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Archive for Trends

TRENDS: Restaurant Focus For 2015

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No more waste: In restaurant kitchens, everything can have a second life. Citrus peel
is turned into marmalade. Photo courtesy Lola Loves Green.

 

What are the top culinary concerns for restaurateurs this year?

According to a survey by Nation’s Restaurant News, the top five focus on gluten-free and sustainability.

1. ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Safeguarding natural resources is a growing concern across the globe, and the number one culinary issue cited in a survey of American chefs. It’s not just with fine dining: Fast casual concepts like Chipotle Mexican Grill and Sweetgreen have been on the bandwagon since their inception. Chipotle recently stopped serving pork when it couldn’t find enough sustainable meat!

 
2. NATURAL INGREDIENTS/MINIMALLY PROCESSED FOODS

“Clean” labels and minimally processed food appeal to more and more customers. Chefs polled by the National Restaurant Association named natural ingredients and minimally processed food as a major theme. Last year, fast food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s took the concept mainstream, adding an all-natural burger to the menu. Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts have responded to consumer complaints by doing away with additives.
 
3. HYPERLOCAL SOURCING

Locally sourced and house-grown food are becoming more and more important to customers. “Hyperlocal” fruits, vegetables and herbs are grown in restaurant gardens. Some restaurants have beehives as well. We’ve even seen chickens strutting around rooftops (fresh eggs!).

 
4. FOOD/WASTE REDUCTION MANAGEMENT

Food costs are rising and consumers are growing more concerned about how what they eat affects the planet. Both have become major concerns among the dining public.

Chefs are practicing more “root-to-stem” cooking, the logical next step to “nose-to-tail” cooking, in which restaurants utilize the entire animal (or vegetable). It’s an effective way to avoid waste and manage costs.

Chefs have long used bits and scraps—in soups, chicken salad and so forth. But now, they’re making marmalade from citrus skins and bitters from plum and peach pits. This parallels the new law in Seattle, which as of January 1st ordered no more food waste in the garbage. Instead, residents are expected to recycle and compost.

5. GLUTEN-FREE CUISINE

Fewer than 7% of Americans are sensitive to gluten; about 1% of people worldwide suffer from celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which gluten consumption can cause life-threatening intestinal damage.

Yet, 63% of Americans surveyed by Consumer Reports said they believed following a gluten-free diet would improve their physical or mental health*. About a third of those said they buy gluten-free products or try to avoid gluten.

Gluten-free cuisine was the culinary theme chefs pointed to fifth most often in the NRA survey. Restaurants are responding with a growing array of gluten-free options, including gluten-free burger buns.

 
*Note that no scientific studies to date confirm or deny a positive impact of gluten-free diets among condition-free consumers.

  

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TRENDS: What’s Hot in 2015

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Bánh-mi, a Vietnamese submarine sandwich
on a baguette. Photo courtesy The Great
Pepper Cookbook
by Melissa’s Produce.

 

Nation’s Restaurant News, the major trade paper and website for those in the restaurant industry, reports that Americans are becoming more interested in trying new ethnic foods—especially (but not surprisingly) in restaurants.

What “ethnic” means varies from person to person. The NRA commented that the three most popular ethnic cuisines in the U.S.—Mexican, Italian and Chinese—have become so mainstream that they hardly count as “ethnic” these days.

Based on a survey of nearly 1,300 chefs, the NRA pinpointed five ethnic flavors and cuisines that it expects to see this year.

If you live in a major city like Los Angeles, New York or San Francisco (among others), you probably don’t have to go too far to try these. But if you haven’t had them, plan an “eating safari” for your next big city visit.

Here’s the full article by Bret Thorn.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIAN CUISINE

Southeast Asian cuisine was the fifth most frequently cited ethnic trend by chefs. While a full Vietnamese menu is a delightful alternative to Chinese cuisine, the trendiest item these days is the Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich.

Bánh mì is a Vietnamese version of a submarine sandwich made on a Vietnamese-style baguette (made with both wheat and rice flour). It can be vegetarian—pickled carrots, daikon and onions, for example—or include tofu or meat. Here’s a recipe.

PERUVIAN CUISINE

Peruvian food was the ethnic cuisine chefs pointed to fourth most frequently. Chefs at independent restaurants frequently offer ceviche, a raw seafood dish cured in a marinade, as an appetizer. Here’s a template to make your own custom recipe at home.

 

REGIONAL ETHNIC CUISINE

As restaurant customers become increasingly interested in learning about their food, calling something simply “Italian” or “Mexican” is not enough. Pinpointing exactly where in a foreign country a specific dish was created can add to its appeal. The chefs surveyed pointed to regional ethnic cuisine as the third most frequently cited ethnic trend.

Consider Hunam or Szechuan Chinese cuisine versus Cantonese; Venetian and Sicilian versus Tuscan Italian. Every country is divided into regions, each with its own delicious cuisine.
 
AUTHENTIC ETHNIC CUISINE

“Authentic” is a term that can mean as many things as “ethnic. The chefs surveyed pointed to the terms used together as the second most frequently cited ethnic trend. Unvarnished, unchanged dishes from foreign lands bring the true experience to the diner. Foodies don’t want their food dumbed down for “American palates.”
 
ETHNIC FUSION CUISINE

 

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A trio of different ceviche recipes. Photo courtesy Raymi | NYC.

The number one trend has to do with the delight so many people take in mashups from different cultures. Recent hits include the cronut, the cheeseburger burrito and the ramen burger; although the concept applies to fine cuisine as well.

  

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PRODUCT: Cake In A Jar

Way back in 2009, we discovered the excellent cake in a jar from Yummy Cupcakes in Los Angeles. It became a Top Pick Of The Week, and one of those products that, years later, we still pine for, remembering every spoonful.

The trend was slow in starting. After five years, in the past week we’ve received notice of two more cake in a jar products.

DUFF’S CAKEMIX

The Food Network’s Ace of Cakes, Duff Goldman, has a custom bakery in Baltimore, a line of cake mixes and cake decorating accoutrements sold nationwide, and most recently, a bakery café, Duff’s Cakemix, also in L.A., which includes a studio where Duff wannabes can decorate their own cakes.

The bakery offers an array of freshly baked sweets, including Dinkies (Duff’s version of Twinkies) and Cake in a Jar.

The latter presents an opportunity to send a special occasion “slice” of cake in a Mason jar, which keeps it moist and fresh for five days (not that there will be any left by then).

So gift challenges are solved: You can send cake in a jar as a birthday gift, or to celebrate any occasion. There’s currently a seasonal red, white and blue Star Spangled Cake In A Jar.

   

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Confetti Cake is sweet and celebratory. Photo courtesy Duff’s Cakemix.

 
You can buy them in two, four or six units, and in two sizes: 8 ounces ($14 for two jars) or 16 ounces ($20 for two jars). The eight-ounce size is more than enough, but the larger size will keep for five days and affords the opportunity for continuous celebration.

Flavors include Chocolate With Chocolate Buttercream and Chocolate Chips, Confetti With Vanilla Buttercream, Marble With Chocolate And Vanilla Buttercream and Vanilla With Vanilla Buttercream.

We received a sample of the Confetti With Vanilla Buttercream. The confetti says “celebrate”; the recipe was a bit on the sweet side for us, but should be just the thing most American palates are looking for.

Order them online at DuffsCakemix.com.

 

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Skip the wedding cake; almost everyone will
prefer cake in a jar. Photo courtesy Chicago-
Cake.com.

 

CAKE CHICAGO

We then received news that one of our favorite artisan bakers, Cake Chicago, is selling cake in a jar.

Cake Chicago began life as a wedding cake specialist, subsequently branching out into daily treats like cookies, bars and chocolate truffles.

So it’s no surprise that their cake in a jar achieves a higher standard. Just look at the elegant layers in the jar, perfectly fitted.

We’d give these as wedding favors and serve a dessert that most guests will prefer to wedding cake. As you can see in the photos, the perfectly-fitted layers and make an excellent presentation.

Like Duff’s, the jars can be wrapped in grosgrain ribbon, and tags can be added for quantity orders.

 
Flavors include:

  • White buttermilk cake with raspberry conserve and Italian meringue buttercream
  • Chocolate fudge cake with salted caramel filing
  • Carrot cake with cream cheese filling
  • Banana cake with fudge filling
  •  
    The price is the same as Duff’s: $7.00, with a two jar minimum (8 ounce size only). Order online at Cake-Chicago.com.

    And if anyone out there wants to send us a gift: More cake in a jar, please! It’s a happy way to enjoy a nice piece of cake.

      

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    TRENDS: How America Likes To Grill

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    Tip: Skewer kabobs with sprigs of rosemary
    for instead of conventional skewers. Photo
    courtesy Sur La Table.

     

    To capture consumer trends around grilling and barbecuing, the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) conducts the biannual HPBA Barbecue Lifestyle, Usage & Attitude Study. Here are highlights from the 2014 State of the Barbecue Industry Report, which are based on data gathered in August 2013.

    Reigniting the Spark: Outdoor Cooking Still Hot

  • Eighty percent of households own an outdoor barbecue, grill or smoker.
  • Nearly all (97%) of grill owners used their grill in the past year.
  • The majority of grill owners (60%) use their grills year-round.
  • Sixty-one percent of households own a grill own a gas grill, followed by charcoal (41%) and electric (10%).
  • Nearly half (45%) of grill purchasers bought a replacement grill last year, with 29% buying an additional grill.
  •  
    Grill Usage: Consumers Loves to Grill Year-Round

  • The major summer holidays top the list of the most popular grilling days: the Fourth of July (68%), Memorial Day (52%) and Labor Day (51%).
  • Winter holidays saw an increase in grilling over 2011: Super Bowl Sunday (31%), Easter (18%), Thanksgiving (15%) and New Year’s Eve/Day (15%). Grilling Thanksgiving meals outdoors is increasingly popular.
  • Nearly half (49%) of grill owners see their outdoor grilling area as a functional cooking area of their home; more than a quarter (30%) see it as entertainment area and 21% see it as a place to rest and relax.
  • Thirty-seven percent of consumers have a large, moveable grill system on a modest patio/deck, with some outdoor furniture and an informal place to eat.
  • Consumers say an easy ignition system (49%) and large grilling surface (39%) are the most important features of a gas grill, followed by ease of cleaning (35%), quality of construction (32%) and ability to heat up quickly (29%).
  •  

  • Owners of gas (42%) and charcoal (34%) grills view the color of the grill as a major purchasing factor, a 38% increase from 2011.
  • When entertaining using a barbecue grill, gas grill owners use their grill an average of 12 times a year, electric grill owners 12 times a year and charcoal grill owners 11 times a year.
  •  
    Tasty Trends: It’s All About the Meat

  • Meats, including hot dogs (72%), steak (71%), burgers (69%), and chicken parts (64%), top the list of the most popular foods prepared using a grill.
  • Grill owners believe that food cooked on their grills rather than their ovens is more healthful (38%), while 57% believe it is just as healthful.
  • Nearly three out of four consumers (74%) who cook on a gas grill normally use barbecue sauce for basting during cooking.
  • Dry meat rubs remain popular among consumers, with 33% using them more often than not.
  •  

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    Treat yourself to extra-long tongs. These are from Sur La Table.

     

    Household Roles: Male or Female, Everybody Grills

  • The male head most often makes the decision to cook (62%), lights the grill (73%) and does the cooking (68%).
  • Whether male or female, nearly 78% of consumers cooking on the grill consider themselves to be “extremely proficient” or “proficient in most situations.”
  • Across the board, males are most likely to make the decision to purchase a grill (66%).
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    TRENDS: Chicken Up, Seafood, Pork & Beef Down

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    Chart courtesy The Wall Street Journal.

     
     

    While Americans are aware of the need to improve their diets, there’s been a decline in consumption of one of the healthiest food choices: fish.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2012, the last year for which figures are available, the average U.S. consumer ate:

  • 82 pounds of chicken
  • 57 pounds of beef
  • 46 pounds of pork
  • 14.4 pounds of seafood, down from 15 pounds in 2011 and a record high of 16.6 pounds consumed in 2004 (by comparison, the average Japanese consumer eats 120 pounds a year, while Spaniards consume 96 pounds)
  •  
    As you can see from the chart, chicken—affordable and versatile—is the big winner in growth, and the higher-calorie, higher cholesterol beef and pork have experienced some decline. But while the overall category experienced positive gains, the decline in per capita consumption is down.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, it’s a combination of higher prices (quality fresh fish is $15 or more a pound while fresh whole chicken is 10% of that) and consumer hesitance, because they don’t know how to cook fish properly (and at those prices, who wants overcooked fish?).

    Is help on the horizon? Maybe not: The seafood industry is much more fragmented than the beef and pork industries, which organized major marketing campaigns to promote their products.

    Here’s a tip: Although it’s a treat, you don’t need to pay top dollar for fresh fish. Look for values in frozen fish and stock up. Defrost it slowly in the fridge.

    After all, if you order fish at restaurant chains, it’s likely frozen—and few people know the difference.

      

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