Hopefully ya' all will soon return New Orleans as soon as possible. Every bit of tourism will help it this great city uplift the spirits its people and revitalize its business and culinary communities. As Louisiana Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu emphasized to attendees, "New Orleans needs America's support right now unlike any time spanning our nation's history -- perhaps more than any American city has ever so needed our nation's attention."
So Laissez les bon temps roulez!, or let the good times roll for the RCA, its new president Stephen Kalil, CRC, CEC, director of culinary innovation, Brinker International, Chili's, and the entrepreneurial spirit of New Orleans.
Many of the sessions were more hands-on including: "Lipids: The Skinny on Dietary Fats," presented by Chef Brian Yager and Tom Tiffany, Archer Daniels Midland, Decatur, Ill., focused on the technical aspects of fats and oils, nutritional concerns and lipids substitutions in trans-free applications and "Food Pleasure Principles for Culinologists, or the eight basic tastes, presented by Dr. Steven Witherly, Technical Products Inc., Valencia, Cal.
Illustrating the power of Culinology, the Annual Luncheon featured guest chefs and manufacturers to create the menu together. Inspired by Chef Leah Chase, Dookey Chase, the first course, Gumbo des herbes, was prepared by Chef John Folse and Co. Manufacturing. Chef John Besh, Restaurant August, worked with Clear Springs Foods with Darifair Foods, Golden State Foods, Azar Nut Co., and Hydroblend to create almond-crusted trout with brown butter hollandaise and crawfish salad with lemon vinaigrette. Ed Miniat Inc. and Chef John Folse and Co. Manufacturing created tasso-cured pork loin with green beans, a recipe from chefs Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon. And the piece de resistance dessert -- creole bread pudding -- a favorite at Ella Brennan's Commander's Palace, was prepared by Menu Inspirations. Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates contributed the wine.
We had a grand time catching up at Memphis, Tenn.-based Kraft Food Ingredients Hospitality Suite, which served finely crafted seared beef tenderloin canapé with horseradish dill sauce, fire roasted shrimp with key lime-cilantro vinaigrette, buffalo chicken cheesette with spicy bacon ranch dip, Oreo cheesecake sticks with caramel sauces, nutter butter and jam mousse and caribbean mango tart.
Likewise at gala event hosted by Omaha-based Con Agra Foods' Gilroy Foods at Cochon Restaurant, where attendees tasted foods made with Gilroy's purees and seasonings and compared chili-inspired small plates that used different chile varietals -- Jalapeno, Serrano, Poblano, Pasilla, Cascabel -- and flavors to tempt and invigorate the palate. It's notable that U.S. chile pepper use has increased 37 percent in the past 10 years and there's been a 13 percent increase of chile-flavored desserts.
Walking the floor
Organic ingredients were de rigour on the trade show floor. Organic cheddar cheese powder from Commercial Creamery, Spokane, Wash., created lots of buzz, as did its entire line of organic powders, snack seasonings and sauce mixes. Summit Hill Flavors, Middlesex, N.J., showcased a line of organic savory flavors, and Christopher Ranch has a line of Organic garlic. In fact, it can customize its organic garlic into any shape you need.
Lisle, Ill.-based McCain Food's USA's Jon-Lin has a line of fire-roasted and smokehouse-roasted vegetables and fruits, a line of vegetable blends and glazed medleys and a line of caramelized and sautéed vegetables for use in a variety of entrees and sides. Chef Susan Spicer of Bayona and Herbsaint restaurants showcased innovative, healthful potato ideas at the Denver-based U.S. Potato Board booth.
Dave Zino, executive director of The Beef Checkoff Culinary Center, Chicago, Ill., presided over "Beef University: A Foodservice Guide to Beef." On the floor Mardi Gras Shredded Beef Poppers were served. Teresa Landis, chef at The National Food Laboratory, Dublin, Cal., prepared moroccan chicken salad dressing and marinade to showcase Kasbah-By-The-Bay Spice Blend. For dessert, we wolfed down D.D. Williamson's bite-sized cheesecake topped with the company's palette of natural colors.
It was time to energize, so we headed over the Dayton, N.J.-based International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF) booth for Sparkling Goji Passion Energy Water, which is so tasty it should be bottled just as it is. Fruit was the basis of many creations. Tree Top, Selah, Wash., developed a sensational Hearty Apple Soup, made of IQF Granny Smith Apple Slices and juice concentrates. Chiquita Ingredients, Cincinnati, Ohio, wins the prize for the best smoothie (Pineapple-Honey Mango) and its Pineapple/Mango White Sangria.
Los Angeles, Cal.-based Paramount Farms treated attendees to different forms of pistachios. And we found out that a combination of 20 percent meal and 80 percent diced large is a very competitive solution for foods containing pistachios. California Raisin Marketing Board, Fresno, Cal., served up yummy California Raisin and Beef-filled Peruvian Potato Empanditas with Aji Amarillo -- Golden Raisin Salsa and Aji Rocoto -- Raisin Vinaigrette.