February 3rd, 2020

All Hail the Gastropub

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Gastro-Pub

2020 Looks to be the Year of the Gastropub

Gastropub

On a previous blog we discussed the Fastest Growing Restaurant Concepts in America, one of which being the gastropub (or brewpub). Here we are now in 2020, and it looks as if gastropubs are still on track to be one of, if not the, fastest growing concepts.

While this is all well and good, I really wanted to know why America has such a fascination with the gastropub. Sure, they offer food and drink, much like most bars and restaurants. They also promote hearty socialization and interaction, but that’s not uncommon in the F&B industry either. So why do we love them so much? The answer, I believe, lies in the menu.

The Best Gastropubs in the U.S.

Recently, USA Today released its list of the Reader’s Choice 10 Best Brewpubs in the U.S. These brewpubs span the country from San Diego to Maine, and Chicago to Colorado. What this gives us is a terrific cross-section of guests voting on what are essentially their favorite foods.

So, I thought it would be prudent to review the menus from all these award-winning gastropubs and see what they have in common (aside from beer). The answer? Quite a bit.

Trends

Gastropub food

All the brewpubs that made the 10 Best list are covering multiple food trends, many of which we’ve covered right here on our blog. From smoke & BBQ, to decadent poutines, and a ubiquitous inclusion of Asian flavors and flatbreads. The trends drive the menus, which in turn bring the guests.

The chef-driven style and flavor impartiality of these establishments showcase a unique ability to change with, and even drive, food trends. Customers of gastropubs tend to be willing to take more risks, try new foods, and be curious about things they haven’t had before. If that wasn’t their nature, they wouldn’t be going to a place brewing their own unique, small-batch brewed beers.

Bold Flavors

So, we see up-to-date trends represented with unapologetic bounty in gastropubs, but as we know, that doesn’t matter if the food is bland or dull. That’s the next common trait for these eateries: big, bold flavors.

Across the menus you’ll find items like Gastropub TrendsFresno chili sauce, beer-based BBQ sauces, bulgogi, gochujang, smoked buffalo, and Nashville hot sauce. These come in a variety of applications such as flatbreads, sandwiches, salads, wraps, wings, fries, vegetables, and others.

The point is this, brewpubs are using powerful flavors, often by way of sauces, to deliver unique and captivating dishes to their guests. It seems to be working, otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about this steady rise in popularity.

Personally, I’m dying to try the beer-brined house-smoked wings slathered in beer BBQ sauce at 18th Street Brewery.

Kids Menus

Gastropub food

Image courtesy of ptaourchildren.org

Yes, I know this seems out of left field, but actually, I think it’s quite telling. While gastropubs may be craft beer-driven, they’re also positioning themselves as family-focused eateries.

This recognition of the younger crowd certainly allows more flexibility for patrons. The destruction of the brewpub’s “bar” stigma means they have become acceptable for family-dining. This opens access to a broader demographic of parents with children to patronize the gastropub without needing a babysitter.

Also, these kids’ menus are not just afterthoughts. They are well-thought out with familiar items like grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken tenders, and quesadillas, but elevated with items like pulled pork, brioche buns, and house-made mustard. Even kids are getting a it more experimental these days, but let’s hold off on the heirloom tomato aspic for now.

Gastropubs, the New Home of Innovation

There’s no doubt in my mind gastropubs will continue to rise in popularity over 2020. Their creativity, trend-focused execution, and welcoming atmosphere make them a perfect venue for guests of all ages and backgrounds.

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January 20th, 2020

2019 Food Trends: A Review

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Product Innovation

Use the 2019 Food Trends to Anticipate the Future

2019 Food Trends

We had a lot of fun monitoring the 2019 food trends. Everything from AI technology to Aji Amarillo hit the scene this last year, and boy was it a fun ride.

But now that we’re heading into 2020, it’s a good idea to look back on some of the past trends to see how they may influence this year. So, let’s do a quick review and discuss what we can expect in the new year.

2019 Food Trends

Smoke & BBQ

2019 Food Trends BBQ

Smoke flavors and BBQ dominated lots of national restaurant menus in 2019. From smoky brisket sandwiches to wood smoked and grilled chicken wings, the influence was widespread.

I expect to see the concept of chile-based and uniquely flavored BBQ sauces (like chocolate and mustard) continue to grow, along with Asian inspired BBQ sauces using chili-pastes and fermented flavors.

But also keep a look out for new types of smoke or smoked items other than meat. For example, maple smoked carrots, or mulberry smoked fish with rich BBQ glaze. Proteins aren’t the only items made better with smoke, and there’s no doubt diners are going to notice.

Chiles

We have just scratched the surface on what we can do with flavorful chiles. Fried, grilled, smoked, dried, we’re trying all of the methods to produce new flavors and extraordinary tasting experiences.

Flavorful Chiles

But while we’ve seen a big trend in extremely hot foods (i.e. Nashville Hot Chicken, and Carolina Reapers), the trend of chiles for flavor, more than heat, has been creeping up.

Expect to see more sauces and builds made using unique chiles, not necessarily for heat, but for flavor. Chiltepin chiles offer bold smoky notes, and their heat can be moderated by removing stems and seeds. The Costeno Rojo chile is quite nutty while Urfa Biber chiles provide and tobacco-like flavor that is sure to be new to most palates.

Meat Alternatives

Meat alternatives were huge in 2019. Brands like Impossible and Beyond Meat made an indelible mark in restaurants, food service, and retail, with dozens of competitors biting at their heels.

With this trend came a wave of thoughtfulness when it comes to food, not just in the ethics of its development, but the actual impact it has on our environment.

2019 Food Trends: Restaurant Greenhouses

Come 2020 expect to see a big push for “eco-friendly’ foods, and even eco-themed diners, serving sustainable menus. Beyond meat alternatives, this concept will focus on developing entire menus out of low-impact foods and hyper-local (i.e. grown in-store) produce. It’s a unique idea that has the potential of being one of the biggest trends of 2020.

Alright 2020, We’re Ready for You!

And we can’t wait to see what unpredictable trends are in store for us. Be sure to stay tuned to find out what’s next in food and flavors.

Cheers!

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October 7th, 2019

Flavor Trends: Aji Amarillo

Posted in Food Trends, Peru, Trends

Aji Amarillo is Quickly Finding its Place on Menus

Aji Amarillo

Photo Courtesy of SpecialtyProduce.com

In April of 2019 we posted a New Hot Sauces article which discussed the rising interest of specific chilies on menus nationwide. The trend for unique chile callouts was (and still is) gaining speed and finding a firm footing on menus.

Even before that we had done a write up on how aji amarillo can act as a unique flavor driver with its medium heat and bright, citrusy notes. Also, its versatility makes it a great addition to anything from BBQ and hot sauces, to aioli, salad dressings, or even pizza sauces.

Well it seems we may have been peering through the looking glass on that one, because aji amarillo is quickly finding a home on select menus.

Where is Aji Amarillo on the Menu Adoption Cycle?

Aji Amarillo Chilies

Image courtesy of HispanicKitchen.com

According to Datassential, aji amarillo currently sits at the “Inception” stage of the menu adoption cycle. This means that, as of now, it’s considered a premium ingredient that can be found on mostly fine dining menus and at ethnic independents.

And while this ingredient may be just starting to peak into adoption, it’s important to note that interest in aji has grown over 135% over the last 4 years. And with only 4% of the population having tried it, it’s a huge opportunity to create a unique menu item to gain new customers and leverage the trend of specific chile callouts.

Who’s currently Using Aji Amarillo?

Aji amarillo

Image courtesy of Suviche.com

Florida based ceviche chain Suviche is well-known for their love of the aji amarillo chile. It can be found in their homemade huancaina sauce, or on full display in their aji amarillo ceviche, tiradito, and the Aji de Gallina.

Killa Wasi, in Austin, TX, has put together a deliciously unique menu with a focus on aji chiles. The pepper is found in a spicy mayonnaise sauce, in cheesy queso dip, on braised Chichi pork, and atop their Texas style Lomo Saltado brisket.

How Can I Use Aji Amarillo?

This yellow/orange chile is as versatile as it is delicious. As we stated before, it makes a great addition to BBQ sauces, salad dressings, pizzas, and creamy dips or aioli.

Aji amarillo

Image courtesy of SeriousFoodie.com

Additionally, aji amarillo makes an excellent glaze or sauce for chicken wings, a relish for sandwiches or hot dogs, a marinade for fish, and a bright addition to ceviche. Or, go simple and blend aji amarillo sauce with mayonnaise and a hint of lime for an excellent dipping sauce for French fries.

It’s a Good Time to be Yellow

Because aji amarillo is coming soon, and it’s best to be ready for it. So, start discussing where you can fit this spicy little gem on your menu to ensure you’re ready to lead the trend with your own brightly colored, flavorful sauce.

Cheers!

 

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March 3rd, 2019

Time to Re-Think Chinese Food

Posted in Food Trends, Restaurants

It’s a New Era for Chinese Food

And it’s really stepping its game up

Chinese Food

For a long time, we in the states have associated Chinese food with the overly sweet, oily, and often deep-fried mess that comes from local restaurants. You know the types, they often throw the words “Jade,” “Garden,” or “Dragon” in their name to feign authenticity.

Luckily, times are changing. With the increase in culinary exploration currently happening, we’re seeing a re-birth of truly delicious Chinese restaurants. These purveyors reach back to the traditions of Cantonese and Sichuan cooking, using locally available ingredients and complementing them with savory sauces, spicy rubs, and umami rich glazes.

So let’s spotlight 3 restaurants changing what we think Chinese food should be.

Chinese Food in a New Light

Hop Alley – Denver, CO

Chef Tommy Lee, a Denver native, ventured into his second restaurant business with Hop Alley. His first spot, Uncle, is a well-renown noodle and Ramen bar in Denver.

With Hop Alley, however, he went from focusing on a single item (noodles), to developing a delicious and diverse menu of classic Chinese dishes with modern twists. The menu is especially conscious of using local products. The Cumin Lamb made with Colorado lamb ribs exemplifies this.

Modern Chinese Food

Photo Courtesy of Westword.com

The Char Siu (Chinese BBQ) Pork Shoulder and Sichuan Potatoes with fermented black bean sauce convey the traditional spirit of Sichuan and Cantonese cuisine. The main 2 regions we unwittingly reference when we speak of Chinese food. But more importantly, they do so without dumbing down the quality and complexity of what makes these foods special.

Duck Duck Goat – Chicago, IL

Bravo’s Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard has certainly made the most of her post-television life. Opened in 2016, Duck Duck Goat is Chef Izard’s 3rd restaurant, and personally, my favorite. DDG combines just the right blend of tradition, modern technique, and whimsy on the menu making it an unforgettable experience.

New Chinese Food

Picture courtesy of Chicagomag.com

The Char Siu Bao (there’s that Char Siu popping up again) are perfectly savory and chewy, acting as a terrific appetite warm up. Her menu further walks the tight rope of tradition with items like Wood-Fired Chicken Hearts with a sesame horseradish sauce, Sichuan Eggplant with goat sausage, and a fit-for-a-king whole Peking Duck with mandarin pancakes and an assortment of sweet, salty, and spicy Chinese sauces.

If DDG is not on your short list of Chicago restaurants, it definitely needs to be.

Wu Chow – Austin, TX

Everyone knows Austin is a culinary beacon for delicious Texas style BBQ. But what many folks outside this one-of-a-kind city don’t know is that it’s also a mecca for amazing Asian cuisine. Tyson Cole’s Uchi, Otoko from Chef Yoshi Okai, Thai Kun from Chef Paul Qui, and the plethora of Tatsu-Ya restaurants exemplify the breadth of delicious Asian cuisine in the city.

But not to be forgotten is the stand out hot spot of downtown Austin, Wu Chow. Executive Chef Ji Peng Chen brings a remarkably unique and delicious menu to life, highlighting familiar Chinese favorites and unknown oddities side by side in a winning tableau.

Chinese Food

Image Courtesy of atasteofkoko.com

The traditional soup dumplings (Xiaolongbao), made with pork shoulder and concentrated pork broth are some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Plus, it’s nice to get a little walk-through of the proper soup-dumpling procedure before you eat (dip in vinegar, place on spoon, bite a hole and suck out some soup, then eat the rest in one bite). For a nod to Texas, Chef Chen offers Wok-Tossed Texas Okra. Similar in preparation to dry fried green beans, the okra is made with ginger, Thai chili peppers, and a delicious seasoning mix. This is by far one of my favorite dishes.

For more abstract but delicious items try the Seafood Bird’s Nest, the hot and spicy Striped Bass, or the Chicken and Taro Egg Rolls. Really, you can’t go wrong.

Xièxiè

Thanks for reading along. I hope this article motivates you to go try out some new and unique Chinese food in your local area. If you know of any restaurants doing something special, be sure to let us know in the comments.

Cheers!

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February 18th, 2019

Vegetables to Center Plate Please

Posted in Food Trends, Vegetables

Veggies Continue to Earn Center Spot in Restaurants

Vegetables Focused Dining

It seems like everywhere I look right now I’m seeing or reading about vegetables taking a central role on plates and menus. From the Culinology Magazine’s December 2018 issue, “Plant-based Entrees,” to Nancy Kruse’s recent article “Vegetables Move to the Center of the Plate,” published on the Nation’s Restaurant News website, vegetables are steaming up trends all over the place.

This isn’t breaking news, however. We’ve even discussed this topic here on DishBliss before, with the “Vegetables Take Center Stage” article in 2015 and the “Plant-Based Protein Gaining Traction Article” in 2018.

What is new and noteworthy, is how well these changes are being received and how well restaurants are executing plant-based menus that speak to omnivores everywhere. There have been more than a couple breakout restaurants across the U.S. executing either vegetarian, vegan, or veggie-centric (focused on vegetables but still incorporate some meat products, mostly for flavoring) menus with great success and mass appeal.

Let’s shine a spotlight on a few of these locations nationwide.

Delicious Vegetable focused Restaurants Nationwide

City O’ City, Denver, CO

Vegetable Centric Dining

Anyone from Denver knows City O’ City. A staple of the town for the last 20 years, CoC reflects the modern, trendy, hipster/hippie vibe that can only exist in Denver. Part vegetarian and vegan restaurant and coffee shop, part late night bar and art studio, CoC offers both great food and great culture.

Menu items like the Savory Waffle with Vegetable Ragu and Kimchi Pancakes are presented for the more adventurous diner, safer items like the Cauliflower Chorizo Tacos and Seitan Buffalo Wings are safe and delicious options for someone a bit more hesitant. No matter what you choose, you’ll find an imaginative, filling, and most importantly, delicious meal that’ll make you not just forget about meat but fall in love with vegetables.

Bad Hunter, Chicago, IL

Vegetables

Image courtesy of ChicagoMagazine.com

Clever name, right? As it implies, Bad Hunter is a veggie-centric (not vegetarian) restaurant on the West Loop side of Chicago.

Rather than focus on the health benefits of veggies, Bad Hunter goes all in on the decadence. Try the Tempura Fried lemons with Black Garlic Bleu Cheese Dressing, or the Butter Dumplings with Candies Hazelnuts and Aged Balsamic to start. Then fill whatever room you have left with the Vegan Bahn Mi with Charred Trumpet Mushroom or the Black Garlic Tagliolini made with Koji-Almond Crema and Black Truffle.

Seriously, who needs meat when you have plates like that, right!?

Bouldin Creek Cafe, Austin, TX

Veggie focused dining

Image courtesy of CadrysKitchen.com

I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a breakfast spot as well, it is my favorite meal, after all. While it seems easy to do vegetarian breakfast (for ovo and lacto vegetarians at least), some do it better than others.  In point of fact, Bouldin Creek Cafe.

This quirky South Austin hangout is as popular as it is delicious. I’ve dined in multiple times, and no matter what day or time, I’ve always waited at least 10 minutes for a table. But the wait is well worth it for items like Zucchini and Cheese Migas with Fire Puree Scrambled Tofu or the Vegan Blueberry Cornbread finished with real maple syrup.

Or try my personal favorite, the Tamale Breakfast. Instead of pork or chicken, these delicious corny confections are stuffed sweet potato and Texas pecans and served with fresh, locally sourced fruit. Booking my flight now…

Vedge, Philadelphia, PA

Vegetarian Dining

Image courtesy of thetastesf.com

Finally, a restaurant from a pair of James Beard nominated chefs showing off just how special vegetable centric dining can be.

Vedge, operated by Chefs Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, offers an exciting menu based on seasonal vegetables in a beautiful historic brown house in Center City Philadelphia. Receiving accolades from Philadelphia Magazine and GQ, to Food & Wine and Bon Appetit, Vedge is rapidly becoming a prime destination restaurant.

Items like Rutabaga Fondue with Fresh Pretzel and Ssamjang Tofu with Burnt Miso make it easy to understand why Vedge is topping the charts. Other delicious bites include Seared Maitake Mushroom with Smoked Remoulade, Romanesco Carbonara, and Stuffed Avocado with Pickled Cauliflower and Fried Rice.

Ciao for Now

We’ll keep an eye on the veggie-centric landscape and let you know if anything else pops-up. In the meantime, it would be wise for restaurants, local and national, to start adopting the idea of vegetable focused items or menus to catch this trend early.

Cheers!

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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.

food-trucks-2018-las

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.

Close

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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July 2nd, 2018

Indian on the Rise

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends

and I couldn’t be more excited…

pexels-photo-958546

Much to my delight, Indian cuisine is on the rise in the American palate. This niche of food is steadily growing in the United States today. This is shown through the rise of Indian inspired dishes, casual Indian eateries, and expanding variety of easy to cook Indian dishes at home.

Indian fusion and inspiration is creeping it’s way into mainstream. Restaurants such as the Bombay Frankie Co in L.A. are starting to serve item such as Indian burritos. We’re seeing Masala Pizzas, Indian burritos, and other delectable mashups. These combinations are encouraging accessibility and new experiences to the American palate.

Quick service restaurants have also seen a rise in Indian flavors. In Texas, we’re seeing more and more local quick service restaurants such as Tarka Indian Kitchen and Masala Wok appear. The well-known G’Raj Mahal food truck on Rainey Street has now earned a brick and mortar location. Quick service Indian food can be served as easily as a Chipotle style DIY assembly line or a conveniently on-the-go as Indian styled tapas (think tandoori seared chicken).  Indian food is delicious, fresh, and easy to make for quick service.

pexels-photo-277253

In supermarkets, the curry section is no longer a few bricks of seasonings mixed in with the rest of the tiny Asian section. Brands that are selling easy to make Indian sides or even main dishes such as Tasty Bite, Maya Kaimal’s simmer sauces, and Patak’s are starting to take over shelf space. These products paving opportunities to make Indian at home without the usual length of preparation time. The millennial appreciation for more and more complex flavors is adding to the popularity of Indian food today.

Thanks for reading along and let us know where you’re seeing Indian cuisine pop up in the comments section below.

Cheers!

pexels-photo-221143

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June 11th, 2018

Single-Focus Restaurants Offer New Benefits

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends

Single-Focus Concepts Are Bringing a New Norm

pexels-photo-806357

Instead of looking for the best restaurant specializing in a regional cuisine, how about looking for a restaurant that specializes in the best execution of a single item?

If this idea seems strange to you, it shouldn’t. According to Datassential, 46% of consumers are looking for these types of single-focus restaurants. This change in the tide may come with some discomfort, but for food producers, there are many benefits.

Focusing on the production of a single item allows a restaurant to do several things, including: Minimize overhead, reduce stock, streamline operations, reduce waste, easily replicate kitchen and menu designs, experiment with flavor in a low-risk environment, and, perhaps most importantly, focus on quality.

pexels-photo-236488

For manufacturers, single-focus concepts give opportunities to create foods with exotic flavors and unique attributes that otherwise might have not had an audience in the past, find creative ways to cross-utilize ingredients to reduce waste, bring in new talent to update the creative process, and develop new distribution avenues thanks additionally to the continued rise in global flavors.

Macbar in New York focuses on making a variety of high quality macaroni and cheese, including flavors like chipotle chili and cognac and tarragon. Super Chix, based out of Dallas, TX, focuses on the production of high-quality chicken sandwiches and diversifies them with an array of sauces including Nashville Hot, Mississippi Comeback, and Sweet BBQ.

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Brooklyn’s Arancini Bros. focuses on, as the name eludes, savory balls of breaded and fried risotto rice. Flavor offerings include spicy buffalo with Gorgonzola cheese, classic ragu, and Pizzaiola (tomato-braised steak). And finally, a personal favorite of mine, Ramen Tatsu-Ya based out of Austin, TX, sets it’s sights on making a variety of craveable ramen bowls made with a spectrum of sauces including Thai chili and habanero, chunky red pepper paste, and Japanese citrus with Serrano, jalapeno, and garlic.

Single-focus restaurants will continue to stretch the limits of the consumer’s palates with new flavor experimentation, rapid flexibility, and increasing food quality. Their efficiency and scalability will allow for fast growth and broad distribution, making them a prime asset for food manufacturers. In order to keep the pace, manufacturers need to remain focused on trends and adopt levels of versatility not previously seen in the industry.

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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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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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