Central Restaurant Products is a proud supporter of the Make-a-Wish foundation, a not-for-profit organization with the “vision to grant the wish of every child diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition” (see their “About Us” section). Every year, they recruit the help of thousands and thousands of volunteers and donors to make this vision a reality for children and families who have been dealt an unfair hand.
Central is proud to support this cause. It is our personal goal to make a wish come true for one child and their family every quarter. We like to give more than money, too. At Central, every employee receives a paid Volunteer Day every year to use to give back to their community.
For the past several years, many employees have chosen to use their Volunteer Day to participate in WZPL’s annual Make-a-Wish Request-a-thon, hosted live on air by the popular Smiley Morning Show. Through a thirty-six hour period, listeners can call in to request a song to play, and make a donation that goes directly to granting a wish. This fundraiser event is only achievable through the help of volunteers, and it is because of their determination and passion to serve that this year, the Request-a-thon was able to raise $706,145, enough to make 88 wishes come true.
Central employees Kate, Shannon, Galen, and Armando volunteer their time to make wishes come true.
The craft beer and winery experience has exploded onto the scene. Over the past decade, we have seen more and more local breweries and wineries pop up all across the country, and consumers are drinking it up. Depending on the state you live in, a similar trend may be observed among artisan distilleries.
The Broken Beaker is one of the newest in the Indianapolis area. Located in the center of the Mass Ave strip in downtown Indy, they are surrounded by local eateries, bars and other nightlife hotspots that residents flock to for weekend festivities. But they stand apart, offering a refreshingly new experience. Perhaps this difference can be reflected in the way they distill their own high-end vodka right on site. Or the fact that there are very few local distilleries in the Indianapolis area (or Indiana in general), juxtaposing against the backdrop of a craft beer mecca. Maybe it’s their unique theme, paying homage to the wonders and mysteries of science, that nicely wraps the experience up in a periodic table of excitement.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the husband and wife team behind the Broken Beaker to learn more about their unique concept, the process of distilling, what separates a good vodka from a bad, and the local legalities regarding artisan distillation.
Chemist + Engineer = The Inspiration
The Molecule Mule
When asked how they came up with the concept, Heather, an engineer by day, said they first got the idea to open a distillery ten years earlier while visiting friends in Oregon. They were inspired by the amount of distilleries there, and the unique types of liqueur that were being produced. Heather recalls, “There were all types of crazy liqueurs. Liqueurs I had never heard of before, or didn’t think you could make into a liqueur, and it was an amazing experience. We were kind of leaning in that direction anyways because we wanted to differentiate ourselves. We wanted to hit the basic spirits – the vodka, the whiskey, the gin, the rum – but from there, where do we go?”
But it’s not just enough to want to open a distillery. Thomas, a chemist, stresses the importance of your product’s story. He says you can’t just think of yourself as producing and selling some type of alcohol. It all depends on branding, how you want to market the product so it stands apart and offers the consumer something new. Given the nature of their professions, science was the obvious choice for concept.
Their vodka products are currently branded under the Pendulum label, inspired by physics, and they are hoping to expand into “Isotope Liqueurs,” a tribute to chemistry; “Hypotenuse Gin,” relating to math; and “Mitosis Whiskey” for biology. You can buy bottles on site, or enjoy entirely unique cocktail concoctions served out of laboratory beakers, some even over dry ice to create a visual, smoky perception! You can also tour the distillery located in a room right next to the dining area to learn more about where and how the process occurs.
Everything’s an Experiment: The Process
“Everything’s an experiment” is one of their taglines. “We do a brand new weekly infusion every Wednesday, and so every Wednesday it’s an experiment. What we’re essentially doing is, well, do this and this and this taste good together? And so far they’ve all worked out well, but it’s an experiment so we’ll see what happens,” says Heather.
And because of the delicacy of the distilling process, the same can be said for every batch of vodka they produce. But, Thomas notes, the constant focus is always on quality. He attributes this to the artisan character of their product.
So what separates a good vodka from a bad? Heather says that one of the benefits of making it yourself is you can taste it every step of the way to identify the bad compounds versus what they themselves would want to be served, using that as guidance when selecting what to serve to customers. “It’s really interesting because now in hindsight, I’m used to tasting where that cut is between the bad stuff and the good stuff, and I’m sitting here thinking when I was in college, the stuff that I was drinking tasted a lot like the stuff that first comes off the still, which is bad for you, is bad tasting, and that’s why you had the hangovers. But boy was it cheap! And now I know why,” she jokes.
When it comes to buying vodka off the shelves, they advise not to go too cheap. “With the cheap stuff, manufacturers have a high volume to produce so they are very liberal with their cuts, scooping in the bad stuff at the beginning and at the end, which leads to a bad taste and bad hangover. You don’t have to buy super expensive, but never go cheap.”
Thomas and Heather also recommend using wheat to ferment over corn, even though corn is arguably the most popular source due to its inexpensive cost and access. They vow that wheat provides more flavor and is more forgiving than the flavor offered by corn, making for a better product.
There are a lot of steps to the distilling process, and it is not uncommon for one batch to be slightly different than the one before it. In (very) layman terms, here’s a quick overview of the process:
Choose your grain (in this case wheat) and convert it from starch to a sugar by applying high heat.
Add yeast, which will eat away at the sugar and turn it into alcohol.
Let ferment for five days to a week.
The distillation process is basically the act that immediately follows fermentation, where you filter out the solids from the liquids, tasting along the way to identify (and remove through boiling) the compounds that taste bad.
Again, that’s a very brief description of the actual process. If you are interested in ever trying it out, Thomas and Heather highly encourage taking a class and touring as many distilleries as you can. They gave a special shout out to Six & Twenty Distillery in South Carolina.
Image courtesy of www.distillerytrail.com
It turns out, it is much harder to open a distillery in Indiana than it is a microbrewery or winery, as evidenced by the disproportioned ratio of Indianapolis-based distilleries to breweries (two to, like, fifty). This is mostly due to current Indiana liquor laws.
There is risk involved when opening any business, but for distilleries, the stakes are much higher. The old Indiana laws prohibited tasting rooms. Heather recounts, “It’s not like beer or wine where you can make a little bit in your basement until you get the feel for it. You had to get a permit, pay a whole bunch of money for the equipment, and hope you could do something with it.” You also couldn’t sell directly to the public. Instead, you had to find a distributor and pray they would push your product.
Indiana passed a new artisan law roughly three years ago, permitting a tasting room. Now local distilleries can have more control over their product and how much it is pushed, as well as establish more of a connection with customers.
The reason you are more likely to see more wineries and breweries in Indiana is that you can legally ferment certain amounts of beer and wine in your house, allowing owners time to perfect their product before setting up shop. That’s not the case with distilleries. “There is no quantity you can make in Indiana in your house without a federal permit. Other states are more lenient.” Heather elaborates that the big difference between the competition among breweries/wineries over distilleries is that the entry point is much easier and cheaper, both for equipment and the legalities already discussed that favor beer and wine over spirits. Before opening, Heather and Thomas had several investors lined up, but they wouldn’t invest until they could sample the product. They described this as a cyclical catch-22, because they couldn’t produce the product until they could afford the equipment and space to do so.
Now that they are up and running, they are eager to expand their selection to encompass other spirits, and are excited for the future of artisan distilling and what the possibilities the new(ish) artisan distilling law offers.
Their most popular drink, Heather says, is their Bill Nye Elysium that mixes a strawberry-basil infused vodka, grapefruit juice and orange zest syrup. My personal favorite was the Tiny Rick, combining jalapeño-infused vodka with raspberry and jalapeño syrup, and grapefruit and lemon juices making for a delicious mixture of heat, sweet and tartness.
Other crafty cocktails include the Molecule Mule, French 76 and the E=MC?. To check out their menu in its entirety, click here.
Do you have a restaurant in or around Indianapolis? Or maybe passing through the area soon? You should stop by our local showroom!
We are located at 7750 Georgetown Road in Indianapolis, in the Park 100 area. Visit us from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.
What to Find
You get a lot more than just a store with our showroom too. Weekdays are a great time to have one of our showroom specialists help you with orders of any size or even restaurant layout. We are here Saturdays too, so if you are in a pinch for some last minute buys, we have you covered!
Plus, if you don’t find what you are looking for in the showroom (or even in our catalog or online), don’t worry, we can get it for you.
Stop in and see us and ask us about our payment and delivery options! We are here to help you succeed!
This ongoing series of “pop up” dinners is organized by RJ Wall, bar manager of The Hi-Fi, and Andrew Whitmoyer, executive chef of Thunderbird, and put on by well-respected restaurants in Indiana. The goal is to give culinary experts creative freedom and enable them to cultivate the food scene and community. So whether you are a Hoosier chef, line cook or foodie, getting tickets to an upcoming Chefs’ Night Off should be on your radar.
The exceptional team of chefs involved with June’s event included:
This communal style event began with an amuse consisting of smoked and confit peanuts. Shortly after, the first course began with “Walk the Plank” chicken hearts served on a wooden plank, topped with pesto and paired with a boiler maker consisting of a Sailor Jerry Rum shot and Lenore pale ale.
The second course, sword fish collars, was served with cous cous, kimchi, hummus and a spicy yogurt dip.
The final course included deep fried suckling pig with green tomato salsa verde, mustard slaw, chow chow, hot pickled relish, house fermented hot sauce, creme fraiche and corn bread.
As for dessert? “White Trash” twinkie tiramisu was served, which consisted of twinkies soaked in Jack Daniels whiskey then topped with cocoa powder and chocolate syrup.
Prior to each course, each of the chefs shared what the item was and other details about their vision for it.
Everyone involved in this Chefs’ Night Off Indy, from the organizers and incredibly talented chefs to The Sinking Ship staff, were incredibly hospitable. The event was enjoyed by all.
Chefs’ Night Off Indy is a great chance for culinary artists to work together and share ideas. The unique menus presented at each of these events are inspiring and gives others ideas for their own restaurants.
The meals are not fine dining and all food is as locally sourced as possible, with only a few exceptions when absolutely necessary.
Ever wonder what other smaller American cities claim as their ‘signature food’? This series aims to seek out those regional foods that local tourism groups love to promote while most locals wonder what the fuss is about? Along the way, we’ll take the opportunity to highlight a few of our great Central Restaurant Products customers and how they contribute to make these local foods a larger reach.
The first city we will tackle in this series is Central Restaurant’s hometown of Indianapolis.
Indianapolis: Home of Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
When you think of Indianapolis, you probably think of that 500 mile race, or that streak of highly successful NFL quarterbacks. If you travel in the food circles, you may think of the “World Famous Shrimp Cocktail” from St. Elmo Steak House. But according to local tourism boards, the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich is the “must-not-miss” attraction in Indiana.
What is It?
Typically, the pork tenderloin sandwich is less of a sandwich and more of a golden-brown, plate-sized meal with a tiny hat on it. Most tenderloin sandwiches are made from a pounded flat pork cutlet breaded in a buttermilk and breadcrumbs mixture and deep fried. Served with traditional fixings like mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato, most people eat half of the meal before making it to the standard-sized hamburger bun perched in the middle. Some will slice their cutlet in half to make a double-decker sandwich.
Why do Hoosier eateries have an obsession with this sandwich? It could be the involvement of the Indiana Pork Producers Association, whose 3000 family pork farmers heavily promote the sandwich option in a friendly battle with the state of Iowa, which also claims the tenderloin as its own. Nick’s Kitchen in the small town of Huntington, Indiana claims to be the originator of the the sandwich (dating back to 1908), but today, almost every locally-owned eatery has their version on the menu. From cajun-style to grilled, there is an Indiana pork tenderloin sandwich for everyone and every taste.
Must Eat Places
To determine where those “must have” tenderloins can be found, we turned to a man and his blog that is 100% devoted to this pork delicacy. Rick Garrett is the self-professed Tenderloin Connoisseur. According to his bio, he has spent the last 30 years traveling the Midwest stopping at county fairs, diners and finer restaurants looking for great sandwiches. Some of his recent reviews include:
86th Street Pub is a Central customer and located down the street from our offices in Indianapolis. We were happy to hear of their “5 out of 5 bites” rating from Garrett, where he said “This is one of the best tenderloins in Indy, hands down. The meat is fresh, tender, and moist, and the breading is sublime. Nice, light, and crispy, it compliments rather than overwhelms the taste of the meat.”
The Tenderloin Connoisseur’s lunch from Gatsby’s Pub & Grill, from his website.
Kunkels Drive In is located about 40 miles east on Indianapolis in Connersville, Indiana. Here, Garrett gave their sandwich 4 out of 5 bites. He said, “I like this tenderloin quite a lot! It’s not so big as to be overwhelming, but big enough to be satisfying. It’s pounded out thin, but not TOO thin. It’s, perhaps, just a bit thinner than I prefer, but still, it’s thicker than many of the tenderloins out there.” Congratulations
Even the small town ethnic restaurants get into the tenderloin vibe. Garrett visited El Reparo in Brookville, Indiana where a limited American menu includes the Indiana favorite. Garrett gave their sandwich 3.5 out of 5 bites. “The meat itself was quite good! Nice, moist, tender, and not pounded out too thin. I liked it quite a lot! The breading was…interesting. It was quite unlike any I’d ever had. Don’t get me wrong…I liked it! It just wasn’t traditional.”
Your author had personally enjoyed the sandwich at Gatsby’s Pub and Grill on Indianapolis’ north west side and agrees with Garrett’s 5 bites out of 5 rating. He says “When they brought it out, it was obviously hand breaded, and it’s sized right. It’s not so large as to be overwhelming, but it’s certainly filling. The sandwich is seasoned PERFECTLY….and the breading stays crisp throughout the life of the sandwich. The meat is moist and tender. Although I was a bit skeptical at the beginning, I can say with assurance this is one of the best tenderloins I’ve ever had. It’s a 5 out of 5, no questions asked. Seriously. Go get this sandwich.” Congratulations to another Central customer.
Central is Your Source
The American Metalcraft stainless steel grid basket is available from Central.
While the food is what brings your customers in, restaurateurs know that the heart of any restaurant’s success lies in their behind-the-scenes work. Thousands of restaurants across the country turn to Central Restaurant for their everyday equipment and supply needs. From cooking equipment like fryers from Pitco, Vulcan or Frymaster to unique serving options from Carlisle, Tablecraft or American Metalcraft – our product consultants can help you design a kitchen or serving experience that will showcase your signature food items. Shop online anytime, or give us a call at 800-215-9293. We’re also available for online chats when you have questions.
Food trends come and go, and many can be very unhealthy – Bacon. Cupcakes. Bacon cupcakes? While they may sound amazing, it’s nice to know there are some trends that are actually good for you!
According to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, on average, fruits and vegetables travel almost 1,500 miles before being sold to a consumer. In addition, 39% of fruits and 12% of vegetables are imported from other countries. In order to keep the produce from spoiling during transit, it is often harvested before it is fully ripened. This does not allow the produce to absorb all the nutrients from its surroundings. According to the USDA, this causes the produce to lack nutrients that would be present if it were allowed to ripen on the vine.
Locally Grown – Better for All
What else is bad about food traveling so far? It’s not good for the environment. The average 18-wheeler would burn about 500 gallons of diesel fuel in a 1,500 mile trip. Also, when produce is imported in, it doesn’t help the local economy from the sale of farmed food.
One of the best places to start finding locally grown foods is a farmers’ market. Here you can find not only produce, but artisan cheese, local honey, and hand crafted beer and wine. You may also find local farms have roadside stands or established stores that are open year round. You will be able to find local beef or chicken, as well as fresh farm eggs for your farm-to-table menu. An app called Locavore can help you find local food that’s in season. It’s free, and also features seasonal recipes. You can also find a seasonal ingredient map from Epicurious to find out what’s fresh in your area.
Farm to Menu
Central carries lots of options for your favorite recipes!
If your establishment is participating in the farm-to-table movement, there are many options to showcase your locally produced dishes. Be sure to highlight any local meats, cheeses, or produce on your menu. Search through our website to find just the right dinnerware, flatware, and drinkware for your recipes and craft beer.
Recipes to Try
Note sure where to start? Here are a few recipes you can try with fresh produce as a main ingredient.
It’s that time of year again: The Super Bowl. The big game is one of the restaurant and retail industry’s largest revenue sources driving in massive amounts of traffic and increasing sales in food, apparel, televisions and more.
According to the National Retail Federation, total spending is estimated to reach $12.3 billion with 77 percent of that being food related.
“Restaurants and bars will see their share of fans; the survey found 10 million fans will enjoy the game from their favorite local establishment,” they said.
From their research, 39 million Americans will throw a Super Bowl party of sorts for the event and 62 million will attend one.
Fan Favorites and Boosts in Sales
To gear up for the Super Bowl, restaurants have to be prepared to serve customer favorites, one of those favorites being chicken wings.
Chicken wings have become a top menu item among Super Bowl viewers. In fact, the National Chicken Council said 1.25 billion wings will be consumed for the 2014 game; 20 million more than in 2013. This also means the ranch and bleu cheese will be flowing.
Pizzerias also see a massive boom for the Super Bowl as it is one of their highest sales days of the year. Not only do the pizzas sell fast, it is a great opportunity for delivery drivers too.
“Delivery sales of pizza spike the most during close Super Bowl games,” explained Pizza.com. “On Super Bowl Sunday, pizza delivery drivers can expect $2 tips to sometimes soar as high as $20.”
Among the wings, pizzas, dips and other staples of Super Bowl parties, a drink of choice among restaurant guests and party goers is alcohol. One might think beer would top the list, which it does, but according to QSR Magazine, craft beers, hard ciders, sparking wins and flavored liquors will be requested this year too.
Cities that host a Super Bowl experience more traffic and exposure than they could ever imagine. This exposure builds in the months leading up to the game and peaks the week of. Restaurant business in particular sees a massive boom from area residents and out-of-town guests participating in activities and events.
This year is East Rutherford, N.J.’s year to shine at Metlife Stadium, however, being just a skip, hop and jump away from New York, N.Y. has caused some confusion. The media and television personalities have referred to this year’s big game as being held in New York, which is untrue.
The distance between the two cities brings on a situation unlike any other state–both cities share efforts and reap the benefits. One possibly more than the other.
“The official Super Bowl Host Committee estimates the game will bring in between $550 and $600 million in revenue to New York and New Jersey,” CNN reported.
With quite a bit of the spotlight on New York, East Rutherford’s Mayor, James Cassella, hopes the town just breaks even, despite hosting the actual game and more events.
Either way, restaurants in both states will see a boost in traffic. Central Restaurant Products’ hometown, Indianapolis, hosted the 2012 Super Bowl and it has really changed the vibe of the city since. And in terms of restaurant sales, they skyrocketed for the locations close to festivities, but even jumped for restaurants over an hour away.
Just as Indy and all other Super Bowl hosting cities have experienced, New Jersey and New York will have this great opportunity to showcase their cuisine and show their residents and guests from all over the world what they are all about.
New York will have pop-up restaurant Forty Ate, a creation of Danny Meyer, for the week. It is a modern steakhouse that will serve lunch and dinner, as well as “bar bites” throughout the day.
“Forty Ate will provide diners the ultimate Super Bowl experience,” their website said. “Danny Meyer’s renowned Union Square Events (USE) in collaboration with the Renaissance New York Times Square hotel will operate the Dining Room and Bar, which is designed by GMR marketing.”
The website added Forty Ate will feature NFL artifacts, the full set of 47 Super Bowl rings and appearances from NFL players who will be dining there.