Last month we had a company trip to visit a customer and have a sales meeting. As much as we all travel, we are all rarely together. We have a small team spread across the country, with everyone having been with the company for over 5 years, except, of course, our latest addition Ms. Bailey Cahill. Over the 10 years I have been with Newport I have traveled the country countless times with each member of our sales team (we joke that some of us spend more time together on the road than we do with our families), but rarely are more than 2 or 3 of us together on the road. The scene reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Vacation, as Craig Hospodor, our SVP of Sales, pulled up to the baggage claim at the St. Louis airport in a massive passenger van that was already loaded with the entire Newport sales team. The only thing that seemed to be missing was Aunt Edna being strapped to the roof. I knew we were headed on an adventure, one to be remembered and for some to be reminded of for years to come. I am very lucky to have some of the best coworkers, all of whom I consider good friends, and yes, they all are invited to my Birthday Party. Between our team there is over a century of experience in all aspects of the seafood industry. I am always amazed by how much knowledge and experience each person has amassed over the years, and humbled by how much I still have to learn. Well, four days and many miles and adventures later, we were back in the van headed to the airport to head back home. We had shared some great conversations, had some killer new “road stories” to load into the database and all shared a strong sense of teamwork and excitement for the future of Newport International. Go team Newport!
Well, this year really flew by! We have literally been all over the country this year doing what we do, showing that our crab meat isn’t only the best, we also show you how many exciting ways you can add it to your table. I cannot believe it is already time to switch into Holiday mode, seems like yesterday I was thinking of Summertime recipes for our crab, now I am waiting on the snow to start falling in the Garden State. I’ve cooked up some new ideas of how you can make our delicious crab meat part of your Holiday celebrations. from a simple hors d’oeuvre to an elegant first course or side dish, either way they will be talking about the crab! Let us know some of your favorite ways to share our crab meat with your friends and family.
One of the things we try to show our customers is that crab is not only popular, it can work on almost any menu and at any part of the day. From the classics like crab cakes or crab bisque to the upgrades on your existing menu, crab can and will work for you. We try to show dishes that can work for everyone, from classic to trendy, from shoreline standards to cutting edge exciting and everything in-between. Our job is to find the best crab and possibly the best crab recipe to work for your needs, from a cost and execution standpoint. We will keep bringing the ideas, you keep giving them a try.
Craft and microbrew beer continues to grow both regionally and nationally. Over the years I have watched cities develop their local offerings from a point of novelty to now being the go to order for most of their guests. One city that jumps out to me is Louisville, KY. I remember the first time I was there, in a working capacity and it seemed that bourbon was the only go to for regional driven beverages. Every year that I visit, local beers become more and more prevalent and popular. Looking at the menus of the most popular restaurants in town solidifies this notion, and they all seem to transition it to the menu in some form. So, for this show season we decided to embrace this trend and bring our crab meat to the party. In every city we visit we look for the best local brews to pair with our crab, and the easiest recipe to apply this idea is in our crab, beer, cheese dip. A great local IPA, some aged sharp cheddar and our claw meat crab (which is not only affordable but also has enough flavor to stand up to the beer and cheese).
Sometimes as a Chef, I can get ahead of the trends and the idea or dish takes over the idea of the crab. This season we found these teeny tiny taco shells on the internet and I had to have them. Well, they are amazing, organic blue cornmeal, gluten free and made to order. They are literally the ultimate vehicle to showcase our crab in an on trend menu application. The drawback is that these 2″ taco shells, and the custom made bamboo holder, are just too cool for school. I spent the first few shows of the season working out the recipe/plating as they are so tiny it is a little tricky. Well they are dialed in, and I must say, they are aa perfect bite. Crunchy shell, red cabbage and mango slaw, with fresh lime juice and cilantro, a little crab meat (we sell crab) and a dollop of avocado crema. The downside is that every question is, first and foremost, where did you get these tiny taco shells, we sell crab.
A big part of being an Corporate Chef is staying aware of the current trends in the food industry. Trends tend to start on the coasts and move their way to Middle America. One of the best shows to see these trends in all their glory is at the Fancy Foods. There are two each year, one in LA and one in NYC and they are big and loaded with an overwhelming amount of new products and ingredients. Many companies use these show to test out new products and ideas, running test batches of products to cover the shows. If they receive traction at the show, they will go into production, if not, they go into the old R&D vault where they might be brought back once the trends takes heels across the country or just disappear into the file cabinet. I am always amazed when I first see a new item or idea and think just how unique of an idea someone beat me to, last year at the Fancy Food NY show, it was smoked maple syrup. One of the first vendors we met had an amazing product and it was the first time I had seen it in a consumer ready form. By the end of the day we had seen at least a half a dozen other vendors (most from VT or NH) with similar/same product. This year there was only one left, the first guy we had met, who was able to bring the product into production. I work with my “food show team” and we compile a list at each show of the trends we see repeated throughout the show. The shows on the West Coast tend to be more health driven as the East Coast shows tend to be more culinary driven. I will put together a list of the top items that I believe will transition to mainstream or are easily applicable to our crab. Then I begin to develop a menu for our food show season utilizing these items or ideas. This year I focused on a few items; eggs (in almost every form and application), pickled/fermented items, Old school becomes new cool, seasonal and local and the list goes on. For our show this spring we were serving an update on an Old school French classic via NOLA, ravigote. The herbaceous sauce, sometimes with the addition of hard boiled eggs, lends itself to a wonderful base for a chilled crab dip/salad. Instead of just mixing in chopped hard boiled into a herb and shallot aioli, I emulsify the cooked eggs in a Robot Coupe and use this as the foundation for the sauce, add an assortment of fresh herbs, some citrus zest and juice, shallots, capers and a little Creole mustard and mayonnaise and all you need is some crab to make a killer dish. We also took a classic Creole crab gratin (a creamy, cheesy roux based dip heady with crab claw meat) and stuff it into pickled Peppadew peppers. They are a little sweet, a little spicy, a little sour and a whole lot savory and craveable. Last week in Florida (where it was like 1000⁰) we went cold and tropical. Chilled watermelon and tomato gazpacho with our sweet crab meat and a mango and crab ceviche with leche de tigre (a coconut milk based sauce) over a warm plantain pancake. Our crab works with all types of flavors and the of course it also makes a fantastic crab cake.
Our crab isn’t just for crab cakes! A large part of my job is bringing new and exciting recipes and ideas on how to use our delicious and versatile crab meat. When I travel to present our crab allot of thought goes into what dishes to serve. We have periods in the Spring and Fall, where we are in serving customers almost every week, many times in multiple cities simultaneously. I try to set a few recipes into the rotation for each season, one hot, one cold and one interactive. Over the years we have done so many dishes I forgot about half of them until I am reminded by one of our sales team or brokers. We have done quiches, croquettes with bacon tomato jam, endless dips and salads, steak Oscar on a stick, mini crab Benedicts with poached quail eggs…the list goes on and on. We try to stay on top of or even better ahead of the trends. Our crab can be utilized to give you a dish that is not only on trend, utilizing the latest hot ingredient or preparation style, but also something your guests will craze and be excited to see added to the menu. For the Fall shows this year we went with a NOLA theme. Rich andouille and crab gumbo made with our claw meat, an herbaceous Crab Ravigote dip made with our backfin crab and Peppadew peppers filled with a warm, classic Creole crab gratin. Next week I will be in Ft. Lauderdale and it is going to be HOT! So we will be serving a chilled watermelon, heirloom tomato and crab gazpacho, a chilled crab salad on crostini and a tropical crab and mango ceviche in a spicy coconut citrus sauce and served over warm mini plantain pancakes. The ideas and applications keep coming as the seasons change and new menu ideas and ingredients move into the forefront on menus across the country.
As the Winter months are upon us, I find myself in the mood for soup. As the former Corporate Chef of two soup companies, I better know how to make a good one and as the Corporate chef of Newport International, it better have some crab in the recipe! From creamy and rich to light and fresh crab and soup go hand in hand. From making a recipe from scratch to elevating a premade soup by simply “just adding crab” you can wow your guests every single time. The recipes will keep coming, now go out and get some crab and start cooking!
Well, as 2018 is slowly coming to a close everyone is getting ready for those big Holiday parties. If you are looking for that perfect dish to impress your guests, look no further, it is all about the crab! This week the Newport team will be gathering at our company headquarters in beautiful, and hopefully sunny, St. Petersburg, Florida. As a company obsessed with providing the best crab meat on the market, I can guarantee you that crab will be on the menu throughout the entire Holiday season. Over the weekend I even got a photo of some killer looking crab cakes that our fearless leader of sales, Craig “Big Hoss” Hospodor, made for his family using his favorite crab cake recipe (which just happens to be mine and readily available on our recipe page). From using our crab as the signature ingredient in a recipe like a crab cake or using it as a garnish to elevate almost any dish on the menu, the result will be the same, happy guests. As a Chef, nothing makes me happier than to watch friends and family enjoy the fruits of our labor and my friends and family seem to really appreciate when crab is part of that experience. From cranberry and crab crostini to roasted parsnip soup with charred jalapeno, pickled apple and crab, the options are only limited by your imagination. Our crab works perfectly in all types of recipes and elevates the party from run of the mill to one you want to grab your phone post photos before you even take that first bite. So, as you are planning that big Christmas or New Year’s shindig, be sure to not forget the crab!
Happiest of Holidays from the entire Newport Team!
Well we closed out the Fall 2018 Show Season with a bang this year. Over the past almost decade with Newport International we have continued to raise the bar on how we present our crab meat to our customers. Long gone are the days of just serving the crab, or even a crab cake for that matter. We continue to show how versatile an ingredient our crab can be for our customers. From breakfast items to the most sophisticated entrée, from seashore classic like crab bisque to on trend and somewhat left of center items like the low country crab ramen we were serving this season, from Asian to Latin and every cuisine in between, our crab works and your customers will keep coming back. We love what we do and we have the best product in the business to work with. We enjoyed seeing all of you over the past few months and hope you enjoyed the crab! Until next year!