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Keep up to date on restaurant and food service industry news and trends, from serious analysis to more lighthearted fare.

50 Honey & Bee Facts

Honey Dipper

  1. There are ancient Sumerian and Babylonian records that date back to 2100 BC that describe honey, but this was only the first record of the sweet stuff.  Historians believe that honey is likely way older than this.
  2. When the Spaniards arrived in the Americas in 1600 AD, they found that the natives had already developed beekeeping.  So, odds are that the practice of humans using honey (for consumption or health reasons) was much more wide spread than records show.
  3. Honey never expires – never!  Supposedly, there was a 1,000 year old jar of honey found in an Egyptian tomb, and the brave soul that dared tasting it said it was delicious.  We’ll take his word for it.
  4. To produce 1 pound of honey, the honey bees have to visit an estimated 2,000,000 flowers and fly an estimated 55,000 miles.
  5. 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey is produced per honey bee during its entire lifetime (which is a short 45 days during the summer).
  6. A bee colony can consist of 30,000 – 60,000 bees, and only one those bees can be the queen.
  7. Each colony has a unique odor so the bees always know where home is.
  8. The worker bees and honey bees are 99% female.  So, what do the male bees do all day?  They’re reserved for the queen, and they’re called drones.
  9. The brain of a worker bee and honey bee tiny, but they have the densest neuropile tissue of any animal.
  10. When the honey bees return to the hive (which they find easily because they have an impeccable sense of smell), they do a little dance to communicate with the other honey bees.  That dance helps the other bees find where the flowers are.
  11. To get the nectar, honeybees pull the liquid from the flower with its long, tube-like tongue.  It then stores the honey in one of its two stomachs.  Think of the stomach as a kangaroo pouch for honey; it makes it not so gross when you read what’s next.
  12. The amount of honey 1 bee can hold can equal her total weight, but to get to this point, she must visit 100-1,500 flowers.
  13. When the honey bee returns to the hive, she opens her mouth and a worker bee comes up and sucks the nectar out of her stomach honey pouch.  The worker bee then chews on the nectar for a while to fill it full of enzymes; in other words, she’s turning those natural complex sugars in the nectar to simple sugars that makes the honey more digestible and keeps bacteria away.  It’s not bee vomit.
  14. Nectar is 80% water, so the bees have to work together to pull some of the moisture out of the chewed up, enzyme goodness; to do this, they spread the soon-to-be-honey over the honeycombs.   This helps the water evaporate much more quickly and leaves a yummy, gooey honey.
  15. A honeycomb always has six sides.
  16. Actually, these bees mean business when it comes to drying out the honey.  They don’t just sit back and let Mother Nature take its course with the evaporation process; heck no, these girls know how to get things done!  After the honey is spread-out over the honeycombs, the worker bees get to flappin’ those wings to help speed up the drying process.
  17. And once the honey is nice and gooey, the girls seal off the honeycomb with a bit of beeswax.
  18. Bees are totally self-efficient.  A colony of bees can eat around 120-200 pounds of honey per year.
  19. 2 tablespoons of honey can fuel a honey bee long enough to fly 1 time around the world.
  20. The queen only eats royal jelly, which is created by the worker bees and helps plump up the queen.  It is unknown if it’s this jelly or because the queen is overly-spoiled, but she lives 50 times longer than any of the other bees.  We need to get our hands on this royal jelly stuff.
  21. Out of about 20,000 bee species, there are only 4 that make honey.
  22. There are over 300 distinct types of honey available in the US.
  23. A typical beehive can produce 400 pounds of honey per year.
  24. That “honey thing” is called a honey dipper (also honey wand and honey drizzler).  If you surf the web you’ll see that many people don’t quite get why a honey dipper is better than a spoon, but for those that grew up with one, they know that it’s the ONLY way to serve honey.
  25. In 1 tablespoon of honey, there are 64 calories, none of which are fat calories.
  26. Honey is the only food humans eat that is produced by an insect.
  27. Honey is the only food that includes everything humans need to sustain life, including water, enzymes, minerals, and vitamins.
  28. When honey hits our tables, it’s typically 17% water.
  29. Remember we said that honey never expires?  Well, that’s true, but it has to be properly stored.  If moisture is reintroduced to the honey, it can begin to ferment.
  30. 30 years ago, the average honey price was $.30 per pound.  Today, the average price is pushing $6.00 per pound.  Let’s say you stumbled upon grandpa’s secret stash of honey – a 30 year old 50 gallon bucket to be exact.  That bucket of honey was only worth $125 back then, but today it’d be worth $2,500!  Thanks grandpa.
  31. Pediatricians warn against giving children less than 1 years of age honey because there has been harmful bacterium Clostridium botulinum spores found in honey.  These spores can cause botulism in young children because they don’t produce the stomach acids and protective digestive bacteria needed to break down these spores.
  32. 1 cup of sugar can be replaced by ¾ cup of honey.  Just make sure to reduce liquids in the recipe by ¼ cup.  If you aren’t using sour cream or sour milk in the recipe, make sure to throw in a pinch of baking soda as well (this helps reduce acidity levels in the honey).
  33. When making particular recipes with honey, there are additional things to note.  Like jellies and jams should be cooked at a higher temperature and candies should be beaten longer.
  34. But higher baking temperatures are not recommended for most recipes.  To keep recipes from getting to brown, lower the oven temperature by 25⁰ F.
  35. In stored honey, if crystallization occurs, it doesn’t mean the honey is bad.  Just stick the container in hot water until the crystals dissolve away.
  36. But don’t boil it: getting honey too hot can change the flavor and withdraws the pollen that’s naturally present.
  37. Ever heard of mead?  Referred to a lot in older novels, mead is a wine made from honey.
  38. There are a lot of honey fakes out there.  It has been found mixed with sugar syrup, corn syrup, glucose, dextrose, molasses, invert sugar, flour, starch, and many, many other fillers.
  39. To slap on a “Pure Honey” label, manufacturers have to add an unidentified amount of pure honey.  So, the “Pure Honey” could be only 5% pure honey, and the other 95% just fillers, but you’ll still pay the price of expensive honey.
  40. All of those fillers that go into honey have to natural ingredients. They may be fillers, but by law, they’ll always be natural fillers.
  41. It’s rather hard to test for pure honey, but there are a lot of different methods that people have come up with to test for pureness.  Unfortunately, none of these have been proven to be 100% accurate, so make sure you do your research to find out the truth.  Hint, use the Internet to find the real stuff, we thought Honey.com was a great resource.
  42. To help soothe allergies, take 1 teaspoon of honey per day.  The honey helps your body develop a resistance to pollen, which helps reduce overall allergies.
  43. Skin burns can also be soothed with honey.  Mix an even amount of honey with cod liver oil and rub over the burn.  Keep the burn wrapped up, and change daily.  You should see that the healing process is much quicker.
  44. It’s believed that the use of honey to help heal wounds dates back to the ancient Greeks in 50 AD.  We don’t know how the Greeks knew it had medicinal powers, but medical professionals have found that honey creates a barrier to moisture and prevents dressings from sticking to the wound.  It’s also believed to provide other nutrients and chemicals that help to speed up healing.
  45. Try a teaspoon of honey to help soothe a sore throat or bad cough.
  46. Honey is lower in glycemic than normal table sugar; meaning, it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels as quickly as sugar does.
  47. Athletes take honey to help improve endurance, strength, and performance.  During a work-out, a teaspoon of honey can help give you the extra boost needed to keep going.
  48. Athletes that take honey before and after workouts show to have faster recovery time than those that don’t take honey at all.
  49. Ever heard, “…we can put a man on the moon, but we still have no idea how a bumble bee can fly?”  Yeah, that’s not true, sorry.
  50. Bees are being used to sniff out bombs.  Seriously, a team at Los Alamos National Laboratory has formed the Stealthy Insect Sensor Project where bees are being trained to detect explosives.


We’re no doctors around here; we just dig into the Interwebs and find all of this fun information.  We tried our best to give credit where credit was due, but when it comes to medical information, you should ALWAYS contact your doctor before following advice you find online.

Other honey articles on the Back Burner:

Chefs Make Their Own Honey
FOOD ALERT: Be Wary of These Controversial & Fake Foods

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Should Social Media Be Used to Shame No-Shows?

Twitter No-ShowsHave you ever been so upset with no-show diners that you’ve wanted to shout your anger from the rooftop? Well, you’re not the only one. Some restaurants have started to slander no-show customers publicly through social media – using customers full names!

Have you heard of Red Medicine? It’s a hip Beverly Hills dining establishment serving Vietnamese cuisine, with a trendy twist. It’s an establishment that is tough to get into without a reservation and, even then, you may not be eating until 9:00PM (did I mention it’s trendy?). Recently, Red Medicine took a bold move and showed their anger for no-shows, all with the help of social media.

According to The Eater, who reached out to restaurant manager Noah Ellis about the daring posts, no-shows cost restaurants a lot of money and Ellis was at his wit’s end that weekend. He used Twitter as an outlet to express his frustrations.

Red Medicine Twitter No-Show

Ellis later explained that no-shows have always been a problem for restaurants, primarily because the situation becomes difficult when a restaurant is forced to overbook to ensure it stays filled:

“Invariably, the assholes who decide to no-show, or cancel 20 minutes before their reservation ruin restaurants for the people who make a reservation and do their best to honor it. Either restaurants are forced to overbook and make the guests (that actually showed up) wait, or they do what we do, turn away guests for some prime-time slots because they’re booked, and then have empty tables.” – Noah Ellis

He mentioned that they tried to go down the “no overbooking” route a year ago because they presumed that they would be able to recover from no-shows, but would inevitably ruin a few experiences along the way… especially when guests are waiting for more than half an hour for their table. Ellis said:

“I remember a handful of times where those guests who had to wait were celebrating something, or were a younger group who brought their parents from out of town to show them the restaurant; we felt terrible. So we made the conscious decision to eliminate the ghost tables and set our turn times to a realistic length for making reservations.”

“We tried taking a credit card with every reservation, but it hurt our business; there’s a contingent of people who just won’t put down a card, regardless of if they plan on coming or not. The ticketing systems are interesting, but we do most of our business a la carte, and I’m also not sure that we have the consistent demand to justify it. We could do walk-in only, but then if you’re celebrating a special occasion, having a meeting, or trying to have a nice night out, it sucks to not know when you’ll be able to get a table. There’s no winning.”

Ellis was at his boiling point and blew up on Twitter because he didn’t know what else to do, but what else is there to do?

According to The Evening Herald a similar situation came up with Ireland’s youngest Michelin-starred chef, Oliver Dunne. He publicly roasted customers who didn’t show-up for Mother’s Day on his Twitter account.  Need I mention that, that no-show ended up costing him over $1,300?  His tweet sounded something like this:

“To the 30 people who confirmed and no-showed today – well done. I’d say your mother is proud.”

Take a Side

With all of that said, what is your take on no-show diners – how should they be handled? Is it fair to publicly denounce them via social media?  What would be a better solution?

Time to sound off!

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Top Wedding Catering Trends of 2013

Weddings have classically been known as a formal affair with rooms filled with round tables, elegant place settings that include seating cards, and a wedding cake large enough to be seen by everyone.  And even though a few wedding parties still opt for a more formal setting, there are many that have ventured over to the social side.  The idea is to add “foodertainment” to the mix – a perfect blend of culinary visual appeal and taste that allows for guests to mingle, instead of being locked at a table.

From drinks and finger foods to late night munchies, here are a few wedding catering trends that we hope to see more of this wedding season.

1. Creative Beverages

Creative Wedding Beverage Bars

There’s definitely never a lack of alcoholic beverages at most weddings; in fact, the majority of us go for the wedding, but stay for the party afterwards.  Drinking and mingling with friends and loved ones always makes for a perfect night, but when a little fun is brought to the mix, what can go wrong?   A few fun beverage trends  we’ve seen at recent weddings include a bloody Mary bar, bubbly bar (make a custom glass of bubbly, which includes fruit juice and fruit slices), specialty cocktails and a variety of draft brews.

But don’t forget the guests that prefer not to divulge in alcohol for the evening.   We’ve also seen an increase in hot drink stations and water infused stations.

Lastly, when serving food, try recommending a paired beverage – a nice shot of Hefenweizen always goes great with salty finger foods.

2. Finger Foods & Small Plates

Wedding Finger Foods

It’s easier for guests to mingle when they don’t have to sit at a table as they dine, which is why we’re guessing there’s been a huge increase in finger foods and small plates at weddings.  When the caterer offers to walk the room with plated food that can be easily grabbed and munched as guests carry on conversation, the night seems to flow much better – which sets even Bridezilla at ease.

3. Food Trucks & Picnics

Food Truck Wedding

We love this trend, it marries simplicity with great food where you least expect it.  If you would have told us a few years ago that food trucks would be making their way into weddings, we would have likely laughed, but the only thing laughable about this new trend is how much it encourages people to have their own laughs.

Yes, it’s informal, but how fun and easy is it to have a food truck for dinner and another for dessert.  Spread out some beautiful linen on the grass (or on tables) and the entire event can be picnic style.

4. Farm-to-Table

Lyons Farmette Farm Wedding

Farm-to-table isn’t just for residents anymore.  In fact, Lyons Farmette, located in Lyons, Colorado, has seen an increase in weddings that want to take place at the farm (and the wedding party has no issues mingling with the wandering farm animals).  But it’s not just about farm animals here, the culinary experience offers guests the freshest ingredients, while also being able to entertain guests with special dietary needs  – vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, and other allergies.

Think about a table in the middle of a farm surrounded with the rustic beauty that the land brings – it’s hard not to fall in love with the setting and food, even if it does involve a few goats and chickens.

5. Chef Stations

Chef Station Wedding

A lot of what attracts people to finger foods and farm-to-table trends is seeing the masterpiece of food on the plate.  It’s not just about the food, it’s an interaction that involves all of the senses, and getting food prepared right in front of you helps improve that experience.  Chef stations offer a great way for guests to be able to ask questions as they watch their meal being prepared.  They also get restaurant quality food that is served hot and fresh.

6. Family-Style

Family Style Wedding Catering

For those brides that still want a sit down dinner, there are always meals that can be served family-style to encourage guests to keep the chatter going.  Family-style catering delivers meals to the table in big dishes that are then passed, and helps to boost guest interactions.

As a word of caution, having big dinner plates and bowls on a table takes up a lot of room – the bride should remember to keep the centerpieces small so the table doesn’t get too crowded.

7. Dessert Bar

Smores Bar Desserts Wedding Catering

Sorry wedding cake lovers, brides are keeping the social train moving right on through dessert time.  We’ve seen some interesting dessert choices lately, like smores bars, frozen yogurt bars, fondue bars, and other extravagant dessert buffets.

But cakes aren’t entirely out the window.  We’ve also seen cake pops, rice crispy treat cakes, cheesecake bars, and mini-cakes.

8. Late-Night Snacking

Late Night Wedding Snacks

Once dinner is done, it’s time to dance the night away, but all of that drinking and dancing leads to late-night munchies.  We love seeing that more caterers are offering to entertain the night-owls of the group by serving late-night snacks, like mini pretzel bites, sliders, meatballs, and other fun finger foods.  And don’t worry about going over the top; keeping it simple is perfect for this hungry bunch!

9. To-Go Bags

To-Go Cake Wedding

Bless those that are able to rock-the-night-away, but not all guests can stay up into the wee hours of the night to experience those late-night munchies, so opt for helping to cater for guests on the go as well.  Think of easy-to-pack foods like trail mix and cookies.  You can have the food pre-packed or setup buffet style so they can dip up their own grab-bag.

Pinterest

For more fun wedding catering ideas, visit us on Pinterest.

 

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Quick Service Restaurants Take on BREAKFAST!

Panera-Bread-Egg-White-Breakfast-Sandwich1

Remember the saying, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day?” Research shows this to be true, and it may help control Americans increasing problem with obesity. Aside from the health benefits of eating breakfast (which are all important), there is also a business opportunity for quick service restaurants.

According to QSR, nearly half of all American consumers visited a quick service restaurant for their morning meal last year. With that stat, the market has acknowledged breakfast is on the rise and quick service restaurants across the country are stepping up to meet the needs of their customers.

Consumers are on the go and looking for breakfast options that are portable, save money and save time. If you are the owner or manager of a quick serve restaurant thinking about offering a breakfast menu the future is definitely bright! During the 2007 economic downturn quick service restaurants increased breakfast menu options, which were positioned in the market to attract consumers that would otherwise eat breakfast at more expensive, full service restaurants.

The QSR also said, Subway added breakfast options in 2010, and has since been followed by Wendy’s and Taco Bell. Last year, breakfast sales totaled nearly $25.5 billion and are expected to see growth in the 2% range this year.

Adding a breakfast menu to an already existing quick serve restaurant operation can be easy for food service operators. Simply adding coffee and a few good food offerings, along with opening earlier, is all it takes. Research shows the breakfast sandwich is the most purchased breakfast food item, after coffee of course. Whether using biscuits, bread, buns, muffins, or tortillas, the sandwich leads the morning menu. Alternatively, one-third of breakfast consumers are opting for breakfast pastries, including cinnamon rolls, coffee cake, muffins, Danishes, and scones. All of these food options cater to portability, which is what consumers are looking for. And adding healthier breakfast options like oatmeal, fruit, or low-calorie breakfast bars will cater to the more health-conscious on-the-go consumer.

Convenience is king and breakfast items that are portable are predicted to continue to grow. Independent quick service restaurants in higher density populations should consider entering the breakfast market space. Independent restaurants can build loyalty through convenience, value, and service. Quick service restaurants that effectively market menus to meet what consumers are looking for will generate repeat business and thrive.

If you are an independent quick service restaurant and recently entered the breakfast market; let us know how it’s going for you; we would enjoy hearing your experience!

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Facebook News Feed Redesign – Advantages for Your Business

It’s true, Facebook announced earlier this month that they’re launching a radical news feed redesign! Here are the changes you can expect to see soon:

 

  • Rich Visual Stories
  • Choice of News Feeds
  • Mobile Inspired Consistency

Currently, the News Feed takes up 40% of page real estate. The rest of the page is jam packed with busy navigation menus, notifications, sponsored ads, recommendations and much more. The content you share easily gets lost in all of the visual noise.

Goodbye clutter. Hello bright beautiful stories. This is what the new Facebook News Feed will look like:

New Facebook Feed

As you can see, the News Feed completely dominates the page with large, eye-catching visuals (similar to Google+) and the left navigation is represented by app icons similar to mobile devices. The right sidebar still contains recommendations and ads, but it’s cleaned up, and again, more visual. You will also notice that Graph Search is implemented in this example which is another big change Facebook is rolling out.

New Facebook Feed 2

Not only will individual posts be larger, but they’re getting a snazzy new redesign! Notice how the image posted by Alicia Keys has white overlay text rather than a snippet of standard text above the image? The reasoning behind the News Feed redesign was to draw more attention to media than standard text.

That’s a huge advantage for restaurants! Imagine all the delicious food photography you can post to captivate fans. #foodporn.

In less than 2 years photos have come to dominate News Feed content. Over 50% of all content on Facebook is visual and the number is growing. This means that users and businesses must pay better attention to what they’re posting, and jump on the visual bang wagon. Facebook posting habits must grow accustomed to the News Feed changes in order to hold onto fans.

Aritcle & Blog Post Links Will Also Change

Currently posts have a small image thumbnail, article title, a short description, and space for users to comment on why they shared the post. The new design offers the same information, but the image is much bigger, the title and descriptions offer more of a newspaper feel and the publication’s logo is printed in the bottom right corner of the post.

New Facebook Feed 3

So, next time you write a blog article do us all a favor and incorporate crisp, relevant images and a catchy article description to entice users to click and engage.

When Someone Adds a Friend or Likes a Page You Will See Something Completely Different Too

The new presentation of the News Feed post when someone likes your page will look bright and alluring. Not only will your profile picture be highlighted but your cover photo and a like button will be displayed. This new design will give users a much better feel for your business, and a large call-to-action button to like your page. Again, what a great opportunity for restaurants to make a lasting impression.

New Facebook Feed 4

Make sure your cover photo and logo have appealing high-quality images that tell a story about your brand and cuisine. Don’t let users think twice about clicking “Like”.

Facebook Check-Ins are Getting Revamped Too

This new layout should help drive more customers to your door! This version is similar to Facebook’s current mobile app that allows check-ins, including maps with images that will pop-up for all check-ins.

New Facebook Feed Check-In

Is all of your location data up to date? If not, it’s time to jump on it!

In a nutshell, Facebook is making visual posts the bread and butter of the News Feed. Now is the perfect time to spice up your profile with bright, striking images and include pictures in your posts whenever possible. If you start making these changes now, you will be ready when the News Feed redesign goes into effect.

Pictures courtesy of Facebook. 

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What Are Americans Snacking On?

Veggie SnacksAmericans love to snack! It’s seems like a lifetime ago that snacks were reserved as ‘special treats’. Not anymore, a study conducted by the Hartman Group found that Americans are consuming, on average, 2.3 snacks per day. I set out to find when Americans snack, what they consume when they snack, why they snack, and if this snacking is a trend or here to stay.

When Do Americans Snack?

Food has become part of every occasion in the United States from birthday parties to office meetings, the opportunity to snack is everywhere. According to the study by the Hartman Group:

  • More than 41% of American adults enjoy at least two snacks per day
  • While 24% of them have at least three snacks per day
  • Followed by 17% having only one snack per day
  • Most snacking occurs in the afternoon, evening and late-night hours

Why Do Americans Snack?

According to the Hartman study, 28% of adults snack because they want to enjoy an indulgent treat while 27% snack on impulse. Others snack because they feel stressed or anxious, or simply don’t feel like cooking or preparing a meal. However, additional research has shown that 36% of consumers who snack have healthier eating habits than consumers who do not snack as all.

So, Snacking Is Healthy?

And early research is showing that contrary to conventional wisdom, the more consumers snack, the healthier their eating behaviors are. In today’s fast paced world, consumer’s view snacking as one way to improve healthy eating habits. Consumers identify fruit, yogurt, and nutritional bars as their top picks for healthy snacks. Nutritionists recommend snacks including: edamame, hard boiled eggs, dried nuts and fruits and smoothies.

Is Snacking Here To Stay?

The verdict is in and snacking is here to stay! QSRWeb named ‘snacks’ as one of the top quick service restaurant trends for 2012, while the NRA named “half portions and small portions at low prices” as a top trend for 2013. Healthy snacks can actually help stabilize blood sugar levels, making it easier to curb consumer cravings at meal times.

With snack food brands including, Nabisco, Doritos, and Lays investing millions of dollars a year advertising their brands, snacking will continue to grow. Consumer response to snack foods is positive: snacking, when done in moderation, can help manage their hunger, weight, and energy levels.

One out of every five eating occasions in the United States is a snack, with more than half of all Americans eating 2 snacks per day – make your food choices count! Healthy snacking can lead to a healthier and happier lifestyle!

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Foie Gras

GeeseMy husband and I, and our two boys, raise 4 chickens (and a 5th that ended up being a rooster). We wanted to share with our boys what it’s like to raise something that you are responsible for, but that also provides for the family. Every day they go out and collect their eggs, feed and water them, and play with them. They also get to enjoy the fruits of their labor with all sorts of egg recipes!

Did You Just Say They Play With The Chickens?

Yes. In fact, each of them has their own personality, but there’s one in-particular that stands out from the rest – her name is Miss Elsie.

Every time anyone walks outside, she runs to the gate that separates her from our deck and patiently waits for her treats (typically leftover veggies, veggie peelings or warm oatmeal). Even when I forget to bring anything out, she convinces me that it’s worth it to go back in as her friends slowly crowd around her waiting for their treats too.

And Elsie’s the only one of the flock that will let you pet her and hold her (which can sometimes be a messy situation, but you learn how to hold them). It’s really been a fun experience for all of us; to the point that I don’t think we could ever eat them (not sure what we’re going to do when they get older though). I seriously couldn’t look at the chicken on my plate and know it’s Miss Elsie – I think my boys would agree with that notion too.

What’s This Foie Gras Thing?

Now, I suppose I should say that I don’t live in Boulder. I actually live up in the mountains where we can raise chickens if we want. It’s a small town, but I like that lifestyle. And I suppose because of this fact, I’ve never heard of Foie Gras. That was, until I received an email on the ban of Foie Gras in California.

I may be a small-town girl, but I’m also a bit of a nerdy-researcher when it comes to new topics. I engulf myself in things until I understand everything about it – the history behind it, why there’s a ban in the first place, what the farmers think, what the restaurants think, etc. Of course everyone is going to have their own opinion (and this story is mine), but I believe that in order to really be able to form an opinion about something, you should be informed on the subject matter beyond one online article. So I researched it.

I read that article that was sent to me, and they mentioned how the ducks are force fed to enlarge their liver to be 6x what a normal liver should be in a healthy duck, and that “ducks and geese experience fear, as well as acute and chronic stress from the multiple daily force-feedings and the pain associated with them. And force-feeding can cause a number of injuries: bruising or perforation of the esophagus; hemorrhaging and inflammation of the neck resulting from the repeated insertion of the pipe into the throat; and asphyxia caused by food improperly forced into the trachea.” (The Humane Society of the United States).

Force Feed Geese Fois Gras

What Bertrand Hug Says

The article above concluded with a story from a restaurateur that mentioned how upset he was about the ban and that as a child, he saw these birds on his family farm as happy to receive their force fed meal. Of course I had to read that article too.

Bertrand Hug does a great job letting us know how his life on the farm was in France. He mentions many other animals that were raised on the farm: all of them to help feed the family or earn income for them.

This is a pretty typical life on a farm, and for the most part, I grew up the same way. We had cows and goats for milk and cows and goats for meat. We had chickens for eggs and we had chickens for meat. We grew our own vegetable garden, and did our best to live off the land.

Hug goes on to say that yes, there were birds that were force fed, and the money that came from those fatty livers helped bring in “big money.” I was still cringing as I read up this point, but I suppose I can also relate with his recollection of all the ducks running up to be fed – that’s my Elsie. And that the experience of those ducks being force fed is like a bird that swallows a fish whole. Furthermore, he states that all of those birds were far happier than the other ducks that weren’t force fed. I’m not sure on my stance with this though; I don’t think I could ever force feed Elsie just to plump her up.

A Little History Story

Fois Gras History Egyptian

The history of increasing the size of a goose from force feeding dates back to 2498 BC, where the Egyptian monarchy considered geese to be a delicacy, and the animal was often given as a gift. It was during this time that the first records of fattening a goose came to be; however, I should state that there are plenty of sites that say that the Egyptians may have been fattening the birds so that they appeared plump, which of course was for pleasing the gift receiver.

In the second century BC the term Foie Gras came to be known as a food source, also seen as a delicacy. The Greeks and Romans both attribute themselves for discovering this dish, and thus spreading the popularity of the force feeding to bring it to the table around the world.

Today, France considers Fois Gras a cultural gastronomical heritage and is the leading producer and consumer of both forms – duck and geese.

It was in 1974 that the first ban was enforced for force-feeding animals, which occurred in Norway. Other countries that followed suit included Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom.

Last Thoughts

I grew up on a farm and have a family full of hunters, so yes, we all eat meat. But we believe in the ethical treatment of animals. I couldn’t imagine pumping Miss Elsie full of hormones just to make her eggs bigger, just like I couldn’t imagine pumping her full of food just to make her “plump for eating.” The eggs she lays (as well as the other chickens) are small in comparison to store eggs, just like the organic meat that we get from the local organic grocers is small in comparison to shopping at the normal grocers.  And we’re okay with that.

I don’t follow all of my food from farm to plate, but I do try to make a conscience decision to feed my family with food that I at least know a little bit about – whether that be from the food we receive from hunting or because I read the labels on the food at the organic grocers before I buy it.

I also know that when I go out to restaurants I may not be eating food that was humanly raised (odds are that I’m not), but it is also a choice that I’m very aware of and wish I had more options up in my small town to be able to know that the meats were humanely raised.

I wanted to write this blog post about Fois Gras to get your feedback, not to say what my opinions were, but I found that it was harder to do than I thought.  So, I must conclude by saying that if you are a farmer at a Fois Gras farm, or a restaurant owner that serves Fois Gras, I invite you to take a stance and help teach our audience more about Foid Gras and its best practices.

P.S. As one of my co-workers, Molly, read through this, she mentioned that I should post a picture of Elsie.  But the only photo I had at the time was one that was uploaded to Instagram last year, which was when the chickens were much younger, but it’s still cute!  Elsie’s the white chicken on the left looking at the camera.

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Rivaling Fast Food by Being Kid-Friendly

kid's mealKid cuisine seems to be a hot topic every year as parents continue to question the foods their children consume and the nutritional value paired with each bite. From the $1.99 kid’s meal at the local fast food chain, to the half-sized portion of a “big person” plate served at a sit-down restaurant, it seems every season sheds new light on how disappointing traditional options are. Simply put, parents these days want the most for their money, without feeling like they’re slowly poisoning their kids with processed foods. This, fortunately, puts today’s fast, casual establishments in prime position to pick up the slack where fast food and slim pickings have fallen short.

Margo Wootan, Director of Nutrition Policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (nonprofit), explained in a 2012 Chicago Tribune article, “Kids are getting about one-third of their calories from eating out.” One-third of their calories, whether it’s obesity-inducing fast food or a new restaurant each week, is a frightening figure to some and a deal-breaker on eating out for others… that’s a roundabout way of saying a tweak to your menu, paired with health-conscious (yet still appealing) options for the whole family, may be just what you need to grow your customer base, while providing parents with an alternative to the greasy burger and fries options.

Targeting a Younger Audience

Catering to a younger demographic, or at least having separate/unique offerings available, is an excellent way to widen that net you’ve been throwing out to pull in customers. Where the family motto for eating out used to be “cheap and easy” we’ve seen the change to an all-encompassing manifesto of “cheap, easy, healthy, atmosphere, options” and the list continues to grow. This means parents are often ditching the kid’s meal and searching for family-friendly restaurants just like yours.

Here’s Why:

  • Kids are developing more sophisticated palates
  • Society is instilling a desire to seem more mature at a younger age
  • While healthy foods aren’t always purchased, parents still want to see those options on the menu
  • Tweens/teens are looking for their own transitional menu items
  • Child obesity is on the rise and the public is taking notice

So what’s the tried-and-true restaurant to do when faced with younger customers and well-informed parents? Evolve, plain and simple.

There are countless resources detailing the detriments of sugar-rich meals packed with saturated fat, and there are just as many resources explaining how to avoid those while staying creative in the kitchen. It’s your responsibility as a restaurant owner/operator to tap into these resources and apply the information to your cooking, but healthy foods aren’t the end-all to roping in the younger crowd and those who oversee them.

youth seating

Dining Room – If you’re not equipped to seat and serve a family with small children you’re already missing out on that market. Youth seating, like high chairs and booster seats, are a must – as are child-centric cups and utensils. Making a family feel comfortable and welcome can mean the difference between seating five… and watching them pass you by for a quick drive-thru meal.

Entertainment, on some level, is also a smart decision. Most kid’s meals offer small toys, and for good reason. A happy, playing child is not a screaming, unruly child.  Even having a placemat that can be colored or Wikki Stix can keep small hands busy.

Menu Design –  Redesigning one’s menu is a daunting task, especially if the same menu has been used for years. Fortunately, a good menu redesign does wonders for business. When giving those few pages a makeover, moving more profitable/popular items to better positions, make sure to evaluate whether a child or teen specific section should be added.

Most parents would like to avoid wading through full-sized meals to find something suitable for their kids, and having a corner (or even a page) dedicated to younger patrons can be a godsend. Jazz it up, make it easy to read, and include nutritional information – parents will thank you for it.

To Go Options – For the family that still wants to bring food home (as opposed to dining out), having to go options that rival the traditional drive-thru experience can make your restaurant the go-to eatery for after school snacks or family dinner.

This goes hand-in-hand with a comprehensive and accessible menu. If all a mother of three has to do is check the kids section of your online menu, place the call, and pick up food 10-15 minutes later you’re positioning yourself as a fast-food vs. fast-casual crossover. When a freshly made bowl of pasta and accompanying carton of milk can be picked up just as easily as a handful of fast food kid’s meals, you’re in good shape.

Granted, it takes work and dedication to turn your adults-only establishment into an all-are-welcome hub for families and the tween/teen demographic; however, the benefits inherent in opening up your doors to more potential customers are worth the effort. A new year brings with it a renewed vigor to reach more customers, please more people, and beat out the competition without compromising quality: tapping the kid-friendly market – and all it entails – may be all you need to do just that!

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What’s Hot: Drink Trends for 2013

What’s Hot?

In addition to surveying chef’s about hot food trends for the New Year, The National Restaurant Association (NRA) surveyed 195 professional bartenders to uncover hot drink trends for 2013. It wasn’t surprising that producing and buying local is a top trend for drinks, similar to food, including onsite barrel-aged drinks which top the charts. Other top drinks include food-liquor/cocktail parings and micro distilled/artisan liquor.

Here Are The Top 20 Drink Trends For 2013:Barrel Aged

  1. Onsite barrel-aged drinks
  2. Food-liquor/cocktail pairings
  3. Culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients)
  4. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor
  5. Locally produced spirits
  6. Locally sourced fruit/berries/produce
  7. Beer sommeliers/Cicerones
  8. Regional signature cocktails
  9. Beer-based cocktails
  10. Locally produced beer
  11. Food-beer pairings/beer dinners
  12. Salt (e.g. flavored, smoked, regional)
  13. House-made lemonade/soft drinks/tonics
  14. Cask beer/ale
  15. Wine on tap/draft wine
  16. Organic cocktails
  17. Cocktails on tap
  18. Craft beer
  19. Signature cocktails
  20. Shrubs

Hot Trends by Category

And here are top alcohol trends by category…

Spirits

  1. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor
  2. Locally produced spirits
  3. Bitters
  4. “New Make” whiskey
  5. Mezcal

Cocktails

Culinary Cocktail

  1. Onsite barrel-aged drinks
  2. Culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients)
  3. Regional signature cocktails
  4. Beer-based cocktails
  5. Organic cocktails

Beer

  1. Locally produced beer
  2. Cask beer/ale
  3. Craft beer
  4. House-brewed beer
  5. Gluten-free beer

Wine

  1. Wine on tap/draft wine
  2. Locally produced wine
  3. Non-traditional/less popular wine varietals
  4. Organic wine
  5. Argentinian wine

Ingredients/Garnish

  1. Locally sourced fruit/berries/produce
  2. Salt (e.g. flavored, smoked, regional)
  3. House-made lemonade/soft drinks/tonics
  4. Flower syrup/essence
  5. Spices

Mixology Themes

Mixology

  1. Food-liquor/cocktail pairings
  2. Beer sommeliers/Cicerones
  3. Food-beer pairings/beer dinners
  4. Molecular gastronomy/mixology
  5. Food-wine pairings

Additional Trends

1. When the bartenders were asked to segment customers into categories it was surprising how equally split the groups were:

  • 36% of customers are traditional – always order simple drinks, like draft beer and house wine
  • 32% of customers are adventurous – always try new and trendy drinks
  • 31% are cautious explorers – generally order standbys, but sometimes try trendy items

2. Because over 30% of customers were categorized as adventurous, it was great to see how the bartenders felt about specialty/culinary cocktails:

  • 67% said that it’s a good way to build business and attract new customers
  • 26% said they are fun to make because they have to be more creative
  • 1% said they are a challenge because they take longer
  • 1% said customers rarely order specialty cocktails

3. In addition, more than half (51%) said they are seeing more guests dining at the bar, rather than being seated at a table (compared to two years ago).

4. The last question bartenders were asked was “What’s the hottest technology trend in bars/restaurants for 2013.” The same question was asked to more than 1,800 professional chefs in the top food trends survey, and the outcome of each survey was remarkably different:

The chef’s response:

  • 27% said tablet computers (e.g. iPad) for menus and wine lists
  • 25% said smartphone apps for consumers (e.g. ordering, menus)
  • 19% said mobile/wireless/at-the-table payment options
  • 13% said social media for marketing/loyalty programs
  • 11% said smartphone apps for chefs/restaurateurs (e.g. recipes, measurement converters)
  • 4% said QR codes on menus, marketing, etc
  • 1% said other

The bartender’s response:

  • 40% said social media for marketing/loyalty programs
  • Social Media Logotype Background29% said tablet computers (e.g. iPad) for menus and wine lists
  • 14% said smartphone apps for consumers (e.g. ordering, menus)
  • 6% said smartphone apps for chefs/restaurateurs (e.g. recipes, measurement converters)
  • 5% said other
  • 4% said mobile/wireless/at-the-table payment options
  • 2% said QR codes on menus, marketing, etc

What’s Not Hot

Of the 123 drink items ranked by bartenders, these received the highest scores for waning trends:

  1. Hard lemonade
  2. Non-alcoholic wine
  3. “Skinny”/lower-calorie cocktails
  4. Dessert/candy-flavored cocktails
  5. White sangria
  6. Frozen cocktails
  7. Light/reduced calorie beer
  8. Kosher wine
  9. Boxed wine
  10. Bacon

2013 Food Trends

Now that you’re caught up with the hottest drink trends for 2013, take a gander at what’s hot in the food world for the New Year.

What’s Hot in 2013 Video

For more information from NRA on hot trends for 2013, check out this video!

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10 Foods to Avoid Serving at Your Catered Event

What to Avoid

You’ve done your research, negotiated costs, picked a venue, planned and organized the party timeline and sent out invitations for the big event – phew, the last step is to plan the menu. You probably have a good idea of how to make the menu stand out, and what your guests will enjoy, but did you know there are foods that should be avoided when it comes to catering?

Fresh tomatoes on bruschetta

Here’s our list of top 10 foods to avoid at catered events.

  1. Odor offending foods. Anything that causes bad breath or bad bodily functions should be avoided at large gatherings, including, garlic, onions, cabbage, beans, curry and overly fishy foods.
  2. Mess Making Foods.  Sure, chicken wings and spaghetti are delicious, but unfortunately, these types of foods can be messy. We recommend offering foods that are tasty, yet easy and mess-free.
  3. Dairy Rich Foods. Today’s culture experiences a variety of food allergies, and  dairy sensitivity is one of the most common ones. Dairy rich foods can lead to bloating, gas and cramps – all symptoms you want to avoid at a party. Avoid offering too many creamy dishes, ice cream, etc.
  4. Gluten Rich Foods. Gluten doesn’t effect everyone in a negative way, but it is another type of food that is known to cause bloating and cramps in many people. Make sure to offer plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits for guests that may be affected by gluten.
  5. Extremely Spicy Foods. Just like any other food sensitivity, people have different spice tolerances. When serving food to large groups it’s safer to keep things simple and mild. And if you must add extra-heat, try serving it on the side!
  6. Raw Meats or Eggs. The last thing any host wants to cause is food poisoning. Avoid serving raw meats or eggs of any kind. Make sure the foods being served have been safely handled by the caterer.
  7. Heavy Foods.  Whether you’re celebrating a marriage, graduation, birthday or corporate event you certainly don’t want your guests falling sleep after the meal. We suggest avoiding heavy foods like mashed potatoes, casseroles, turkey and carbohydrate-rich foods.
  8. Fried, Greasy Foods. Foods like pizza, French fries, donuts, fried chicken and other fatty foods slow digestion, leaving your guests feeling sluggish and tired.
  9. Artificially Sweetened Beverages. Most diet sodas and sugar-free drinkscontain sugar alcohol which can be hard to digest, leaving party guests uncomfortable, bloated and lethargic. We recommend offering water, natural teas, lemonade and (in moderation) red and white wines.
  10. Too Much Alcohol. Enjoying a couple of alcoholic beverages at any celebration can put the entire party in a great mood, however, one too many can lead to disaster. As a host we recommend not making the bar or alcohol serving station center stage. Always offer healthy drinks and water.

As a party host, it’s important to know your guest profile and guest preferences to allow for the ability to create an appetizing, exciting menu for all to enjoy. Incorporating seasonal/fresh items, selecting a menu that fits the event and anticipating special dietary needs will ensure a successful celebration.

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