Archive for April, 2010

Being Adventurous – In Life & Food

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

This past weekend I was in a wedding…in fact, I was the Best Maid (aka, a female Best Man). Since the groom and I had known each other since birth, it made perfect sense to me, him, and his wife. But others were unsure – it didn’t fit the mold.

The wedding was in “the city” – across the river from the safe New Jersey suburb everyone knew. Guests were nervous.

The reception was held not in a cookie cutter hall, but in a dance studio along a cobblestone street. And, in lieu of assigned seats, we mingled the entire evening throughout a variety of rooms (with ample seating, of course). Free to roam, guests were skeptical. “It will never work,” they said, “it’s going to be a disaster!”

But, it was beautiful. Just as the bride and groom knew it would. Their sense of adventure was just what their wedding needed. Everyone had a fabulous time. Cynicism gave way to acceptance. And acceptance quickly grew into enjoyment, as friends and relatives met each other for the first time, and danced the night away.

Just like life experiences, trying new foods can be a tricky endeavor, and may often require a bit of a push. A vegetable you’ve never heard of, a combination that sounds ridiculous, a preparation that seems foreign. Too often, we decide to play it safe, and just order the chicken fingers. (Nothing against chicken fingers – they tend to be one of my own personal favorites.)

On the menu, language helps. A dish that sounds so amazing, you just can’t resist. And in the grocery store, special promotions and sales are what get customers to say, “oh, what the heck, for a dollar I’ll give it a go.”

But as product developers, we cannot assume that words and discounts are enough. We also have to ease consumers into flavors they never heard of. While launching an exotic flavor for a niche product – something targeted to a specific ethnic group, or even healthy foods niche – can work out well, doing the same on a mainstream launch can prove less profitable. When flavors are still unknown, it is best to blend them with familiar flavors to help introduce the audience to the concept. While the wedding was different than the norm, there were still many elements that were traditional, which kept guests at ease.

There are excellent examples of products, past and present, that have pushed the envelope, while keeping it familiar. A few that come to mind are: the classic Kiwi-Strawberry Snapple, the new Eclipse Breeze gum with cardamom, and the still-catching-on Vosges Mo’s Bacon Chocolate Bar. All delicious. All fun. All adventurous.

How I Love to Try Something New!

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Just this past Friday, I read a great article in Nation’s Restaurant News on innovative flavors in foodservice soft-serve. Among the flavors mentioned, olive oil intrigued me most, especially since it had proven as the best selling for one restauranteur.

So, on Saturday night, when our waiter mentioned olive oil as one of the home-made gelatos available at Philadelphia’s Pizzeria Stella, I was sold.

While the other ladies in our group opted for chocolate or hazelnut (which were amazing themselves), myself and one other brave friend ordered the olive oil. We each received one perfect scoop swimming in a small sea of yellow-green oil. The taste was creamy, sweet, fatty and fruity, and reminded me of (solid) spreadable olive oil I have sampled in the past.

olive oil gelato

What struck me most, though, was that it seemed the perfect base for more…. like an alternative to vanilla, but a bit less complex.

Almost the entire table sampled our olive oil gelato, and I saw some mixed faces and reactions. From the “well, it tastes just like olive oil,” to “no, I don’t like that at all,” and the “wow, that’s not as bad as I thought.” (I’m pretty sure that last one was a compliment.)

Despite the reaction from our friends, although most of them liked it or were ambivalent, myself and my adventurous ordering buddy were pleased.

What Ever Happened to Moderation?

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Recently, a study was released by Princeton University showing that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) causes more weight gain than table sugar. There has been A LOT of backlash from the food industry questioning their methods. Frankly, I am not here to take a side – I am not a scientist, nor do I play one on TV.

But, in all the aftermath, there was at least one voice I agreed with. Elizabeth Abbott, author of Sugar: A Bittersweet History” stated, “The debate about which one is better for you is a false debate, because neither of them is good for you.” And followed with, “By having cane sugar, you’re not doing yourself a great big favor. Not so much sugar is what we should be striving for.”

Huzzah! It was as if someone finally addressed the elephant in the room. I’m not saying let’s outlaw sugar. Pu-leeze…the chocolate drawer in my desk gives evidence of the contrary. But, instead of all the debate over which sweetener is better or worse for you, let’s address the fact that too much of a good thing – any good thing – is just too much, whether is be sugar, salt, lettuce, or even water.

We are all free to indulge once in a while. Even Jamie Oliver, host of ABC’s Food Revolution, promotes moderation, with a bit of indulgence thrown in. In other words, bake your cake and eat it too – but stick with one slice. And maybe start with some grilled chicken and veggies first.

Sure, it’s easy to get carried away when there are so many choices available. But we’ve got an entire lifetime to sample all those choices – we need not do it at once. And besides – the healthier you are, the longer you live, the more sugary treats you eventually get to try!

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