Tag Archives: food trucks

Celebrating the New Foods of the 2015 Minnesota State Fair

If you are a state fair enthusiast (yes, they exist), then the Minnesota State Fair is definitely on your bucket list. The Minnesota State Fair has the largest average daily attendance of a state fair in the US, and surpassed in overall annual attendance by the Texas State Fair. The big draws each year are the top-name entertainment, one of the largest independent ride midways and – of course – the unique food items offered by the 300 food vendors dotted across the fairgrounds.

The 2015 fair will be held August 27th through September 7th, and the fair organizers recently released a list of the 40 new foods to be offered.  The list is diverse, and far outreaches the cliched list of ‘things you thought couldn’t be fried but are fried anyway.’ They range from the simple twist of the “Burger Dog” to the well thought out delicacy of Walleye Stuffed Mushroom. Dessert is not forgotten either, with 11 new treats including the intriguing BBQ Pickle Ice Cream. We’ve weighed through the official list, and picked out some of our favorites as we try and convince management to sponsor a trip to Minneapolis.

Most Appetizing

2015MSF-walleye_stuffed_mushrooms

Walleye Stuffed Mushrooms feature, three cheeses, red pepper, panko breadcrumbs and special sauce.

Minnesota does a good job of balancing fair food with interesting food that you don’t want to just try, but actually eat and enjoy. Many of the vendors are local restaurants who serve great food year round. One of the dishes that have our mouth watering already is Cowboy Dave’s Cluck & Moo from The Blue Barn. The all-in-one meal has smashed potatoes, roasted beef and grilled chicken covered with beef gravy, crispy onions and mustard BBQ sauce. The Minnesota Wild Rice Benedict Muffin combines a wild rice English muffin cup with sliced ham and a softcooked egg, covered with hollandaise sauce. LuLu’s Public House offers this delicious-sounding breakfast sandwich.

Looking to go upscale at the fair? It sounds like Coaster’s has a hit with their Prime Rib to Go. It is described as thinly sliced choice prime rib with sautéed peppers, onions and mushrooms (optional) nestled in a soft bread cone with a side of au jus, horseradish or Parmesan garlic sauce. Walleye Stuffed Mushrooms from Giggles’ Campfire Grill is just that – jumbo mushroom caps stuffed with a flavored cream cheese spread, walleye, three cheeses, red pepper, panko breadcrumbs and a special sauce.  Another ‘slightly tipsy’ selection is the Wine Fried Kalettes from Minnesota Wine Country. They took healthy kale and fried it in a batter featuring local wine. It’s served with a sweet Thai chili sauce.

2015MSF-shangheid_oslo

The Oslo Taco takes the tortilla to Norway with peppercorn-rubbed pork, Jarlsburg cheese, pickled cabbage slaw and other Norwegian favorites

Shanghaied Henri’s International Tacos brings several world-view variations of the taco to the fair this year, ranging from Korea to Norway. Their Korean Bar-B-Q Beef Taco is marinated beef glazed with spicy soy honey, layered with kimchi, topped with crispy rice noodles and served on two flour tortillas. The Oslo Taco features seared braised, peppercorn-rubbed pork, layered with Norwegian Jarlsburg cheese, pickled cabbage slaw, red onion, apple-smoked bacon and lingonberry relish sour cream, topped with pork cracklins and served on two flour tortillas. The local St. Paul Taco has braised beef brisket simmered in Summit Villain beer served on two flour tortillas with caramelized onions, cabbage slaw, horseradish sour cream and apple-smoked bacon bits. Finally, the Yucatan Taco has seasoned chicken chorizo braised in tequila and red wine vinegar served with green cabbage carrot slaw, queso fresco, pickled red onion and cilantro sour cream on two flour tortillas.

Can’t Get Away from the Clichés

2015 Minnesota State Fair: Sausage Sisters Sriracha Sliders

Sausage Sister’s Sriracha Sliders

As hot trends, Bacon and Sriracha inspired dishes continue to be introduced at fairs across the US. A couple of vendors at the Minnesota State Fair are still trapped under these clichés, as evidenced by Sausage Sister & Me’s Sriracha Sliders. They feature meatballs with a Monterey Jack cheese center, on a crusty slider bun with Sister’s own Sweet ‘n’ Hot Sriracha Sauce. Other Sriracha clichés include the Sriracha Dog and Sriracha Balls with your choice of fillings: a blend of shredded chicken, corn, tomatoes, egg and Sriracha; or Sriracha cream cheese with corn, tomatoes and egg.

This fair was one of the first to introduce the public to Chocolate Covered Bacon, and that tradition continues this year with a Maple Bacon Funnel Cake from a vendor aptly named Funnel Cakes. It is described as a funnel cake infused with bacon pieces, then topped with sweet maple glaze and sprinkled with more bacon. For the even sweeter tooth, Pat’s Place offers a Caramel Chocolate-Dipped Bacon Ice Cream Bar.

You may call the five new flavors of SPAM® Burgers a fair clichés, but Hormel Foods is based in Minnesota. Still, this year you can choose from Jalapeño, Hot & Spicy, Bacon, Hickory Smoke or Black Pepper at the SPAM® Burgers booth.

Finally, we can’t ignore the obligatory fried food entry – Ball Park Cafe’s Deep Fried Ribs which are smoked baby back ribs, breaded, fried and served with BBQ sauce.

Sweet Finales

The Doo Wop Dip features Strawberry ice cream and real strawberries in a croissant.

The Doo Wop Dip features Strawberry ice cream and real strawberries in a croissant.

Or beginnings, depending on your appetite. There are 11 new frozen treats this year. They range from the Doo Wop Dip (strawberry ice cream and real strawberries in a croissant, dipped in chocolate and drizzled with white chocolate) from the West End Creamery to Fire and Ice Kreme (soft serve vanilla ice cream with a Sriracha sauce and corn chip crunch, all topped with whipped cream) available at Goertze’s Dairy Kone.

From the ‘it says salad, so it must be healthy’ department is Grandma Deb’s Snicker Bar Salad. The “salad” includes chopped Snickers® bars and Granny Smith apples tossed in vanilla pudding with whipped cream and drizzled with caramel sauce and is available from The Blue Barn. Finally, The Pizza Shoppe introduces Italian Dessert Nachos with cinnamon sugar cannoli chips smothered with sweet ricotta cheese filling, fruit, chocolate, nuts and candy toppings.

Cody’s Picks

2015 Minnesota State Fair - Hot Tail

The Hot Tail is a roasted pig tail coated in a scallion ginger sauce from The Rabbit Hole

Of course, we had to ask our resident ‘I’ll eat anything’ foodie into the conversation. His go-to items on the list included the Hot Tail, described as a “roasted pig tail coated in a scallion ginger sauce.” It is the culinary invention of The Rabbit Hole, a Koreatown-style Bar and Restaurant in Minneapolis. Sara’s Tipsy Pies also caught his eye, especially the Irish Apple pie made with 2GINGERS® Irish whiskey. Sara has been making pies with her ‘secret ingredient’ (Hint, it is local alcohol) since 2011 and is taking them to the fair for the first time this year.

On the flipside, Cody joined the chorus of puzzled gasps at the description of BBQ Pickle Ice Cream. The concoction from R&R Ice Cream is described as vanilla ice cream infused with a light BBQ sauce and diced pickles.

Create Your Own Food Creations Using Central Equipment

Many of the vendors at the Minnesota State Fair are local restaurants just like yours. They are using the fair to not only show their culinary creative side, but also attract some new business. When you are looking to invest in new equipment, turn to Central Restaurant for answers. Our highly-skilled Product Consultants are here to help you find the right equipment for your task, whether it is figuring out new weird flavors to add to ice cream or perfecting the perfect combination of sweet and savory flavors in a sandwich. Give one a call at 800-215-9293, start an online chat or order online from our website at CentralRestaurant.com!

All images and food descriptions courtesy of the Minnesota State Fair website at http://www.mnstatefair.org/.

Tips to Help Your Food Truck Thrive in Winter

Across the country, arctic temperatures have been sweeping through, as winter weather begins rearing its ugly head much earlier than we’d all like. Typically for food truck operators, this marks the beginning of a decrease in business. Few people are willing to stand outside in freezing temperatures longer than a couple of minutes to wait for food. A lot of food trucks will close up for the winter, but for those that try to stick it out, here are some tips and ideas to help survive the winter months ahead.

Winterize Your Truck

First thing’s first: if you’re going to use your food truck in the winter, you’ll need to make sure your truck is prepared for the colder weather. Food Truckr recommends investing in quality snow tires, maintaining your belts and hoses, check or replace your battery and keep your fluids filled. An emergency kit is a must. If your truck has trouble or breaks down, you want to be prepared while you wait for help to arrive. Include jumper cables, blankets, road flares and whatever you feel you need to make it through if your truck is incapacitated.

In addition, it gets COLD in a food truck. Dress warm if you’re going out for lunch and dinner runs. Trying to serve folks quickly with numb fingers and toes is a lot less thrilling than it sounds! You’ll want to rethink your food storage as well. During the spring and summer, storing non-perishables and cooking supplies in your truck doesn’t pose a problem. But in the winter, those items are susceptible to freezing. If you can, plan to store your food elsewhere during the winter, making sure you follow local laws and health codes while doing so.

Strategize Your Menu

If you’re going to serve during the winter, make sure your menu fits the weather. Consider adding more hearty and hot foods to your menu, such as chili, soups, and stews. These are quick to serve, so your customer isn’t left waiting in the cold. If you offer up made to order items, such as burgers, consider par-cooking them first, so that your wait time goes down. I’m sure most customers don’t mind waiting 10 minutes for a freshly cooked burger in the summer, but when it’s below freezing, they just want hot food in their hand as soon as possible. For beverages, don’t forget coffee, tea or hot chocolate. There are so many variations you can do with these beverages to really entice your customers.

Catering and Special Events

Obviously, business isn’t going to be as brisk as the warmer months of the year. If you decide not to go out as often during the winter, you can keep your brand active during the season by offering your truck’s services for catering or special events. These can be beneficial, as you can guarantee that you will make some money, rather than hoping someone will come out to your truck at lunch on a 10 degree day. If you can, partner up with brick and mortar restaurants to offer some of your items as well. The important thing is to keep your truck’s brand in the minds of customers until spring comes, and your truck is back on its regular schedule.

Shop Central

If you’re ready to brave the temperatures and take your truck out, don’t forget Central! We have everything you need to equip your truck for your cooking needs. Click here to shop now. You can also contact a Product Consultant at 800-215-9293 with any questions you may have about how to winterize your truck’s cooking equipment. Live chat is also available!

Featured image credit: Calgary Reviews / Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC by 4.0)
Taste of Chicago Festival from 2005

Getting Into the Food Festival Game

Taste of Chicago 2014 map, from TasteOfChicago.us

Taste of Chicago 2014 map, from TasteOfChicago.us

Those long, warm summer nights are upon us, and consumers are looking for exciting ways to enjoy them. Among other summertime activities, millions of Americans will choose to attend a food festival.

One of the world’s largest, The Taste of Chicago, will be held this year July 9th through the 13th in Grant Park. It will feature 66 restaurants representing the gambit of Chicago food royalty from the iconic Lou Malnati’s Pizza to new-comers M Burger and The Big Cheese Poutinerie. In 2013 the festival attracted 1.5 million very hungry people.

Consider Joining a Local Food Festival

You don’t have to be in Chicago to reap the benefits of a great food festival. Many small restaurants look to local fairs and festivals to expose the public to their everyday food offerings. Industry website FairsAndFestivals.net has an exhaustive listing of food and festivals nationwide that may appeal to you – from cultural, holiday or event celebrations to craft fairs. Once you find a festival that could fit your operation, searching individual festival websites can then usually point you to the correct contact people, fees (exhibitors or local permits) or requirements (including insurance) for that event.

Why exhibit at a food festival? Good question. Realize that you are not only selling the food at your festival booth (with exposure to hundreds or thousands of potential customers), but also the concept of your restaurant and the full experience one will have at your traditional location year-round. Give the consumer a ‘taste‘ and convert them into a loyal fan!

What should you serve? Consider signature dishes and recipes that are unlikely to be found elsewhere at the festival. Go daring, but keep a mass appeal. Find a couple of items that will attract attention for their uniqueness. FairsAndFestivals.net notes that it is miss with a unique ethnic dish.

How do I do this? Even if you’re not setup for a full mobile operation, there are many ways to still serve up a quality and food-safe product with minimal additional equipment investment. Perhaps you can pre-cook or partially cook your food items at your restaurant or other location. Maybe add your signature sauce to a simple hot dog or hamburger. Or, choose a cold dish that requires little on-site preparation.

Helpful Equipment From Central Restaurant

Whatever approach you take, Central has all the equipment and supplies that you’ll need for a successful festival booth whether you exhibit once a year or decide to hit the festival circuit.

Magicater 60

Magicater 60″ Wide Commercial Outdoor Gas Grill

Whatever you decide, remember that Central Restaurant has a team of product consultants ready to help you plan your festival food booth needs. Give them a call at 800-215-9293, tell them what you want to do…and they will provide solutions that meet your needs and budget.

Foodservice Industry Week in Brief: March 23

Looking for some of the week’s top information? Here are five stories from the foodservice industry for March 19-23.

Fast Casuals/QSR Food Trucks?
From the National Restaurant Association, Read Article

Not that long ago we learned fast casual and quick service restaurants are the current leaders of the foodservice industry.  So it makes sense for them to get on board with a huge industry trend that has providen to have staying power–food trucks.  NRA noted from the 2012 Restaurant Industry Forecast that 22 percent of fast casual restaurants and 13 percent of QSRs would consider adding a food truck to their business.  About those opposed to the idea, NRA spoke with the Senior Vice President of NRA’s Research and Knowledge group, and he said there are restaurant owners who consider food trucks as competition.  It’s a very valid stance, especially as food trucks compete with restaurants and other food trucks…one would think… However, just from observing the food truck scene in Indianapolis, many trucks join forces!  So who knows what will happen.  For more information, read the full story on the NRA website.

Burger King is Dethroned!
From Huffington Post Food, Read Article

For the longest time, the order of the largest burger chains went McDonald’s, Burger King then Wendy’s. Not anymore!  News broke this week that Wendy’s has exceeded Burger Kings sales.  It was close though.  According to a HuffPost food article, Wendy’s had $8.5 billion in sales last year and Burger King had $8.4 billion.  Who knows, maybe Burger King will take the lead again next year.  Last year they stopped using the king mascot, when Wendy’s was revving up their marketing campaign for burgers.  Then this year, Wendy’s has brought back the ever famous catch phrase, “Where’s the Beef?” in commercials.  So here is some nostalgia for you on a Friday, the original 1984 Wendy’s commercialRead more on HuffPost Food.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Ghostwriter Ordeal
From Goop, Read Article

In her latest email newsletter for her blog, Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow briefly responded to an accusation that she used a ghostwriter for her cookbook My Father’s Daughter.  The claim was made by New York Times writer, Julia Moskin.  In the newsletter, Paltrow said she does not normally address false reporting but wanted to clarify.  She continued to say “the recipes and words are all mine and come from my heart. ”  Read Paltrow’s full newsletter on Goop.

Starbucks’ New “Refresher” Beverages
From Starbucks, Read Article

Starbucks is adding to their beverage menu with their new drink, “Refreshers.”  These new energy drinks are 60 calories per serving and use a green coffee extract that doesn’t look or taste like coffee to provide a natural energy boost.  Their website says “combined with real fruit juice, B and C vitamins and ginseng, it’s a sparking low-calorie boost of natural energy in three delicious flavors.”  In stores, Refreshers will be available in Raspberry Pomegranate, Orange Melon and Strawberry Lemonade.  Read more and get a $1 off coupon on the Starbucks website.

Central’s on Pinterest!

Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, FourSquare, YouTube, blogs–so many social media sites, it can be hard to keep up with them all!  Pinterest is the latest to join the social media craze, but their emphasis on pictures and photography makes them stand apart from other sites.  Central recently jumped on the Pinterest train to share some of our products, promotions and buying guides as well as recipes and other fun things from the internet.  If you’re on Pinterest, check us out!  And be sure to tell us how to find you on Pinterest in our comments section. 

 

Impact of the Super Bowl on Indianapolis Foodservices

For Indianapolis, early February usually has bitter cold temperatures, snow and ice.  Those in the city avoid being outdoors as much as possible because of the frigid temperatures.  So upon being named the Super Bowl host city for 2012, it could only be expected that people were wondering how the city was going to pull it off.

Not only did Indianapolis exceed expectations, the weather was unusually cooperating too.  There were days with temperatures in the low 50s, almost making locals forget about the severe ice storm the city had just a year ago.   There were a few days with rain, but all in all the weather was oddly pleasant for this time of the year.

Super Bowl Village ribbon cutting ceremony

The 10 day extravaganza kicked off on Friday Jan. 27 with the first six or seven days being heavily local traffic.  Then by Thursday Feb. 2, the out of town guests started trickling in and the city was packed.

One of the major benefits of having an event as large as the Super Bowl in Indianapolis is how close everything is in the downtown area.  It’s very manageable to walk from one end of downtown to another.

Restaurants all over the downtown area and beyond were anticipating a huge increase in business.  Before events began, Julia Watson, vice president of marketing and communications for Indianapolis Downtown Inc., said businesses were forecasting as much as six months of business in the 10 day period.

So restaurants planned. They all planned. Those restaurants and food trucks in the immediate downtown area close to Super Bowl Village had to do a little bit of extra planning to ensure their food deliveries could be made and employees could get to work due to street closures.

Today Show crowd

Originally, it was anticipated 150,000 people would come into the city—and in a recent Indianapolis Star article; Super Bowl Host Committee officials said the total attendance (locals and out of town guests) at the Super Bowl Village alone was probably over 1 million.

So how did it all pan out for foodservices?

It was great for those near Super Bowl Village.  But many downtown locations a little further out from Super Bowl Village and extending cities planned for large crowds that didn’t all come.

Despite being 20 to 30 minutes outside of downtown, OAKLEY’s Bistro, a restaurant on Indianapolis’ northwest side, was successful.  In January, they said they were creating different menu options and were even opening on Super Bowl Sunday and the following Monday—two days they are normally closed.

“We had a great weekend, very busy,” said Chris Hopkins, manager at OAKLEY’s.  “A lot of our business was from out of town guests and it was great to introduce them to OAKLEY’s.”

Hopkins said the only negative aspect were the number of people who made reservations then didn’t show. They were able to still fill the spots with walk-in traffic, which is something Hopkins said is pretty common on special event weekends.

Monument Circle

When it came to mobile food, the food trucks were a big hit.  The city reserved space for them on Monument Circle, where the famous Super Bowl Roman Numerals stood.

Food truck Duos Indy was nervous and excited before all the Super Bowl festivities took place.  After it was all said and done, the warm weather was great for them and the rainy days weren’t the best.

“We had an amazing Friday night and were prepared for that kind of business every day,” said Becky Hostetter, chef and co-owners of Duos. “Other days and nights were fine and right at our projections, but the rain Saturday was problematic.  We also found that Sunday was a bust.”

Hostetter also noticed how a majority of the crowds stayed closer to the Super Bowl Village and away from some of the locations on the outer parts of downtown.

“That was hard for all our friends in the restaurant business in the surrounding areas (Fountain Square, Mass Ave., etc.) who had worked so long and hard to prepare thoughtfully for such an event.”

All in all, Hostetter said they discovered they were completely capable of handling the large crowds while prepping in a smart and thoughtful way.  They also met their expectation of serving guests within 60 seconds of them approaching a window.  This is quick service–especially on their busiest nights, one of which they served around 550 people.

When it came to food rescuing (organizations who gather food that foodservices overstock, over prepare or don’t use that hasn’t been served to the public), Ben Shine, communications and development manager at Second Helpings, said they had a whirlwind of a weekend.

On Feb. 6, Shine said they had already rescued around 20,000 pounds of food, with more to come.  Then they recently updated the numbers and on Feb. 16, the total amount rescued was 46,000 pounds.  And for their kick-off event “Souper Bowls,” where local artists, chefs and community members got together to help fight hunger in central Indiana, they had over 500 in attendance and cleared just over $10,000.

St. Elmo Steak House

As for restaurants? Those closer to the Super Bowl Village probably received the most business—with the most popular place in the city to visit being St. Elmo Steak House.

Prior to the events, St. Elmo’s made sure they were fully prepared.  Bryn Jones, director of marketing, said they knew they would be a go-to place but it ended up being even bigger than they anticipated.

“It was a very big week for us in terms of sales and national and local publicity,” Jones said. “We were prepared for both, but it was still a lot to handle.”

Shrimp is one of the restaurant’s signature menu items and Jones mentioned over the course of the week, they sold over two tons of it.

St. Elmo’s was a top restaurant for celebrities and athletes to dine at, too.  Michael Douglas, Adam Sandler, John Travolta, Jerry Bruckheimer, The Fray, Eli Manning and Tom Brady are just a handful of the many celebrities and athletes Jones said came through their doors.

“Pretty wild week!” he said, which is a perfect way to sum it up.

Super Bow Host Committee with Blue wearing Super Bowl scarves

It was an incredibly wild week for the city.  Indianapolis put on a Super Bowl extravaganza that many frequent Super Bowl visitors said was the best they had ever experienced. Who would have thought the Midwestern city with the nickname “Naptown” would go on to host one of the best Super Bowl’s to date?

The city exceeded expectations and it was not only a great opportunity to showcase the city as whole, but to showcase the finer details such as great food and Hoosier hospitality.  Definitely one for the record books, that’s for sure.

All images used with permission from the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee.

Foodservice Industry Week in Brief: 1/27

Looking for some of the week’s top information? Here are five stories from the foodservice industry for Jan. 23-27.

Progress with School Nutrition
From USDA, Read Blog

Image: jdurham/MorgueFile

There’s been much buzz over school nutrition over the past few years, especially though the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  This week more progress was made when the USDA announced the new standards for school nutrition.  Some of the changes include more fruits and vegetables, only only offering fat-free or low-fat milk and basing calorie counts on a child’s age  so they get the accurate portion size.  For the full report, read the USDA’s blog.

Restaurants Adding To Menus

This week seems to have had quite a bit of news with restaurants adding to their menus.  Here are few of the places mentioned:

  • Starbucks: Beer, wine and additional food items (i.e. hot flatbread)
  • Taco Bell: Breakfast with items such as egg or sausage burritos, hash browns, Cinnabon and coffee
  • McDonalds: Chicken McBites

Vancouver Restaurant Sells One Expensive Hot Dog
From The Canadian Press, Read Article

Image: alvimann/MorgueFile

Depending where your restaurant is, what the occasion is etc., a typical price for the standard hot dog can be anywhere from $1 to $3. Sometimes you might hit an event where it’s more expensive. However one Vancouver restaurant has developed a hot dog that really has stepped it up–in both toppings and price.  According to a HuffPost Food article from The Canadian Press, DougieDog Hot Dogs has created “The Dragon Dog” which consists of items on the hot dog such as cognac, Kobe beef and lobster. All at a pretty penny, of course… it’s only $100. There’s much more to this hot dog, visit Huff Post Food to read all about it.

Restaurant Super Bowl Deals Out
From Nation’s Restaurant News, Read Article

Image: kahanaboy/MorgueFile

There are certain events the restaurant industry can benefit from and the Super Bowl is definitely one of them.  According to the National Restaurant Association, approximately 48 million Americans will order takeout or delivery while watching the big game and 12 million will go out to a restaurant. NRN went into some detail looking into some of the special deals going on.  Be sure to let us know what your restaurant is doing below!  Read more on the NRN website.

Indianapolis Foodservice Impacted by the Super Bowl
From Central Restaurant Products, Read Blog

Image: Indianapolis Super Bowl Press Center

For most cities across the U.S., Super Bowl Sunday is a big day.  But for Indianapolis, they’re actually getting 10 big days!  This year Central’s hometown of Indianapolis is hosting Super Bowl 46.

There’s a lot that takes place in a city when a Super Bowl is coming to down and it dramatically affects all businesses–foodservice industry especially.  Central talked to different restaurants, food trucks and other organizations to get the scoop and a behind the scenes look on what it takes to prepare for the big game (and all that comes with it).