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.

pexels-photo-280453

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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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.

 

Cheers!

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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.

Cheers!

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