December 10th, 2018

Unique 2018 Food Trucks

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Food Trucks

Three Unique 2018 Food Trucks Stand Apart

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

2018 Food Truck Trends

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

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

India Jones Chow Truck

Los Angeles, CA
Website
310-310-3964

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

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

2018 Food Trucks India Jones

Photo courtesy of IndiaJonesChowTruck.com

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

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

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

@La’s – A Hmong Food Cart

Aloha, OR
Website
971-330-5989

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

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

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

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Photo Courtesy of PDXMonthly.com

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

Patrizi’s

Austin, TX
Website
512-522-4834

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

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

2018 Food Trucks Patrizi's

Photo courtesy of Patrizis.com

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

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

Cheers!

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November 26th, 2018

New in Sauce Trends

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Sauce

Let’s Talk Sauce Trends

Because every dish gets better with sauce!

Why do we even care about sauce trends?

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

italian

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

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

Italian Crossover

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

harissa

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

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

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

Global Entry

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

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

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

Move Over Canton

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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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

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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.

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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.

garlicgingerwings3

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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May 7th, 2018

Worlds of Flavor 2018: A Review

Posted in Culinary Conferences, Food Trends

So Much to Learn, So Much to Eat

Worlds of Flavor

Worlds of Flavor 2018 is over. Done. Gone. Fin. You know what that means? It means I must wait a YEAR before I get to spend another 4 days in Napa eating amazing food, drinking terrific wine, and learning everything I possibly can from one of the most unique, talented, and diverse group of chefs and culinary presenters from the world over. This is my sad face.

However, I’ve never been one to sulk. So, what better way to cheer myself up than to share some of the great information and amazing revelations that came from the Culinary Institute of America’s 2018 Worlds of Flavor conference.

The Immigrant Kitchen

Food Trends

First, let’s discuss this year’s main topic: Immigrant Kitchens. As Krishnendu Ray summarized, “American” cuisine, at its essence, truly is immigrant cuisine. The food in America is a hodgepodge, or perhaps a better metaphor would be, a delicious soup of ingredients, culinary methods, and recipes from all over the world. Even the food we often consider decidedly American (hamburgers, hot dogs, apple pie) is adopted from early European settlers. And since colonialists did everything they could to wipe out Native American crops and traditions, it certainly received very little influence from their culture.

Yet here we are hundreds of years later and nothing, yet everything, has changed. Immigrants still account for the clear majority of those employed in restaurants (about 14 million nationwide according to Ray). Of the over one million restaurants in the United States, more than fifty percent (according to Ray) define themselves as a category other than “American.”

A big difference is that now, Asian cuisine (esp. Japanese and Korean) has become exceptionally popular even though it tends to be, on average, more expensive than European cuisine. So, what does this tell us?

It tells us that Americans are becoming interested in complex, unfamiliar flavors. It tells us diners are looking for experiences and adventure when they are dining out, not only food. And it tells us it’s time to start thinking about how we can start introducing some of these more uncommon flavors and ingredients into mainstream foods in subtle, safe, and easily approachable ways (just not crickets, at least not yet).

Observations

Now that we’ve had our lesson for the day, let’s jump into the fun part: Food trends, observations, and direct applications.

Asian Flavors

Culinary institute of America

I know we touched on this above, but it cannot be overstated. Asian flavors (Japanese, Thai, Korean, Filipino, etc.) have cemented themselves into American cuisine and they will only continue to grow in experimentation and popularity.

Miso is a ubiquitous broth, but now I’ve seen it flavored with different ingredients like koji and mustard. Fish sauce is becoming less polarizing. In fact, a study has shown that you can replace 25% of the sodium in a sauce or chicken stock with fish sauce with no discernible difference in taste.

Thai cuisine’s high usage of coconut and aromatics plays well with the nutrition focused crowds, while the craveable fermented flavors of Korean and Filipino foods are drawing praise nationwide.

Next Level Sauces

Worlds of Flavor

Sauces are food art. A combination of liquids, solids, spices, and seasonings come together to form a homogeneous solution of deliciousness (at least when done properly). They also conveniently add flavor to items that may otherwise be bland.

Lucky for us, there were plenty of new and delicious sauces and no bland food.

Of note was the movement back toward complex chile-based sauces. Rather than simply a cascabel sauce, we saw how a mix of chiles like smoky cascabel, arbol, pasilla, and aji amarillo can create balanced and new flavor profiles. It was nice to see multiple moles in use as well, including a yellow mole made with lemon, aji, and cashew.

Thai citrus sauces are evolving using local produce and artisan fish sauces. Modern American cuisine is utilizing aromatic broths made from the liquid of pickled and fermented vegetables served with creamy cheese-filled pasta.

Africa is also coming into focus with its pepper-based sauces, including a Trinidadian green sauce made with green chiles, cilantro, lemon, ginger, and onion. While we know in commercialization we can see losses in volatile flavors like cilantro, this can act as a peep hole into the possibility of crossover sauces good for Asian, Mexican, or African applications.

Added Nutrition

New Flavors 2018

Making foods more healthful is a trend that’s here for the long haul (thank goodness). But diners are interested in more than just low sugar and fat these days.

Fermented foods are growing in popularity due to their umami deliciousness, yes, but also their noted assistance in healthy digestion. High fiber foods have shown to assist in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and the reduction of colorectal cancer.

Within this trend, however, diners still want to enjoy a satisfying meal and be entertained. This balance is helping drive the movement of plant-centric plates, meaning the vegetable is the star of the plate, but it doesn’t have to be vegetarian.

Au Revoir Worlds of Flavor

This only scratches the surface of the information gained from the 2018 CIA Worlds of Flavor conference. I didn’t even get into the resurgence of tamales, the reinvigoration of fine Mexican cuisine, or the endlessly fascinating fonio grain. But, I can’t expect you to read forever. Honestly, I’m surprised you made it this far.

I hope you gained something valuable from this post, and I implore you to leave a comment, question, or share an observation below. Let’s start a conversation about the future of food.

Culinary Trends 2018

Cheers!

 

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