It may be a weird title but you have no idea how many times I have to explain this to people. The NRA that I speak of is the National Restaurant Association. It’s one of the largest food industry shows in the country and they hold it right in my hometown of Chicago. I’ve been visiting the show for the past 5 years. It’s a great opportunity for exposure new culinary trends, equipment, products and overall resources to business growth. It’s a four-day show and I typically try get by there for at least two of them. I attend this show for a few reasons. I get to spend some time with a few sponsors and help them promote from their booth. Honestly, what better way to show you have a great food product, than to have a chef working with it on-site and watching the reaction people have from his creativity. That may have sounded a bit pitchy but it is true. I also like to incorporate some of the new items into my cooking. I mean…I cook for the people, so I like to be on the front end of new flavors that the industry is going to market toward you. Something else that I do is to give you feedback on some of the things I taste and kind of help you, if you see these products in your store. I don’t have a particular order, so I’ll just grab the stack of business cards and give you my quick reviews. Some of these products have recipes located in the recipe section of the website. Let’s begin…
Giangrandi Gourmet (http://www.giangrandigourmet.com/) – This is an olive oil from Chile. Now some of you know that I really feel that some of the best Sauvignon Blancs are coming out of Chile right now. Well now the olive oils are making their presence known. I classify the brand as a premium blend, so that means you would choose different oils for different cooking applications. The Delicate Fruited Blend & Medium Fruited Blend are both great for baking, sautéing and vinaigrettes. The each cost about $11. The Intensely Fruited Blend has a nice amount of pepper. It will become the staple for my pesto, chimichurri and for finishing my steaks. That’s right…a drizzle of high quality olive oil or a spoon of compound butter, added to a grilled steak is AMAZING! The Organic Blend is not for the faint of taste (I just made that up). Anyway, it has a really looooooong finish. This is what ALL olive oil wishes it tasted like. I plan to cook only a few special dishes with it. This is one to savor.
Nueske’s (www.nueskemeats.com) – This is a very well established company. They are easily accessible in Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and several other supermarkets all over the country. A full listing can be found on their site. I have serious fan of the spareribs, hams and smoked turkey. Apple wood is used for just about everything. The original “bacon relish” that we use for the jerk pork tenderloin, was designed around their flavor profile. It’s a bit more than the mundane tasting products, but well worth it…especially, with grilling season upon us.
Epicurean Butter (www.epicureanbutter.com) – The name says it and it is beautiful. There are so many companies that promote “flavored butter”. Yeah…I don’t want that. Now, all natural compound butters, I AM THERE! Let’s put it this way. “Flavored butter is the turkey bacon of compound butters.” Yeah it may taste close, but it’s NOT REALLY bacon. This is how easy it is. Quarter a few potatoes and toss with olive oil, roast them according to the size. When they finish, toss with a bit of any of these butters and serve warm. NO SALT OR PEPPER NEEDED. They are that good. More recipes to come as soon as I get some more in. It’s an easy way to make an average piece of bread to your own special garlic bread. Toss it with cooked pasta and no heavy cream sauce is needed. You are going to have a ball with it.
“Slap Ya Mama” Cajun Seasoning (www.slapyamama.com) – I know…I know…not a comfortable product name. That soon changes after you taste it. Simply put varying heat and consistent flavor throughout. They have just released their “étouffée sauce”. This is great on everything from Cajun lasagna to grilled shrimp pizza. We’ll get some of these posted for you too. Also, you can visit their site for more recipes!
Honey Smoked Fish Co (www.honeysmokedfish.com) – Salmon, Salmon, Salmon…it was sooo good. I tried the Original, Chipotle Lime, and Cracked Peppers. The Original was beautifully smoked and very moist. It had a rich color and subtle sweetness. I would use it in an omelet with a bit of goat cheese and fresh herbs. The Chipotle Lime had an excellent use of citrus and smoky heat on the finish. This is going to be a great addition to salads or straight forward on buffet presentations. You can place this on the table and everyone can serve themselves. But my favorite….the Cracked Peppers, shuts the party down. This was the best smoked salmon I have EVER had. It is better that my smoked salmon. It was so incredibly juicy, that I didn’t believe it was smoked. I was look for the oven, the grill or something. The fact that a blend of peppers is used on the fish is the key. These guys know smoked fish. This is going in pastas, into apps, made into croquettes and we’ll stuff it into shrimp. I will post updates on where you can purchase it in the store. However you can always order direct online. Tell them Chef Julius sent you!
Fontanini Sausage Co (www.fontanini.com) – Many people know that I regularly make two of my own sausages. We do Sweet Italian and Cajun Andouille. This company takes the pressure off of me for my large events. The quality is top shelf. They do meatballs, hot Italian sausage, Italian Beef, polish sausage and chicken chorizo. The chicken chorizo is better than 98% of the chorizo I have ever tasted. It has really nice smoke and some nice heat on the finish. The spice blend is authentic Mexican chorizo but based on how well it’s smoked, you get the flavor profile of Spanish chorizo. When you find your favorite “paella” recipe and the guests don’t eat pork, you can substitute this one and not miss a beat. Adding any of their meats to your homemade Italian cuisine is a “no brainer”. Throw any of them on the grill on the hot days or add them to soups & stews when the weather changes. When you add a bit of fresh herbs to the end of a dish, it good to know you have a protein that lends itself to the flavor. The Cajun andouille is authentic in flavor and the sausage has the right amount of snap that you want in a Cajun sausage. It’s a must for gumbos, étouffées & jambalayas. The best part is that they are sold everywhere. I will have the full list up before Memorial Day Weekend.
Well, this is just the start of my NRA Show experience. The follow up post will focus more on industry related items like equipment, branding and quick serve items.