July 5th, 2021

The Diversity of Mole

Posted in Food Trends, Sauce

Mole is on the Way

Mexican mole

With authentic Mexican flavors trending upward this year, it’s time to talk about the diversity of Mexican mole. What’s mole? Literally, it just means sauce, but in reality, it’s much more.

Mole includes a variety of complex, rich sauces combining spicy, savory, sweet, and smoky flavors into a luxurious liquid that can transform any dish from ordinary to extraordinary. Most commonly you’ll run into mole negro, a dark variety made with several chilies, fire roasted vegetables, and aromatic Mexican chocolate.

But mole negro only scratches the surfaces of the abundant possibilities. And while mole is only in the inception stage of the menu adoption cycle, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth understanding.

Restaurants across the nation are finding unique ways to use moles on their menus, and it’s only a matter of time before the larger population gets wind of these amazing sauces.

Mole on the Menu

Bar Sótano

Mole trends

Image courtesy of plateonline.com.

Chef Kumar at Bar Sótano has an amazing take on with his Roasted Vegetables in Mole Poblano. This dish features roasted mushrooms, cauliflower, and squash swimming in a smoky sauce made with mulato, pasilla, and ancho chilies.

It also features a variety of nuts, charred onions, Mexican chocolate, and warm spices to create a complex yet easy to enjoy marriage of flavors. This is a can’t miss dish in Chicago.

El Torito

Mole

Image courtesy of plateonline.com.

At Long Beach, CA’s El Torito, Chef Pepe Lope is wowing palates with the Tamal Oaxaqueno with Mole Coloradito. This dish features a sweet corn cake, chicken tamal, and cooked black beans with a generous serving of mole coloradito.

This sauce is a warm blend of guajillo and ancho chilies with mulling spices, starchy plantains, sweet raisins, and aromatic epazote blended into silky smooth perfection. We suggest you ask for a spoon, because there’s no way you’re going to leave any of this deliciousness behind.

Zarela

Sauce trends

Image courtesy of plateonline.com.

In my favorite take on mole, Chef Zarela Martinez steals my heart with her tangy, herbaceous mole verde. This sauce combines ripe tomatillos with jalapenos, savory pork stock, a variety of herbs and spices, and (in a genius move) hoja santa leaves.

The result is a bright, citrusy, and utterly unique flavor profile impossible to replicate. It’s a perfect pairing with her dry-rubbed poached black sea bass.

Ciaò Thyme

2021 Sauces

Image courtesy of plateonline.com.

Our final entry comes from the duo of Mataio Gillis and Chef Kraig Halterman of Ciaò Thyme in Bellingham, WA. Their Blueberry Beet Mole sets a new standard for culinary fusion.

It’s a fearless blend of blueberries, chipotle chiles, warm spices, cocoa powder, and pureed beets. Finished with blueberry vinaigrette, it’s a masterful match for their braised lamb shank. This truly raises the bar of possibilities.

Get Ready for the Next Era of Sauces

Complexity, richness, and authenticity will define a new era of sauces. And while mole may not be the sauce of today, it just might be the sauce of tomorrow. So be prepared to hit the ground running on this unique sauce trend.

 

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March 1st, 2021

Trustworthy Trends During COVID

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Restaurants

A Few COVID Foods Trends You Can Rely On

With new items seemingly appearing overnight, it’s good to have a few trustworthy trends you can expect to drive business in 2021.

During the 2020 MUFSO conference, trend analyst Nancy Kruse gave out her bankable trends going into 2021. These include things like vegetables, nostalgic meals, and global flavors. Let’s dive into each of these and see how they could benefit your restaurant.

Trustworthy Restaurant Trends

Vegetables

Trustworthy Trends

Veggies continue to get attention on menus nationally. 2019 saw vegetables get sincere center-of-the-plate attention, and now in 2021 they’re getting all over the plate attention. Restaurants across the country are finding new and exciting ways to utilize vegetables.

Several pizza chains, like Donato’s, Blaze, Jet’s and California Pizza Kitchen have introduced cauliflower crusts. Dos Toros has released cauliflower rice as a base for their bowls. Even Taco Bell announced a return to serving potatoes on their menu, which can be substituted for any protein.

Driven by health and environmental concerns, there’s no doubt vegetables will continue to drive menu innovation and consumer interest.

Global Flavors

COVID Food Trends

Global flavors are continuing to pop up on menus universally. Domino’s launched a Taco Pizza, while IHOP launched a line of poblano burritos and bowls.

Even restaurants that focus on American regional fares have jumped on board, evidenced by Zaxby’s General Tso’s Chicken.

There are no real rules about where global flavors need to live. They can be seasonings, specialty ingredients, or entire menu items. Sauces are an especially easy way to add global flair to existing menu items. Use them to dip, drizzle, or slather onto your customer’s favorite menu items for safe experimentation they’ll love.

Retro Meals

Chinese food trends

Let’s face it, for better or worse, the 80’s and 90’s are back. Don’t believe me? Just check out casual-dining chain Lazy Dog’s line of TV dinners. The Cheese Enchilada dinner. It comes with house-made chipotle ranchero sauce and cinnamon churro caramel cake, all housed in a compartmentalized tin container.

Chinese American cuisine is also making a comeback. We’ve already referenced Zaxby’s General Tso’s chicken, but don’t be surprised to see items like kung pao, lemon chicken, and beef and broccoli return to mainstream menus. Only now, they’ll feature cleaner ingredients and modern twists.

Where Do These Fit on Your Menu?

That’s what you should be asking yourself. Act quick to be on top of these broad new trends. They’re easy to execute and are bound to drive sales and interest. Don’t forget, people still love to dip and dunk, so make life easy with on trend sauce upgrades.

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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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March 26th, 2018

Plant-Based Protein Gaining Traction

Posted in Consumer Trends, Educational

Demand for Plant-Based Protein Increases in 2018

How do we reconcile the traditionally American animal-protein heavy diet with science backing the importance of vegetable consumption? A new generation of plant-based proteins aims to answer that question.

Plant-based protein

The average eater in the U.S. has an imprinted image of a plate, broken into 4 wedges, each of which representing a category: fruits, vegetables, grains/starches, and protein. This plate represents the general amount of each of these foods they should be consuming, with the largest wedge belonging to vegetables.

Choose My Plate

If we were using this plate to represent how the average American really eats, the protein wedge would look much more like the vegetable wedge. On average, Americans eat twice the amount of protein they require daily (1), normally in the form of animal-based protein.

But as a country, our science is getting better, our information moves further, faster, and our people are becoming wiser. We know now that it’s detrimental to our health to consume more vegetables and reduce our intake of animal proteins, and we’re adjusting our diets to reflect that.

Plant-based protein

40% more Americans are attempting to incorporate plant-based foods in their diet, and 23% are looking specifically for plant-based proteins to assist (2). In light of this, some crafty culinarians have set out to recreate the taste, texture, aroma, Maillard reaction, and even the “bleeding” effect common to animal meats using plant-based proteins. Companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are creating a cult of popularity that’s beginning to appear in national restaurant chains.

 

Impossible Burgers have made their way into burger titans such as Hopdoddy, Fatburger, and Umami Burger. Beyond Meat has found equal success in national markets such as Target, AmazonFresh, and Kroger, as well as restaurants like BurgerFi and TGI Fridays. Beyond Meat has also developed a line of “chicken” products, bratwurst, and sausages.

Vegetable Burgers

Another plant-based protein carrier that continues to grow in popularity is the ever present, and universally enjoyed falafel. This crispy little concoction of chickpeas and spices offers a center-of-the-plate star that can be fried, baked, dipped, deconstructed, and dressed-up to your heart’s content. It’s not only the flexibility of falafel that makes it so popular, but also, it’s unique, savory taste and crispy texture. Expect to see it landing in more unexpected locations soon.

Drop us a line and let us know what other unique plant-based proteins you’ve come across.

Until next time!

1. Egan, Sophie. “How Much Protein Do We Need?” The New York Times: Well. 28, July, 2017. Accessed 20, March, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/28/well/eat/how-much-protein-do-we-need.html.
2. “Plant-Based Proteins Are Gaining Dollar Share Among north Americans.” The Nielsen Company: FMCG and Retail. 22, Sep., 2017. Accessed 20, March, 2018. http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2017/plant-based-proteins-are-gaining-dollar-share-among-north-americans.html
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March 12th, 2018

Expo West 2018 Trends

Posted in Consumer Trends, Culinary Conferences, Food Trends

What’s Trending at Expo West 2018?

Simple answer, lots!

Expo West Lolgo

The Natural Products showcase that is Expo West featured a bevy of fun, interesting, but most importantly, responsible foods and products that will continue to shape the landscape of the industry.

Unique new items included Alove, a yogurt made with aloe vera, oat and vegetable milks, Sushi Quinoa, Pervida’s pomegranate seed seed oil infused sparkling waters, and my personal favorite, chia fruit spread.

World of Chia, based out of The Woodlands, TX, has developed a line of fruit spreads using chia seeds instead of pectin. Not only are these spreads unique and delicious, but they embody the clean-label movement perfectly with only 4 key ingredients: fruit, agave nectar, chia seeds, and lemon juice.

Now let’s take a look at the trends with traction:

Pastas from Produce

Ok, I know what you’re thinking, “Alternative pastas, wow! Really groundbreaking.” Fair. But what’s special about these pastas is not just that they’re made from things like chickpeas, plantains, lentils, and brown rice, it’s that they actually taste good. Really good! And that is something to be excited about.

Artisan Jerky

We’re continuing to push towards high protein, low carb. and calorie snacks, and the folks running the dried meats show have noticed. The big companies like Jack Links and Oberto are being challenge by small batch artisan companies such as Epic and Three Jerks, with products like Maple Bourbon Churro Filet Mignon, Sesame BBQ Chicken, and Smoked Maple Salmon. I bet I have your attention now…

Tiger Nuts

Don’t laugh. This isn’t a Rocky Mountain Oysters kind of thing. Tiger nuts are actually a tuber that grows under the soil’s surface, much like carrots. They are highly nutritious, versatile, and do not contain the same allergens as nuts making them a great alternative. It seems some folks are starting to take notice. Organic Gemini Brand has developed a line of tiger nut products including flour, granola, smoothie mixes, and because apparently they love me, tiger nut horchata beverages. Additionally, Cabo Chips is about to launch a tortilla made with tiger nuts and cassava.

This is only a small snapshot of what I found. There was also a lot of traffic around small farm honey, pickled and fermented vegetables (are we going to see a return of sauerkraut?!), and healthy savory snacks like puffed edamame and high fiber savory veggie crisps.

We’d love to hear what you took notice of at Expo West. Let us know some of your favorites in the comments section.

Cheers!

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April 10th, 2017

Chef Tip: Saving Wilted Vegetables

Posted in Grocery, Healthy, Tips

How To Save Wilted Vegetables

It’s happened to all of us. As we rummage through the crisper we find that bunch of wilted vegetables or herbs we forgot all about.

As enlightened culinarians, we are swept by an initial feeling of regret over the neglect of these cruciferous crusaders and the resentment of having to put them in the compost. But fear not friends, there a chance we can revive that poor produce with a simple soaking method.

Cold Soak

Vegetables lose their perkiness first and foremost due to evaporation. Water is stored in the cellulose structure of the plant’s cell wall. As the plant ages and/or is exposed to heat the wall begins to weaken due to enzymatic activity and water is released to the atmosphere.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the best way to perk up sad vegetables is to soak them in an ice water bath. This slows enzymatic reactions and replaces lost water in the cell walls, leading to happy, revitalized produce. For most vegetables and herbs a soaking period of 15 – 60 minutes is adequate.

Wilted Vegetables

Image courtesy of Whole Foods Market

Now, it’s safe to say this won’t work with every bit of produce that has lost it’s way. Some will be too far gone, especially those that have succumbed to rot and decay. Cold water can’t heal them.

This trick also works great for simply maximizing the appeal of fresh produce. Soaking greens and herbs before serving in a salad or as garnish will give them extra vibrancy and crispiness. Fennel and carrots take to this method very well.

So experiment away and let us know what works and what doesn’t. Until next time…

 

Cheers!

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