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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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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July 29th, 2019

Hibiscus Trend is Blooming

Posted in Food Trends, New Foods and Flavors

Hibiscus is trending on menus for its bright flavor and brighter color!

Hibiscus flower

I feel like it’s been too long since we’ve discussed flavor trends, so we’re going to end that streak today with a look at hibiscus.

Now, when I say hibiscus you probably think of a flower garnish on a Mai Tai or a component flavor in tea. But these vibrant flowers have proven to be a lot more versatile then we give them credit for. Their slightly bitter and citrusy flavor makes them perfect for an array of uses from garnish, sauces, beverages, and herbs.

Now Trending: Hibiscus

According to Datassential, hibiscus currently falls into the “adoption” stage of the Menu Adoption Cycle (MAC). This generally means that it’s gaining traction on menus but is still considered unique. It can be found at independent casual-dining and progressive fast-casual restaurants.

Hibiscus Glazed Wings

Image courtesy of Wahaca Twitter

It’s currently found on 6% of menus nationally, which is a 69% increase over the past 4 years. While the product is most familiar with Millennials and Gen Z, over half of the population has heard of it and almost a quarter have tried it. This leaves fertile ground to explore hibiscus in application.

In fact, the product Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup recently won the 2019 Front Burner Foodservice Pitch Competition. How’s that for timing?!

How to Use Hibiscus

Hibiscus is most commonly found in beverages, such as teas, cocktails, and agua frescas. But those are merely entry points for this ingredient.

Velvet Taco in Dallas serves their “Gator” taco on a hypnotically purple hibiscus taco shell. With its mild tartness, it’s a great balance to the fatty meat inside. You can use hibiscus in almost any bakery application to add color and an aromatic citric note.

Hibiscus Taco

Image courtesy of dallas.culturemap.com

Looking for a tangy sweet glaze for pork or lamb? Hibiscus and cranberry or orange make an excellent addition, cutting through the fattiness of the meat with bright, fresh flavor. It’s equally delicious in chutneys and vinaigrettes.

White fish and hibiscus also have a special relationship. It can be used as a dry rub, sweet sauce, or fresh garnish to bring a tropical note to the meat. It can also be an excellent component to ceviche, exemplified by Poca Madre’s Hamachi Ceviche, made with hibiscus, agua Jamaica, garlic, chile Serrano, and corn.

Where to Find Hibiscus

Hibiscus Ceviche

Photo courtesy of nrn.com

As its popularity grows, so does its availability. Hibiscus powder and dried flowers can often be sourced through networks like Shamrock and Sysco. Smaller producers, such as Iya Foods and the Wild Hibiscus Flower Company are also working on bringing their distribution up to meet the needs of a larger market.

Fresh hibiscus flowers can be more difficult to locate, but Fresh Origins, a micro greens company that works with most major distributors, can provide them.

Power to the Flower

As hibiscus continues along the MAC, we can expect to see new and unique methods of utilization. I, for one, expect to see it used often in sauces where color becomes almost as important as flavor. In our Instagram generation, it never hurts to pay attention to the aesthetics.

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May 20th, 2019

Time to Adopt Hatch Green Chiles

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Grocery

Hatch Green Chile on the Cusp of Proliferation

Hatch Green Chile Trend

Hatch green chiles are quickly making their way out of the Southwest and onto menus nationally. This smoky, not too spicy pepper currently maintains a massive following in the Southern and Western states. You can find Hatch chile festivals in Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and California, among others.

In fact, Texas-based Central Market grocery stores celebrate Hatch green chiles with a month of Hatch infused products. You can find everything from salsa and sandwiches, to Hatch lemonade and cream cookies.

That’s all well and good for this segment of the country, but what does it mean for the rest of the states?

Hatch Some Love

According to Nation’s Restaurant News and Datassential, Hatch chiles are currently in the Adoption stage on a national level. Therefore, the flavor is gaining popularity, but is still considered unique enough to be trendy. Independent casual dining and progressive fast casual restaurants tend to pick up the trends in this stage.

This is best evidenced by the 97% increase in menu mentions nationally over the last 4 years. Taco Bueno capitalized on the trend last year with its Hatch green chile menu. Other restaurants like Habit Burger, BJ’s Brewpub, and Chuy’s Mexican Restaurants also maintain Hatch green chile builds on their menus regularly.

Time to Pepper in Some Flavor

While it’s difficult to estimate the time between adoption and proliferation, it’s safe to say that Hatch chiles will be in adoption soon, and if the current trends predict the future, ubiquity shortly after. It would be smart to jump on this train as soon as possible.

Hatch Green Chile

Photo courtesy of Chuys.com

There’s no easier way than with a bright and smoky salsa or a Hatch chile concentrate for mixing into creams, aiolis, and other sauces. There’s an endless amount of possibilities once you get your imagination rolling. Personally, I think a Hatch chile ice cream sounds pretty darn good, how about you?

Comment below with your favorite Hatch recipes or questions about this blog.

Cheers!

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March 25th, 2019

Hot Sauce Trends 2019

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

Global Flavors Drive Hot Sauce Trends in 2019

2019 Hot Sauce Trends

2019 is going to be a great year for hot sauce trends. With our global love for spicy food continuing to grow, we’re seeing an explosion of new sauces and flavors from all over the world.

As with most trends, we’re also seeing a boomerang effect. Some hot sauce trends from the past are coming back in vogue. No big surprise here, it’s just the way of things. We’re currently seeing this with the revitalization of Char Siu, or Chinese BBQ sauce.

So let’s take a look at some 2019 hot sauce trends based on the regions they stem from.

Global Hot Sauce Trends in 2019

Africa

Known for it’s spicy meats and aromatic rubs, the continent of Africa gives us a diverse and unique set of hot sauces. The size of the country promotes regional differences and interpretations of similar sauces. Some have gained notoriety more quickly than others, however.

Hot Sauce Trends 2019

The most notable at this moment is harissa. Hailing from North Africa, harissa often comes as a thick sauce or paste. Made from multiple chilies, including baklouti and serrano, along with roasted red peppers, garlic, and seasonings, harissa has found a huge market in the food industry. It’s not uncommon to find this sauce on foods like falafel, burgers, loaded fries, roasted cauliflower, or baked eggs. Personally, I love it in a thick hummus.

Other African flavors popping up on the radar are berbere and pili pili, which, as it turns out, are both really fun to say. Pili pili is made from the piri piri chili pepper native to Southeastern Africa and is not to be confused with the Portuguese Piri Piri sauce. It tends to be scorching hot and a little goes a long way.

Berbere, however, reigns from Ethopia and is most familiar in its powdered seasoning form. But, we’re starting to see a rise in the “Awaze” sauce, which blends berbere seasoning with spicy chilies like habanero or cayenne. Don’t be surprised to see this item show up on chicken wings and pizzas soon.

Middle East

The Middle East is no stranger to spicy foods. But they also don’t shy away from herbs, spices, and other aromatics. So, when those characteristics come together, we get delicious chili sauces like zhug. Commonly compared to a Brazilian chimichurri sauce, this Yemenite paste is made from onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, and lots of spicy chilies, like Serrano or Thai.

Hot Sauce Trends

Photo courtesy of chilipeppermadness.com

Another new/old face in the hot sauce world is shatta. Like zhug, shatta uses cilantro and parsley along with serrano or Thai chilies. What makes it different is the use of red jalapenos and tomato, for a bit sweeter of a profile.

Finally, we’re seeing the hot sauce trend sneak into other Middle Eastern foods that aren’t traditionally spicy. The best example of this is Spicy Za’atar sauce. Za’atar, an herbaceous blend of thyme, sumac, and sesame, is a ubiquitous Middle Eastern condiment used on everything from meat and eggs to bread and salad. The spicy variation takes the flavor and impact to a whole new level.

Asia

Never to be outdone by the other countries, Asia continues to make waves with new sauces. Asian sauces are most noteworthy for their fermented characteristics. A great example of this would be la doubanjiang. This is another classic sauce, common in Sichuan cuisine, that’s finding new life in our spice crazy generation. Made from fermented broad beans and soybeans, this sauce is seasoned with salt, spices, and red chili peppers. It’s often eaten simply with sticky rice or noodles, but you’re likely to see it start popping up in stir fried and crossover foods, like sushi burritos or Asian style pizzas.

Another spicy Asian sauce on the comeback is karashi, or Japanese hot mustard. Different from the previous sauces, karashi gets its heat from ground mustard seeds and horseradish or wasabi, depending on the maker. This one is the quietest of the current trends, but there’s uniqueness in it that could harness quite the cult following.

Hot Sauce Trends 2019

Photo courtesy of favy-jp.com

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Thanks for reading along with our 2019 hot sauce trends blog. Next up we’re going to see how these trendy new sauces are making their way into the broader culinary culture.

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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January 7th, 2019

Awesome Aji Amarillo

Posted in Food Trends, New Foods and Flavors, Peru, Trends

All About Aji Chiles

As we’ve covered in previous blogs, chiles are hot (literally and figuratively) and the trend of unique chiles is not going to slow in 2019. One of the more unique chiles we expect to see growing in popularity is the Peruvian Aji chile.

There are a few variations of the Aji common in Peru (Aji Panca, Aji Rocoto, etc.), but the most familiar is the Aji Amarillo.

Aji Amarillo

Photo Courtesy of SpecialtyProduce.com

Aji Amarillo

Aji Amarillo chilies originated in the Andes region of Peru and have been a staple in Peruvian culture and cuisine since their discovery. The Aji Amarillo is green when immature but becomes a bright yellow/orange color when ripe.

This chile is quite potent regardless of the form it takes. In the US, it can be difficult to find fresh, but shows up commonly frozen, dried, pickled, or pasted. The dried versions tend to have the most aggressive fruity notes, whereas the fresh peppers tend to have the most heat.

What’s it Like?

The Aji Amarillo is mostly considered a medium hot chile, but the heat can vary quite a bit depending on the season in which it was grown. They have a “fruity” and uniquely citrusy flavor profile.

Aji Chilies

Photo Courtesy of TheSpruceEats.com

The Amarillo chile is the signature component of many Peruvian dishes like Papas a la Huancaina, a potato and egg dish with a creamy Aji Amarillo sauce, and Causa Limeña, a cold potato and chile dish layered with fillings like olives, tuna, or avocado.

Aji Amarillo is also a natural fit for fish. It cuts through fatty choices like salmon or bolsters up a white fleshed fish like Corvina (sea bass) or hamachi. In fact, in Peru you’ll most likely find Aji Amarillo and fish together in ceviches. The Peruvian ceviche differs from other countries not only because of its addition of Aji Amarillo, but also with its use of cooked sweet potatoes and sweet corn.

Where does it Fit?

The beauty of the Aji Amarillo Chile is its versatility. Try it in a glaze on chicken wings, or a spicy sauce base for a unique global pizza. It plays well with beef too, as in a sweet hot pepper relish.

Aji Amarillo Chilies

Image courtesy of HispanicKitchen.com

Don’t be shy in trying it as a base for a tropical salad dressing or blended with yogurt or mayonnaise for a creamy with a kick spread for wraps and sandwiches. The options are limitless.

Set the trend and get into Aji Amarillo now before the rest of the competition gets a chance.

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.

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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).

korean

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.

Close

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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