re enlightened, go out and set some new trends. I can’t wait to see what new hot sauces pop up this year.

Cheers!

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March 3rd, 2019

Time to Re-Think Chinese Food

Posted in Food Trends, Restaurants

It’s a New Era for Chinese Food

And it’s really stepping its game up

Chinese Food

For a long time, we in the states have associated Chinese food with the overly sweet, oily, and often deep-fried mess that comes from local restaurants. You know the types, they often throw the words “Jade,” “Garden,” or “Dragon” in their name to feign authenticity.

Luckily, times are changing. With the increase in culinary exploration currently happening, we’re seeing a re-birth of truly delicious Chinese restaurants. These purveyors reach back to the traditions of Cantonese and Sichuan cooking, using locally available ingredients and complementing them with savory sauces, spicy rubs, and umami rich glazes.

So let’s spotlight 3 restaurants changing what we think Chinese food should be.

Chinese Food in a New Light

Hop Alley – Denver, CO

Chef Tommy Lee, a Denver native, ventured into his second restaurant business with Hop Alley. His first spot, Uncle, is a well-renown noodle and Ramen bar in Denver.

With Hop Alley, however, he went from focusing on a single item (noodles), to developing a delicious and diverse menu of classic Chinese dishes with modern twists. The menu is especially conscious of using local products. The Cumin Lamb made with Colorado lamb ribs exemplifies this.

Modern Chinese Food

Photo Courtesy of Westword.com

The Char Siu (Chinese BBQ) Pork Shoulder and Sichuan Potatoes with fermented black bean sauce convey the traditional spirit of Sichuan and Cantonese cuisine. The main 2 regions we unwittingly reference when we speak of Chinese food. But more importantly, they do so without dumbing down the quality and complexity of what makes these foods special.

Duck Duck Goat – Chicago, IL

Bravo’s Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard has certainly made the most of her post-television life. Opened in 2016, Duck Duck Goat is Chef Izard’s 3rd restaurant, and personally, my favorite. DDG combines just the right blend of tradition, modern technique, and whimsy on the menu making it an unforgettable experience.

New Chinese Food

Picture courtesy of Chicagomag.com

The Char Siu Bao (there’s that Char Siu popping up again) are perfectly savory and chewy, acting as a terrific appetite warm up. Her menu further walks the tight rope of tradition with items like Wood-Fired Chicken Hearts with a sesame horseradish sauce, Sichuan Eggplant with goat sausage, and a fit-for-a-king whole Peking Duck with mandarin pancakes and an assortment of sweet, salty, and spicy Chinese sauces.

If DDG is not on your short list of Chicago restaurants, it definitely needs to be.

Wu Chow – Austin, TX

Everyone knows Austin is a culinary beacon for delicious Texas style BBQ. But what many folks outside this one-of-a-kind city don’t know is that it’s also a mecca for amazing Asian cuisine. Tyson Cole’s Uchi, Otoko from Chef Yoshi Okai, Thai Kun from Chef Paul Qui, and the plethora of Tatsu-Ya restaurants exemplify the breadth of delicious Asian cuisine in the city.

But not to be forgotten is the stand out hot spot of downtown Austin, Wu Chow. Executive Chef Ji Peng Chen brings a remarkably unique and delicious menu to life, highlighting familiar Chinese favorites and unknown oddities side by side in a winning tableau.

Chinese Food

Image Courtesy of atasteofkoko.com

The traditional soup dumplings (Xiaolongbao), made with pork shoulder and concentrated pork broth are some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Plus, it’s nice to get a little walk-through of the proper soup-dumpling procedure before you eat (dip in vinegar, place on spoon, bite a hole and suck out some soup, then eat the rest in one bite). For a nod to Texas, Chef Chen offers Wok-Tossed Texas Okra. Similar in preparation to dry fried green beans, the okra is made with ginger, Thai chili peppers, and a delicious seasoning mix. This is by far one of my favorite dishes.

For more abstract but delicious items try the Seafood Bird’s Nest, the hot and spicy Striped Bass, or the Chicken and Taro Egg Rolls. Really, you can’t go wrong.

Xièxiè

Thanks for reading along. I hope this article motivates you to go try out some new and unique Chinese food in your local area. If you know of any restaurants doing something special, be sure to let us know in the comments.

Cheers!

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February 18th, 2019

Vegetables to Center Plate Please

Posted in Food Trends, Vegetables

Veggies Continue to Earn Center Spot in Restaurants

Vegetables Focused Dining

It seems like everywhere I look right now I’m seeing or reading about vegetables taking a central role on plates and menus. From the Culinology Magazine’s December 2018 issue, “Plant-based Entrees,” to Nancy Kruse’s recent article “Vegetables Move to the Center of the Plate,” published on the Nation’s Restaurant News website, vegetables are steaming up trends all over the place.

This isn’t breaking news, however. We’ve even discussed this topic here on DishBliss before, with the “Vegetables Take Center Stage” article in 2015 and the “Plant-Based Protein Gaining Traction Article” in 2018.

What is new and noteworthy, is how well these changes are being received and how well restaurants are executing plant-based menus that speak to omnivores everywhere. There have been more than a couple breakout restaurants across the U.S. executing either vegetarian, vegan, or veggie-centric (focused on vegetables but still incorporate some meat products, mostly for flavoring) menus with great success and mass appeal.

Let’s shine a spotlight on a few of these locations nationwide.

Delicious Vegetable focused Restaurants Nationwide

City O’ City, Denver, CO

Vegetable Centric Dining

Anyone from Denver knows City O’ City. A staple of the town for the last 20 years, CoC reflects the modern, trendy, hipster/hippie vibe that can only exist in Denver. Part vegetarian and vegan restaurant and coffee shop, part late night bar and art studio, CoC offers both great food and great culture.

Menu items like the Savory Waffle with Vegetable Ragu and Kimchi Pancakes are presented for the more adventurous diner, safer items like the Cauliflower Chorizo Tacos and Seitan Buffalo Wings are safe and delicious options for someone a bit more hesitant. No matter what you choose, you’ll find an imaginative, filling, and most importantly, delicious meal that’ll make you not just forget about meat but fall in love with vegetables.

Bad Hunter, Chicago, IL

Vegetables

Image courtesy of ChicagoMagazine.com

Clever name, right? As it implies, Bad Hunter is a veggie-centric (not vegetarian) restaurant on the West Loop side of Chicago.

Rather than focus on the health benefits of veggies, Bad Hunter goes all in on the decadence. Try the Tempura Fried lemons with Black Garlic Bleu Cheese Dressing, or the Butter Dumplings with Candies Hazelnuts and Aged Balsamic to start. Then fill whatever room you have left with the Vegan Bahn Mi with Charred Trumpet Mushroom or the Black Garlic Tagliolini made with Koji-Almond Crema and Black Truffle.

Seriously, who needs meat when you have plates like that, right!?

Bouldin Creek Cafe, Austin, TX

Veggie focused dining

Image courtesy of CadrysKitchen.com

I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a breakfast spot as well, it is my favorite meal, after all. While it seems easy to do vegetarian breakfast (for ovo and lacto vegetarians at least), some do it better than others.  In point of fact, Bouldin Creek Cafe.

This quirky South Austin hangout is as popular as it is delicious. I’ve dined in multiple times, and no matter what day or time, I’ve always waited at least 10 minutes for a table. But the wait is well worth it for items like Zucchini and Cheese Migas with Fire Puree Scrambled Tofu or the Vegan Blueberry Cornbread finished with real maple syrup.

Or try my personal favorite, the Tamale Breakfast. Instead of pork or chicken, these delicious corny confections are stuffed sweet potato and Texas pecans and served with fresh, locally sourced fruit. Booking my flight now…

Vedge, Philadelphia, PA

Vegetarian Dining

Image courtesy of thetastesf.com

Finally, a restaurant from a pair of James Beard nominated chefs showing off just how special vegetable centric dining can be.

Vedge, operated by Chefs Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, offers an exciting menu based on seasonal vegetables in a beautiful historic brown house in Center City Philadelphia. Receiving accolades from Philadelphia Magazine and GQ, to Food & Wine and Bon Appetit, Vedge is rapidly becoming a prime destination restaurant.

Items like Rutabaga Fondue with Fresh Pretzel and Ssamjang Tofu with Burnt Miso make it easy to understand why Vedge is topping the charts. Other delicious bites include Seared Maitake Mushroom with Smoked Remoulade, Romanesco Carbonara, and Stuffed Avocado with Pickled Cauliflower and Fried Rice.

Ciao for Now

We’ll keep an eye on the veggie-centric landscape and let you know if anything else pops-up. In the meantime, it would be wise for restaurants, local and national, to start adopting the idea of vegetable focused items or menus to catch this trend early.

Cheers!

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January 7th, 2019

Awesome Aji Amarillo

Posted in Food Trends, New Foods and Flavors, Peru, Trends

All About Aji Chiles

As we’ve covered in previous blogs, chiles are hot (literally and figuratively) and the trend of unique chiles is not going to slow in 2019. One of the more unique chiles we expect to see growing in popularity is the Peruvian Aji chile.

There are a few variations of the Aji common in Peru (Aji Panca, Aji Rocoto, etc.), but the most familiar is the Aji Amarillo.

Aji Amarillo

Photo Courtesy of SpecialtyProduce.com

Aji Amarillo

Aji Amarillo chilies originated in the Andes region of Peru and have been a staple in Peruvian culture and cuisine since their discovery. The Aji Amarillo is green when immature but becomes a bright yellow/orange color when ripe.

This chile is quite potent regardless of the form it takes. In the US, it can be difficult to find fresh, but shows up commonly frozen, dried, pickled, or pasted. The dried versions tend to have the most aggressive fruity notes, whereas the fresh peppers tend to have the most heat.

What’s it Like?

The Aji Amarillo is mostly considered a medium hot chile, but the heat can vary quite a bit depending on the season in which it was grown. They have a “fruity” and uniquely citrusy flavor profile.

Aji Chilies

Photo Courtesy of TheSpruceEats.com

The Amarillo chile is the signature component of many Peruvian dishes like Papas a la Huancaina, a potato and egg dish with a creamy Aji Amarillo sauce, and Causa Limeña, a cold potato and chile dish layered with fillings like olives, tuna, or avocado.

Aji Amarillo is also a natural fit for fish. It cuts through fatty choices like salmon or bolsters up a white fleshed fish like Corvina (sea bass) or hamachi. In fact, in Peru you’ll most likely find Aji Amarillo and fish together in ceviches. The Peruvian ceviche differs from other countries not only because of its addition of Aji Amarillo, but also with its use of cooked sweet potatoes and sweet corn.

Where does it Fit?

The beauty of the Aji Amarillo Chile is its versatility. Try it in a glaze on chicken wings, or a spicy sauce base for a unique global pizza. It plays well with beef too, as in a sweet hot pepper relish.

Aji Amarillo Chilies

Image courtesy of HispanicKitchen.com

Don’t be shy in trying it as a base for a tropical salad dressing or blended with yogurt or mayonnaise for a creamy with a kick spread for wraps and sandwiches. The options are limitless.

Set the trend and get into Aji Amarillo now before the rest of the competition gets a chance.

Cheers!

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December 10th, 2018

Unique 2018 Food Trucks

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Food Trucks

Three Unique 2018 Food Trucks Stand Apart

The 2018 food truck scene is wrapping up as the year end closes in. Food trucks have become an essential extension of the restaurant scene in many major cities, offering chefs a chance to experiment with flavors and fusions in a more risk-conducive environment.

2018 Food Truck Trends

These opportunities have led to the establishment of some fantastic brick and mortar restaurants, like Chi’Lantro, or Torchy’s Tacos (who now have locations in 3 states).

While we prepare for and predict what 2019 might have in store for our palate’s, let’s take a look at three unique culinary contributors of 2018.

India Jones Chow Truck

Los Angeles, CA
Website
310-310-3964

So if I’m being fair, wordplay is always a good way to catch my attention, but the food and flavors still have to meet the mark. Thankfully, India Jones does both.

Based out of Los Angeles, CA, this truck run by Chef/Owner Sumant Pardal is rocking out curries and samosas like hot cakes! But, what makes India Jones special isn’t its traditional dishes, but a menu item called “Frankie.”

2018 Food Trucks India Jones

Photo courtesy of IndiaJonesChowTruck.com

The Frankie uses a roti flatbread wrapped around your choice of protein along with onions, tamarind chutney, and vegetables, to form an Indian-inspired burrito of sorts. This delightful bit of fusion allows hesitant customers who are new to Indian food to try it in a familiar format at a relatively low price.

Along with the Frankie, India Jones serves blue corn tacos called Taco Chaat and Aloo Tiki Chaat, which is a potato pancake topped with chickpeas, raita, and vegetables. These creative variations of Indian street food have helped to put a spotlight on India Jones.

Tying all of these flavors together are India Jones’s unique sauces and chutneys. Try the tamarind chutney on your lamb Frankie for a nice sweet/salty balance, or the spicy chutney on the Chaat Masala Fries. Or pair your Chicken Taco Chaat with tangy Mango Chutney for a flavor explosion.

@La’s – A Hmong Food Cart

Aloha, OR
Website
971-330-5989

Yes, yes, YES! With the growth of Vietnamese and Thai cuisine I’m so excited to see Hmong food start to pave its own way.

The Hmong are a group of people forced to flee their native Yellow River Region of Southern China during the Qing Dynasty in the 18th century due to armed conflict and regressive economic reforms. During that time of emigration their cuisine was influenced by the different groups they came in contact with; Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar, for example.

This blending of cultures led to the aromatic, often spicy, but always delicious flavors of Hmong cuisine. @La’s La Vang-Herr showcases these flavors in her smart, concise, but customizable menu. The Phat wings are fried chicken wings that are first stuffed with two-types of ground meat then marinated in a soy and ginger rich Asian-fusion sauce before battering and frying golden brown.

food-trucks-2018-las

Photo Courtesy of PDXMonthly.com

The papaya and carrot salad is brought together with a sweet tamarind sauce and allows for a customized heat level. Personally, I’d go for the homemade Hmong Sausage which uses locally sourced farm-raised pork and comes with a side of the mouthwatering (and tear producing) Lemongrass Pepper Dip.

Patrizi’s

Austin, TX
Website
512-522-4834

If you ever thought you couldn’t get fine dining style Italian food on a paper plate, Patrizi’s is here to prove you wrong.

Owned by brothers Nic and Matt Patrizi, this establishment proves that really all you need for amazing food is great ingredients, a talented team, and a love for what you do. Out of their humble truck they produce delicate, beautiful dishes like Cacio e Pepe, Pasta Pomodoro, and Marfa Tomatoes.

2018 Food Trucks Patrizi's

Photo courtesy of Patrizis.com

With ingredients like Casu di Fita, a briny, crumbly cheese similar to feta, and seasonally harvested honey, it’s easy to see how this is not your traditional Italian fare. Try Karah’s Diavolo with a coddled egg yolk to add an unctuous layer to the spicy, acidic sauce with an order of the Ciabatta Bread and Beef Fat. Can’t go wrong there.

Close

From LA to Portland and back to Austin, we’ve seen three of the best food trucks of 2018 in three of the cities best known for their great food trucks. As culinarians, we’re lucky to live in a time where we have access to such wonderful food prepared by such talented people.

Cheers!

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November 26th, 2018

New in Sauce Trends

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Sauce

Let’s Talk Sauce Trends

Because every dish gets better with sauce!

Why do we even care about sauce trends?

The easy answer is, well, because sauces are important. As one of the world’s first food reviewers and restaurant critics, Grimod de la Reynière, would say, “A well made sauce would make even an elephant or a grandfather palatable.”

italian

While I won’t strive to test his theory, I do agree with the sentiment. Sauces are the magic liquids that bring bland foods to life or make good dishes unforgettable. A proper sauce can be the difference between OK and incredible. Point of fact; macaroni is fine but add cheese sauce and you’ve got gold!

With that in mind, it’s important to keep a finger on the pulse of the sauce world to find new trends, inspirations, and ingredients, much like these:

Italian Crossover

Italian food is well-known for it’s uses of sauces. From accuighe to alfredo, burro to bolognese, Italian cuisine has a range and depth to its sauce library many countries could only dream to reach.

harissa

But recently, other global flavors are making their way into mainstream Italian fair. One great example of this is harissa. Hailing from North Africa, harissa is an aggressive sauce (often a paste) made from roasted red peppers, various chili peppers, herbs like coriander, spices like cumin, and olive oil.

While this may not seem, at first glance, to be a sauce fitting for Italian fare, keep in mind the coast of Marsala, Italy, is only about 50 nautical miles from Tunisia. Doesn’t seem so odd now does it?

Piada Italian Street Food, based out of Columbus, OH, have found great success in using harissa in their power bowls. This helps to prove how quickly the market is opening to new flavor experiences. Just two years ago, many felt that harissa was too far out for the mainstream customer. Now in 2018, it seems to fit in just fine.

Global Entry

Global flavors continue to permeate the menus in national restaurants. Datassential has shown a 7% increase in chimichurri, a 3% increase in harissa, and a 1.5% rise in gochujang sauces on menus in 2018. Also moving their way in at 1% increases are Peri Peri sauce and S’Chug.

A person familiar with these sauces may see an additional thread that holds them together: Heat. All the 5 sauces listed commonly have a spicy profile, with chimichurri being the mildest and harissa being the hottest (traditionally, of course).

korean

If you follow our blog here regularly, this shouldn’t be very surprising. As we’ve discussed previously, hot sauce sales are at their highest ever, spicy BBQ sauces are quickly becoming the most popular in their category, and Asian cuisines with commonly spicy profiles (Korean, Thai, Filipino) are becoming mainstays.

Move Over Canton

Sauce Trends 2018It seems that Kung Pao sauce is having a revitalization moment, thanks to the vegetable-centric dining trend. Kung Pao, or Sichuan, sauce is known for its umami rich flavor profile balanced with the right amount of sweet and spicy.

This profile works extremely well in providing a hearty, meaty flavor to vegetable dishes. With the growing want for vegetable-focused foods in casual dining atmospheres, Kung Pao offers a natural, and familiar, fit.

Restaurants like The Plimoth in Denver with their Kung Pao Carrots and Fairytale Eggplant, and The Local in Naples, FL, with their Kung Pao Avocado, have been trend leaders in this category.

Even the national chain Kings Dining and Entertainment has gotten wise by serving Fried Kung Pao Cauliflower. I’d buy that for a dollar.

Close

So, there you have it! Keep an eye out for Italian restaurants adopting unique sauce flavors, for Kung Pao to start popping up in restaurants other than Chinese and on application other than meat, and the continued takeover of global flavors. And through all these trends, runs a spicy core. The people want heat, so let’s give it to them.

Cheers!

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