Archive for the 'meat' Category

Savory Cocktails – Trend or Fad?

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Blogs are exploding with reports of meaty cocktails on the menu. I’m not going to lie – my first reaction is “ewwww.” I want bacon with my morning OJ, not in it.

But then I let it simmer a little (sorry, it was one of the only puns not taken), and thought about the savory drinkables that have been around for a while. There is, of course, the Bloody Mary, with its sweet, spicy and savory components. Then there is the age-old Chelada cocktail that uses Clamato juice – a product that has always made me run away (but then again, I don’t exactly like clams). And recently, modern bartenders (a.k.a. bar chefs or mixologists) have reverted to hand-crafted cocktails from real fruit, herbs and spices, rather than relying on mixes (admittedly moreso in higher-end establishments and independents).

Considering these elements makes the savory cocktail seem like a no-brainer – so why the buzz? Oh, maybe it’s the term “fat-washing” that has us talking. Mixologists are adding fat (as in, bacon fat) to whiskey, popping it in the freezer, then cutting out the solidified fat. Bacon flavor infused – greasy fat in the trash.

And ok, I’ll admit it. With the extreme love for bacon I see on a daily basis, and the versatility we’ve been opened up to in the past few years, maybe this could work. After all, bacon is amazing in chocolate, so why not in my chocolate martini?

But how about salmon-flavored vodka? Now you’re cringing, right? Yes sir, one distiller has added a salmon flavor to their line-up. I’m all for shaking things up, but…

So, the question remains – is this a growing trend, or just a fad? Well, the thing about a fad is that most of the time, it has some basis in a functional long-term trend. Take leg warmers for instance – a fashion fad, but not for those in the dancing world. And in food, fads may fizzle, but they tend to stick around in one way or another. In other words, while the liquor store of the future may not stock the makings for a Philly cheesesteak cocktail, what we are seeing is a slow move away from overly sweet, candy-coated cocktails. We’re scaling back the sweet for a more balanced drink, be it savory, fruity or otherwise.

There are elements in the meaty drink craze that are shaping the future of drink. And focusing on those nuances, the driving forces, will help us determine future flavors for this category. Just please, don’t let it be salmon…

“Meatloaf, smeatloaf, double-beatloaf. I hate meatloaf.”

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

I love that scene from A Christmas Story, when the little brother, Randy, won’t eat his dinner, and Mother and The Old Man have to rely on a combination of threats and games to get him to take a bite.

I love it because I was that kid. In fact, Mom and I once held a two-hour staring match over a forkful of peas. I still hate peas.

Sure, I was a picky eater. There’s no question about that. But sometimes, I think I was just bored with the options. Never again will I eat chicken baked in cream of mushroom soup – it was delicious, but I’ve had my fill for a lifetime.

Recently, I read an article from Reuters that stated the average mom in the UK relies on a rotation of nine meals to feed her family. Just nine! While the study was performed in the UK, I’m sure results in the USA wouldn’t be that far off.

Explanations were all pretty similar – time constraints, picky eaters, and expense. Most moms stick with what their families know and love, rather than waste time or money on something that may not go over well. Others also admitted to cooking two meals – something for the kids early in the evening, and a different meal for mom and dad, later at night. Most common are true comfort foods – spaghetti Bolognese, roasts, casseroles, stews and pizza.

When hubby and I first got married, I was on a mission to increase my repertoire. Pre-wedding, our weekly menu consisted of take-out, chicken and stuffing casserole, chicken tacos, and the occasional pasta night. To fight it, I forced myself to try one new recipe a week. Some were complicated, some were not. Some made it onto our regular menu, and some more, did not. The effort may have tapered off, but today we have seasonal favorites, quick options and more drawn-out weekend fare, and more importantly, vegetables! We may average more than nine, but there are definitely items we eat every 10 to 14 days.DM_Food_2009_058

It’s important to add a little variety, but I certainly understand how hard it can be most nights. That’s what makes kit meals so important. Allowing minimal effort, but still a sense of self-preparation, kit meals allow many home cooks the advantage of trying out new foods, hopefully at a low cost. Comfort foods are great most nights, but exotic options can help to freshen things up. Take a look at ethnic cuisine, like Thai curry, tamales, and chicken tangine, to create more variety for your consumers.

There are also ways to deliver variety in prepared foods, while tapping into those conventional recipes that everyone loves. At the 2009 Innovation Roadshow, we featured Meatloaf Cupcakes – mini-meatloafs with whipped potato “frosting.” We varied the meatloaf itself, with Italian herb and carmelized onion flavors, and further extended options with the potatoes, in butter parmesan and brown sugar cinnamon sweet potato.

Just a little creativity and flavor can help consumers get out of a food rut!

From Little Russia by the Sea…with love!

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

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.

A display of cold appetizers awaits us.

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.

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.

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.

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, 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!

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!!!

A Peruvian Adventure

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Today we welcome guest blogger Yuko Noda, a chemist in our processed flavors department. Yuko recently returned from a trip to Peru, and had lots to share with us about the experience, and the flavors!!

Last year, both Epicurious and Bon Appétit predicted that Peruvian cuisine to be the hot ethnic cuisine of 2009. True to their predictions, we are seeing more Peruvian inspired dishes and drinks making their way into magazines and on restaurant menus. As I had coincidentally planned a vacation to Peru, I was excited to find out more about this delightful cuisine on my trip. 

Some people say that Peru has the best and most diverse food in all of South America.  Peruvian cuisine is a melting pot of flavors ranging from Incan and Spanish cuisine to Chinese, Japanese, African and other European immigrant influences. One example of this is the popular dish lomo saltado, a beef sirloin stir-fry seasoned with soy sauce, vinegar and aji chili pepper (Peruvian hot pepper). It is served with French fries, which are sometimes mixed with the stir fry, and white rice. Visually, it seemed kind of strange – but then again, how can you go wrong with deep fried potatoes?

Speaking of potatoes, Peruvians adore potatoes and grow a few thousand varieties of them, ranging in color, shape and size. Potatoes were in virtually every dish that I ate on my trip-as one of the main ingredients in dishes like causa (potato mashed with aji chili and layered or stuffed with a mixture of tuna, chopped red onions, avocado, boiled eggs, lime juice and mayo) and lomo saltad. They were also served as sides or garnishes in dishes like ceviche, alpaca steak and roasted cuy (roasted whole guinea pig which is a specialty in the area around the town of Cusco). If you’re wondering, both the cuy and alpaca were quite tasty. Alpaca meat was tender and the flavor was similar to a cross of goat and lamb. And cuy tasted kind of like rabbit. I cheated and got the shredded cuy confit, instead of the whole animal with its head and feet. (Seriously, would you want this thing staring at you from your plate??)

One of my favorite dishes was arroz con pollo. Arroz con pollo is a popular dish in the Latin world but what makes Peruvian arroz con pollo special is the use of cilantro. Cilantro blended with water is added to the cooking liquid, giving the whole dish a green hue. People who don’t like cilantro may actually enjoy eating this dish since the cilantro flavor is very mild. The same flavor profile is seen in seco, a stew with cilantro sauce made with beef, lamb, chicken or duck.  

Cuy (roasted whole guinea pig)

Cuy (roasted whole guinea pig)

From munching on Inca protein bars (containing quinoa, amarath and popped wheat and a hint of anise) while hiking on the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, to enjoying aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a rich creamy aji chili sauce served over rice) in an upscale restaurant overlooking the pre-Inca ruin in Lima, my trip to Peru was definitely a culinary adventure!

Machu Picchu in the early morning

Machu Picchu in the early morning

Tempted to try some Peruvian flavor for yourself? Stay tuned to dmflavors.com! Yuko will recreate one of her favorite dishes for the August Recipe of the Month. Visitors to this year’s Innovation Roadshow will also have the opportunity to enjoy some Peruvian flavor at Yuko’s booth.

I will gladly pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger today…

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Hamburgers are a darling of the culinary world lately. Why? Well, why not? They’re delicious, cheap, and well, delicious! Besides, who doesn’t like a good burger?

Everyone has a favorite – whether you like yours like Jimmy Buffet, with lettuce and tomato, or a bit more on the wild side. Personally, I like to judge an establishment on their turkey burgers. On average, turkey burgers are sadly tasteless and drab, served merely as a low-fat substitute, rather than a featured dish. But with just a little love, they can be transformed into an amazing menu option.

Recently, our culinary lab put to the test the burger that Oprah has dubbed the “best turkey burger in the world!” The Mar-a-Lago Turkey Burger, served at Donald Trump’s private Palm Beach club, combines fruit and spice into a mouthful of flavor you’d never expect from plain ol’ turkey. Oprah definitely knows what she’s talking about! 

And sure, we’ll admit this recipe calls for a bit more love than your typical beef patty, but it is well worth the effort. Plus, with a growing trend in fruitful additions to the burger menu, this is one you’ll want to try sooner than later.

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!

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