Category Archives: Trends

Farm to Table_Cows

Farm to Table: What is it?

The Farm to Table concept has taken the restaurant industry by storm the last few years. But what exactly does it mean? Farm to Table is the process of purchasing food that has been locally grown directly from the farmers who grew it. The purpose is for restaurants to use fresher ingredients that are more environmentally friendly and also help the local economy at the same time.

 

The GoodFarm to Table_Vegetables

The Farm to Table concept has many advantages including health and local economic benefits, being environmentally friendly, and helping the restaurant’s bottom line.

Over the last few decades, there has been a growing disconnect of knowledge about where our food comes from and how it is grown. Instead, foods are losing their quality at the expense of quantity after being dosed in chemicals to make “giant” foods. Farm to table eateries are aiming to fight against this new normal in the food industry to provide great dishes made of ingredients that customers know their origins. While not all farm to table partnerships are organically grown, buying directly from local farmers allows restaurants to grow relationships directly with the growers to ensure that their produce and meats are being grown in a way they approve.

When it comes to farm to table operations, animals to be used for meat are also grown for quality instead of quantity. The meats that yield from these animals have less fat and calories and at the same time have higher amounts of fatty acids, vitamin E and other important nutrients. Farm to table restaurants also often have a greater focus on vegetables, allowing restaurants to offer more well-rounded meals between the higher quality meats and the larger focus on vegetables.

As increasingly more restaurants utilize small farmers to support their operations, those farmers are in-turn able to create sustainable operations, lowering the cost of the food and eventually helping the restaurant’s bottom line. Creating a paradox to the reason foods began to be mass produced and genetically modified in the first place.

 

The Bad

Farm to Table_ VegetablesWhile farm to table operations boast many wonderful benefits, there will always be challenges. Some believe that the concept, as well as the foodies supporting the concept are taking it to extremes. In fact, ads have been created to show just how extreme it has been taken.

Being dedicated to purchasing meats locally can be very limiting. The U.S. Department of Agriculture limits the amount and type of meat that can processed by small farm operations. This fact and the geographical challenges of landlocked states not being able to offer sea foods, etc. may cause headaches for restaurant owners.

An additional challenge that restaurant owners will face is being able to source their produce in the off season. It is recommended to discuss with your partnered farmer about the use of a greenhouse to be able to offer this produce in the off-season. Otherwise, it may be difficult to find Indiana sweet corn under all of that snow in the middle of January!

However, all in all, we are loving the farm to table concept.

 

Indianapolis Farm to Table Restaurants

Traders Point Creamery

Grilled Cheese from Traders Point Creamery

Indiana has a rich agriculture landscape, which makes it the perfect location for the farm to table concept! Are you in the Indianapolis area? Try out these fantastic farm to table restaurants!

Supplies and Equipment

Searching for the farm to table “look” to go along with your processes? We have you covered! From glasses to chairs and tables, Central Restaurant is your one-stop shop for supplies and equipment!

Old School Foods Making a Comeback

If you walk into one of the myriad of trendy restaurants popping up around the country, you’re likely to notice some food relics appearing on their menus. Items that had long gone by the wayside are starting to creep their way back in creative new ways. Let’s take a look at a few of these retro dishes that are on the comeback trail.

Sympathy for the Deviled Egg

At Easter dinner at my mom’s house, one item sure to show up is the deviled egg. The creamy, sometimes runny combination of egg yolk, mustard, mayo and relish has been an Easter staple in my family for years. However, up until a year or two ago, I can honestly say that I’ve never seen it offered on a restaurant menu. But that is starting to change, as deviled eggs are seeing an upturn in popularity on some establishments’ bar menus. For example, at Oakley’s Bistro in Indianapolis, they offer “Deviled Eggs ‘El Pastor,'” comprised of queso, spicy pork, pineapple and an avocado tomatillo verde sauce. It’s safe to say it’s not your mom’s deviled eggs.

Sub-Terrine-Ean Homesick Blues

Photo Credit: Alpha/Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo Credit: Alpha/Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A terrine is a rustic French dish made of meat or liver, set up in a loaf pan and served cold. As organ meat dishes have started to become en vogue again, we’ve started to see terrines added to restaurant menus, usually as part of a charcuterie platter. At the aptly-named Terrine restaurant in Los Angeles, Chef Kris Morningstar serves up three terrines on his menu, comprised of pork, rabbit or fois gras. Make sure you bring some friends to share, as this is no light dish!

I Don’t Think You’re Ready for this Jelly

What could be next on the horizon as these retro foods continue to gain popularity? One idea could be the return of gelatin-based dishes. If you’ve looked at sites such as Mid Century Menu, there have been some terrifying recipes from the past featuring gelatin (Tuna and Jell-O pie, anyone?). However, with the right creativity and presentation, the use of gelatin salads, aspics and other gelatin-based dishes could easily be successful on a restaurant’s menu.

Photo Credit: citymama/Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo Credit: citymama/Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Coming Soon to the Central Blog

Have a vintage or retro recipe that you’d like for us to try for an upcoming blog? Let us know in the comments! We will be back next month to prepare and taste test a vintage recipe to see if it still holds up to today’s tastes. Stay tuned!

 

 

Add Some Zip to Your Menu with Fermentation

A growing trend among restaurateurs for the last few years has been in-house fermentation. Fermenting adds a nice flavor profile to some of your favorite veggies, turning them into tangy sides to go with your main entrees. The added health benefits to fermentation (contains healthy bacteria and aids digestion) is a great selling point for you to incorporate it into your menu. Not to mention, offering something “house-made” on your menu tends to catch the eye of diners.

Pickled Vegetables

Photo Credit: ccarlstead/Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo Credit: ccarlstead/Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Fermenting vegetables comes down to just a few ingredients: veggies, salt, water and any spices you want to use. For pickles, you simply dissolve the salt (pickling or kosher) in water to create a brine. You can chop, shred, slice or keep your veggies whole. Place your vegetables and spices in an airtight container or crock and fill with the brine. If you want to make a crunchy pickle, add a grape leaf or two to your jar. Grape leaves are rich in tannens, which inhibit the enzymes that make pickles soft. If using cucumbers, removing the blossom ends will help achieve the same effect, making grape leaves unnecessary.

You want to make sure your veggies stay submerged underneath the brine. Sometimes, placing a weight of some type onto the vegetables may be needed to keep them submerged. This is important, as the vegetables need to be kept in an anaerobic environment during the fermentation. Exposure to oxygen is a no-no, as that introduces the possibility of bad bacterial growth.

Fermentation can take a week, all the way up to a few months. How long to ferment depends on your tastes. It’s important to check on your fermentation, making sure there is no mold growth or spoilage-type  smells. During your checks, you should also taste your veggies. Once they are to your taste, you can move to cold storage, which slows fermentation down almost to a crawl, so your pickles will retain the flavor you desire.

Sauerkraut and Kimchi

Photo Credit: Paul Downey/Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo Credit: Paul Downey/Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

A slight variation from normal fermentation is when making sauerkraut. When fermenting cabbage, instead of mixing the salt and water, you will add salt directly to your shredded cabbage. From there, you want to massage the salt into your cabbage and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. The goal is to draw out the cabbage’s natural juices, as they will create your brine. Lightly pounding with a wooden spoon or mallet will help draw the juices out as well. Once finished, you would add your cabbage to your vessel and ferment into sauerkraut.

Kimchi is quickly becoming one of the more popular side condiments for dishes. This spicy Korean staple is made the same way as sauerkraut. The differences are in the type of cabbage (typically bok choi or napa cabbage is used for kimchi; green or red cabbage for sauerkraut), the way the cabbage is prepared (sliced for kimchi; shredded for sauerkraut) and the additional goodies added to kimchi, such as ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes.

Recipes

Looking to start your own fermentation projects? Click here for a huge list of recipes from the website Cultures for Health.

The site Maangchi has you covered if you want to try your hand at kimchi. Click here to check out their array of kimchi recipes.

Top photo credit: jules/Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Offset Rising Food Costs and Save Your Bottom Line

Last week, a Washington Post article outlined the earnings hardships national chains like Chipotle and Cheesecake Factory have been enduring due to record food prices. Panera Bread reported that costs for their dairy items alone jumped $2.5 million dollars over the same quarter last year. If you’re a small or independent restaurateur, you already know that the prices for beef, chicken and dairy have been eating at your already limited bottom line. How can you keep your key ingredients from running you dry? Here are some hints and tips from the experts about offsetting rising food costs without increasing your prices to outrageous levels.

Rethink Your Menu

beef-steak-with-vegetables via foodiesfeed.com

Counter the rising cost of beef with a complement of fresh veggies (via foodiesfeed.com)

Obviously, if you run a steakhouse, you just can’t just remove beef from your menu. But you can introduce interesting and appealing menu options with seafood or vegetable ingredients that are still relatively profitable. Creative ingredients and dishes can sometimes even command higher prices. Take your steak, up it a notch with a specialty sauce or new signature side and sell it at a premium price.

Fast-food giant Wendy’s recently did just that; they stepped outside of the burger/chicken game with pulled pork sandwiches. While pork prices have also risen, these new sandwiches have received positive reviews and customers have been willing to pay the premium price for them. Plus, they were able to add the new ingredient to several existing menu items, including a pork-topped burger and loaded French fries.

Encourage Ordering of Profitable Items Through Promotions

Studies show that consumers are willing to stomach price increases nearing the inflation rate. But, price your individual items any higher and you run the risk of pricing your customers out the door. If you are unable to adjust your menu, promotions can help steer your patrons to a more profitable dish or encourage more spending. Bundling items, or creating ‘value meals,’ can help offset the higher cost of beef or dairy with the higher profits in beverages, appetizers or non-dairy desserts.

Evaluate Your Kitchen’s Efficient Use of Ingredients

If beef prices increase 5%, and 5% of beef is lost to spoilage or waste, the affects to your bottom line are compounded. Better forecasting sales during peak or slow times can help minimize loss from meats that are no longer usable after sitting under the heat lamp or holding container too long. Looking for ingredient replacements can also limit your dependence – especially on dairy products.

There are several other simple ways to control ingredient waste. Many are common sense, like managing inventory levels to limit spoilage of fresh ingredients, or even identifying when fresh meats or cheeses can be kept frozen to maximize shelf life without compromising the final dish. Discover ways to utilize usable trim or byproducts elsewhere on your menu. Soups, garnishes or sauces can be prime candidates for excess food that might have been thrown away. Finally, scales and food portioners can ensure that consistent amounts of ingredients are used every time.

Shop Central For All the Tools

Get your own Central catalog

Get your own Central catalog

Central Restaurant has supported the independent restaurant industry for over 33 years by offering a wide selection of the equipment and supplies you need at competitive prices. Our catalog and website can help you find food storage options that keep precious ingredients fresh longer, portion control tools to minimize waste and promote consistency, and menus and promotion stands that get your message out to the customer. Be sure to check out our Value Series line of products too. They are chosen by our buyers to perform like the national brands at a significant cost savings.

Plus, our product consultants are available to lend their expertise. Give us a call at 800-215-9293 or use our online chat option to speak with one now.

 

Cover image by Smartshiva, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dairy_Cow.jpg under CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Early Launch of Fall Restaurant Menus and Trends

Fall Kicks Off Early This Year

Fall 2014 begins on September 23, but the restaurant industry already has a head start on the upcoming season’s menu. It all began when Starbucks announced the early launch of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, which even has it’s own twitter handle @TheRealPSL. After that, locations all over have begun to announce their seasonal offerings. So what’s going to be popular this year?

Desserts: Pumpkin and Other Seasonal Flavors

When fall arrives, pumpkin-flavored desserts are always a favorite. Au Bon Pain recently launched their fall menu which includes a pumpkin croissant and pumpkin coffee cake. Dunkin’ Donuts is enhancing their menu with pumpkin pie and pumpkin donuts, as well as pumpkin pie donut holes and pumpkin muffins. Starbucks is ramping things up with pumpkin-flavored scones and cream cheese muffins.

Moving on from pastries, frozen yogurt shops all across the country are here to stay during the winter months. Seasonal flavors are one of the ways they can keep customers coming in, even when the temperatures go down.

Customers can enjoy frozen yogurt shop Orange Leaf’s pumpkin pie, ginger bread and carmel apple flavors or FroYo’s pumpkin, pumpkin pie or snickerdoodle.

Drinks and Cocktails

Fall is the perfect season for warm drinks and in addition to the popular Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts has also rolled out their pumpkin creme brulee coffee and lattes. Within the next month, coffee shops all across the United States will roll out beverages with hints of cinnamon, apple, cranberries and more.

Moving along to cocktails, Wine Enthusiast posted their five craziest cocktail trends for Fall 2014. They anticipate more bars and restaurants to use custom barware, elaborate garnishes, high end drinks with premium liquors, the use of the Chinese alcohol Baijiu, and “respectable cocktail shots” which are a little more upscale, such as an “Old Fashioned” shot.

Lunch and Dinner

Fall menus and limited time offers advance from just pumpkin or spice flavored items. Boston’s Restaurant and Sports Bar has brought back a customer favorite limited time offer: Pizzaburger sliders! These  sliders include pepperoni and bacon and are wrapped in their homemade pizza dough.

Au Bon Pain launched menu items with fall-themed flavors such as turkey and cheddar on nine-grain cranberry ciabatta, nine-grain cranberry ciabatta and cream cheese and turkey, kale and wild rice soup.

The chia seed has been a hot topic and has been predicted to be incorporated in more menus this fall. In their article “What’s up with the Chia Seeds trend?,” Allergease explains this seed provides great health benefits as they are filled with omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and protein.

El Rey, a coffee and luncheonette bar in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, serves their chia seed breakfast pudding which includes coconut, almond, banana and apricot. Want to try this at home? The New York Times posted their adapted version of this recipe on their website.

Need Help?

From cooking equipment to dinnerware in fall colors, visit CentralRestaurant.com to make sure your restaurant’s fall menu is prepared and served well!

Image at top photo credit: Dalboz17 / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Training Time

Take a Look Inside Central – Ongoing Training

If you are already a Central Restaurant Products customer, then you’ve had the chance to interact with our team of knowledgeable product consultants.

You already know that many have been working in our industry most of their careers; others have experience working and managing restaurants before their Central careers. You know that you can trust their experience when seeking advice on the right equipment or supplies that fit both your application and budget. Whether you place your order via phone, fax or online – you know that they’ll have your back.

Ongoing Training

Training-ServerProducts

Your product consultants get ‘hands-on’ with the different styles of Server Products’ beverage servers.

But, did you know that our consultants regularly attend vendor trainings held right here in our offices? Each week they learn about new products, industry trends and how to serve their customers better. In May alone, our product consultants met with Lakeside Manufacturing, Metro shelving and carts, Globe Food Equipment, Scotsman Ice, Moffat Commercial Ovens, Service Ideas and Manitowoc Ice Machines. Each brought in some of their products for hands-on learning.

It’s a quick half-hour session that allows vendor reps to teach directly to our consultants and answer their questions about ever-evolving product lines. When Service Ideas stopped by, our consultants were able to see hands-on the differences in their varied lines of beverage pitchers. They learned how each style was designed for specific applications – from self-service to elegant dining services.

Training-Globe

Globe demonstrates the features of their slicers, scales and patty presses.

When Manitowoc brought both local and company representatives to a recent training, they explained in depth how to determine the production capacities needed for a wide variety of food service customer types. Did you know that a full service restaurant should plan to use 1-1/2 lbs. of ice per person, while a hotel should budget 5 lbs. of ice per room? How about which food service segments should consider nugget and flake ice? Our product consultants have the tools to answer these questions for our customers.

Give Central a Try

It’s all part of our greater effort to maintain our high levels of customer service and ensure every one of our customers can make an informed decision when investing in new equipment for their restaurant, school, institution or catering business. It’s our commitment to supplying you with the right product, at the right price in a timely manner.

So, if you’re not already a Central customer – give us a try. We hope after this look inside our company that you will consider us for your next food service equipment or supply purchase. For more information, be sure to sign up for our emails, request a catalog be mailed to you, or call 800-215-9293 to speak to a product consultant today. Hablo Español? We have product consultants who can help you too.

Food Trend Blog

Top Food Trends at NRA 2014

Another NRA Show is in the books. If you attended, we hope you had a great show! The Central team had a chance to settle down from the excitement and share with you some of the top trends we saw coming out of the show.

Gluten-Free Foods

One of the biggest trends at NRA was gluten-free options. Of course, it has been gaining momentum for a couple of years now, but seeing what some companies are doing is really cool. Take for example, Kiki’s Gluten Free Foods. They introduced a gluten-free deep dish pizza, which a few years ago would’ve been unheard of. And Deya Gluten Free is making a gluten free flour where the main ingredient is dried egg whites. These new options should make life for people with Celiac disease or gluten allergies a lot better.

Natural Ingredients

As we start to see a more health-conscious consumer, it’s only natural to see healthier options being introduced. We saw a ton of healthy options, from burgers made with veggies and chia seeds to milk made with quinoa. Another popular trend was brands advertising products made with no genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or corn syrup.

Better-For-You School Options

There are several companies trying to develop healthier options for school systems. According to Food Business News, exhibitors such as Skeeter Nut Free were introducing snacks that meet the USDA’s Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards that go into effect July 1st. In Skeeter Nut Free’s case, they introduced single-serve bags of graham crackers that are 100% nut free. Other exhibitors, such as Hormel, are offering options such as the Fuse Burger, which combines ground turkey with spinach, brown rice, roasted onions and dried cherries, to deliver a burger with a favorable nutrition profile.

Which trends did you see at NRA 2014 that stood out to you? Let us know in the comments section below.

Farm to Table

Farm to Table: A Healthy Menu Trend

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!

farm-to-table

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

farm-to-table

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.

 

Feel free to share any great recipes or ideas on how your establishment is taking part in the farm-to-table movement!