Archive for February, 2009

Let me Finish my Meal with a Donut…

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Pancake Cake

A few months ago, Danielle (our Marketing Coordinator) and I went to Dave & Buster’s for some delicious fried appetizers. When time for dessert came, the “oh no, I couldn’t eat another bite” quickly turned to “we’ll have those!” when we caught site of the donut holes on the dessert menu. Sugar and chocolatey goodness, with chocolate and raspberry dipping sauces.

It’s Fat Tuesday today, and I’ve got donuts on the brain (and in the stomach). Did you know, that Canadian chain Tim Horton’s compliments their sandwich value meals with donuts? So, instead of, “would you like fries with that,” yummy breakfast time sweetness rounds out your lunch.

Bear with me and my indulgences, I swear there’s a trend here.

Last week, the New York Times noted a growing trend in offering sweet breakfast items for dessert. Donuts are a casual chain restaurant staple right now, but that’s just the beginning.

The New York Times article notes Panna Cotta from Momofuku restaurants, flavored with milk from the bottom of the cereal bowl. (A concept we’ve tried ourselves in RTD flavored milk.) Then there’s toast flavored ice cream at Tailor. And at Chicago’s Moto restaurant, guests can sample hot doughnut soup with coffee-flavored whipped cream.

Restaurants & Institutions senior editor Allison Perlik also commented on last week’s article, noting the French toast and maple-bacon flavored ice cream with carmelized apple at Lola in Cleveland.

Speaking of bacon ice cream, you may have noticed a bit of bacon love in this blog. The funny thing is, that I wouldn’t consider myself over-obsessed with the stuff, but I’m just loving all of the ingenious ways that restaurants, chocolatiers and bakers are reinventing it. And while the New York Times article notes that bacon flavored sweets are “trendy to a fault,” you have to admit there is something there. Yes, I’m sure the bacon craze will reveal itself as fad, but how could a staple completely fade away? I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of sweet bacon!

But I digress, breakfast for dessert is such a logical move…why have we not thought of this sooner? I know I’m not alone here when I say that pancakes, French toast and beignets, while completely delightful, are a little too sugary for the morning hours. Why not save them for that “I just need something sweet” feeling after a savory meal. Years ago, a friend of a friend would bring his homemade coffee and donuts ice cream to every party he was invited to – in fact, it was so good that I don’t believe he was allowed to attend without it!

With consumers increasingly looking for something just a little bit different, but still approachable, and restaurants and manufacturers looking to set themselves apart in a very competitive market, breakfast for dessert sounds like a pretty good idea to me. Now bring on the blueberry pancake parfait (with maple syrup flavored ice cream, of course)!

Baco-licious!!

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

putting bacon sprinkles on bacon mocha cupcakes

Creative Commons License photo credit: D.L.

For everyone that loves bacon, I have another yummy treat for you. You may remember last month we discussed Bacon Salt and the Bacon Explosion. (And I cannot tell you enough, how fabulous the Vosges Mo’s Bacon Bar is!). Now, prepare yourself for the (drumroll, please) Bacon Cupcake!!!

Brainchild of Boulder’s Tee and Cakes, this buttery maple cake is topped with decadent chocolate ganache, and bacon pieces. They’re all the rage, and I imagine fellow trendy cupcake bakeries may be quick to catch on.

Offal, or Awful?

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

offal
Creative Commons License photo credit: PinkMoose

It’s wintertime, and the Philly area is seeing its fair share of sick time, hence the reason I had the opportunity to watch a lot of daytime TV this week.

I spent my Tuesday with re-runs on the Travel Channel, specifically with Anthony Bourdain (No Reservations) and Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods).

Both spent their episodes visiting the UK, with stops in London, Edinburgh, The Cotswolds, and various other places in between. Among the haggis and blood pudding, there was a common message from both hosts – nose-to-tail eating.

The ever-grumpy Bourdain’s presentation was a bit more glass half empty. Visiting a meat market in London, he spoke with a butcher who dealt in offal, or the animal innards (kidneys, hearts, intestines and other lovely unmentionables). They spoke of the lack of appreciation of offal in a modern society where convenience and premium cuts are more valued. The butcher could not predict the future of his business.

However, Bourdain did focus in on one chef, Fergus Henderson, who specializes in offal, and shares it with his up-scale, top-dollar paying clientele. The funny thing about offal, is that in years past, it was the food of the poor – the cheapest pieces in the butcher case. Offal is high in protein and iron, and makes for a smart value.

The ever amusing Zimmern was a little less about saving offal, and more for promoting the fact that it has made a huge comeback on the British menu over the past 10 years or so, a sentiment resonated by the butchers he spoke with.

Offal has had a surge in the U.S. too. A recent Chicago Sun-Times article highlighted some Windy City chefs that are offering dishes like goat brain ravioli. The question is, though, beyond the foodie audience, can offal make a return to mainstream cooking? Certainly, it was a staple long, long ago.

Now, as a girl I hated when my mom made liver and onions. The idea repulsed me, and the smell drove me from the house. I still have yet to try it to this day, as I’m sure few other Gen-Xers have. But, I must admit I am now intrigued. Not only is offal an affordable choice, but chefs argue that these unpopular bits are the most delicious of any animal. And, as the Sun-Times article points out, “farmers can’t raise just a rack of lamb.” Eating all of the animal certainly makes for less waste.

So, now I’m curious what you have to say…have you sampled offal, do you eat it regularly, are you still thinking “no way!”? Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts!

Blame it on the economy…

Monday, February 9th, 2009

This weekend, a friend told me that for anything that goes wrong, she and her husband now blame the economy.

Car broke down – “It’s the economy.” Out of cereal – “It’s the economy.” Jeans don’t fit – “It’s the economy.”

You can’t look at the daily headlines without a story on how the economy is affecting our lives – not to mention the food industry. (Although, as we sat in the Cheesecake Factory on Saturday afternoon, the crowds may have indicated otherwise!)

But the truth is, that recessions can be times of great innovation. The iPod, Trader Joe’s, Crest White Strips – all of these brands were built during a recession. When manufacturers are competing for fewer consumer dollars, their products must stand out from the competition, offering value, both monetary and life-oriented.

One great way to determine consumer value, is from the consumers themselves! There’s tons of consumer feedback out there. From blogs, to Facebook fan pages and status updates (“Erin is excited that Shamrock Shakes are back!”). Another great, and sometimes untapped area, is your own website. If you have a consumer feedback section of your website, embrace it. It’s the perfect place to find your consumers’ wishes. If you post recipes, check out comments posted by users to see how they’re customizing and using your product in a way you never thought of. I read an article recently that online feedback can go unchecked, and couldn’t believe it. The best part about using this type of consumer feedback? It’s pretty darn cheap.

In a recent issue of Fast Track Fast Trends, we profiled a new product from Nissan Food Products Cup Noodle in Japan. Their new Milk Curry Cup Noodle is based on their original Curry Cup Noodle variety, and internet word of mouth that the product tasted better when prepared with hot milk, rather than hot water. Nissin responded with a milk based curry soup mix. The same is true of the company’s Milk Seafood Cup Noodle also launched last year, which was again based on consumer feedback, and an extremely large number of hits on Google when the keywords ”milk” and “seafood noodle” were used.

 Nissan Food Products Cup Milk Seafood Noodle

Another great idea, check out My Starbucks Idea - a website for Starbucks customers to vent-i (haha, couldn’t resist), share and suggest. One suggestion from the site that Starbucks recently implemented was free coffee on election day.

So go ahead and check out what your consumers are saying about you online. After all, if you’re not happy with the results, you can always blame it on the economy! :)

Winter Fancy Foods Show – Part 3…

Friday, February 6th, 2009

It’s Tea-licious!!!

Walking the floor of the Fancy Foods Show, it was obvious that tea has no intention of giving up its crown as the second most consumed beverage in the world (second only to water).

Zhena’s Gypsy Tea featured their Pink Tea for Women’s Health. This line of Super Berry teas combines green tea and hibiscus with acai, pomegranate, cherry and berry blends to satisfy the palate. My personal favorite, however, was the Cacao Berry – a blend of green tea and red tea with raspberries and dark cacao shells. Not too sweet, but not too bitter – and thoroughly enjoyable. This tea not only meets the needs of shoppers looking for superfoods, but it also contains that hard-to-miss hibiscus.

I “Got Lost” at the Republic of Tea booth tasting their line of Be Well Red Teas. With fun names like Get Clean, Get Gorgeous, Get Maternal, Get Happy and Get Smart, this line is an excellent example of the growing beauty and mood food trend. The teas offer a variety of claims from detox, uplifting mood, focus, weight control, clear skin and more.

Blue tea was also on the radar. What, never heard of blue tea? You probably know this nom de plume as oolong. A few years back, our Beverage Applications lab spotted “blue tea” as a potential trend, and we’ve been watching it ever since. With the extreme popularity of green tea, and the growing excitement for white and red teas, it’s only fitting that blue tea get a little love too. A favorite from the show? Ito En’s Oolong Shot was pretty tasty!

Winter Fancy Foods Show – Part 2

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Hey Everyone — back today with another installment from the Winter Fancy Foods Show in San Francisco!

Flower Power

There were a number of hibiscus flavored beverages at this year’s Fancy Foods Show. Its presence was subtle, but obvious, which really got me excited about the future of this tasty little flower. From South America, to Asia, to Africa, tropical cultures throughout the world count hibiscus among their signature regional flavors. Even Honest Tea’s Black Forest Berry (a hibiscus and berry blend) is well-known to be a favorite of President Obama. So it was no surprise to see this flavor quietly surfacing at a number of booths, including Ooba, a line of sparkling hibiscus beverages, including original, lime and orange.

Here They Come to Save the Day!

If you’re no fan of straight goji juice (it can be a little astringent), hold on to your hat. Gojilania now offers RTD goji berry blends featuring fellow superheroes acai, pomegranate, mangosteen and blueberry.

Another find at this year’s show was O.N.E.’s Coffee BerryTM Juice. What’s a coffee berry? It’s the fruit that houses the coffee bean, and is normally discarded. Naturally high in antioxidants, the taste is quite interesting – fruity with a touch of, what else, coffee!

O.N.E. also produces Cashew Juice. Few realize that on the tree, each cashew is attached to a larger fruit, the cashew apple. While not well known here in the U.S.A., juice made from the cashew apple is widely popular in cashew growing regions, including Brazil and Vietnam. But, if you’re expecting this beverage to taste like nut, you couldn’t be more wrong. The taste is sweet and fruity, and loaded with vitamin C.

Olive oil, step aside, there’s a new cat in town. Arette’s Tea Oil is 100% organic, has a higher smoke point than olive oil, and is high in omega-3s, antioxidants and vitamin E. Tea Oil can be used as a replacement for traditional olive oil, and is light and delicious.

David Michael & Co. • 10801 Decatur Road • Philadelphia, PA 19154 • 1-800-DM-FLAVORS

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