Your customers are not looking for a lot of new trends at Christmas. At best, they might look for a spin on a traditional dish. The winter holiday season is all about memories, and for chefs, that means dishing out the classics. Here are five do’s and don’ts for menu planning and making your operation a destination for memorable holiday traditions.
1. Stick to the holiday classics
No holiday menu is complete without “roast beast.” My choice would be a standing rib roast with rich beef gravy and roasted or seasoned mashed potatoes. You can put a new spin on this classic favorite, but don’t encroach on the soul of the dish and take it too far off base that patrons don’t recognize it as a holiday favorite.
2. Get creative with sides
There are opportunities to incorporate new flavor profiles with side dishes, like stuffing, sweet potatoes and vegetables. It can be as simple as getting creative with seasonings, sauces, and flavored butters. Cranberry sauce is crying out for reinvention. When you add a spicy seasoning, you can give cranberry sauce new dimension that’s right on cue with the sweet heat trend.
3. Warm things up with beverages
Fortified wines are always very popular during the holiday season. You can also drive traffic by offering a hot beverage station with flavored teas, rich mochas, spiced ciders, or hot toddies.
4. Go indulgent for dessert
My favorite dessert is minced pie, although Gingerbread bread pudding or Egg Nog bread pudding would run a close second. Bread puddings are a great way to put an unconventional twist on a traditional dessert; and they are a great way to utilize leftover bread and rolls
5. Keep the décor simple
A good bottle of single malt whiskey with a red bow is usually ambience enough for me.
Jennifer Kent, customer service manager for Kent Precision Foods Group, explains how to order Foothill Farms seasonings, sauce, gravy and dessert mixes.
*A guest blog by Jennifer Kent, Customer Service Manager Kent Precision Foods Group
Very often, we get questions from our social media followers about “How to Order” our products. A customer can order from us a few different ways. When we say “customer” we are talking about foodservice distributors, not individual end users. A foodservice distributor is a company that buys, stores, sells, and delivers tens of thousands of food products as well as non-food restaurant supplies to restaurants, hospitals, military bases, colleges and universities and specialty food stores across the nation.
Orders can be placed in a variety of ways:
1. EDI – Electronic data transfer. The order data gets transmitted to us from the customer directly. Once it hits our system, we check to make sure the items, pricing, address, etc. all match and process according to our standard lead times. We receive around 50-60% of our orders via EDI.
2. Fax – Customers can order by sending their PO (purchase order) to our order fax number (314-567-7421). The customer service representatives then enter the order into our system and double check that the pricing in the system matches the customer’s PO. The order is then released to the warehouse and processed according to our standard lead times. This is the second most popular way for customers to place their orders.
3. Email – Some customers send their POs via email. They usually send them directly to the customer service representative that is assigned to their account. The rep then enters the order and follows the same process as the above.
4. Phone – We do have a few customers who still call in their orders. We discourage this as we prefer to have a PO that we can refer to that shows the pricing, address, item number and expected delivery dates. If customers don’t have the ability to use one of the above methods to order, we will take their order via the phone. These calls usually get routed to the appropriate customer service representative who takes the order and processes it as with the above methods.
After the order is placed, it is assigned for entry depending on what products are ordered and what region they’re in. For instance, our Foodservice Sales is divided into seven regions. When we receive an order for our foodservice products, the order is entered by the customer service representative assigned to support that region. The same is true across all segments of our business: Foodservice, Consumer Packaged Goods, Personal Nutrition Solutions, Custom and Industrial.
Our standard lead times apply to all orders, no matter the method in which the order was received. For regular stocked items, our lead time is five full business days from order receipt to order shipment and 10-13 full business days from order receipt to order delivery. Orders that are picked up by the customer or for which they arranged their own freight, can be picked up after five full business days from receipt of the order. For made-to-order items, our lead time is three to four weeks to allow time for the item to be fit into the production schedule. Orders are invoiced on the next business day following shipment.
We believe that following the above processes and lead times allows us to service our customers in the most efficient way possible. The lead times allow us to avoid most stock shortages and to fill as many orders as possible in full and in a timely manner.
To speak to a Kent Precision Foods Group customer service representative, please call our toll-free number (800) 442-5242.
Sometimes cooks get hung up on not being able to make a dish properly because they are missing an ingredient. I remind myself and my colleagues that when the dish was made for the first time it was just that person’s impression of how THEY thought it should taste. It doesn’t mean it is set in stone until the end of time! You can selectively omit and recreate!
Loosen Up and Experiment with Flavor
It took me a while to realize that there comes a time when you stop playing by the rules; following recipes by the book. Sometimes cooks get hung up on not being able to make a dish properly because they are missing an ingredient. I remind myself and my colleagues that when the dish was made for the first time it was just that person’s impression of how THEY thought it should taste. It doesn’t mean it is set in stone until the end of time! You can selectively omit and recreate!
It is important to understand how ingredients complement each other, and then go to town creating your own unique, tasteful memories. Experiment! Obviously there are dishes that are classic in everyone’s mind: pot roast, mac n’ cheese, spaghetti, chicken noodle soup, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and of course apple pie. Comfort foods get their reputation from the whole dining experience, not just the way it tastes. Biting into a slice of apple pie might bring back memories of your grandma’s apple pie served at her dining room table but for someone else it will be a different experience altogether. Don’t let “comfort food” pin you down! In my experience, people like culinary twists to old favorites.
I love to experiment in the kitchen. My wife is always amazed on days that we have nothing in the pantry, or so she thought, and I come up with a dish that she enjoys eating. She will ask me what the dish was called and my response (and dead giveaway that I experimented) is “Anything you like…I made it just for you.” Chefs know the way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach!
I love that young chefs are being given “market baskets” as part of their testing. It reminds me of the story of how the first Caesar Salad came to be. I believe in simplicity, I am not overly impressed with chefs putting dishes together with twenty ingredients. That kind of culinary snobbery tends to confuse the pupil in understanding what is complimenting what.
With summer just around the corner, I am reminded of a couple of cool ideas that I have tasted lately that have given me a WOW moment: watermelon and basil and cantaloupe and lime juice. Unique flavor combinations are gaining in popularity. A recent Technomic report asked 1500 consumers how appealing they found 12 different flavor combinations both in 2009 and in 2013. Eleven of the 12 saw rise in their popularity in 2013. Tomato-basil received the strongest reception followed by honey-ginger. The next three top favorites were chipotle-lime, rosemary-orange and mango-habanero.
Foothill Farms and I have created new recipes; blending unique flavors to create delicious, appealing dishes, dressings, sauces, and salsas. Food should be fun! You shouldn’t be judge on how close you got to copying someone else’s effort.
New research shows that opening the door to the thriving soup and salad market can bring in additional sales. Technomic, a leading research group for the foodservice industry, found that 43% of consumers chose a certain restaurant based on their salad options alone. It is important for us in the foodservice industry to recognize these emerging trends so that we stay informed and offer what today’s consumer is demanding.
Fast casual restaurants, the fastest growing segment of the restaurant industry, have profited from offering “Signature Salads”. Salads encompassing exotic lettuces, meat or seafood toppings, nuts and berries, and a wide variety of cheeses suggest higher-quality ingredients; giving off the aura of nutritious and satisfying. Another key part of the emerging demand for salad is for the flavorful dressings that compliment them. Dressings are no longer relegated to “on the side” but instead have become the cornerstone of a salad.
Ethnic offerings entice tired palates to try an alternative twist to a safe favorite. For example, Foothill Farms® Avocado Ranch Dressing elevates the ever-popular ranch to a more complex, gourmet offering. This dressing compliments the Mexi-Cali Cobb Signature Salad, a blend of fresh baby spinach leaves, black beans, grilled shrimp, and pureed avocado. A second signature salad utilizing Ranch Dressing as a base is the popular Asian Salad. Our Wasabi Ranch Dressing gives romaine lettuce, grilled or smoked chicken, cilantro, wonton strips, purple cabbage, and sesame a spicy kick (another trend for 2014)! If peppery makes you cautious, chefs use our 1000 Island or Honey Mustard Dressing mix to create an Asian Dressing that gives taste buds a sweeter, honey-ginger fix. Another “Signature Salad” that pleases the less adventurous eater while still encouraging the desire to branch out is a steak, ham, or bacon topped salad. These salads draw guests looking for lower carb options but who aren’t ready to sacrifice the “meat” on their plate. Foothill Farms® Blue Cheese Dressing drizzled atop mixed herbs, roasted red peppers, provolone cheese, red onions, seedless cucumbers, and sliced cherry tomatoes, adds just the right amount of hearty and tangy to satisfy the inner lumberjack.
Last but certainly not least, especially with the growing trend of vegan and organic-demanding consumers, is the vegetarian garden salad. Fresh from the farm rules the day when salads offer a variety of lettuces, herbs, peppers, mushrooms, berries, fruits, onions, and squash. Our Lido Italian Dressing & Seasoning mix allows you to create your own “Signature Dressing” by adding your choice of vinegars – wine, balsamic, or white. If your goal is green (no pun intended), adding “Signature Salads” to your menu is a sure way to tempt your patrons’ taste buds and keep them coming back for more! Using dry salad dressing mixes like Foothill Farms®, allows foodservice professionals to create multiple varieties of gourmet. For more salad recipe ideas, please visit http://www.foothillfarms.com/recipes.