Retro foods make a menu comeback
Comfort foods with an updated twist gain wide appeal
Everything from vintage cocktails to classic cars from earlier generations is hot once more. For Baby Boomers, there’s an element of nostalgia in retro styles and products, while Millennials’ attraction is more about discovery. Retro foods have also been sweeping menus across the U.S., and they’re no less popular. Essentially comfort foods with a hipster edge, familiar dishes have been reinterpreted, often with a wink and a bit of fun as chefs give them an updated twist.
Uptown bar bites.
Scotch eggs, which are popping up all over on bar menus and appetizer listings, trace their roots to England. A Scotch egg is a hard-boiled egg that’s been coated in ground sausage, rolled in bread crumbs and deep fried or baked, though versions that appear on this side of the pond are often more complex. One restaurant offers The Rebel Within, which combines Asiago cheese and green onion with the sausage and a soft-cooked egg, is served on a muffin. Another Italian American Restaurant dishes up savory Porchetta Scotch Egg, accompanied by house-made bacon Sriracha, and a Mediterranean restaurant has its own variation on the theme with the Crispy Hen Egg, which substitutes prosciutto for sausage and adds sherry vinaigrette.
Deviled eggs, American cousins to the Scotch variety, are everywhere too. A chef added Deviled Eggs with Cheddar, bacon and parsley to its appetizers last spring. Another take is Deviled Eggs topped with truffle-chive vinaigrette as a starter and used as a garnish on a signature Steak Salad.
As side dishes go, casseroles don’t get a lot of love, but they are versatile, delicious and suddenly cool. They never really went out of fashion at many restaurants with southern roots. Some restaurants feature a Green Bean Casserole, while another offers Sweet Potato Casserole, and features Hashbrown Casserole as a side-dish option.
A Chicago restaurant specializes in new takes on old standbys, like Ain’t Your Mama’s tuna noodle casserole with fettuccine and artichoke hearts. And in Minneapolis the Tater Tot HauteDish, a deconstructed casserole of short ribs, porcini mushrooms, green beans and house-made potato tots is very popular. The Tater Tots-based dishes, called Hot Tots, layered the potato nuggets on open-faced omelets crowned with cheese, sausage and other ingredients.
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Restaurants Could See More Demand for Red Velvet Cake
Now that food manufacturers are relying on red velvet cake to inject new life into their product lines, can restaurants be far behind? Red velvet Oreos hit grocery store shelves recently, a move that should help make the traditional cake version’s signature look and flavor—and its companion signature cream cheese frosting—top of mind for many consumers. Can there be a better time for restaurants to add this popular, easily made item to their dessert menus?
Red velvet cake, a traditional Southern dessert offering, has been around for decades, with its popularity peaking during the recent gourmet cupcake craze. Customers loved red velvet cupcakes, particularly with traditional cream cheese icing. But in the post-gourmet cupcake era, red velvet has lost of lot of market presence.
It’s become a relative rarity in restaurants. A June 2014 analysis of the dessert menu landscape conducted by restaurant menu data-mining company Food Genius found that some form of cake is the number one dessert item for both chains (64 percent) and independents (66 percent). Yet red velvet cake remains a niche item, appearing on less than five percent of menus in this study.
So is demand for red velvet cake out of whack with supply?
Oreos, the world’s best-selling cookie, got on the bandwagon this month by offering a red velvet version of its product that will be available for between six to eight weeks. It’s only the second time the brand has tinkered with the signature look of its product. In this case, instead of two thin chocolate wafers filled with a white creme filling, it features red-tinged cookie wafers and a cream cheese-flavored filling.
Ben and Jerry’s has long provided red velvet cake lovers with a way to get their fix in a slightly different form. It sells plenty of Red Velvet Cake Ice Cream, which it describes as red velvet cake batter ice cream loaded with red velvet cake pieces and a cream cheese frosting swirl.
At least one restaurant operator sees an opportunity here. They came up with a Red Velvet Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich for its Valentine’s Day special dessert. Served with a chocolate dipping sauce, it sells for $10. The restaurant says the dish may become a permanent offering if it proves popular on Valentine’s Day weekend.
Some pastry chefs may consider red velvet cake to pedestrian an item for their dessert menu. They’re right, in the sense that almost anyone in the kitchen can turn out an acceptable version without much supervision or training. But that might be all some operators are looking for.
In a recent Washington DC article it was reported that many of the city’s restaurants have done away with the pastry chef position and outsourced dessert production. Others rely on regular kitchen staff to make them in-house.
More and more, the task falls to chefs and line cooks who, lacking any background in baking, have contrived to fill their menus with simple, quick-fix solutions. Puddings, custards, panna cotta (an Italian term for what is essentially Jell-O made with cream) don’t require a lot of effort or expense; all can be made in the morning and stashed in the walk-in refrigerator.
If your restaurant is in this situation, red velvet cake could be one of the no-frills dessert options that would work for you.
Source: restaurant-hospitality.com, 2-12-2015
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USDA Sees Roller Coaster Ride for Pork, Beef in 10-year forecast
Lower feed costs are expected to lead to pork price declines over the next decade as beef prices initially rise and then fall as production increases, according to USDA’s long-term projections for the U.S. agriculture sector. Livestock prices initially will reflect the production responses to lower feed costs as net returns provide economic incentives for expansion, according to the report. For pork, that will mean an initial rebound in prices as the industry produces more hogs that were adversely affected by PEDV last year. Then prices for pork – and broilers – will decline through most of the 10-year period as production levels rise. Beef prices, however, will initially rise in the 10-year period as production declines and beef cow inventories are rebuilt, the report projects. Beef cattle prices will then drop for several years starting in 2018 when beef production is expected to increase. The report also notes that lower prices for major U.S. crops, hogs and poultry over the next several years will result in declines in export values in 2015 and farm cash receipts through 2016. Global meat consumption also is projected to continue to increase with poultry consumption rising faster than pork and beef around the world over the next decade, the report added. Source: meatingplace.com, 2-11-2015
A school of vermilion rockfish. After being depleted decades ago by overfishing, rockfish — a genus of more than 100 tasty species — have made a remarkable comeback.
Donna Schroeder/From ‘Probably More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast’/Courtesy Milton Love
For West Coast commercial fishermen and seafood lovers, there is reason to cheer. Rockfish, a genus of more than 100 tasty species depleted decades ago by excessive fishing, have rebounded from extreme low numbers in the 1990s, FishingPicks reports.
It’s a conservation and fishery management success story that chefs, distributors and sustainable seafood advocates want the world to hear.
The rub? It’s hard to communicate this success if purveyors continue to misidentify the fish, as many do.
This isn’t necessarily a case of retailers and chefs being shady. A big problem is that fish go by different names in different places. Take rockfish, for example.
On the East Coast, they call striped bass rockfish. You offer them a chilipepper and call it a rockfish and they’ll think they’re getting a striped bass.
Here’s the story of rockfish’s comeback, a result of tightened fishing restrictions and a reduction in the number of commercial trawlers raking the ocean bottom in pursuit of the buggy-eyed, spiny-backed fish.
Many diners are only familiar with a handful of fish species, and rockfish can sound like an animal from the Flintstones cartoon.
If the goal is to get consumers to develop a taste for these fish, you’ve got to market it to them in an appealing way. So on some menus, rockfish are still being sold as Pacific bass.
That’s … the Trojan horse to get this fish into people’s mouths than transition to using real names for rockfish.
Indeed, rebranding fish species with more appealing market names is a common and accepted practice in the seafood industry. Tooth fish are sold as Chilean sea bass, sablefish as black cod and slime head as orange roughy.
Name That Fish: A wild U.S. fish being sold as “Pacific snapper.” Snapper is rarely found north of Mexico, and some rockfish species are often sold as “snapper.”
Alastair Bland for NPR
Rockfish is sometimes sold as snapper — but “snapper” is the name of another group of fish, which live in warm waters and are exceptionally tasty.
What if someone who is familiar with real snapper comes to California? They’ll think they’re getting snapper and this absolutely confuses people.
The debate over what to call rockfish comes as American consumers are increasingly demanding accurate information about their food and where it came from. And even if they don’t, correctly identifying fish on menus and in markets is the first step toward creating traceability in the often deceptive and murky fishing industry.
The only way to recognize and appreciate these fish is to start calling them by their proper names.
Telling the story of West Coast rockfish is important, because it could inspire fishery managers elsewhere to use similar strategies to rebuild other depleted fisheries — such as the beleaguered Atlantic cod.
Some instances of seafood mislabeling — such as calling farmed fish “wild,” or serving up a fish containing high mercury levels under an ambiguous label — are deceitful attempts to hide traits that might be seen as undesirable.
Sometimes, chefs and vendors avoid the fishes’ real names because they are a mouthful for diners — like vermillion rockfish, bocaccio rockfish, chilipepper rockfish and shortbelly rockfish. But it’s excited to start using these exotic — and accurate — names.
Some think it’s more interesting to use the real names. If you have thornyhead rockfish on the menu, it will start a conversation.
And if consumers start asking for these mild, white fish species by name, it could help boost demand — and prices — for rockfish, which could be good for both fish and fishermen.
If rockfish fishermen are happy and making money, other fishermen will see that [the recovery efforts used for West Coast rockfish] could work in other places. But if fishermen are just getting a couple of bucks a pound for these fish, then the effort we made to bring this fishery back won’t be worth it.
Source: npr.org, 2-6-2015
How Fish Could Change What It Means For Food To Be Organic
At Troutdale Farm in Missouri, farmhand Vince Orcutt pulls out rainbow trout ready to harvest.
Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media
When it comes to organic ertification, food producers must follow strict guidelines.
For an organic steak, for instance, the cow it came from has to be raised on organic feed, and the feed mix can’t be produced with pesticides, chemical fertilizers or genetic engineering.
Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering a set of rules for organic farmed fish. Several consumer groups, though, say the recommended rules don’t go far enough to meet the strict standards of other organic foods.
The feed that the fish eat is at the center of the debate.
On one side of the issue: the National Organic Standards Board, a federal advisory board whose members are appointed by the secretary of agriculture. NOSB recommended guidelines for how fish can be grown organically in pens in the ocean and how much wild-caught fish can be ground up as fish meal to feed the fish.
What the National Organic Standards Board recommended was that there would be some allowance for nonorganic fish feed that would be phased out after a 12-year period of time.
Farmed fish, like these rainbow trout, are at the center of a debate within the organic industry.
Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media
Many organic stakeholders, however, say an organic diet is important for organic livestock and fish.
The Center for Food Safety, says fish farmed under the recommended standards shouldn’t be certified as organic, because the wild fish used in the fish meal can’t be certified as organic.
There is also concerned about raising farmed fish in pens in the open ocean, as farmers can’t control the toxins the fish are exposed to. Ocean-based fish farms could also be a source of pollution. Diseases can pass between populations of wild and farmed fish.
The particles from these facilities eventually settle on the ocean floor and can dramatically alter the oxygen [available] and reduce the population of bottom-dwelling animals.
Consumer groups and Consumers Union have also opposed the recommended standards for organically farmed fish.
The labeling question has big monetary implications: The organic food market is exploding — it’s currently worth about $35 billion a year — and many fish farmers and retailers want in.
But some in the organic industry worry that certifying farmed fish as organic would mark a watering down of organic standards.
There will be a significant consumer education piece involved in what is the difference between a conventionally farmed fish and an organically farmed one. And how does that relate to the difference between a conventional egg and an organic egg?
With so many labels on food products at the grocery store, some worry that an organic label might lose its power.
Fish farmers and scientists are working to create more sustainable aquaculture. Some farms are using closed loop systems that recycle water. And researchers are experimenting with fish feed made from ingredients like soybeans and animal byproducts, which could possibly make up certified organic feed.
The organic debate is an important one for fish farmers.. An upwelling spring feeds about a dozen cement raceways filled with rainbow trout. Workers use nets to pull out basketfuls of fully grown fish.
Troutdale Farm owner Merritt Van Landuyt doesn’t use any growth hormones, synthetic chemicals or antibiotics in raising rainbow trout.
Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media
New owners took over the farm in 2002 and revamped it with a new water system. They also decided against the use of any chemical additives, growth hormones or antibiotics.
The USDA plans to publish its organic standard proposal for farmed fish by summer. That will open a public comment period of at least 60 days.
Source: www.npr.org, 2-3-2015