September 9th, 2019

Hot New Menu Items

Posted in Food Trends, New Foods and Flavors, Promotions

New Menu Items Show Love for Smoke and Heat

New Menu Items

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

Dickey’s BBQ Pit

Smoked Chicken Wings

Photo courtesy of Dickeys.com

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

Norm’s

New Menu Items

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

Red Lobster

New Menu Items

Photo courtesy of RedLobster.com

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

Subway

Smoked Brisket Sandwich

Photo courtesy of Subculture.Subway.com

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

Taco Bell

Baked Cheddar Chalupa

Photo courtesy of Thrillist.com

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

What’s Next?

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

Cheers!

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August 12th, 2019

BBQ is King on Summer Menus

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Restaurants

Between LTO’s and Menu Updates, BBQ Reigns

BBQ is King

Summer is in full swing and according to menus nationwide, BBQ is king!

Aside all the frozen cocktails, fruit-focused summer salads, and swimsuit friendly bites, you’ll find smoky barbecue options hitting the mark. This trend isn’t simply relegated to full-service restaurants, it’s occurring across all market segments. Just check the menus…

BBQ on Summer Menus

Fast Food

BBQ Trends

Photo courtesy of chikfila.com

It looks like the fast food segment is all for the push to savory BBQ flavors. Chick-fil-A recently launched their Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Chicken Sandwich, while KFC has re-released their Smoky Mountain BBQ and Georgia Gold options. Across the board, burger staples like McDonald’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., and Jack in the Box are all featuring a seasonal BBQ option. Even Arby’s is on board with their Bourbon BBQ Sandwich selection.

Quick Service

BBQ Flavors

Photo courtesy of chewboom.com

QSR businesses are known for their trend forward ways and menu flexibility. It’s part of what makes them special. So, it’s no surprise to see BBQ options on these menus as well. Starbucks is taking their chance on a Honey BBQ Sriracha Chicken Sandwich, while Boston Market is going with a re-release of the Bourbon Bacon Rotisserie Chicken. MOD Pizza is blending pineapple with BBQ on their limited edition “Fred Pizza,” featuring Canadian bacon, roasted pineapple, red onion, and a sweet BBQ sauce swirl.

Full Service

BBQ on Menus

Photo courtesy of Chilis.com

Ruby Tuesdays, known for their epic salad bar, is upping their game with a Hickory Bourbon Bacon Sirloin. Chili’s has gone even further, pushing their BBQ options onto a new Smokehouse Combo menu, where you can mix and match choices of smoked brisket, cheesy bacon BBQ chicken, BBQ ribs, and smoked sausages. Outback Steakhouse has found legs in the BBQ trend with options like the Aussie Twisted Ribs and the BBQ Pork Porterhouse.

Where there’s smoke there’s fire!

And these flavor trends are hot! It’s no coincidence that BBQ is King on national menus. We saw massive growth with BBQ flavors last year, and 2019 doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. So, don’t fall behind, give the people what they want with unique new BBQ flavors and pairings.

Cheers!

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April 8th, 2019

New Hot Sauces

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

A Wave of Global Flavors Brings Us New Hot Sauces

New Hot Sauces

In our last blog we discussed new trends in hot sauces revolving around global influences. We saw how Asia, the Middle East, and Africa are helping to drive the hot sauce flavor boom.

In this week’s blog, we’re going to discuss how hot sauces and chilies are imposing their will into other food categories as well.

Specifically Spicy

In the wake of all these wonderful chile-based sauces hitting the market, consumers are starting to recognize their favorite varieties. A new trend for consumers wanting a specific chile in their sauce is becoming prevalent.

New Hot Sauce Trends

For example, La Meridana is making waves with their variety of Habanero hot sauces. They come in different flavors, like green, red, and mango. Sriracha flavor has been popular so long it’s starting to find it’s way into lots of other foods. For example, popcorn, protein bars, and chickpea puffs.

Ancho is another chile getting its own stage. With a smoky sweet profile, Ancho is a perfect fit for hot sauces, BBQ sauces, and pretty much anything else. Just check out Frontera’s Ancho Pepper Adobo sauce. If Rick Bayless is doing it, it’s probably a good thing. Also, peruse Sauce Piquante’s lineup featuring jolokia, fatali, and arbol.

Chile-Based BBQ

New Hot Sauces

Photo courtesy of kuhne.de

BBQ sauce has never been a stranger to spice. Cayenne and chipotle are pretty much standard fare in BBQ these days. But now, food manufacturers are getting creative with new flavors and chilies.

Kuhne, for example, just launched their “Made for Meat” line of BBQ sauces. A standout of this is the Grilled Paprika Sauce. A nice twist on a familiar flavor. Wildly Delicious’s line of Badass BBQ Sauces also feature a pair of unique flavors: Roasted Garlic & Smoked Sriracha Mop Sauce, and Ghost Chili & Mango BBQ sauce.

Even brands like Williams and Sonoma are ahead of the curve with their Ghost Chili Garlic BBQ sauce. If ghost chilies are officially mainstream, I think the floodgates are effectively wide open.

Sweet & Fruity Hot Sauces

Coming along for the ride with the unique new chilies are the fruits and sweeteners that help balance them out. Sweet and spicy just seem to fit together like peas and carrots, or pigs and blankets. Or whatever you think fits together. You get the idea.

Hot Sauce Trends 2019

As we saw previously, La Meridana’s habanero sauces featured a mango variation, but they also have a papaya habanero sauce. Mexican chamoy sauce also uses fruit to balance heat. It’s made using pickled fruits, like apricots, and ancho chilies blended together with lime juice and spices to form a thick sauce or paste. It’s gaining a lot of steam in restaurants nationally for its unique sweet, spicy, and tangy profile.

Chocolate hot sauces, hot honey, and even kimchi jam also fit into this category in their own unique way. No matter how you pair it, people like a touch of sweet with their spice.

New Hot Sauces in Restaurants

Many mainstream restaurants are not shying away from the spice trend with unique new hot sauces and flavors. Mod Market is highlighting their Merida Salad made with a guajillo lime vinaigrette. CAVA Mediterranean restaurant makes a Spicy Lamb Meatball with harissa and cilantro, along with a savory tomato-based harissa spread.

The Thirsty Lion Gastropub and Grill hits the mark on its menu with the gochujang and kimchi fried rice. Minnesota based BBQ Chain Famous Dave’s marries sweet heat with their Pineapple Rage hot wings. Finally, don’t be surprised to find an Ancho Chile Salmon on the menu of your local Chili’s.

Ciao for Now

Now that you’re enlightened, go out and set some new trends. I can’t wait to see what new hot sauces pop up this year.

Cheers!

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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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April 24th, 2017

Restaurant Review: Kemuri Tatsu-Ya

Posted in Fire, Food Trends, Restaurants, Reviews, Smoke

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya Reviews

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya Review

IRASSHAIMASE! Or, “Welcome to our place,” (roughly translated at best) is how every diner is enthusiastically greeted at Chefs Aikawa and Matsumoto’s new restaurant, Kemuri Tatsu-YA. Originated from the Japanese word for smoke, Kemuri is a thoughtful blend of Texas fare and traditional Japanese izakaya plates.

I was particularly excited to dine here, not only because I expected the food to be top notch, but also because it combines two national trends I recently wrote about: Fire/smoke flavors and the explosion of Japanese izakayas.

The restaurant itself lies on East 2nd St. in the Holly neighborhood, in what used to be the home of Live Oak Barbecue. The interior combines the street art loving design and flair of the Ramen Tatsu-Ya locations with a hodgepodge of Texas based pictures and knickknacks.

Enough of that though, you came here for the food, and there’s LOTS to cover. So, let’s get to it.

First Wave

Izakayas Austin

Marinated Jellyfish and Octopus

Marinated Jellyfish

Starting off strong! The raw jellyfish marinated in a tangy sweet and sour sauce had an awesome crunchy texture and great flavor balance. Perfectly simple, this turned out to be one of my favorite dishes of the night.

Marinated Octopus

This raw octopus bowl was salty, spicy, slimy, and chewy all in the rights ways. Wonderfully unique and a textually bizarre.

Second Wave

Fries with Eyes

These fried whole smelt were served with a nice vinegary dipping sauce in which you are instructed to let the fish soak in for about 30 seconds. While this diminishes the crispy texture, it helps balance the robust fishy flavor of the smelt, leaving a tender, tasty snack. Not bad, not bad at all.

Chicken Liver Skewer

I won’t lie, while I like offal, I don’t love liver. What I do love is courage, especially the courage to put not one, but two liver dishes on a menu. While low on my list of favorites, the chicken livers were smoky and well-balanced with the sweetness from a caramelized onion garnish. This demonstrated a great use of binchotan.

Monkfish Liver

This one surprised me. Made into a pate coin, the monkfish liver was mild and smooth. The flavor profile was very subdued, which is saying something for such a pungent ingredient. Definitely worth a try.

Third Wave

Pickle Plate

A creative assortment of Japanese and Southern vegetables adorned this take on a pickle plate. Standouts were the mushrooms and collard greens, as well as the amazingly complex smoked daikon radish.

Green Tomato and Avocado Skewer

Absolutely nailed this one! Perfect texture, great flavors, and all around fun dish. The kewpie mayonnaise and sweet and sour sauce were excellent compliments to the tartness of the green tomato and fattiness of the avocado.

Fourth Wave (Getting Full Yet?)

Chicken Karaage

Pronounced KAH-rah-AH-gay (and yes we did triple check), these Japanese fried chicken thighs were a fastball down the middle. Crunchy, salty, fatty, and delicious. A can’t miss crowd-pleaser.

Crispy Onigiri

I won’t lie, this one disappointed me. I love onigiri, but this version was oily to the point of greasy, and absolutely required the pickled vegetable to be eaten along with it to balance out the unctuous flavor of the smoked fish stuffing.

BBQ Eel

Holy game-changer! Tender, smoky, flavorful, and extremely unique. This one-of-a-kind preparation personifies the overall theme of the restaurant in a single, delightful bite. Personally, I’d recommend pushing off some of that herb salad to make way for more of that tender meat.

Fifth Wave (Starting to feel it…)

Ramen Austin

BBQ Tsukemen

BBQ Tsukemen

A thousand times YES! Even with our rapidly filling bellies we were fighting over the next bite. No surprise here, but the broth was amazingly rich and flavorful with all the body of Ramen Tatsu-Ya’s fame and the flair of smoky mesquite and spice.

(Seriously!?) 6th Wave

What can we say? We’re gluttons…

Chili Cheese Takoyaki

Another slight miss. The takoyaki themselves were crunchy, gooey, and full of savory octopus flavor, but the chili sauce was just far too sweet. Points for a superb presentation though.

Smoked Edamame

Great flavor and seasoning, robust smoky flavor, and generous portion size, but the pods themselves were soft and uninspiring. I missed the familiar crisp of wok fired edamame.

Hot Pocketz

Brisket and Gouda stuffed between two pieces of fried cheese covered tofu… Nothing else to say. Eat this. Always.

7th Wave (Bring it on)

Culinarians

Sorry for the bad picture, we couldn’t wait.

Yuzu Pecan Pie

A great twist of a classic southern pecan pie. The citrusy yuzu played great with the crunchy pecans and Azuki bean whip. I especially enjoyed the mild sweetness here, making it a joy to eat while finishing my shochu flight.

Roasted Banana Pudding

Loved the miso caramel paired with the smoky roasted bananas. Great texture from the kokuto crunch, again not too sweet, and an all around great finish.

Final Thoughts

I know this has been a long one, so thanks for sticking it out. In the end, Kemuri set out a unique, courageous, and overall delicious spread. While I didn’t love every dish I certainly appreciated the risks they were taking. This is an exciting, satisfying dining experience that I would call a can’t miss. These kinds of bold leaps are what makes dining fun.

Rating: 9/10.

Location
2713 E 2nd St.
Austin, TX 78702
http://kemuri-tatsuya.com/

P.S. I didn’t cover the drink menu, but to summarize: We drank much, all of it was good.

 

Cheers!

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March 27th, 2017

Food Trend Series: Free the Fire

Posted in Consumer Trends, Fire, Food Trends, Smoke

Research chefs

The Flavors of Fire Reign Supreme

It would seem that the love of smoke and fire have finally been accepted by the mainstream. Need proof? Check out Little Caesars latest release of the Smokehouse Pizza, topped with brisket, pulled pork, and smoked bacon along with a smokehouse seasoned crust.  Arby’s serves a similar Smokehouse sandwich made with brisket and smoked Gouda cheese. Even Applebee’s has jumped into the mix with the roll out of their wood fired grills in select locations.

Menu development

Image courtesy of Restaurant Facility Business

Tracking menu insights from 3rd quarter 2015 and 2016 the market research firm Mintel placed smoked flavors atop their list of rising flavor trends(1).

Empirical evidence backs up these statements as well. Think of how common smoked salts, fire roasted tomatoes or chilies, and charred citrus have become. Menus show items like smoked butterscotch coffee, fire roasted vegetables, and charred artichokes. Heck, one of the best cocktails I’ve ever drunk was served to me last weekend and included freshly burnt rosemary and mescal.

We can also see these fiery flavors showing up in condiments. Chipotle ketchup, pecan wood smoked maple syrup, smoked onion marmalade, and smoked black pepper pickles to name a few. I have no doubt a simple Google query would bring up a slew of other products I haven’t thought of. 

Fine dining restaurants nationwide have long been pushing the flaming trend forward with the use of wood burning stoves. Local to Austin you can enjoy foods slow roasted over wood fires at the likes of Odd Duck or Dai Due, the latter using beautiful customized elevator grills. Nationally, you can find wood fire kitchens from coast to coast, but for our New York friends a stand out would be Lilia in Brooklyn.

Lilia Hearth, courtesy of Tasting Table

Lilia Hearth, courtesy of Tasting Table

As chefs, we are stoked (get it?) by the fired and smoked food trend, as it hearkens back to the origins of cooking food with only wood and a spark. I feel a beard growing just thinking about it.

We would love to hear what you’re seeing out there in your culinary travels. Be sure to leave a comment and let us know.

 

Cheers!

-Chris

1. Weisberg, Karen. "Flavor Advances: Top Trends for 2017." Culinology. December 2016: 10-17. 6 Mar., 2017.
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March 3rd, 2011

Good Ol’ Texas Barbecue

Posted in Pork, Travel

Finding the best barbecue in Texas is like looking for the best cheese curds in Wisconsin, the best lobster roll in New England, or the best microbrewery in the Northeast.  It’s a he-said, she-said type of debate and what it really boils down to is personal taste.  The one thing nearly all Texas barbecue aficionados can agree on is this: beef is king, and more specifically, brisket.  Recently I was fortunate enough to take a small tour of Texas barbecue joints.  What I found is a wide array of juicy brisket, both lean and fatty, smoky hand-made sausage, tender smoked turkey and sticky-sweet stick-to-your-ribs ribs. Read more »

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