December 10th, 2018

Unique 2018 Food Trucks

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Food Trucks

Three Unique 2018 Food Trucks Stand Apart

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

2018 Food Truck Trends

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

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

India Jones Chow Truck

Los Angeles, CA
Website
310-310-3964

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

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

2018 Food Trucks India Jones

Photo courtesy of IndiaJonesChowTruck.com

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

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

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

@La’s – A Hmong Food Cart

Aloha, OR
Website
971-330-5989

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

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

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

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Photo Courtesy of PDXMonthly.com

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

Patrizi’s

Austin, TX
Website
512-522-4834

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

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

2018 Food Trucks Patrizi's

Photo courtesy of Patrizis.com

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

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

Cheers!

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November 26th, 2018

New in Sauce Trends

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Sauce

Let’s Talk Sauce Trends

Because every dish gets better with sauce!

Why do we even care about sauce trends?

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

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

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

Italian Crossover

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

harissa

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

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

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

Global Entry

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

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

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

Move Over Canton

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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October 15th, 2018

BBQ Sauce Trends in 2018

Posted in Food Trends, Restaurants, Trends

2018 Shows Growth in BBQ Sauce Categories

BBQ is a staple of all cultures, in lots of different ways.

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We’re all familiar with the BBQ styles of the South, like Memphis, Texas, and Kansas City, which are ubiquitous with the American style of barbecue. But now, we’re also seeing regions like Florida and California get noticed for their particular style.

Outside of the U.S., Asia has a long history of cooking using the barbecue method, and the word barbecue itself stems from the Taino term, barbacoa. And let’s not forget about the unique BBQ styles of the Native Americans and the Maori of New Zealand, who bury their food on beds of hot stones, covered with wet tarps and earth. This allows for a low and slow cooking style, complete with plenty of smoke.

Today we’re going to investigate the up and coming flavor trends in BBQ sauces in the U.S. Whether you like to slather on the sauce while cooking, dip after the food is done, or go Korean style with fermented sweet and spicy sauces, we’ve got you covered.

2018 BBQ Sauce Trends

Spicy

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Photo courtesy of JessicaGavin.com

It’s no surprise, even in the world of BBQ, consumers are looking for sauces that bring the heat. According to Restaurant Business Magazine, year over year growth of jalapeno-based BBQ sauces is averaging a 16.7% increase.

Chipotle BBQ has increased 79% on menus since 4th quarter of 2017 according to Provisioner Online. According to Diane Kelter, Mintel International’s food-service analyst, “Complex flavor combinations that provide a sweet heat combo, or a smoky sweet combo, will continue to drive more innovation in the category.”

Mustard

The secret is out, mustard-based BBQ sauces are really good. Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce, a mustard and vinegar sauce with plenty of brown sugar, has paved the way for broad-based introduction.

KFC rolled out their “Georgia Gold” sauce in 2017 with great reception. This take on Carolina Gold style riffs heavier on the sweet side, using honey over brown sugar, therefore making it more palatable to a larger demographic.

Trader Joe’s and French’s were quick to jump on the trend, creating their own branded mustard-based BBQ sauces. The next step will be seeing spicy variations of mustard sauces, which have started popping up in small restaurants and food parks, but not yet in the mainstream chains.

Korean BBQ

It just wouldn’t be a 2018 trend analysis if we didn’t talk about the Asian influence.

Hot Sauce

If it seems like you’re seeing Asian food everywhere, it’s probably because you are. The deep, rich flavors and complex aromatics of Asian cuisine drive taste buds wild and leave insatiable cravings for more.

In BBQ, gochujang has proliferated quite well. The salty, spicy, umami rich profile of this fermented bean paste is a perfect addition to the sweet/smoky bases of most BBQ sauces. Many restaurants, like Chi’Lantro out of Austin, TX, hide gochujang in their generically named sauces (i.e. Gangnam, Korean BBQ, Spicy Asian), making it more approachable for less exposed palates.

According to the NPD Group, the amount of Korean BBQ sauce shipped to U.S. independent chains and micro chains grew by 120% in 2017. I don’t expect to see that slow down anytime soon. If you don’t believe me, go try some. It’s delicious.

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That’s it for this week’s blog. Keep an eye out for new BBQ trends as they emerge share with us what you find.

Cheers!

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September 10th, 2018

New Flavors in Hot Sauce

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends

We searched around to see what’s happening in the hot sauce world

Hey there hot sauce lovers. Thanks for stopping by to find out what’s new in the world of spicy condiments.

Hot Sauce

2018 has seen bold statements made in flavor trends with things like Za’atar, Thai and Filipino cuisine, and Mexican moles. The hot sauce market is no different, seeing a myriad of new flavors and ingredients.

Let’s look at what’s new and trendy.

What’s New in Hot Sauce?

Fruit

Ok, not totally new, but stay with me. While fruits have been showing up in hot sauces and salsas for a while now (see mango and pineapple), helping to mellow out those spicy acidic tones, more interesting fruits are beginning to appear.

Bravado Spice Co. has developed a Jalapeno and Green Apple sauce that’s gaining quite a bit of popularity as a flavor packed, not too hot sauce. They also produce a Ghost Pepper and Blueberry sauce for the more adventurous palate. Yellowbird, out of Austin, TX, uses bright tangerine juice to balance out the spicy peppers used in a few of their sauces.

Hot Sauce Trends

Image Courtesy of Culleysusa.com

Finally, Culley’s out of New Zealand makes a Kiwi Habanero sauce that I’m dying to try. It may seem a bit too on the nose, but I love it anyhow.

Chocolate

Chocolate really does make most things better (bacon, fruit, potato chips, you get the idea), and hot sauce is no exception.

Image Courtesy of Heathotsauce.com

Nebraska’s own Volcanic Peppers brand has proved this with their award winning Chocolate Lightening hot sauce. Also joining the party is Punch Drunk with their Chocolate Ghost Pepper hot sauce. To make theirs a bit more unique they use chia seeds as a thickening agent.

Finally, look for Dawson’s brand Chocolate Hot Sauce for use on desserts. With a milder heat and sweeter profile, this one plays well with unique confections.

Truffles

Because, why not? Truffle flavors are common on fries, chips, eggs, and pizzas all over the U.S., so why not hot sauce. Makes sense to me.

Hot Sauce 2018

Image Courtesy of Truffhotsauce.com

While you can find a few brands selling truffle hot sauce, like Frohlich and Gindo’s, the clear market leader in this category has to be Truff. With its use of black truffles along with an infused olive oil, Truff balances the heat with savory aromatics and a clean flavor.

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As you can see there doesn’t seem to be any lack of innovation in the world of hot sauces. I hope we see this trend continue forward, as I’m one of the many who just can’t get enough.

Happy eating friends!

 

 

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August 27th, 2018

2018 Pizza Industry Review – Pt. 2

Posted in Consumer Trends, Pizza, Product Innovation, Restaurants, Trends

Enhanced ordering, & new menu items

Catch-Up

Welcome back friends. Let’s do a quick catch-up session here.

Last blog we talked about the 2018 Pizza Industry, focusing on consumer preferences (convenience, quality, affordability), national chain vs. independent restaurant stats, and international growth.

Today, we’ll cover new menu trends and enhanced ordering with a spotlight on new tech.

Menu Trends

2018 is the year of personalization. Customers are looking for unique toppings, signature pies, and the ability to make whatever wacky concoction pops into their mind (looking at you, unicorn pizza). This has led to an expansion in toppings held on the line for many restaurants (think Brussels sprouts, clams, and brisket).

2018 Pizza Trends

Photo Courtesy of Teen Vogue

This love for customization is also a contributing factor to the success of fast casual pizza restaurants like Blaze and Mod. Additionally, these restaurants are quite popular with guests looking for healthier options or suffering from allergies and intolerances. They have many offerings to help avoid triggers and amp up the health quotient while still creating a delicious personal pie.

Finally, Detroit style pizza has found a proper following and is trickling across the nation. Most major cities now offer Detroit style, which is a deep dish pizza made in a rectangular pan. Its caramelized edges and thick, chewy dough have been turning heads and gaining a stable of fans for good reason.

Enhanced Ordering

As we discussed in the consumer needs section on the previous post, technology and ordering convenience are major factors in the customer’s restaurant choice. With 69% of internet users choosing the online ordering option per Emarketer, it’s imperative for pizza restaurants to not only adopt this measure, but make it convenient and easy as well.

pexels-photo-280453

Hand in hand with ease of ordering is efficient delivery. Customers want a fresh, hot pizza delivered to them within minutes of submitting the order, and, as it turns out, they prefer that delivery to be directly from the restaurant, rather than a third party service like GrubHub or DoorDash.

Pizza restaurants are also looking into new technology to help with faster delivery. Domino’s, for example, has developed proprietary technology that allows consumers to order pizza in multiple convenient ways (including through Twitter, Zero-Click ordering, the AnyWare app, and into the future with natural voice). They’ve even gone as far as to commission a line of automated vehicles complete with built-in pizza ovens that will be capable of baking a freshly made pizza en route to your home.

Conclusion

2018 Pizza Trends

That’s a wrap for the 2018 Pizza Industry Review. With all that’s happening around technological innovation, I can’t wait to see what the landscape looks like for 2019.

Be sure to comment about what you’ve seen or anticipate seeing in the future of pizza. The only limit is your imagination (see: Unicorn Pizza…).

Cheers!

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August 13th, 2018

2018 Pizza Industry Review – Pt. 1

Posted in Food Trends, news, Pizza

Customization, Tech, & Speed lead 2018 Pizza Trends

2018 aims to be a benchmark year for the pizza industry. Data is showing a rise in the US and global pizza market, along with an increase in average unit sales for the top 50 chains. All while this is happening, the number of US pizzerias has actually fallen for a net loss of roughly 299 establishments. More people are ordering pizza more often from less overall places. Sounds like the market is refining itself.

Pizza trends 2018

But let’s take a deep dive into the pizza market and how we can anticipate what comes next. This will be part one of a two-part series, covering topics including consumer needs, headline news, the international market, menu trends, ordering practices, and, of course, the best technology company that sells pizzas.

So what is driving the pizza industry?

Consumer Preferences

Convenience is key when it comes to consumer needs. Pizza companies are really starting to understand this by offering many convenient ways to place orders. Through websites, social media, various online ordering mediums, and specialized delivery tech., consumers literally have pizza at their fingertips anytime, anywhere.

2018 Pizza Trends

Without quality, however, convenience is rendered meaningless. Consumers still consider quality a primary driver when making their decision on where to buy a pie. Quality can carry a very subjective meaning though. What one person considers a trait of quality others may not, which is one reason there’s so much room to play in the pizza sandbox.

And finally, we can’t talk about consumer needs without discussing cost. As Americans dine out more and more often, they find themselves watching the cost of meals more closely. While most consumers are willing to pay a premium for artisan and specialty pizzas, they expect to pay “reasonable” prices for the more standardized items.

National News

Pizza loves to take the headlines, and 2018 will be no different. According to Business Insider, fast-casual pizza was the fastest growing segment in 2017 with no sight of slowing down. As it happens, Blaze Pizza holds the #1 position for fastest growing restaurant chain in the U.S.

Fast Casual Pizza 2018

We are also observing excellent growth via sales increases in the industry. North American chain restaurants have reported a growth of 5.83%, while independent restaurants have grown 2.65% per Euromotor. This shouldn’t worry independents too much, as consumers still often choose them over chains for reasons including community involvement, personalized service, and having shared customer values.

International Growth

Across the globe pizza is becoming a staple of the diet for many different cultures. It’s becoming especially popular in places like Africa and the Middle East. Euromotor has shown a growth from $4.29 billion in sales in 2015 to $4.66 billion in 2016.

Pizza Industry Trends 2018

Pizza Hut has noticed this growth and the potential in these markets. In Pakistan alone The Hut has planned to double its restaurants to over 150 in the next 5 years. These cultures view Western foods like pizza as a status symbol, leaving a rare opportunity for a company to initiate new levels of brand loyalty globally.

Conclusion

That’s quite a bit of info to absorb in one day. Check back the week after next for Part 2 of our 2018 Pizza Industry Review series.

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…

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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.

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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!

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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

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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.

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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 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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April 23rd, 2018

Sergio’s Cuban Eyes Fast Casual

Posted in Consumer Trends, New Foods and Flavors, Restaurants

Sergio’s Cuban Cafe & Grill Looks Towards Fast-Casual for the Future

Cuban Fast Casual

Photo Courtesy of shop.fiu.edu

As we’ve mentioned before in our blogs, fast-casual dining is not going anywhere. It gives chef’s and restaurateur’s an opportunity to provide fresh, high-quality food at lower prices due to reduced overhead costs. Sergio’s Cuban Cafe & Grill of Miami is the most recent entrant into the category.

Cuban Food

Photo Courtesy of sergioscuban.com

Carlos Gazitua, the CEO of Sergio’s, knew three years ago when planning the launch of their 6th location, it would be the last full-service restaurant. Gazitua cites rising rent prices and economics as the prime reasons to steer away from full-service and into fast-casual.

Sergio’s will also fill a hole in the fast-casual market for Cuban food. Leveraging the strength of their restaurant reputation, Sergio’s fast-casual will be able to launch with the power of their brand identity to help them capitalize on a thriving industry.

Cuban Food

Photo Courtesy of sergioscuban.com

Hoping to be the “Chipotle” of Cuban food, their bowl-centric menu features bold flavors like Mojo pork, Ropa Vieja, chimi-churri, and spicy habanero sauce. Contrasted with healthful choices such as cauliflower rice, boiled yucca, and lean ground turkey, Sergio’s is working to offer plenty of flavorful options while adding nutrient density to an often rich, heavy cuisine.

With site locations like Denver, Texas, Atlanta, and Washington D.C. slated for development, we’ll be keeping an eye on Sergio’s growth and look forward to a nearby location for taste testing.

What other Cuban fast casuals have you come across? Let us know in the comments section below.

Cheers!

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