6 Late Summer Menu Ideas and Presentations

Last year’s Art of Catering Food conference in Denver was almost a full year ago — it’s hard to believe. And, as the editor of Catersource, I’m still finding a wealth of information from last year’s conference that we haven’t been able to cover in the pages of the magazine or even in our social media content. There were just so many ideas that I’m still digging through and finding great ones. I wanted to highlight and revisit these six showstoppers that really made our tastebuds tingle and our eye pop with admiration in 2012.

Torched meat station from Culinary Crafts

Torched meat station from Culinary Crafts

1. What better to add to the heat of a summer barbecue than a little bit of fire? The Culinary Crafts team broke out the butane torches and set to a phenomenal presentation that had attendees gasping with delight. Although the torched meats were finished before the event, the finishing “torches,” if you’ll pardon the pun, gave ordinary barbecue a nice crisp exterior and created a huge draw for event guests. This photo from their presentation was accompanied live at the show by a demonstration and step-by-step instructions on how they put this station together. What chef doesn’t love to play with fire in front of an audience? It’s a chef station that doesn’t require too much convincing to sell.

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National Restaurant Show Brief: Trends

CSNRA9 It’s a behemoth, that’s for sure. For those of us who have made our way to McCormick Center in Chicago, we’ve found ourselves both enthralled and overwhelmed. When we talk to our friends in foodservice, we probably call it NRA, but for the laymen out there, we’ve learned to say “the restaurant show” or something of the sort to avoid being confused with another national organization, one that’s more highly divisive. It’s the National Restaurant Association, and I made my second annual trek this year.

I’ll admit– although I love the size and focus of the Catersource Tradeshow, the NRA show in contrast is a little bit bewildering for me. I’ve asked myself on the McCormick show floor many times, “Where am I and what am I looking for?” (To be fair, sometimes I ask myself these questions when I’m at the mall or even Googling things, so feeling a little lost in all the information is not uncommon for me.) The Catersource show is generally a lot easier to navigate, with every product focused specifically on catering and events.

But even so, I saw these new styles and innovations that caterers might find interesting.

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Sponsored: Creative Recipe Ideas from Bush’s Best

Bush’s Best® has the right beans for all your catering needs. Whether you’re looking for ethnic inspired cuisine, meatless options or gluten-free dishes, the versatility of Bush’s Best® beans can work for your menu. More and more menus are including black bean burgers, bean salads, and other bean-based vegetarian or gluten-free items to satisfy growing consumer demand. Beans are the perfect choice for your pantry because they are a nutritious vegetable that can be served on their own as a side, can be part of expanding your breakfast menu or can be used in an entree. Best of all, Bush’s Best® beans are consumer’s preferred choice. Take a look at these ideas and discover new ways for beans to influence your menu.

BBQ Dinner Bites - Click Through for Recipe

BBQ Dinner Bites: Call them portable, dippable, or just down-right delectable, these panko-breaded bites of smashed Bush’s Best® Bean Pot Baked Beans mixed with shredded pork are perfect for lunch on the go and appetizers. Click through for recipe.

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13 Hidden Gems on the Tradeshow Floor

Whew! Yesterday was busy. I’m a little bit worn out, and you may be too. But I’m super excited about visiting the Tradeshow today. There are so many cool products, and some grab your attention right away, in addition to the hidden gems you find that are the perfect fit for your business. Here are some band new products  that I’m totally into:

Magnificent Glassware from IEP-- 10% off at the show

Magnificent Glassware from IEP– 10% off at the show

I’m a huge fan of gold-rimmed glassware, and the new Magnificent Collection from International Event Products is right up my alley. It’s classic and elegant and not too over the top; booth 1513.

La Tavola's Charade Petal and Cristal Vision Petal from the Milano & Pompeii collection

La Tavola’s Charade Petal and Cristal Vision Petal from the Milano & Pompeii collection

If you somehow missed La Tavola’s gorgeous booth, you should schedule a special visit. It was like being transported into a magical elegant wonderland of stunning tables, kindof like the Oz of the Tradeshow floor. Well, one of the Oz-spots. Several locations on the Tradeshow floor remind me of the Emerald City. This table was my favorite, but you really need to see the whole stunning shebang at booth 1713.

Vertical Fruit Stands at Tablecraft

Vertical Fruit Baskets at Tablecraft

New on the show floor this year are these fabulous vertical fruit baskets at booth 1113.

PreGel's evolution glazes

PreGel’s evolution glazes

PreGel’s booth is always a bundle of sweet fun, and their new Evolution Glazes bring a coloful shine to desserts. Can we make Shiny Desserts a trend for 2013? It doesn’t matter if it’s a cupcake, a verrine (like the ones above) or a macaron, as long as it’s got that sheen… They’re in booth 1321.

A preview of Verterra's to-go containers

A preview of Verterra’s to-go containers

All the green products at the Tradeshow make me excited to be a part of this forward-thinking industry, and the new variety of to-go boxes from our Green Sponsor Verterra bring incredible variety and simplistic beauty to sustainable disposables. Visit booth 1249 for more solutions made from fallen leaves.

Fresh Origins flavor crystals

Fresh Origins Herb & Flower crystals

Whether floral, fennel or basil, the Fresh Origins Herb & Flower crystals are a gorgeous accent to any event: organic, luxury or just plain cool. They’re in booth 2536.

Cambro's Combo Cart Plus

Cambro’s Combo Cart Plus

Extremely versatile for both hot and cold applications, the Cambro Combo Cart Plus holds everything from sheet pans to pizza boxes. Booth 1313.

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Adorable and sustainable disposables from Bamboo Studio.

With shapes like a pig, frog and monkey, Bamboo Studio’s new disposable collections for kids are incredibly cute in booth 1649.

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The Craft Collection from Steelite.

There are so many fantastic options for small plates on the Tradeshow floor, but these bold yet earthy dishes from Steelite struck my fancy in booth 2221.

New sizes of square bowls from Anchor Packaging.

New sizes of square bowls from Anchor Packaging.

Reuseable and recyclable, not to mention sleek and functional, Anchor Packaging is now offering a variety of sizes of its square bowls in booth 1327.

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Display Table from Accent Decor

I definitely loved this Display Table from Accent Decor, especially since I could see it at either a quirky vintage- or svelte, modern-themed event. In booth 1329.

Freeze dried berries from Chef Rubber.

Freeze dried berries from Chef Rubber.

Chef Rubber are the kings of molecular cool on the Tradeshow floor and these freeze-dried berries are right on the top of the tart flavor trend in booth 1256.

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The Tapas Tree at 10 Strawberry Street.

It’s not a new product, but I love the usage suggestion for this product from 10 Strawberry Street. Last year the same product was a chandelier of wine glasses; this year it’s a Tapas Tree in booth 913.

Let’s see what else I find at the Tradeshow today… stay tuned in the next couple of weeks for more updates, and have a wonderful final day of Catersource. We’re really enjoyed having you here.

Sunday, March 10: Serving Up Excitement

The excitement is palpable down the long hallways of the Mirage: Catersource has begun.
Attendees hovered around Show Guides and planned out their days, trickling into the opening sessions and then hitting the Conference with a Big Bang right at noon. We heard about Haute Food Trends (oats, anyone?) and the keys to retaining Rock Star Staff (comp time to counteract long days).

Jeffrey and Robin Selden of Marcia Selden Catering on retaining Rock Star Staff.

Vigorously taking notes at sessions and making new friends, most attendees revved up throughout the day.  A session on company culture from Footers Catering in Denver, CO was packed to the brim as Anthony Lambatos and Colbert Callen shared their tales of awesomeness. In fact, many of the sessions that attracted large numbers of attendees were operations- and staff-focused. We haven’t written about staff culture recently in Catersource, but the Conference trends make me think that it’s something worth addressing.

I also met caterers of all stripes: those from military facilities, several from hotels around the globe, off-premise, educators, students, restaurants with a catering division… all come together to learn from each other and from the pros.

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The day culminated with two intensely cool social events: the Into the Wild party in the Attendee Lounge and the Welcome Reception by the pool. Sponsors WNA and Tablecraft provided fantastic disposables and buffetware (respectively) We chatted, shared experiences and wound down. I got tons of ideas for the magazine today; here’s hoping you gained just as many for your business.

What do caterers want for the holiday season?

We know this is the busiest time of year, so how about a selfish distraction? We asked Mike, Meryl, Cade and all the members of the Catersource family: what do caterers want for the holidays? What do you want to start your new year off right?

New pair of insoles
Fresh supply of Advil and aspirin
An airline gift card to anywhere
–Mike Roman, Catering guru and Catersource Consultant

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