Looking for the Trends

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.

Always Giving You Options

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.

Soups On!

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!

It’s Time For That Holiday Party!

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!

Cheers,

Chef John

Elvis Has Left The Building

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!

Did You Say Low Country Crab Ramen???

Alright so I have our new hot and cold dishes all set for the upcoming show season and now I get to be even more creative, you know show them something they have never seen before, maybe never even considered. The idea started when I went on a ramen tour in Japan with my good friend Nick. He works for a company out of Japan who just happens to make the most amazing ramen broths, among other items. The one that I wanted was his Tonkotsu, or super rich pork and chicken bone broth. Alright so we’ve got a killer ramen broth and some delicious crab meat, what’s next. I need to keep it simple enough to be able to make a few hundred individual portions while still being able to talk to customers and serve our other dishes. I also did not want to go traditional, because, well that isn’t really pushing the envelope. So we went with traditional ramen noodles that anyone who spent any time in a college dorm is more than familiar with. We need something else, something green. We will add some sliced scallion, ok, but we are still missing something. Bacon braised collard greens? Heck ya! Rich pork broth, soft ramen noodles, smoky collard green with a little pop from some vinegary hot sauce, crunchy bright scallions and finished with some sweet, delicate chilled crab. Low Country Crab Ramen.

Stay tuned for recipes, coming soon,
Chef John

Crab Queso Anyone?

As we were preparing for the beginning of show season and deciding what dishes we will serving our customers in the following months all across the country, I was busy trying to figure out a new hot dish to serve in place of our tried and true (and always well received) Maryland Style Hot Crab Dip. The key to the dish is that it is delicious (of course), rich, creamy, a little cheesy and has just enough spice to not only bring you back for another bite, but also not overpower our delicate crab met. The other big part is that it seems to appeal to all sorts of restaurant concepts and I always joke with our customers that will sell a lot of beer because what goes better with a hot cheesy crab dip than and ice cold beer. Well, it was time for a change and the inspiration was from of my favorite Texas taco spots, Torchy’s and their highly addictive queso dip. If you have ever spent anytime amount of time in Texas, you know how to quickly combine a package of Velveeta with some Rotel tomatoes in a bowl and after a few minutes in the microwave all you need to do is grab some chips. Well Torchy’s takes theirs to another level by layering in roasted green chilies, fresh chilies and cilantro, among a few other ingredients. This led to our new Crab & Green Chile Queso! Velveeta, sharp cheddar, Mexican spices, fresh cilantro, lime juice, roasted green chilies and both fresh and roasted jalapenos. Finish with some of our crab meat at the last minute and you have got a killer hot dip. The response so far has been excellent and we hope to see our crab queso on menus across the country.

More to come,
Chef John

It is Show Season!

Well, we are officially in the midst of our Fall show season. This means allot of planning, allot of travel and allot of work by our entire team. For me it is the opportunity to show just how versatile our delicious crab meat can be. This year we kicked of the season in Houston, Texas. Now even though I live in New Jersey now, I did just happen to spend a large part of my childhood living in Texas and with my Mother’s entire family still living there I better know how to cook for a Texas audience. We usually try to show some variety in the dishes we choose to sample at these show to appeal to as broad of an audience as possible and to get everyone on the same page with our mantra of “it isn’t just for crab cakes!”. We usually try to have at least one hot dish and one cold dish to sample and I like to do one dish that is very left of center. We love to hear our customers say “ I never thought of doing that with crab”. We know everyone loves our tried and true “Craig’s Killer Crab Salad” named for our fearless sales leader, Mr. Craig Hospodor, but I had to break the news to him that I wanted to change it up for the season with the Houston show being the catalyst of change. We talked through the changes, replace the signature celery seed in the recipe with some smoky chipotle and cumin, add some roasted corn, black bean and fresh chopped cilantro and you go from “Craig’s Killer Crab Salad” to our new “Spicy Southwest Crab Salad”. Well that is one dish down now we need a great hot item to replace our standard “Maryland Style Hot Crab Dip” and I still have room to make something funky.

More to come,
Chef John

Summer Fancy Foods Show NYC

Last week was the annual East Coast Fancy Foods show held at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. We do not present our products at this show but I make a point to attend every year to try and keep my finger on the pulse of new and developing trends in the prepared food industry. This year was especially interesting as I walked the show with a large group covering many aspects of the food industry. Our group included people from all aspects of the business, including airlines, caterers, importers, group buyers and specialty manufacturers. The bulk of our group all share membership in the RCA (Research Chef Association) and therefore, also know a good number of the over 2,000 vendors represented at the show.
This is a massive show, covering multiple floors and rooms of the convention center, with a very unique layout. The bottom floor is dedicated to new or up and coming products and is segmented by state or country of origin for each manufacturer (which gives a great insight into regional trends). Many of these products are created for and launched at this show, with the hopes of finding an anchor customer at the show to bring the product to market. Unfortunately, many of these products never come to market. This is also very true as you walk the show and see the same trend (or niche product) being shown in similar forms at multiple vendor’s booths. The second floor is for established companies (some of which will also show new products in addition to their established product line) and is segmented by an International area (by country) and domestically by category (i.e. cheese or chocolate).

Working with a team we set parameters to identify and record trends and to identify opportunities relative to each person’s company for items that would work in their wheelhouse or where raw material supply could be an option (like with our crab meat). The rule is that once you see the same item/concept 3 or more times at the show it is added to the list. Attending every year also gives a perspective of development of a category or trend over the years.
Here is the rough list from the show;

– One trend that continues to grow is detailed benefit call outs on packaging and marketing materials. This could be anything from “Non-GMO” to “gluten free” or the new super popular “good source of protein”. Sometimes it seems like the benefits of the product drive the interest more than the product itself.
– Alternative sweeteners – this trend continues to grow and become truly mainstream, white sugar is out, this year honey and maple syrup in all forms took the lead (years past it was Agave). One of our favorite products was a smoked maple syrup from Vermont, clean label.
– Alternative Protein continues to move to the forefront, it isn’t just tofu any more. Plant based protein in all types of products from meal replacement to energy bars
– Eggs are big in all types of forms and applications. From premade egg white crepes to the surprising number of vendors showing artisan marshmallows (at least 10 different examples at the show)
– International flavors in spices and finished goods. From Africa to Jamaica to India, expect to see these flavors in items and on menus this year.
– Flavored waters and unique non-alcoholic beverages. From maple water to cold brew coffee and premium teas. Teas and items flavored with tea was another big category.
– Nut and seed based items, almond milk morphs into nut or flax based crackers
– Peanut replacers – nut butter anyone
– Artisan chocolates and fudge (fudge was big!)
– Activated Charcoal, from snacks to toothpaste
– Snacks with health benefits, activated ingredients, energy bars
– Kid driven items – from edible chocolate birthday candles to “food paint” (squirt bottles with pureed fruits and vegetables)
– Popcorn – in all forms from simple to super fancy
– Artisan and specialty ice cream – from handmade/regional to dairy free, this category keeps going
– Pickled everything – even some pickled cucumbers
– Regional specific items – my favorite was sea salt from Maine and Oregon. You need this to cook your lobsters or Dungeness crab!
– Dry or dehydrated items – from soup mixes to dips and veggie chips taking off where the crispy snow peas opened the door a few years ago
– There were also allot of categories that continue to grow
o Fermented items – Kimchi continues to develop
o Jerky and meat sticks everywhere – this year added palnt and vegetable based items, mushroom jerky sound good?
o Gluten free – everything (even if just a non necessary call out)
o Plant based protein

It’s Not Just For Crab Cakes

It has kind of become our mantra at Newport International over the past decade. We all love a good crab cake and it is the most popular application for our crab meat, however, there are so many other exciting, seasonal recipes to showcase our fantastic product. That being said, we are coming into one of my favorite culinary times of year, Summer. So many of many my favorite ingredients to cook with at the peak of flavor, from vine ripe tomatoes (we are known for our tomatoes in NJ!), sweet corn, peaches, watermelon (one of my kid’s favorite foods) and the list goes on. It also means entertaining, whether it’s a cookout for family after a day of boating or a gourmet meal for friends coming to visit us on the Jersey Shore. Needless to say, no matter what the occasion, crab will be on the table at our house. So to kick off the Summer I have created some new recipes as well as reworking and updating some classics. I will be posting new recipes throughout the next weeks so please check back often! You can also check our Facebook pages to see where we will be showing our products at regional food shows in the coming months. PS, in case you were wondering about crab and Rosé (what seems to be THE drink of Summer 2018), it is a perfect pairing. Enjoy.