Culinary insights from the NRA Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show

by Donna Berry
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Chris Koetke and Carlos Lamagna
Chefs Chris Koetke and Carlos Lamagna put on a show at the Foodamental Studio.
 
When meat is served at an American breakfast it typically appears as a link, patty, slice or strip. In many tropical farming countries, there is a greater emphasis on the inclusion of whole-muscle meat, as the concentrated protein serves as fuel for the laborious day ahead working in the fields, according to Chef Carlos Lamagna from Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon, a Detroit native with Filipino roots. This knowledge presents an opportunity for American culinary professionals to create meat-centric breakfasts that appeal to today’s adventurous consumer.

“The first time I visited the Philippines with my family as a child, I tried so many unique breakfast foods,” he said during a cooking demonstration at the National Restaurant Association Restaurant Hotel-Motel Show (NRA), held May 20-23 in Chicago. “Breakfast protein is very important to them, and for many it is often dried whole fish or chicken.”

The NRA attendees had the chance to watch Lamagna prepare Arroz Caldo, a Filipino chicken rice porridge. It’s based on whole bone-in chicken pieces and rice that is boiled in a ginger-based broth.

“You cook it and take the rice to the end, until it’s overcooked and the grains have disintegrated into a porridge-like consistency,” he said.

Such ethnic bowl breakfast foods can be replicated for retail and foodservice. Porridge, grits, oats or cooked ancient grains can serve as the base for flavorful whole muscle meats.

Chicken Waffles
Golden Platter debuted the company's Chicken Waffle Bites.
 

A number of NRA exhibitors showcased their new spins on breakfast meats. Golden Platter Foods Inc., Newark, NJ, debuted a culinary-inspired breakfast finger food. Chicken Waffle Bites are squares of all-white meat chicken breast coated in maple syrup flavored crunchy breading. The bite-sized pieces are embossed to resemble a waffle. Fully cooked and sold frozen, the bites easily warm in the microwave.

Recognizing the opportunity for new meat forms and varieties for the breakfast daypart in foodservice, Tyson Foods Inc., Springdale, Arkansas, is now making its fully cooked Jimmy Dean Chicken Sausage Patties available to restaurant operators. Jones Dairy Farm, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, rolled out the Spicy Pork Chorizo Patty.

Superior Farms, Davis. California, showcased its new Lamb Bacon. Cured and hardwood smoked, the bacon is made from lamb breast. It is lower in fat and calories than pork bacon and complements trending Mediterranean menus.

Tray of lamb bacon
Superior Farms, a leading supplier of lamb products, showcased the company's lamb bacon.
 

Acclaimed menu analyst and trends tracker Nancy Kruse, president of The Kruse Company, Atlanta, spoke to a packed room at NRA about what’s trending on menus. She explained that schnitzel, in its traditional German form, as well as other ethnic variations, such as Japanese katsu, are gaining popularity.

“It’s breaded and fried meats, and I’m seeing them appearing on mass market menus,” she said.

She also explained that chefs are reimagining menu staples with lamb, wild boar and more.

“More and more, there is a whole gamut of proteins for patrons to choose from,” Kruse said. “Part of the driving force behind that is…protein has been trending for the last five years…but operators know very well that we’ve had disruption in our supply chain. Beef was in trouble a couple years ago. Poultry markets have been challenged. That has opened the door for some of you to go way beyond.”

Arroz Caldo
Chef Carlos Lamagna prepared arroz caldo, a Filipino chicken and rice porridge.
 

She referenced new menu items in fast-food chains to show the mainstreaming of specialty meats. For example, Arby’s recently debuted two novel sandwiches. One features smokehouse pork belly cooked sous vide. The other is free-range, grass-fed venison topped with cabernet-juniper berry sauce.

The latter was meant to be a weekend special in only 17 restaurants across the country in October and November 2016; however, the publicity the sandwiches generated resulted in many facilities selling out within minutes of the store opening.

The there’s Ledo Pizza, a chain located throughout the nation’s capital and surrounding areas. The chain added wild boar sausage to its fall 2016 seasonal menu. The sausage was served on pizza, in salads and subs, and with pasta. The company promoted it as “free-range pork seasoned with salt, pepper and fennel with a taste and texture similar to regular pork but leaner, healthier and not exposed to antibiotics and pesticides.”

So what’s next? It might just be duck, according to Kruse. Potential applications include burgers, sausages and wings. She cited the success that Brick House Tavern had with crispy duck wings prepared with signature brick sauce and served with sriracha ranch dressing. The appetizer debuted a few years ago as a limited-edition item and now is a full-year menu item.

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