January 29th, 2018

Food Trends: Comfort Foods

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Trends

2018 Sees the Trend Towards Comfort Foods

2018 Food Trends

2017 was the year of ethnic food trends. Gochujang, poke, curry, and sriracha everything, just to name a few. While 2018 will see a continued energizing of global foods, it will also see us hearkening back to our roots with regional comfort foods.

Now, don’t get caught in a box and think I’m going to start talking about macaroni and cheese, even though it’s a staple and it will never go anywhere. I’m looking at food traditions like meatloaf, hush puppies, regional BBQ flavors, and stews.

Comfort Foods Trend

But comfort foods aren’t limited to simply the regions of the US. Our country is a patchwork of global representation. 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants from all over the world are influencing and cooking the foods we eat. Therefore, don’t be surprised to see a rise in items like goulash, halo-halo, and artisan falafel.

We know that ramen, a Chinese/Japanese comfort food, has been intensely popular over the last few years, but are you familiar with jjigae, it’s Korean counterpart? You probably should be as it’s a unique blend of the sour, spicy, and umami flavors pack a major punch and simply make the world right when it’s cold outside.

Food Trends 2018

Also, 2018 could prove to be the year we finally see an uptick in flavors from arctic countries. Heavily smoked and salted fish, fermented root vegetables, and house-milled heirloom grain breads are examples of comfort foods you should keep on your watch list.

I’m excited to see what 2018 is going to bring and can’t wait to see how restaurants and food producers will adapt to the new trends. Drop a comment and let us know what trends you’re running into out there.

Here’s to eating our way through a new year!


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January 1st, 2018

Sambal, Your New Favorite Hot Sauce

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Restaurants, Trends

Look Out, Here Comes Sambal…

The unique funky-chile-citrus flavor of sambal is starting to garner some serious attention, and for those of us who have been graced with the opportunity to try a sambal glazed chicken wing, we know why.


Hailing from Southeast Asian islands like Malaysia and Indonesia, sambal is a spicy blend of chili peppers, acids such as lime juice and/or vinegar, and funky umami flavors of shrimp paste or fish sauce. It gives the sauce a round, zesty flavor that is as intense as it is refreshing.

Perhaps this is why restaurants nationwide are beginning to adopt it on their menus for an adventurous update to familiar dishes. As Flavor & The Menu have pointed out in their recent article Field Notes: Everybody Sambal, “Sambal is a sexy hot sauce. The name alone seduces with the promise of faraway adventure.” I couldn’t agree more.

Sambal Chili

In Austin, TX, DFG Food Truck serves an incredible dish called the scholar, which consists of marinated vermicelli noodles tossed with spicy ham, pork belly, and vegetables, topped with fried egg and a generous scoop of sambal sauce to bring it home.

Hip nightlife chain Bar Louie features the chile sauce in their spicy Voodoo Pasta, complete with andouille sausage and sautéed onions and peppers. I’d buy that for a dollar!

Denver’s Linger, a mortuary turned restaurant (cleverly dubbed an “eatuary”) jumps on the train with a fried chicken bun topped with kimchi, Togarashi Ranch, and honey sambal sauce.

Sambal Sauce

It’s safe to say this is only the beginning for sambal as hot sauce sales are expected to hit a record $1.37 billion in 2017 according to the market research firm IBISWorld. This trend doesn’t look to be slowing down with forecasts of $1.65 billion within the next five years (1).

In what places or ways have you seen this chili sauce used? We’d love to hear about it in our comments section below.

Happy eating!

1. Zlati Meyer. USA Today. “Hot sauce industry sets tongues — and sales — ablaze.” July 30, 2017. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/07/30/hot-sauce-industry-fire-supermarkets-mcdonalds/519660001/

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August 21st, 2017

Food Truck Series: Via 313

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Food Trucks, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

Via 313 Pizza

Pizza Trends

Pizza is a staple food of life, I think we can all agree on that. No matter your preference or dietary restrictions, someone out there has made a pretty darn good pizza just for you.

One of the true beauties of pizza is its different adaptations. Thin crust, thick crust, white pizza, flatbread, Mexican style, Korean BBQ, New York, Chicago, deconstructed; the list can go on and on.

After seeing a rise in the popularity of Detroit style pizza, we here at Culinary Culture decided to jump on the bandwagon and see what it’s all about. And what better place to find out then the rapidly expanding pizza truck turned brick and mortar restaurant here in Austin, Via 313.

Detroit Style Pizza

The first question to answer was, “what is Detroit style pizza?” Via 313 owner Brandon Hunt was kind enough to answer that question in an interview with Austin Eater. In his description, Detroit style pizza refers to a square pie, cooked in pans that are actually used in automotive plants for spare parts, caramelized cheese crusts, and a generous pour of sauce on top of the pizza when finished.

The second question is, “is it any good?” After tasting the Detroiter, a pie made with smoked pepperoni under the cheese and natural casing pepperoni atop, the Smokey, made with Black’s brisket and tangy BBQ sauce, and the Rocket (my favorite), stacked with hot Sopressatta, arugula, and shaved Parmesan, I can emphatically say yes. Very good.

The caramelized cheese around the crust stands out with both great texture and flavor. The crust is thick and crispy on the outside, but chewy in the middle. It’s very filling but a little oily for my preference. Via 313’s red sauce was a standout though. Vibrant red, fresh tasting, and filled with herbs. It complimented the pies well and something about having it on top cleans the palate between bites.

I’m officially on board with Detroit style pizza.

Detroit Pizza

If your splitting hairs, the location I visited technically isn’t a food truck. But since it began as a food truck, and this location is much closer to me then where the truck resides, I hope you’ll overlook this.

Thanks for reading along, now get out there and eat!

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August 7th, 2017

Flavor Blasts: Jamaican Food

Posted in Celebrity Chefs, Food Trucks, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

foods of Jamaica

Bold, Bright, Beautiful: Jamaican Flavors

When you think of Jamaican flavors you reflexively think of jerk, stews,

Jamaican Cuisine

Courtesy of Island Spice Grill

and curries. What do these dishes have in common? Rich, complex flavors.

The source of these flavors is Jamaica’s abundant use of garlic, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, a variety of chili peppers and citrus fruits, coconut, and soy sauce. You’ll also come across plenty of legumes, sugar cane, plantains, onion, and tamarind offering a plethora of flavor diversity.

This variety is what defines Jamaican cuisine. Influenced by Spanish, African, Indian, and Chinese ancestries, and supported by rich volcanic soil and a damp climate, it’s easy to see how Jamaican cuisine has evolved into such a complex and desirable cuisine. In the U.S., Jamaican and other Caribbean cuisines have boomed spanning the market from fast food (Pollo Tropical) to fine dining (Glady’s).


Jamaican foodsWith such progress comes culinary innovation. One example of this comes with Chef Nigel Spence of Ripe Kitchen and Bar in New York, who uses pimento wood chips to slow smoke chicken before seasoning it with jerk. This reaches back to the traditional essence of jerk, where pimento wood was used in fires to grill meats over high heat. Another is the roaming Island Spice Grill food cart in New York. They have combined traditional Jamaican jerk flavors with a masterful social media platform to create a cult following of diners who anxiously await daily posts to find out where they will be positioning their cart.

Time will tell what will come with the future of Jamaican cuisine as it intertwines with American culture and a fusion of other cuisines. Personally, I’m excited to see. But until then, get out there and explore what Jamaican food your city has to offer.


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July 24th, 2017

Mole 101

Posted in Recipes, Trends

Mole Andale!

Red Mole

Anyone familiar with traditional Mexican cuisine is by extension familiar with mole; a rich, incredibly complex, savory chile and chocolate sauce.

With hundreds of published mole variations, and thousands more living in the heads of Abuelas world wide, saying you’ve tried them all is like saying you’ve counted all the fish in the sea… highly unlikely. However, I’d certainly be up for that challenge.

Mexican mole

With all these variations, though, the base ingredients remain similar: Chiles, nuts, bread, and chocolate. It’s not unheard of for a mole to carry up to 30 ingredients and require a slow cooking process over the course of many days.

The ingredients are prepared in various ways (grilled, toasted, burnt, etc.), milled together, and stewed to release a deep, complex flavor. Rich in herbs and spices, moles pair wonderfully with anything from starchy vegetables, bananas, and grains, to chicken, beef, and delicate seafood. Chocolate mole

The word mole stems from the Nahuatl word “milli,” meaning sauce or concoction. Therefore, saying “mole sauce” is the literary equivalent of saying “table mesa,” or “free gift.” It’s redundant, so don’t. Unless of course it’s a proper noun, then do as you must.

The origins of mole are argued, but generally split between the legend of the panicked nuns or Cortez’s Aztec banquet. Having no skin in the game, I’ll let you pick which makes more sense.

For a library of excellent mole recipes, I suggest checking in with Rick Bayless or Zarela Martinez. They offer some amazing moles of both the quick(ish) and methodical varieties.

Now go eat some mole!


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July 10th, 2017

Holy Hot Sauce!

Posted in Food Trends, Trends

Hot Sauce from the Subiaco Monks

A couple weeks ago we posted a Hot Sauce 101 blog discussing how hot sauces are produced and their cultural popularity. While doing on some online reading this week, I came across an article about the Subiaco Abbey Monks of Arkansas who make their own Habanero pepper sauce, which tied right into the Hot Sauce 101 discussion.

Monk Sauce

Hot sauce

Img. courtesy of www.countrymonks.biz

Aptly named “Monk Sauce,” this bright pepper sauce sold in varieties of red and green and is distributed via an online store both nationally and internationally. The product of Fr. Richard Walz, Monk Sauce comes from a recipe he developed while serving in Belize. Beginning in the winter months, Fr. Walz’s habanero peppers are grown from starter plants held over from the previous season. Meticulously watched over until they are ready for use, the peppers are harvested either green (peak growth), or red (full ripeness), to achieve a variation in sauce flavor and intensity.

The sauce is flavored with onions, garlic, and vinegar, balancing some of the blistering heat from the habaneros. Fr. Walz claims the Monk Sauce clocks in at 250,000 Scoville units, or about 100x hotter than the average jalapeno. I’m not one to argue with a Monk, so I’m taking his word for it, at least until my order arrives…

Check out the Subiaco Monks online store for Monk Sauces and Abbey Brittle.



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June 26th, 2017

Burgers or Bust

Posted in Food Trends, Trends

Food Trends: Burgers

Burger Trends

It’s no big secret that the burger is king in America. From classic cheese to quinoa vegan burgers, there’s something about the hearty sandwich that seems to whisper sweet nothings to our appetites.

Global market intelligence firm Technomic, Inc. reports that in 2016, $90.57 were spent on burgers in the U.S., representing 44% of total sandwich sales. Not only that, but they are predicting that these sales will continue to grow 3.4% from 2017-2019 due to our culture’s shift to off-premise dining and the burgers unique ability to travel well1 without dramatic loss of quality.

What does that mean for us in the culinary field? Well, it means that burgers offer us a ripe and broad ground for flavor experimentation. The breadth of this category allows us to take on flavors from all around the world utilizing lesser known sauces, garnishes, and seasonings while offering an assurance that there will be an adventurous demographic interested in trying new things. And with the burgers relatively low price point appeal, the risk is minimal to the customer.

Food trends - Burger

As more complex flavors, like Asian, African, and Mexican, continue to trend upward I believe this will begin to press into the burger market. We’re not far from seeing nationwide drops of Korean BBQ Burgers, Fiery African Harissa Burgers, or Smoky Mole Burgers. And when it happens, I’ll be right there in line ready to get the first bite.

Long live the burger!


1”Burger Boom.” Culinology, June 2017, pg. 44.
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June 12th, 2017

Hot Sauce 101

Posted in Trends

Hot Sauce

Let’s face it, we love hot sauce. Whether you’re a Sriracha-holic, Gochujang trend-setter, or Tabasco purist, (for me it’s Yellow Bird) it’s more than likely you’re hitting your pizza with some hot sauce pizzazz. At least we can all agree Buffalo sauce is great.

Since, as a planet, we consume so much hot sauce, I think we should have a better understanding of how it’s made. Therefore, I give you Hot Sauce 101:

Pepper Power

Pepper Sauce

When it comes to hot sauces, it all starts with the pepper. Sure, it seems obvious, but the flavor of the sauce is dictated by the type, quality, and ripeness of the pepper you use.

Once the pepper has been picked (presumably by someone named Peter)the stems are removed and the pepper is washed thoroughly.

The peppers are then mashed, chopped, or ground in preparation for the next step.

Of All the Flavors, You Chose Salty

Hot sauce 101

Now that we have clean pepper mash, it’s time to bring out depth of flavor. This is accomplished by adding salt in a concentration of 15-20% (or higher in some cases), thus beginning the fermentation stage. Remember two things, a higher salt concentration means a longer fermentation and a cleaner flavor, but a salt concentration under 9% allows for malolactic fermentation (like in wine), which creates an unpleasant flavor in pepper-based sauces.

The salted mash is placed in a breathable covered container and agitated periodically. Fermentation times vary by sauce type and batch size anywhere from 15 days to 6 months.

Once desired fermentation is achieved, peppers may be further processed and strained to remove seeds and fibers, leaving only a soft, fermented pulp.

Acid Trip

How to make hot sauce

Now it’s time to bring out the acid. Most hot sauces use vinegar in this step. Not only does the vinegar add to the flavor, it also helps protect the sauce from spoilage. The high salt and acid ratios mean many hot sauces are entirely shelf-stable.

Welcome to Flavor Town

Culinary Consultants

At this point, the sauce is ready to be customized for flavor. Onions, garlic, bean curd, spices and various other ingredients are added to the sauce to individualize the flavor.

It’s important to note, the addition of these ingredients increase the water activity in the sauce. It can very easily go from shelf-stable to refrigeration required with only a small amount of water. This water can come from garlic bulbs, berries, or other flavoring agents.

Keep it Safe

Even if you’re just making a sauce to enjoy at home it never hurts to play it safe. Place your sauce in sanitized jars with tightly closing lids that can be submerged in boiling water until the internal temperature reaches 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool the jar and store appropriately. In commercial applications, this step is accomplished in large batches in either pouches or bottles.

hot sauce

Unfortunately, more delicate flavors, like cilantro, can be degraded in a heating step. But for most sauces that rely on pepper mash and dried herbs for the flavor profile, this won’t negatively affect the flavor.

Hope you learned something! We love hot sauces over here so please drop a comment and let us know some of the great flavors or methods for production you’ve tried.


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February 13th, 2017

Good Eggs: More Than A Name

Posted in Consumer Trends, food tours, Food Trends, Grocery, Locally Grown, Organic, Recipes, Retail, Trends

Research Chefs

Good Eggs: More Than A Name

Founded in the summer of 2011, Good Eggs is an online market that delivers local, organic, sustainable foods and groceries to the San Francisco Bay area. With same day and next day delivery options, Good Eggs aims to connect people who love food directly with the people who make it.

One mission of Good Eggs, as my guide Angelica described during my site tour, is “to grow and sustain local food systems worldwide in order to change the supply chain from the ground up, making it better for everyone.” This noble and ambitious mission shines throughout the operation.

Chef Consultants

Unlike its online competitors (think Instacart, Amazon Fresh), Good Eggs receives their products straight from farmers and suppliers, rather than tapping into an existing market chain. They have established direct relationships with their producers and in turn have created a very efficient, mutually beneficial system of operation.

This direct relationship between producers and customers also puts Good Eggs in a unique position to see culinary trends develop in real-time. Angelica noted the popularity of local foods, especially produce, Korean ribs, ramen, the return of pasta, and bone broths in 2016 and sees no slowing down going into 2017.

Additionally, they’ve seen a push for easy weeknight meal solutions for busy families, especially those with young children. Dinners that can be prepared relatively quickly and without much fuss that still maintain healthful, natural, and craveable qualities are ideal. You can even get inspiration from unique, easy to follow chef developed recipes that are found on their website.

Restaurant Consultants

Good Eggs is working hard to drive away the misconception that natural markets are only within reach of those of a higher socioeconomic class by offering competitively priced groceries and a spectrum of comparable products. They’re also aiming to ensure that EBT and WIC benefits will eventually be allowed for use in their market.

In asking what one thing Angelica wished shoppers recognized about Good Eggs, she replied “We want customers to understand that Good Eggs is the simplest way to get groceries every week. That we’re priced the same as major markets, but we source directly so it’s as fresh as if you were getting them from a farmer’s market.”

Seem too good to be true? You be the judge.

Corporate chefs

If you’re in the San Francisco area give Good Eggs a try to see for yourself if they stack up. I can tell you first hand that after visiting their facility, I’m impressed not only with their food, but with their people. They truly believe in what they do and are determined to change the world.

Plus, where else are you going to find a whole pig’s head?

I can’t wait to see what they do next…

Culinary Consultants



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December 26th, 2016

Food Trends: Izakayas

Posted in Food Trends, Gastro-Pub, Japanese, Trends

Izakayas: The Japanese Gastropub


Takoyaki – Kome

Don’t know what izakayas are? You’re about to.

Japanese cuisine provides us with a large variety of foods that continue to engage our imaginations and our palates. The prevalence of sushi and ramen has paved the way for more unfamiliar Japanese fare to make inroads into the American diet.

Such fare often comes by way of izakayas, the Japanese Gastropub. These diners focus on small plates served in a casual atmosphere, usually paired with sake or beer. A commonplace for an after work drink and a bite to eat in Japan, izakayas can be likened to an Irish pub. As Susan Malovany writes in the June edition of Culinology Magazine, izakayas are all about “small plates and portion control, healthy options, global foods, umami and variety.”

Over the last decade, izakayas have begun to flourish in the United States. As with most Asian food trends, they began showing up on the west coast and in New York, but have spread inward and can now be found in most major cities. Izakayas run the gamut from fine to casual dining and mirror the trend of taking simple comfort foods and elevating them to new heights with influences of different cultures. This can be seen in the utilization of continental ingredients such as beets and Brussels sprouts.

Austin Izakayas

Oyster – Otoko

You can find staples such as edamame and seaweed salad mixed in with less familiar dishes like takoyaki (octopus dumplings), uni, and chicken hearts. Varieties of sushi, sashimi, and noodle soups are also served at izakayas, offering options to even the pickiest of food adventurers. This variety displays the true beauty of the izakaya.

Izakaya Austin

Courtesy of Gallivant.com

Izakaya Den in Denver, for instance, is a local favorite and sister restaurant to Sushi Den. Fresh fish is flown in daily from Japan for sushi and specials, and their menu is diversified with a range of foods from steamed duck buns to roasted beet salad.

Chef Consultants

Jellyfish – Otoko

Austin also proves a great city for izakaya dining. Tyson Cole has given us the likes of Uchi, Uchiko, and Paul Qui gives us the more highbrow Otoko. Chef Kazu Fukumoto chose to go more casual with Fukumoto just east of downtown. Komé offers those on the north side of the city a fantastic menu of small plates along with a great ambiance.

There are plenty of great izakayas across the country, all worth a visit. From Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya in New York to Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar and Izakaya in San Francisco, there is always great food and innovation to experience. Whenever visiting a new city, I recommend looking at the local izakayas and always asking what the house special is and trying that, regardless of how strange it might seem. You never know where you might find your next favorite dish.

So, explore and eat my friends, and let us know what you find!




Izakayas to Try:

Izakaya Den
1487-A South Pearl St.
Denver, CO 80210

Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya
187 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002

Shizen Vegan Sushi & Izakaya
370 14th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103

514 Medina St.
Austin, TX 78702

Uchi / Uchiko
801 S. Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78704
4200 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78756
Uchi Website
Uchiko Website

4917 Airport Blvd.
Austin, TX 78751


Since the initial writing of this blog Austin got news of a new izakaya concept from the co-owners and executive chefs of Ramen Tatsu-ya. Opening in what was the location of Live Oak BBQ, the new restaurant called Kemuri Tatsu-ya, will feature Texas inspired izakaya dishes intended to be shared.

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