Archive for the 'foodservice' Category

A Bit of a Downer….

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

I had the pleasure of heading to restaurants twice last week for lunch (typically I’m a brown-bagger) and was surprised to spot full nutritional information under each menu item. Last spring, legislation was passed stating that chain restaurants operating more than 20 locations, were required to list nutritional information for each menu item.

I guess it’s been awhile since I’ve been out to eat…at a chain restaurant, anyway. Or maybe I just hadn’t noticed.

But my response echoed my companions – “Wow, what a downer.”

When you go out to eat, especially when it is not that often, it’s nice to treat yourself. I went out prepared to indulge in some French fries and other less than healthy goodness, but I was blown away by the calorie and sodium counts for some of those menu items. And really, that’s kind of the point.

On the first trip, I felt guilty over my original choice, and opted for a salad instead. After all, there is a bathing-suit wearing vacation in my near future. But by the second trip, I decided to ignore the numbers, and just order what I want.

Now, do not get me wrong, I appreciate the information (especially as that vacation gets nearer), but there are times when I would just rather ignore it and enjoy myself. The other problem I had with this change (at the risk of sounding rather cranky) is that it made the menu REALLY hard to read. There was just too much text, too small, and too crowded.

A solution we discussed at one lunch was a nutritional insert. The menu would look as it did before with more white space and larger text, and an insert, similar to what is used for promotions, would simply list the menu item and nutritional data. That way, the diner has the option to review at their leisure – without the information being so “in your face.” Of course, whether or not that fits into current legislation, I just don’t know. But it’s an option I would rather see.

The 2010 Summer Fancy Foods Show Review – Part 3

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

So much food, so little time…

I was pleasantly surprised at the 479° Popcorn booth. How exciting can flavored popcorn be? That’s what you’re thinking, right? Me too. But their flavors –Vietnamese Cinnamon Sugar, Madras Curry Coconut & Cashews, and Black Truffle & White Cheddar – were both creative and delicious.

And speaking of creative, I just loved the breakfast pitas, with real fruit pieces, from Ozery Bakery. Available in apple cinnamon, cranberry orange, and breakfast muesli, they make a fabulous substitute for your usual morning bagel, toast, etc. (I’m thinking the cranberry orange wouldn’t be too shabby with a lunchtime turkey sandwich either!)

Granola Flats weren’t much more than an ultra-thin flattened granola bar (Nature Valley type), but they were darn tasty! Plus, they’re sold as a “chip” rather than a bar which means I have something to snack on now when hubby dives into the Fritos during a baseball game.

When it comes to food, I’ll try anything once. (Whether I’ll try it again is a different story.) But there is the occasional product that my brain just won’t allow past my lips. That’s been true in the past of vinegar drinks brought to me by my wonderful co-workers at David Michael Beijing. I love vinegar – so much, that I load it up on my salads to the point of mouth numbing. But the idea of drinking it, like juice – I just couldn’t get past that. So, when I spotted Hong Cho’s pomegranate vinegar drink, I decided to go for it. And you know what? It’s pretty good! The vinegar is noticeable, but not overwhelming. Since there are a number of health-benefits linked to vinegar drinks, I’m officially adding this to my radar. With the right marketing (a downplay of the word “vinegar” I’m thinking) this could be a future trend to watch.

Other fun finds at this year’s show? I was excited to spot macqui berry at Honest Tea’s booth in the new Macqui Berry Mate – keep your eyes peeled for more of this superfruit. There was lots of prickly pear and blood orange flavored goodies, mostly drinks. I found Parisian macarons at a number of booths, including the frozen macarons at Galaxy Desserts – perfect for foodservice. The Naan Pizza at Tandoor Chef was awesome – it’s about darn time we had something like this on the market. And, Chobani Greek Yogurt now offers Chobani Champions, said to be the only Greek yogurt made for kids.

And my favorite product of the show? Nothing too crazy here – my personal favorite were the falafels at Falafel Republic. Lightly fried balls of ground chick peas, falafels are typically served in a pita from your favorite street vendor. This version needs only seconds in the microwave to heat up, and the falafels are satisfyingly savory and filling. Served with tzatziki sauce, I could eat them every day, with or without the pita.

The Case of the King’s Fries

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

To say it’s been snowy around here lately would be, well, an understatement. Hit by two blizzards in five days, the Philadelphia area has been immobile.

Snowy Branches in Philadelphia

Before cabin fever sets in, most of us deal with this imprisonment with food. After all, we have to get all that shoveling energy from somewhere, right? And eat we did – hearty meals like turkey chili, turkey meatloaf, sausage & peppers, and from-scratch pancakes.

But the morsels that we were most looking forward to were two little impulse items I grabbed while stocking up for the Snowpocalypse – Burger King’s frozen fries in King Krinks™ and King Wedgez™, from ConAgra (launched Fall 2009).

Burger King King Krinks and King Wedgez

Housed in this oversized wedge-shaped cardboard container is a single serving of microwaveable French fries. The instructions are easy – Shake, Vent, Zap, Tap, Rip. First, shake the container to equally distribute the fries, then vent by opening on each side of the package where indicated.

Burger King Microwavable French Fries

Microwave for three minutes, then rip off the top. Presto – they’re ready to eat! Burger King branded fries fresh from the microwave, in a handy dandy FRYPOD®.

Burger King King Krinks Microwavable Fries

Burger King King Krinks Fries

Burger King King Krinks Closeup

The verdict? Pretty tasty! Both versions were well seasoned, if not a bit overly so (but frankly, on French fries, that’s not necessarily a bad thing!). The Wedgez were definitely the spicier of the two. Both tasted great on their own, and with ketchup. They had a nice texture – crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside, similar to an oven fry.

But, there were a few drawbacks in the process. The recommended three minute cooking time appeared to be way too long. For the Wedgez, this meant fries stuck to the interior packaging. And for both, the desirable texture quickly turned chewy and hard.

Burger King - King Wedgez

And how about the price? I found them on sale for $0.77 each, a bargain compared to the drive-thru (I believe non-sale price varies from $1.20 – $1.77, depending on the store). Maybe not comparable to the cost savings on a family-sized bag of oven fries, but worth it for the novelty, or for kids who are not allowed to use the oven.

So, would hubby and I buy them again? Certainly! (Of course, we’d reduce the cooking time a bit.) Maybe next time we’ll try the unseasoned Kolossalz™ too!

T.G.I.Friday’s Test Markets Pizzas

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

T.G.I. Fridays PizzasWhen we drove to the local T.G.I.Friday’s yesterday for lunch, the last thing we were expecting was to try an exclusive new menu item – but that’s exactly what happened.

If you’re not in the food industry, this may not be very exciting. But for me, a self-proclaimed food nerd, it was the highlight of my day!

Our local Bensalem, PA location is the only one testing the new pizzas thus far. Offered in four varieties – Margherita, Pepperoni, Rustic Italian Sausage, and Tuscan Veggie – the restaurant started serving them on Monday.

The ingredients are fresh – fresh cheese, fresh veggies – and the sauce and dough are both made in-house. They’re smaller than a traditional pie, and oval, with a gourmet pizza look. We ordered the sausage, and shared it as an appetizer between the four of us.

At a price point of $8.99 for the margherita, $10.49 for pepperoni and sausage, and $11.99 for the veggie – it’s a little steep. Certainly more expensive than a pizzeria pie, and smaller to boot. But cheaper than a sampler platter. Great as an appetizer – although each one is suggested as an entrée.

TGI Fridays Pizza Taste Testing

A new oven was brought in to accommodate the pies (which required a little kitchen revamp) – our server (who was fabulous, by the way) compared it to a conveyer oven you would find at a Quiznos.

Our thoughts – the dough was fabulous, as was the cheese, but the sauce could use a little something. (Each pie is served with red pepper and oregano shakers.) Call it spice or flavor – it was a tad too sweet.

If it works though, the pizzas would be a great addition to the Friday’s menu. (They’ve even got little pizza boxes to accommodate to-go orders).

From Little Russia by the Sea…with love!

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Little Russia By The Sea - Brighton Beach

This weekend, I stepped off of the subway, and into another world…literally. I, along with a gaggle of women, visited Brighton Beach, Brooklyn on Saturday night for an unconventional bachelorette party at The National – a Russian supper club where English is scarce, and the vodka is French.

Russian Cold Appetizers

A display of cold appetizers awaits us.

Russian Smoked Sturgeon and Lox

Smoked sturgeon and lox.

When we were seated at our table for 18, a traditional Russian spread was already waiting for us. A bevy of cold appetizers ranging from Russian potato salad, smoked sturgeon, lox, grilled vegetables, chicken liver pate, pickles, eggplant, assorted salads, and beef tongue. Even in this brave group of women, the beef tongue was met with cringes and “no thank you’s,” until our intrepid friend Jennie manned up, and chased it quickly down with pumpernickel and vodka – a scowl on her face.

Russian Beef Tongue

The infamous beef tongue!

Almost full already, the food kept coming, and miraculously found space on the table. More cold appetizers – pancakes with salmon roe, more fish, more salad. Then the hot appetizers – roasted potatoes, chicken-filled pirozhki (like a dumpling, pierogi or knish), grilled white fish, and stuffed roast beef.

Russian Chicken Pirozhki

Getting stuffed – chicken pirozhki amid a table full of food!

And, oh wait, there’s more!!! A few hours into dinner, dancing, and live music, and there were more hot appetizers to be had! Just when we thought we couldn’t eat another bite, the waiters served us a beautiful bread bowl filled with beef stew that was out of this world. All the while, straight vodka was the beverage of choice, and our requests for water were lost a bit in translation.

Russian Bread Bowl filled with Beef Stew

Bread bowl with beef stew.

Happy birthdays were sung to those from one year to 50. Anniversary dances were made with grandkids running circles round. And then, the stage show began. White suits and mesh leotards accented by wigs, hats and feathers. Salsa prevailed in the Carnivale theme that didn’t seem out of place, even though every other bit of chatter was in Russian.

Beef Tongue - Traditional Russian Meal

Beef tongue, later in the evening, remains mostly untouched!

Dinner was served as we watched, a collection of chicken and pork kebabs, stuffed chicken breast…and french fries (a little random, but completely appreciated!). The evening finished with more dancing and singing, as well as cakes, pastries and coffee. For those six hours of solid eating, I felt as if I had been transported to Russia, and all I did was drive up the turnpike. It’s amazing how food can do that – in concert with language, song and vodka, of course!

Balinoff Vodka

We asked why the vodka was French, but the Russian speaking waiters didn’t quite understand our question. The response? “It’s for fun.”

**Thanks to all the ladies that donated their food pictures!!!

No Foolin’

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

My sister and I are preparing for a little weekend getaway. I’m going through my usual pre-vacation ritual – washing laundry, restocking toiletries, and…printing coupons? That last one’s pretty new, but I’m stocking up. Two-for-one entrees…20% in-store discounts…free dessert. Heck, we even got the hotel room as part of a special promotion! The thing is, I’m not the only one shopping deals.

After the Super Bowl, Denny’s Restaurants gave away free Grand Slam breakfasts to diners. Today, the restaurant chain announced a buy-one-get-one-free Grand “Slamwich” giveaway for April 8th. Nope, this isn’t an elaborate April Fool’s joke – they’re at it again!

According to the Wall Street Journal, the last promotion brought in two million customers between the hours of 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. on a Tuesday. Normal traffic for those hours is typically only 200,000.

Other restaurants are increasing value for their customers too. Rumor has it that U.S. locations of Tim Horton’s gave out free sandwiches at lunch-time today. IHOP is running an all-you-can-eat pancake promotion. And those brown-bagging their lunches daily may be easily tempted by the $5 lunch deals a number of fast-casuals are promoting.

The Wall Street Journal article brings up a good point, though. Will consumers get too accustomed to these low-price deals? While they may eventually lose that full-price phobia, their expectations of value will certainly increase.

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