March 16th, 2020

Go Bold with Asian Flavored Snacks

Posted in Consumer Trends, New Foods and Flavors

Asian Flavored Snacks Continue to Captivate

Asian Flavored Snacks

Photo courtesy of spoonuniversity.com

Asian flavored snacks continue to drive sales and excitement in the snack market. As 2019 proved, certain trends are not letting go anytime soon. Two of these trends are snacking and Asian flavors, so it’s stands to reason they make a perfect pair.

Americans are steering the snack market away from sweet and salty standards and towards the more complex, fermented, and umami-packed flavors commonly found in Asian cuisines. A great way to exemplify this is by checking out the surge in snack products around Asian flavors.

Gochujang

Asian Flavored Snacks

Photo courtesy of surfandsunshine.com

It seems there’s no getting around our friend gochujang. It’s continuing to pop up nationally on pizzas, tacos, and even breakfast sandwiches. And now, no shocker, it’s all over the snack food aisle.

Whole Food’s 365 Brand launched a gochujang flavored Kettle Chip as an LTO to much applause. It’s been so popular, in fact, that they’ve continued to stock it beyond the LTO period. Annie Chun’s also makes the list with their Baked Seaweed Crisps with gochujang seasoning.

Sahale Snacks mixes things up in their Korean BBQ Almond Mix, made with savory gochujang glaze, pineapples, and sesame. The biggest surprise comes from StarKist. They released a Spicy Korean flavored tuna fish snack pouch as a part of their “Bold Flavors” lineup. This high protein snack is packed with protein and zesty flavor.

Curry Flavored Snacks

Curry Chocolate

Photo courtesy of taquitos.net

The newcomer to the flavor game is curry. Whether it be Indian, Thai, red, green, spicy, or mild, there are a variety of curry flavors and styles bouncing around the snack scene.

Kettle Brand Chips leads the way with their ultra-craveable Red Curry chips. Also on trend is Pringles, who released a Malaysian Red Curry Rice Fusion chip. Haven’t had that yet, sounds great! You can also get a little crazy with World Market Indian Sweet Curry Milk Chocolate bars.

Finally, Sarah’s Snacks launched a coconut curry nut mix featuring a savory blend of cashews, chickpeas, and sweet currants toasted with warm Indian spices.

Thai Chili

Asian flavored snacks

Photo courtesy of theshelbyreport.com

Our final entry in this category is the Thai Chile. It can be found in variations from mild to hot, sweet to savory, but all with that signature aromatic Thai flavor.

You can find Thai Chili flavored snacks most commonly in potato chip form from Lay’s, Pringles, and even Doritos with their Thai Pepper Chicken chips. Kettle also lands on this list with their Sweet Chili Garlic chips.

Blue Diamond features a bold lineup also, one of the flavors being Thai Sweet Chili Roasted almonds. And, along with their spot on the gochujang side, StarKist also features a Thai Chili Style tuna fish snack pouch. Even Quaker has launched a Sweet & Spicy Thai Chili Rice Crisp snack.

I’d say Thai Chili is currently winning the popularity battle.

Snack Time

So, go find some of the cool flavors and see just how great Asian flavored snacks can be. They’re on trend and supremely popular right now, so don’t miss out!

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February 17th, 2020

January 2020 New Menu Items

Posted in New Foods and Flavors, Restaurants

Let’s See What New Menu Items Launched January 2020

New Menu Items January 2020

Here we are at the end of January, so you know what that means, New Menu Items!

Please, please, let’s hold the cheers and applause. I get it, I’m just as excited as you are, but there’s work to do.

January has flown by, but not without a few new menu items rolling out nationwide. We like to stay on top of these new items for you so you can monitor what’s happening in food trends on a national level and adjust accordingly.

So, without further ado, let’s see what’s hot!

New Menu Items – January 2020

Outside of the continued expansion of plant-based meats on national menus, the following items don’t have much in common. In the past, we’ve seen commonalities on new menu item roll-outs, like Chicken or BBQ. This month, it’s a little more scattershot.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of chicken in this lineup, but different forms and contexts. It doesn’t quite match up.

Taco John’s

New Menu Items January 2020

Image thanks to tacojohns.com

Taco John’s released their new Taco Perfecto line this month. What makes it “Perfecto?” The crunchy shell is extra-long, smaller in profile, and designed to offer you a mix of every ingredient in every bite. Say goodbye to the classic two-bite taco.

The Chipotle Chicken Perfecto combines diced chicken, Cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and a creamy sauce made with smoky chipotle puree. I can get behind that.

Taco Bell

January 2020 New Menu Items

Image courtesy of businessinsider.com.

The creative geniuses at Taco Bell are at it again with their new Buffalo Chicken Nacho Fries. It’s no surprise these masters of craveability put this combination together.

Piggybacking on the huge popularity of the nacho fries, this dish is loaded. Seasoned, shredded chicken, nacho cheese sauce, sour cream, and a spicy buffalo sauce are piled high over their crispy flagship nacho fries. There’s no doubt the late-night drive through lines are going to be packed full for this item.

Famous Dave’s

Jan 2020 New Menu Items

Image courtesy of startribune.com.

Famous Dave’s is going full Southern comfort on us with Iris’ Comeback Chicken Sandwich.

This tasty devil features a crispy chicken filet brushed with smoky BBQ sauce and topped with their famous spicy pickles and a new creamy Comeback sauce. This sandwich is inspired by a recipe passed down from Dave’s mother. The real question is, how many times will you come back for a bite?

Donato’s Pizza

New Menu Items January 2020

Image courtesy of citybeat.com.

Cauliflower pizza crusts have arrived at Donatos Pizza! Yes, you heard that right. All you keto lifestylers and hidden veggie fans now have a new best friend in the Ohio-based chain.

Not only are the crusts available, but they come in three new builds: Bruschetta, Garden, and Heat. All feature the delicious Donatos red sauce, smoked provolone cheese, and, most importantly, a flavorful plant-based sausage.

Just another reason to love the folks over at Donatos.

Check Please!

That covers it for the January 2020 New Menu Items. Follow along with us to keep updated with what’s happening in the food and beverage industry every month.

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December 23rd, 2019

Spice Up Your Menu with Flavorful Sauces

Posted in New Foods and Flavors, Sauce

Flavorful Sauces Can Easily Upgrade Your Menu

Flavorful Sauces

Flavorful sauces could be the key you’re looking for to unlock the higher potential of your menu.

Restaurants are constantly changing and evolving to keep up with trends and consumer preferences. Not only can this process be tough to follow, it can also be expensive and exhausting. There is only a finite amount of ingredients any restaurant can maintain without being smote by the gods of waste and cross-utilization.

So how can almost any restaurant flex with the times without constantly adding new SKUs? Easy, with sauces.

Sauces are the perfect flavor driver for almost any style of restaurant. Whether you operate an all-American bar & grill, an Asian-fusion bistro, or a Spanish tapas restaurant, you can find a sauce that will make the ordinary extraordinary.

Let’s look at some ways you can upgrade your plates using flavorful sauces.

Direct Application

Flavorful Italian Sauces

This is the most obvious option. You can simply add sauces to existing menu items. Got a burger on your menu that’s just not quite driving sales? Amp it up with creamy pepper jack cheese, spicy harissa sauce, and crisp bacon. Want to put a holiday twist on your best-selling burrito? Smother it with a trio of bright green chile, creamy queso blanco, and piquant red guajillo chile sauces. Is your lasagna a little flat (pun-intended) under that classic tomato sauce?  Bolster it with a smoky marinara sauce made with charred tomatoes and caramelized onions.

You see where I’m going with this. There are hundreds of sauces available that you can immediately add to your menu for a delicious enhancement.

As an Ingredient

Mexican Salsas

Now that you’ve got a new sauce on your menu, it’s time to start experimenting with it. You know that harissa sauce we mentioned above? Blend it with mayonnaise for a decadent aioli for blackened chicken, then add some lime juice for a salad dressing. Blend that smoky tomato sauce with your house Alfredo for a craveable “pink pasta” sauce. You can add sour cream and cilantro to the green or red chile sauces for an outrageously good torta spread.

And these are just the sauces mentioned. Think of what you could do with umami-blasted Korean gochujang, spicy buffalo, or bourbon BBQ sauces.

Other Uses

Flavorful Asian Sauces

This just scratches the surface. You can add ingredients like sautéed mushrooms, roasted garlic, charred peppers, citrus peel, miso, and others to your sauces to change them up. Try adding your sauces to stocks or soups for flavor bombs. include them as dipping sauces on appetizers or add them to slaw to make it new and exciting again. Use your imagination and don’t hesitate to experiment.

Now Go Get Saucy!

Hopefully you’ve found some new menu item inspiration here. Be sure to leave a comment below letting us know your favorite sauce ideas or ask questions on how to make something old new again. We’d love to help!

Cheers!

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December 9th, 2019

New Menu Items for 2019 End of Year

Posted in New Foods and Flavors, Product Innovation, Restaurants

Chicken Reigns Supreme New Menu Items

Back in September we took a look at some of the hot new menu items hitting plates nationally. This included items like smoked chicken wings, bottomless shrimp with a trio of sauces, and a smoked brisket sandwich with tangy BBQ sauce. So, needless to say, smokiness was on trend.

But here we are in the second week of December and we haven’t discussed what’s been released for the end of the year. I suppose we need to remedy that.

So, let’s look at what restaurants will do to drive sales and close out 2019 strong. I’ll give you a hint, cluck cluck.

New Menu Items

Buffalo Wild Wings

New Menu Items 2019 BWWs

Photo courtesy of inspirebrands.com

BWWs is looking to bulk up its craveability with the release of their newly formulated boneless wings. The wings are made of larger pieces of marinated breast meat and feature a new, lighter breading.

Additionally, BWWs is looking to harness some of their past glory with the release of their reformulated Buffalo Sauce, making it more like the recipe originally introduced in 1982. I can’t wait to try it.

Corner Bakery

New Menu items 2019

Photo courtesy of restaurantnews.com

Dallas, TX based Corner Bakery is going full carb load for the holiday season, putting their money on turned up Italian fare. The new Rustic Italian Panini features ham, pepperoni, provolone, roasted tomatoes, and a Calabrian chile spread.

If spicy isn’t your thing, go for the Chicken Rosa Pasta. This features cavatappi pasta, grilled chicken, savory Parmesan cheese, roasted tomatoes, and a rich tomato cream sauce. Might as well indulge now before looking your New Year’s Resolution in the eye.

Del Taco

2019 New Menu Items

Photo courtesy of Forbes.com

The folks at Del Taco are piquing my attention with one of my favorite foods of all time: Tamales. These new masa miracles are stuffed with shredded pork blended with a roasted tomato salsa and are served plain or smothered with your choice of red and green salsas, or chili cheese.

I don’t see how you could go wrong either way, so best to just play it safe and try them all.

El Pollo Loco

4th Quarter 2019 Menu Items

Photo courtesy of elpolloloco.com

Not to be outdone by Del Taco, El Pollo Loco is also going after the tamale spotlight. However, they are pairing their chicken tamales with various pieces of their famous flame grilled chicken, rice, pinto beans, and a smothering of red chile sauce.

Additionally, check out their unique Mexican hot chocolate made with cinnamon and vanilla. Sounds like a great way to warm the bones during the winter weather.

Zaxby’s

New Menu Items

Photo courtesy of zaxbys.com

Our last restaurant on the list is one I don’t get to mention often, Zaxby’s. The gem of Georgia fried chicken is stepping into the smoky trend with a pair of new items: The Southwest Chipotle and Smokehouse Cheddar BBQ chicken sandwiches.

This is a good sign for Zaxby’s fans, as this marks a great step in staying current with national flavor trends.

Time to Grub!

I don’t know about you, but all these 2019 new menu items have really riled up my appetite. It’s a good thing I’ll be traveling during the holidays, plenty of excuses to try some new foods.

Cheers!

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September 9th, 2019

Hot New Menu Items

Posted in Food Trends, New Foods and Flavors, Promotions

New Menu Items Show Love for Smoke and Heat

New Menu Items

As we close out the third quarter of the year and prepare to enter the fourth, we’re seeing quite a few interesting new menu items set to launch. From shrimp to waffles, smoke and spice trends seem to dominate.

Dickey’s BBQ Pit

Smoked Chicken Wings

Photo courtesy of Dickeys.com

Dickey’s is going all in on a permanent addition of its pit smoked wings to the menu. These were recently tested and proved a hit, so they’re not letting the excitement drop. There’s no end in sight for these savory wings, available in flavors like Sweet BBQ, Carolina BBQ, Buffalo, Hot Buffalo, and Texas Hot.

Norm’s

New Menu Items

The famous California diner, Norm’s, isn’t shying away from new flavor trends. From now until January 2020 you can enjoy one of their delicious Belgian waffles topped with crispy fried chicken and a spicy Sriracha honey sauce. We’ve seen this flavor combination pop-up in a few places in the past, but it’s nice to see it finding space on more conservative menus.

Red Lobster

New Menu Items

Photo courtesy of RedLobster.com

Never one to shy away from promotions, Red Lobster is making a safe bet with its $15.99 Endless Shrimp LTO. Set for an unspecified amount of time, this deal offers the diner a bottomless supply of Crispy Sriracha Honey, Teriyaki Grilled, or one of the other 3 shrimp flavors. You only get to select 2 flavors per order, however.

Subway

Smoked Brisket Sandwich

Photo courtesy of Subculture.Subway.com

Always a fan favorite, Subway continues to find new ways to satisfy sandwich cravings at an affordable price. Their newest addition to the lineup is the Pit-smoked Brisket Sandwich, complete with a sweet and tangy BBQ sauce. This will only be available through September 6, however, so get there fast.

Taco Bell

Baked Cheddar Chalupa

Photo courtesy of Thrillist.com

It would seem unreal to not include Taco Bell on a new product launch list. The perennial masters of innovative ideas never disappoint. This time they are launching a Toasted Cheddar Chalupa, available with chicken or beef, or as a Bacon Club build. With 6-month aged Cheddar baked into the shell, it sounds like a can’t miss concept.

What’s Next?

I guess we’ll see soon. New menu launches and LTOs seem to be picking up speed recently, so I don’t doubt lots more interesting and delicious foods will be available soon. Be sure to stay tuned to see what else we uncover.

Cheers!

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July 29th, 2019

Hibiscus Trend is Blooming

Posted in Food Trends, New Foods and Flavors

Hibiscus is trending on menus for its bright flavor and brighter color!

Hibiscus flower

I feel like it’s been too long since we’ve discussed flavor trends, so we’re going to end that streak today with a look at hibiscus.

Now, when I say hibiscus you probably think of a flower garnish on a Mai Tai or a component flavor in tea. But these vibrant flowers have proven to be a lot more versatile then we give them credit for. Their slightly bitter and citrusy flavor makes them perfect for an array of uses from garnish, sauces, beverages, and herbs.

Now Trending: Hibiscus

According to Datassential, hibiscus currently falls into the “adoption” stage of the Menu Adoption Cycle (MAC). This generally means that it’s gaining traction on menus but is still considered unique. It can be found at independent casual-dining and progressive fast-casual restaurants.

Hibiscus Glazed Wings

Image courtesy of Wahaca Twitter

It’s currently found on 6% of menus nationally, which is a 69% increase over the past 4 years. While the product is most familiar with Millennials and Gen Z, over half of the population has heard of it and almost a quarter have tried it. This leaves fertile ground to explore hibiscus in application.

In fact, the product Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup recently won the 2019 Front Burner Foodservice Pitch Competition. How’s that for timing?!

How to Use Hibiscus

Hibiscus is most commonly found in beverages, such as teas, cocktails, and agua frescas. But those are merely entry points for this ingredient.

Velvet Taco in Dallas serves their “Gator” taco on a hypnotically purple hibiscus taco shell. With its mild tartness, it’s a great balance to the fatty meat inside. You can use hibiscus in almost any bakery application to add color and an aromatic citric note.

Hibiscus Taco

Image courtesy of dallas.culturemap.com

Looking for a tangy sweet glaze for pork or lamb? Hibiscus and cranberry or orange make an excellent addition, cutting through the fattiness of the meat with bright, fresh flavor. It’s equally delicious in chutneys and vinaigrettes.

White fish and hibiscus also have a special relationship. It can be used as a dry rub, sweet sauce, or fresh garnish to bring a tropical note to the meat. It can also be an excellent component to ceviche, exemplified by Poca Madre’s Hamachi Ceviche, made with hibiscus, agua Jamaica, garlic, chile Serrano, and corn.

Where to Find Hibiscus

Hibiscus Ceviche

Photo courtesy of nrn.com

As its popularity grows, so does its availability. Hibiscus powder and dried flowers can often be sourced through networks like Shamrock and Sysco. Smaller producers, such as Iya Foods and the Wild Hibiscus Flower Company are also working on bringing their distribution up to meet the needs of a larger market.

Fresh hibiscus flowers can be more difficult to locate, but Fresh Origins, a micro greens company that works with most major distributors, can provide them.

Power to the Flower

As hibiscus continues along the MAC, we can expect to see new and unique methods of utilization. I, for one, expect to see it used often in sauces where color becomes almost as important as flavor. In our Instagram generation, it never hurts to pay attention to the aesthetics.

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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 (think maple syrup) 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 25th, 2019

Hot Sauce Trends 2019

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

Global Flavors Drive Hot Sauce Trends in 2019

2019 Hot Sauce Trends

2019 is going to be a great year for hot sauce trends. With our global love for spicy food continuing to grow, we’re seeing an explosion of new sauces and flavors from all over the world.

As with most trends, we’re also seeing a boomerang effect. Some hot sauce trends from the past are coming back in vogue. No big surprise here, it’s just the way of things. We’re currently seeing this with the revitalization of Char Siu, or Chinese BBQ sauce.

So let’s take a look at some 2019 hot sauce trends based on the regions they stem from.

Global Hot Sauce Trends in 2019

Africa

Known for it’s spicy meats and aromatic rubs, the continent of Africa gives us a diverse and unique set of hot sauces. The size of the country promotes regional differences and interpretations of similar sauces. Some have gained notoriety more quickly than others, however.

Hot Sauce Trends 2019

The most notable at this moment is harissa. Hailing from North Africa, harissa often comes as a thick sauce or paste. Made from multiple chilies, including baklouti and serrano, along with roasted red peppers, garlic, and seasonings, harissa has found a huge market in the food industry. It’s not uncommon to find this sauce on foods like falafel, burgers, loaded fries, roasted cauliflower, or baked eggs. Personally, I love it in a thick hummus.

Other African flavors popping up on the radar are berbere and pili pili, which, as it turns out, are both really fun to say. Pili pili is made from the piri piri chili pepper native to Southeastern Africa and is not to be confused with the Portuguese Piri Piri sauce. It tends to be scorching hot and a little goes a long way.

Berbere, however, reigns from Ethopia and is most familiar in its powdered seasoning form. But, we’re starting to see a rise in the “Awaze” sauce, which blends berbere seasoning with spicy chilies like habanero or cayenne. Don’t be surprised to see this item show up on chicken wings and pizzas soon.

Middle East

The Middle East is no stranger to spicy foods. But they also don’t shy away from herbs, spices, and other aromatics. So, when those characteristics come together, we get delicious chili sauces like zhug. Commonly compared to a Brazilian chimichurri sauce, this Yemenite paste is made from onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, and lots of spicy chilies, like Serrano or Thai.

Hot Sauce Trends

Photo courtesy of chilipeppermadness.com

Another new/old face in the hot sauce world is shatta. Like zhug, shatta uses cilantro and parsley along with serrano or Thai chilies. What makes it different is the use of red jalapenos and tomato, for a bit sweeter of a profile.

Finally, we’re seeing the hot sauce trend sneak into other Middle Eastern foods that aren’t traditionally spicy. The best example of this is Spicy Za’atar sauce. Za’atar, an herbaceous blend of thyme, sumac, and sesame, is a ubiquitous Middle Eastern condiment used on everything from meat and eggs to bread and salad. The spicy variation takes the flavor and impact to a whole new level.

Asia

Never to be outdone by the other countries, Asia continues to make waves with new sauces. Asian sauces are most noteworthy for their fermented characteristics. A great example of this would be la doubanjiang. This is another classic sauce, common in Sichuan cuisine, that’s finding new life in our spice crazy generation. Made from fermented broad beans and soybeans, this sauce is seasoned with salt, spices, and red chili peppers. It’s often eaten simply with sticky rice or noodles, but you’re likely to see it start popping up in stir fried and crossover foods, like sushi burritos or Asian style pizzas.

Another spicy Asian sauce on the comeback is karashi, or Japanese hot mustard. Different from the previous sauces, karashi gets its heat from ground mustard seeds and horseradish or wasabi, depending on the maker. This one is the quietest of the current trends, but there’s uniqueness in it that could harness quite the cult following.

Hot Sauce Trends 2019

Photo courtesy of favy-jp.com

Close

Thanks for reading along with our 2019 hot sauce trends blog. Next up we’re going to see how these trendy new sauces are making their way into the broader culinary culture.

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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April 23rd, 2018

Sergio’s Cuban Eyes Fast Casual

Posted in Consumer Trends, New Foods and Flavors, Restaurants

Sergio’s Cuban Cafe & Grill Looks Towards Fast-Casual for the Future

Cuban Fast Casual

Photo Courtesy of shop.fiu.edu

As we’ve mentioned before in our blogs, fast-casual dining is not going anywhere. It gives chef’s and restaurateur’s an opportunity to provide fresh, high-quality food at lower prices due to reduced overhead costs. Sergio’s Cuban Cafe & Grill of Miami is the most recent entrant into the category.

Cuban Food

Photo Courtesy of sergioscuban.com

Carlos Gazitua, the CEO of Sergio’s, knew three years ago when planning the launch of their 6th location, it would be the last full-service restaurant. Gazitua cites rising rent prices and economics as the prime reasons to steer away from full-service and into fast-casual.

Sergio’s will also fill a hole in the fast-casual market for Cuban food. Leveraging the strength of their restaurant reputation, Sergio’s fast-casual will be able to launch with the power of their brand identity to help them capitalize on a thriving industry.

Cuban Food

Photo Courtesy of sergioscuban.com

Hoping to be the “Chipotle” of Cuban food, their bowl-centric menu features bold flavors like Mojo pork, Ropa Vieja, chimi-churri, and spicy habanero sauce. Contrasted with healthful choices such as cauliflower rice, boiled yucca, and lean ground turkey, Sergio’s is working to offer plenty of flavorful options while adding nutrient density to an often rich, heavy cuisine.

With site locations like Denver, Texas, Atlanta, and Washington D.C. slated for development, we’ll be keeping an eye on Sergio’s growth and look forward to a nearby location for taste testing.

What other Cuban fast casuals have you come across? Let us know in the comments section below.

Cheers!

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