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32 posts categorized "Food for Thought"

May 1, 2018

Fresh Takes on Tacos

By Piet Jones

Tacos-article-newIt’s the end of another busy day. The last customers are gone. Kitchen is clean. Servers are all checked out and headed towards the door. Finally, a chance to take the weight off your feet, think about something other than food, maybe peruse a little social media. And there you see them: tacos. It’s not even Taco Tuesday. Pictures of friends making them at home. Snack specials at the bar at one restaurant. A build-your-own taco bar at another.

These aren’t thin layers of overly spiced beef, buried in iceberg lettuce, with an upcharge for a dollop of sour cream, and everything stuffed into a brittle shell that shatters at the first bite. Nope, these tacos are packed with the latest trendy ingredients and flavors lovingly encased in a soft taco shell and they’re flying out the doors of restaurant kitchens. Seriously. America has a taco obsession.

The beautiful thing about tacos, for the restaurant owner, is they are not only easy to place on into a menu (being endlessly customizable), but they are also perfect for keeping food costs down. Tacos often use less-expensive cuts, cooked low and slow to naturally tenderize the meat and intensify flavors.

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March 6, 2018

Creating a Flexible Menu

By Piet Jones

Flexible-menu-new2Nothing brings a kitchen to a screeching halt faster than a special order. Even slight changes can disrupt the finely-tuned rhythm of the line and, if the dish has to be touched by more than one chef, the odds of an unintentional fumble increase exponentially. Then there’s the twinge of disappointment at a well-orchestrated dish, one that the head chef worked hours to create and perfect, being re-imagined into something that may very well not reflect the culinary story he or she is trying to create.

Like it or not, special orders aren’t just here to stay, they are becoming the norm — the expectation, not the exception. But perhaps it’s time to embrace this change. Step away from the rigidness of an invariable menu and allow a bit of customization that ensures you maintain control of the dishes and can minimize disruption to service.

This doesn’t have to be a major change. Consider that much of the demand for menu customization comes from two sources; dietary allergies and lifestyle choices. Take a look down your menu. Are there any dishes which you could, with a couple of minor changes, make gluten free? Perhaps by forgoing the breadcrumbs or replacing the sauce with a compound butter? Of course, the modified dish might require a new ingredient or two that increases the food cost of a dish. In that case, don’t be afraid to impose a small upcharge. Increasing options, and clearly identifying that certain dishes can be made gluten free, will help steer people to those dishes. It will also likely reduce the number of requests for changes to other dishes that might not be so easily modified.

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December 6, 2017

Not Your Grandmother’s Fruitcake

By Emily Caldwell Fruitcake

‘Tis the season for love, joy, and satisfying sweet cravings. After dinner is done, serve your customers the best gift of all, the cookie and dessert tray! Include holiday classic favorites like spiced gingerbread cookies drizzled with rich royal icing, buttery shortbread, or sugar cookie Christmas cutouts, all perfectly complemented with a tall glass of rich eggnog. But most importantly, don’t forget the fruitcake!


This quintessential Christmas cake follows a vintage recipe stuffed with fruits, nuts and filled with spirits — literally! The once iconic loaf was a celebrated treat enjoyed at weddings, birthdays, Christmas parties, and gift exchanges. Tales from the Middle Ages recall that early crusaders would pack a few slices of the sweet loaf to nourish them on their long travels. As time progressed, so did the fruitcake. In 18th century Victorian England, plum cakes were the new replacement being served with tea. Although the American version stems from the English and their plum cake, the origins of the infamous cake dates back to the ancient Romans. Since these early forms of the holiday cake, we have seen a globalized adoption and adaptation of the recipe from other countries. From the Spanish and Mexican pastry ring of Rosca de Reyes to the Bûche de Noël (Yule Log) rolled neatly in France, each country bears their own fruitful tradition.

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November 1, 2017

Accommodating Vegan and Gluten-Free Holiday Guests

Vegetarian meal small

By Emily Caldwell

Fall is here! But even though the weather is getting cooler, the kitchen is heating up! It's the start of the holiday season and people are beginning to come home to celebrate the festivities with family, friends, and loved ones. But as your customers gather around your dinner table to give thanks and revel in the mouthwatering feast you have prepared, it is crucial to remember your customers and their dietary needs. By providing vegan and gluten-free options during the upcoming Thanksgiving season you can be the holiday hero and give everyone something to be thankful for.

Many customers are adopting vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free lifestyles for health benefits and ethical reasons. Although their diets may be restrictive, they still want to be able to indulge on the same comforting dishes that are featured on your menu. Good thing most classic holiday dishes can easily be adjusted with a variety of convenient ingredients.

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August 2, 2017

Tastes Like Home

Nostalgia

By Emily Caldwell

Take your customers on a trip down memory lane by incorporating flavors in your menu that can be found in their childhood favorite meals and experiences. Give them a twist on Mom’s brown-bag classics to reminisce over lunch. Remind them of dinners at Grandma’s filled with smiles and Sloppy Joe’s. People tend to associate food with sentiments from their past — foods that taste good can make us feel good too.

As the years go by, we often reflect back on old memories and can develop a sense of nostalgia or a longing for the past. Seen in recent movie and television reboots, games and clothing, nostalgic marketing is taking over various markets and industries. *Forbes explains that this nostalgia tactic embodies the idea of tapping into positive cultural memories from previous decades. Although originally adapted to attract millennials to specific products, it is now seen as a successful strategy to engage with all age groups. Through nostalgic marketing, businesses can connect to their audience through cross-cultural and generational appeals. People love sentiments from their past — from the colors, packaging, smells, and taste, they appreciate the positive emotions that it can evoke.

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July 3, 2017

Complements for your Cocktails

Bar_snacks

By Piet E. Jones

Your customers are having drinks at the bar and need a little something to snack on, so offer up some old time bar snacks. Something salty and crunchy that is bursting with flavor and easy to eat. Include dishes that not only complement your bar beverages, but help entice your customers to order more.

Nuts are an easy choice, but pre-made nut mixes can be a bit pricey and not very exciting. Bulk raw nuts, on the other hand, can be bought for much less and can easily be custom roasted in-house to create your own signature nut dish. Almonds are great for such a snack - especially if peeled. You could create your own honey roasted almonds with honey, balsamic vinegar, demerara sugar and sel gris. Or go for something more exotic, by tossing the almonds with za’atar and olive oil.

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March 1, 2017

Pollock – America's Other White Fish

Gray pollock2

By Piet E. Jones

“Monday fish hardly worth elevating to Friday.” That was how James Beard award winning British food writer, Jane Grigson, dismissed pollock in her 1973 tome, Fish Cookery.  “Tasteless” and “muddy” were some of the other words she used to describe the poor, lamented pollock.

But that was many years ago, tastes change and what was once out is now hot.  Diners today don’t want strong, fishy seafood.  What Grigson called “tasteless,” today we describe as “delicate.”  The “muddy” color that offended her?  Our eyes see a beautiful ivory fillet.  Don’t forget, in colonial America indentured servants in New England demanded a clause in their contracts not to be fed too much lobster - a burden many of us today would gladly welcome.

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January 27, 2017

2017 Food Trends: Part 4 African Menu Strategies

Lamb
By Piet E. Jones

So, you’ve decided to add a little African flair to your menu. Great! Now what? It might be the trending flavor at the moment, but if you don’t capitalize it properly, you may find it languishing and dying on your menu. What to do? Well, there are a few strategies to get those dishes out of your kitchen and onto the tables.

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January 20, 2017

2017 Food Trends: The Flavors of Africa Part 3, Southern Shores

South africa
The South African national dish bobotie features ground beef and lamb browned with onions, garlic, curry, turmeric, chopped apricots, apples, raisins, and almonds along with the zest of a lemon and a beaten egg to hold it all together.


By Piet E. Jones

Wrapping up our look at African cuisine, we move south and to the islands off the eastern coast. The flavors get a little lighter but are no less unique and exciting.

South Africa

Fish is abundant in South Africa and one of the preferred methods for cooking fish is in banana or plantain leaves. Either a whole or filleted fish can work, score the skin if whole, salt generously, add lemon or sliced leeks or onions, maybe a splash of wine, then wrap tightly—no steam should be able to escape.  An oven can work, but to really exploit this method, low burning coals are the best. A little charring is okay, but don’t let the leaves burn. The result is an intensifying of the flavors without it becoming fishy, not to mention the wrapped fish looking stunning on the plate. 

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January 10, 2017

2017 Food Trends: The Flavors of Africa Part 2, North Africa

Tagine_foodcentric
Lamb tagine with chickpeas, apricots and pomegranate seeds.

By Piet E. Jones


Our journey across African cuisine continues. Next we find ourselves north of the Sahara and along the upper eastern coast. Here the cuisine is a convergence of African with Middle Eastern and Asian influences. One spice, cardamom, is used across Africa but comes into play with heavy prominence here where its earthy flavor adds to the fragrant mix of the cooking. In the United States cardamom tends to be most frequently used in desserts, but maybe it’s time to take some of it up to the main line of your kitchen.

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