November 12th, 2018

What is Jersey Style Pizza?

Posted in Trends

Seriously, Explain Jersey Style Pizza

Recently, at a food show, I overheard a group of people discussing pizza trends and how we should be on the lookout for “Jersey style pizza.” Now, I wasn’t unfamiliar with the term, but really didn’t have a good grasp of what it meant. So, I asked.

New Jersey Style Pizza
Photo courtesy of Thedailymeal.com

What I received as response, aside from a hearty chuckle (inside joke I suppose), was “it depends on who you ask.” That answer, I felt, was unsatisfactory, so I decided to investigate for myself.

When I started researching Jersey style pizza, I came across quite a few differing opinions (many laced with sarcasm) of what it actually was. So, in retrospect, the depends on who you ask comment had some truth to it.

But, within those opinions, I was also able to stitch together the most common characteristics of the Jersey style of pie.

1. It’s All in the Name

While I was hearing and looking for “Jersey style pizza,” that’s not necessarily the moniker it goes by. This is probably the biggest reason why there are so many concepts of what the pizza is.

The more apt name for the Jersey style pizza  is “Tomato Pie,” or, the “Trenton Tomato Pie.” There’s a very specific reason for this title.

2. Order of Ingredients

Trenton Tomato Pie
Photo courtesy of Pizzatoday.com

We’re all familiar with the standard order of pizza ingredients, which goes like this: Crust – Sauce – Cheese – Toppings (of course there are variations, but for the sake of argument let’s just follow this example).

But for the Trenton Tomato Pie, the order is as follows: Crust – Cheese – Toppings – Sauce. Yep, sauce on top, which, for pizza aficionados everywhere, may sound familiar.

Chicago Stuffed and Detroit style pizzas also tend to feature the sauce resting on top of the other ingredients. Which is why the crust becomes important.

3. It’s What’s Underneath that Counts

The last deciding factor for Jersey sty–err–Trenton Tomato Pies that matters is the crust.

Unlike Chicago Stuffed and Detroit style pizzas, the Tomato Pie features a thin crust. Now, don’t think of it as a crispy, wafer-like thin crust you might be accustomed to, but more of a pliable, chewy style, similar to a New York or Neapolitan style crust.

Trenton Tomato Pie
Photo courtesy of 1000degrees.com

And finally, the shape matters. Tomato Pies keep the classic round shape, rather than adopting the square shape of Sicilian or the oblong style of New Haven pies. These characteristics in combination are what makes the pie unique among its brethren.

Put it all Together

Alright, so now that we have all the information let’s put it together.

Q: What is New Jersey Style Pizza?

A:

  • First, it’s called a Trenton Tomato Pie or Tomato Pie.
  • Second, it’s got the sauce on top.
  • Third, it’s a thin, chewy, round crust.

And there you have it, at least, as far as I can tell.

I want to hear from you though. If you are from Jersey, in Jersey, or just love Jersey and have some additional input on this subject leave a comment. I’d like to know if this amalgamation of information is an accurate representation of your state’s pie.

Cheers!

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October 15th, 2018

BBQ Sauce Trends in 2018

Posted in Food Trends, Restaurants, Trends

2018 Shows Growth in BBQ Sauce Categories

BBQ is a staple of all cultures, in lots of different ways.

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We’re all familiar with the BBQ styles of the South, like Memphis, Texas, and Kansas City, which are ubiquitous with the American style of barbecue. But now, we’re also seeing regions like Florida and California get noticed for their particular style.

Outside of the U.S., Asia has a long history of cooking using the barbecue method, and the word barbecue itself stems from the Taino term, barbacoa. And let’s not forget about the unique BBQ styles of the Native Americans and the Maori of New Zealand, who bury their food on beds of hot stones, covered with wet tarps and earth. This allows for a low and slow cooking style, complete with plenty of smoke.

Today we’re going to investigate the up and coming flavor trends in BBQ sauces in the U.S. Whether you like to slather on the sauce while cooking, dip after the food is done, or go Korean style with fermented sweet and spicy sauces, we’ve got you covered.

2018 BBQ Sauce Trends

Spicy

homemade-barbecue-sauce-sweet-and-spicy

Photo courtesy of JessicaGavin.com

It’s no surprise, even in the world of BBQ, consumers are looking for sauces that bring the heat. According to Restaurant Business Magazine, year over year growth of jalapeno-based BBQ sauces is averaging a 16.7% increase.

Chipotle BBQ has increased 79% on menus since 4th quarter of 2017 according to Provisioner Online. According to Diane Kelter, Mintel International’s food-service analyst, “Complex flavor combinations that provide a sweet heat combo, or a smoky sweet combo, will continue to drive more innovation in the category.”

Mustard

The secret is out, mustard-based BBQ sauces are really good. Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce, a mustard and vinegar sauce with plenty of brown sugar, has paved the way for broad-based introduction.

KFC rolled out their “Georgia Gold” sauce in 2017 with great reception. This take on Carolina Gold style riffs heavier on the sweet side, using honey over brown sugar, therefore making it more palatable to a larger demographic.

Trader Joe’s and French’s were quick to jump on the trend, creating their own branded mustard-based BBQ sauces. The next step will be seeing spicy variations of mustard sauces, which have started popping up in small restaurants and food parks, but not yet in the mainstream chains.

Korean BBQ

It just wouldn’t be a 2018 trend analysis if we didn’t talk about the Asian influence.

Hot Sauce

If it seems like you’re seeing Asian food everywhere, it’s probably because you are. The deep, rich flavors and complex aromatics of Asian cuisine drive taste buds wild and leave insatiable cravings for more.

In BBQ, gochujang has proliferated quite well. The salty, spicy, umami rich profile of this fermented bean paste is a perfect addition to the sweet/smoky bases of most BBQ sauces. Many restaurants, like Chi’Lantro out of Austin, TX, hide gochujang in their generically named sauces (i.e. Gangnam, Korean BBQ, Spicy Asian), making it more approachable for less exposed palates.

According to the NPD Group, the amount of Korean BBQ sauce shipped to U.S. independent chains and micro chains grew by 120% in 2017. I don’t expect to see that slow down anytime soon. If you don’t believe me, go try some. It’s delicious.

Close

That’s it for this week’s blog. Keep an eye out for new BBQ trends as they emerge share with us what you find.

Cheers!

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October 1st, 2018

2018 Chicken Wing Trends

Posted in Consumer Trends, Trends

What’s Trending in Flavor and Texture

Chicken wings are a ubiquitous fan favorite among Americans. Whether as an appetizer, a meal all itself, or, as the focus an event or celebration, chicken wings have not lost their popularity.

 

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In fact, according to the National Chicken Council, an estimated 1.35 billion chicken wings would be consumed during Super Bowl 52 alone! That shows an increase of almost 20 million chicken wings since 2017.

It’s no surprise then, given their popularity, restaurants continue to experiment with chicken wings in flavor and texture.

Flavor Trends

Asian

Asian flavors are pushing the envelope in almost all categories, and while wings are no stranger to Eastern flavors, they’re starting to get funkier, err, fishier.

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That’s right, fish sauce is boosting wings to another level of umami. Pok Pok Restaurants, based in Portland, OR, lead the way with the aptly named “Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings.” These crispy morsels are marinated in fish sauce and sugar, then tossed in a sauce of fish sauce and caramelized garlic.

MOPHO of New Orleans is no stranger to nam pla either. Their eponymous wings are coated in a caramel made from fish sauce, sugar, garlic, Thai chilies, ginger, and lime.

On the Korean side of things, Chi’Lantro Korean BBQ Inspired Restaurants serve their chicken wings in a house “Gangnam” sauce that features spicy gochujang paste. A fermented chili and bean paste, gochujang serves as the base for many Korean BBQ sauce recipes.

Smoke

Smoked flavors continue to drift into the mainstream, and wings offer a great medium to play with different types.

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Firebirds Wood Fired Grill amps up its classic Buffalo wings by smoking, chilling, then flash frying for service. Chili’s has entered the game as well with their pecan wood smoked wings glazed in zesty BBQ sauce.

Momofuku Noodle Bar of New York combines both the Asian inspired and smoked trends with their smoked chicken wings made with garlic, Thai chile, and scallions. Wingzup of Austin, TX, doubles down on the char by smoking their wings for 4.5 hours over hickory then grilling them over an open flame.

Texture

Along with flavor, chefs are starting to add different textures to their wings, elevating the simple dish and driving interest.

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At Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen they are serving up Thai Sticky Wings garnished with crushed peanuts and crispy spring-roll wrapper strips for added crunch. Bonchon Korean Fried Chicken Restaurant goes deep on the crunch by using cornstarch in the breading and twice frying their wings giving them a thin, ultra-crispy skin and immensely satisfying crispiness.

Finally, at Haisous in Chicago you can find chicken wings basted in a caramelized fish sauce and topped with crispy fried garlic and shallots. My mouth is watering just thinking about that depth of flavor.

Keep an eye out for other fun textures like potato chips, panko, and puffed grains as they start to make headway into the mainstream market.

Until next time, cheers everybody!

 

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August 27th, 2018

2018 Pizza Industry Review – Pt. 2

Posted in Consumer Trends, Pizza, Product Innovation, Restaurants, Trends

Enhanced ordering, & new menu items

Catch-Up

Welcome back friends. Let’s do a quick catch-up session here.

Last blog we talked about the 2018 Pizza Industry, focusing on consumer preferences (convenience, quality, affordability), national chain vs. independent restaurant stats, and international growth.

Today, we’ll cover new menu trends and enhanced ordering with a spotlight on new tech.

Menu Trends

2018 is the year of personalization. Customers are looking for unique toppings, signature pies, and the ability to make whatever wacky concoction pops into their mind (looking at you, unicorn pizza). This has led to an expansion in toppings held on the line for many restaurants (think Brussels sprouts, clams, and brisket).

2018 Pizza Trends

Photo Courtesy of Teen Vogue

This love for customization is also a contributing factor to the success of fast casual pizza restaurants like Blaze and Mod. Additionally, these restaurants are quite popular with guests looking for healthier options or suffering from allergies and intolerances. They have many offerings to help avoid triggers and amp up the health quotient while still creating a delicious personal pie.

Finally, Detroit style pizza has found a proper following and is trickling across the nation. Most major cities now offer Detroit style, which is a deep dish pizza made in a rectangular pan. Its caramelized edges and thick, chewy dough have been turning heads and gaining a stable of fans for good reason.

Enhanced Ordering

As we discussed in the consumer needs section on the previous post, technology and ordering convenience are major factors in the customer’s restaurant choice. With 69% of internet users choosing the online ordering option per Emarketer, it’s imperative for pizza restaurants to not only adopt this measure, but make it convenient and easy as well.

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Hand in hand with ease of ordering is efficient delivery. Customers want a fresh, hot pizza delivered to them within minutes of submitting the order, and, as it turns out, they prefer that delivery to be directly from the restaurant, rather than a third party service like GrubHub or DoorDash.

Pizza restaurants are also looking into new technology to help with faster delivery. Domino’s, for example, has developed proprietary technology that allows consumers to order pizza in multiple convenient ways (including through Twitter, Zero-Click ordering, the AnyWare app, and into the future with natural voice). They’ve even gone as far as to commission a line of automated vehicles complete with built-in pizza ovens that will be capable of baking a freshly made pizza en route to your home.

Conclusion

2018 Pizza Trends

That’s a wrap for the 2018 Pizza Industry Review. With all that’s happening around technological innovation, I can’t wait to see what the landscape looks like for 2019.

Be sure to comment about what you’ve seen or anticipate seeing in the future of pizza. The only limit is your imagination (see: Unicorn Pizza…).

Cheers!

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May 21st, 2018

Loro Restaurant Review

Posted in Celebrity Chefs, Restaurants, Reviews, Trends

Loro Debuts in South Austin

Loro Restaurant Review

If you live in Austin, and have not been hiding under a rock for the past 6 months, you’ve probably heard that Chef Tyson Cole (Uchi/Uchiko) and Aaron Franklin (Franklin BBQ) have teamed up to open Loro, an Asian smokehouse, in South Austin. If you don’t live in Austin, you probably should. Or at least come visit us for the food. It’s worth it.

Situated on South Lamar Blvd, across from the local favorite Black Sheep Lodge, Loro is presented as a rustic/chic Minka with layers of exposed wood, grand windows and skylights providing ample sunshine, and sprawling tables and counters promoting community dining and interactivity.

Austin Dining

Wisely, Loro has minimized staff and wait times by employing batch cocktails and fast-casual style counter ordering complete with GPS-based table trackers, allowing the food runners to find you anywhere in the restaurant. Say goodbye to table tents and card holders! And since we’re talking about cocktails, don’t sleep on the Gin and Tonic Boozy Slushie, it’s perfect on a summer day in Texas.

Loro Restaurant Austin

The menu is a unique hybrid of BBQ (smoked brisket) and Asian flavors (papaya salad, Chili aioli, Thai herbs), which merry in a surprisingly delicate way. This is where I feel Loro makes it’s name. When I first read of the Loro concept, I admit I was hesitant. Aside from the powerhouse names involved, it seemed like a riff off the already popularized Kemuri Tatsu-Ya (a personal favorite of mine). However, while Kemuri lives in a land of deep, bold flavors, Loro exists on a plane of subtle, complex flavors interspersed with dramatic, smoky low tones, for a completely different dining experience.

Loro Reviews

There were some clear standouts the menu, including the sweet/savory Kettle Corn (with burnt ends and togarashi), the beautifully displayed Char Siew Pork Shoulder Bowl, and the unforgettable Malaysian Chicken Bo Ssam. Seriously, the Bo Ssam. Get the Bo Ssam. Did you catch that? Bo Ssam! You won’t regret it. Just thinking about that juicy meat and the yellow curry-yuzu vinaigrette makes my mouth water, it’s Pavlovian really… But I digress.

Austin Restaurant Reviews

My two knocks on the menu would be the Texas sweet corn, which was underwhelming in flavor and seasoning, and the Chicken Karaage, which looked beautiful, but was missing the defining crunch that makes Karaage more than just fried chicken.

Restaurants Austin

Overall, the quality, flavor, and creativity of the menu shines through and makes Loro an excellent addition to the unique culinary landscape that defines Austin. With reasonable menu prices (the most expensive items on the menu sit at $18, while the average cost of a plate is $10.18) and an ultra-casual dining style, Loro also bucks the elitist dining trend, instead choosing to embrace curious eaters from all walks of life. I’ll raise my Apple Scotch Sour to that!

Loro Restaurant Review

Be sure to chime in on the comments section with your thought’s on Loro. Until next time…

Cheers!

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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!

Cheers!

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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.

Sambal

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.

Cheers!

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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!

Salud!

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