If you are involved in on/off-premise catering you must attend the annual Catersource conference and trade show in Las Vegas, NV.
I started to write this post the day after attending — however I have been consumed with several large and demanding projects. So here we go!
With very limited time this year – March 1st I headed out early Tuesday morning driving East across the barren Mohave desert towards the new city of lights — during the transition from a dark night to an Electra dawn.
With the windows rolled down, breathing in brisk desert air and listening loud to; The Ramon’s, Pink Floyd, Puccini, Sinatra, Country and some new electronica dance music while channel surfing thru an extensive menu on Satellite radio. This made the long drive pass quickly!
Industry trade shows and gatherings such as Catersource, are a rich depository of industry related information, education, relationships fostering experiences, and a library of trivia.
Later at some opportune moment – what was collected is called upon and used in some purpose, often not for the intended purpose. Basically you get to see a lot of new and very cool ideas, concepts and interesting people. I constantly found the long time pros helping newer players to excel!
What did I see that was new and or interesting to an information and idea junkie like me and perhaps you?
I started at one end of the trade show floor going aisle to aisle and booth to booth finishing as the doors were closing and people where preparing for the spectacular Tuesday night party.
After so many sales reps are asking the usual monotonous, “How are you?” I cut to the chase by asking, “What’s new? What’s unique?” Usually followed with “What are people attending the show finding interesting in your booth or with your company or products and services?” and the inquisitive “How does you product, compare to brand X.”
That’s the point where we get down to business and have an information exchange and usually learn something useful.
Setting aside the wonderful suppliers for a moment, it was really great to meet the people attending. Some I have been exchanging emails with – as readers of this blog, some new — we just met for the first time while scoping out a booth or demonstration — all united with a common cause to get better at catering!
Here is some of what I saw and found interesting at the trade show. You may already know about these ideas, perhaps you will find some new here!
Art of Flame "Fire on Water"
Art of Flame www.artofflame.com
Fire on Water!
As you may know, I’m big on “function over fashion” any day of the week – however the flame floating on water in a glass container, takes the prize this time.
Medrith Nolan, the inventor is a chemist. She figured how to make a unique safe, visually stunning multipurpose decorative flame. Her creation is simple, intriguing and so safe — it often passes the open flame limitation with ease.
I had a great chat with her and applaud her for turning her idea into a success! Yes she has some new design coming out – so don’t wait. Now you can make use all those glass vases collecting dust in the warehouse.
I expect to see her floating flame creation gracing tables at events and talked about widely.
Vikki Smyth www.vikkismyth.com
Vikki is my favorite designer for working with acrylics in all shapes, colors, sizes. Jackie has managed blend the gray area of function over fashion, always with stunning results. She is simply the best for “floating food in the air concept.”
You will find she is full of energy, passionate with her infectious enthusiasm — morphing science, craftsmanship, and art into some really amazing wow attention-getting designs. Everyone I’ve sent to her for solutions and products over the years is always satisfied!
Black or white Honeycomb is her newest design — which can create a “vertical bento box” display. There are lotsa’ combinations that make this a crowd pleaser for displaying Hors d’oeuvre, Tapas (Small Plates), Dim Sum and Desserts.
ISI North America www.isinorthamerica.com
Carol Kentis was showing off new “carbonator” aka as the “twist & spakle.”
Thru some incredible end of show discounting — I picked up a new “Twist and Sparkle” unit and a Thermo Whip Plus.
Already I have put the “Twist & Sparkle” to good use pumping CO2 into wide variety of beverages — all were great over-the-top experiences.
This has been a great hit at several parties carbonating a variety of juices; cranberry, orange, apple, pineapple rum, coconut milk, mango, guava, grape juice. I have been giving this puppy a work out. Jack Daniels, a few dashes of Reagan’s #6 orange bitters chilled and carbonated became very popular at one party for toasting shots — fizzy cosmopolitans at another. Lemon infused sparkling water at another. Adding air makes a difference.
Thermo Whip Plus
The thermo whip Plus is more than a whip cream on demand maker. Fresh whipped cream is always enjoyed for a high end coffee or dessert bar.
Warm Bailey’s Irish Cream foam was hit at St. Patrick’s Day parties.
However the optimal applications for the Thermo Whip Plus are far more exciting — especially when you blend in lessons learned from macro-gastronomy.
I have been fooling around separately with warm beet, carrot, sweet potato, and green pea foam to dress plates – an airy tempura bather with great success and I even experienced a few food fatalities. The Thermo Whip Plus – as the name implies is insulated — so dressing up warm plated food on a fast-moving plating line with a hot sauce-foam is a breeze and will keep you outta’ the weeds!
I’m on mission to create some tasty soy-based foam for those lactose intolerant and hard-core vegans. If you have ideas — let me know. I promised my newest “BFF’s” at ISI, that I would share and post my research so that others can benefit!
BTW I’ll being writing more extensive posts on these wondrous culinary tools here at the blog soon.
Sunkist Bar Buddy
Sunkist Bar Buddy
Sunkist Bar Buddy has been around some time, an indispensable tool for high volume consistent cutting (sectional) of wedges and slices of apples, oranges, lemons, limes and tomatoes.
What’s new? Additional blades such as the 10 piece wedge. The new 10 wedge blade saves you money on bar garnishes and is absolutely perfect for cutting lime wedges for small tacos. Besides the 10 wedge sized lime wedge fits better in the top of a bottle of Corona beer.
Cutting limes for bar service often is often delegated to on-site bartenders. Really the preparation ought to be preformed by the kitchen or select staff — so that lemons and limes and other drink garnishes are prepared properly saving time, keeping on-site labor in check and maintain consistency and quality of cutting.
Bamboo Imports www.bambooimports.com
Extreme customer driven picks and skewers created from bamboo. Losta’ colors, styles, shapes, great service.
While talking with Ryan Young, he showed me several examples of customer wish created products. Ryan explained, “Caterers are in the food serving and entertaining business. We’re in the sourcing and production business to support caterers. Most of our products were created by requests from caterers. We’re always on the look out for new requests.”
Fresh White Endive
California Vegetable Specialties www.endive.com
Belgian endive has been used number of times as an edible transport vessel-carrier for a large variety of toppings.
When I asked what’s new “Humus bars” was the reply. With so many variations on flavored humus there certainly is potential. Great ideas on how to use endive at the site above.
Belgioioso Cheese www.Belgioioso.com
Famous for their authentic Italian style cheeses — especially the mozzarella sheets — was another visit after the endive booth. So with the new concept of humus bars, so I asked, “Why not soft cheeses?”
Belgioioso creates 12 different flavors of soft cheese that when formed as cannels or piped would sit nicely in the endive. So another food presentation idea worth considering.
Big Ass Fans New Pivot 180
I have been an advocate for several years. The fans do the trick of moving large volumes of enough air at low speed to lower temperature.
Showing off a new Pivot 180º Fan, that will be great for cooling event and kitchen-cooking-preping tents during warmer periods.
Blaze Products www.blazeproducts.com
New clear container, looks cool behind glass blocks supporting a warming griddle because you don’t see the container. Another nice plus is that you can actually see how much fuel is left.
So instead of tossing ½ used fuel cans at the end of an event, cap’em and use the remaining fuel next time, you’ll same money and help the environment.
The new chork: a blend of chop sticks and a fork The Chork http://www.thechork.com The Chorkä is quite an idea blending a fork and chopsticks together. How many events do you take tons of forks and chopsticks for Asian food? The Chork solves the problem with one utensil that will certainly be a popular topic of conversation.I have another idea for the Chork -- which I’ll reveal in another blog post!Electric Buffet Burners
Buffet Burners www.buffetburners.com
Bob Feaglery enlightened me about the applications, ease and smart use of this electric chafing dish heaters for adopting existing chafing dishes. Using existing chafing dishes is the key point here.
As you know many, historical sites, office buildings, and venues prohibit any open flames – so instead of buying new electric only chafer dishes — adopt these heaters to your existing rectangular and round chafers.
The heaters meet the no open flame requirement and from further discussion if you are at a venue on a regular basis — I suspect the operating cost and safety consideration beats using the canned fuel.
Caviar Specification Tool Kit
Chef Rubber www.chefrubber.com
Chef rubber is a great resource for macro gastronomy, tools, specialty pastry ideas. It was a lot of fun to see some many items — get your hands on them and ask questions about use. The staff was such a treat to answer questions and offer ideas!
If you have been thinking about adding Caviar spheres or perls to dishes or cocktails and weren’t quite sure where to start, this is the place. Order the Caviar Specification Tool Kit and start making tasty luscious pearls right away.
I have been looking at using round silicone molds to use to make ice spheres for drinks for specialty bars such as Scotch bars. The round sphere melts slower — so the cocktail is cooled and not watered down.
I found a 2” dia. silicon sphere mold here that’s perfect for a whisky bar.
Creations in Lucite www.creativecoverings.com
Edgy display and in clear, opaque, black plastic and a willingness to customize.
Food grade fiberglass and silicone molds-shapes for well; butter, sorbet, chocolate, ice cream, bread, mac & cheese bites and more. This is one of those thrust your imagination into overdrive for possibilities companies.
I’m not a big pastry maker. However I often marvel at the creations, and am always borrowing techniques and ideas for other and cocktail creations and enhancements.
New Sterno Jet Burner
Sterno was showing off their new Jet burner. This innovation will be outstanding for certain stations where portable fast heat is needed to finish off dishes that also has stylish form.
New Sterno Torch
The new torch was also on display. Seems the days of carmelizing desserts and such with my plumbing torch are coming to a close. The canisters use the same fuel source as the butane stoves.
Xroads Philippine Sea Salts WWW.Philippineseasalts.com
An informative chat with Lennie who founded the company. Her sources follow traditional sea salt farming practises long time in the making. The taste of her salts were fresh and clean!
I have been considering using finishing and or premium sea salts as lead generation offers or gifts to select clients packaged in special vessels. The different textures, flavors and colors is certainly appealing especially when finishing seafood dishes. Xroads has some truly unique bamboo packaging.
I learned that all sea salts are to be labeled with a notice about possible allergic relations to shell fish. Often sea salts contain some trace amounts of what causes a reaction. There’s nothing like a guest experiencing anaphylactic shock to dampen the enthusiasm for a party.
Mini Push Up
J.B. Prince www.jbprince.com
Another kid in candy store moment with lotsa’ things — hard to find, unique culinary tools, and I didn’t have to travel to Manhattan. The booth staff was as always very helpful answering questions, and explaining new and different applications. What a joy!
JB Price has the new push ups cups in two sizes that have become so popular for breakfast, snacks and desserts!
Vanillaness at it's best!
Nelson-Massey Vanilla www.nelsonmassey.com
Beth was a real treat to talk with. I received an in depth education on vanilla — a spirited debate concerning vanilla from Tahiti and New Guinea or Mexico, plus a review of some other new flavorings and extracts – which I will be experimenting with shortly.
Sensational vanilla flavoring that fills your mouth with wholesome “vanillaness” Ummmm so good!
Pick On Us www.pickonus.com
There was the book: “Stick It, Spoon It, Put It In a Glass” signing with chef Eric B LeVine, certainly a masterpiece to add to your culinary library.
There was large display of so many different ways to secure and transport food; picks, skewers, stirrers, etc. of all types of color and shape and design.
New “Scratchless” stainless steel scouring pads — that doesn’t leave marks on stainless steel. Essential for cleaning stainless steel display items that have accumulated crud – you know the kind where the only grime removal tools left are harsh chemicals or elbow grease.
New Safe Tray
Safe Tray www.safetrayproducts.com
There was two nice lassies from Scotland. One was Alison Grieve, the inventor who was was pitching in a very charming way her new Safe Tray.
The Safe Tray I believe, has great promise. The collapsible handle on the bottom is perfect for learning balance, stacking and a few new magic tricks and navigating thru crowds that have been happily drinking. see the video at YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSgayqzrcks
Safe tray is “spot on” for training new inexperienced staff to hold, balance, serve and clear tables with a tray. We had good a good chat about establishing distribution and learning to drive on the “right” side of the road. I plan on using he trays for training new staff soon. I wish them well!
Must Have Sklips
I have seen the ads for the sklips™. This was the first time I could actually get my hands on them. A simple, functional design for turning sheet pans into stacking racks.
I bought a box and have been using them extensively on events since the show where counter and shelf space was limited.
Another great application is to use them give some height to buffet tables which are usually flat. Stack a few sheet pans add some draping to cover the pans and suddenly you are escaping flat land, safely.
Suggest you order a box or two of each size and add them to your culinary tools arsenal.
Cocktail Rimmers www.cocktailrimmers.com
Rimmed cocktail glasses especially for specialty welcome or signature cocktails at events present an incredible visual, tactile-tasty garnish which instantly increases the perceived value to guest.
With over 30 prepared varieties of colored, flavored sugars and salts makes this the one stop shop for cocktail rimming. Every color and flavor I had been challenged to create and experimenting with over the past few years was here. Great, now I can move on to something else.
I love the Wrap-N-guard for at least two ideas; a built in nice stainless steel stylish wind screen — which comes in handy on windy days for outdoor events, plus the space saving design that require less space for transporting chafing dishes.
Space saving at first, doesn’t seem like such a big idea…until you try packing 26 chafing dishes for a large event. The space taken up is huge. Or if you are trying use one van to deliver several hot lunches to be served from chafing dishes. The space saving and bulk reduction helps a lot.
- New Misty Stix
Having been challenged at some events like large outdoor weddings on hot summer afternoons in Southern California with getting 200 cold Moijtos or Margaritas served quickly to thirsty guests as the ceremony concluded.
Faced with no freezer or cooler and limited resources; time and staff – I often inserted small pieces of dry ice into the drinks, to cool and not water down the cocktails. The icy smoke cascading off the glasses always looks so inviting. However my dilemma was always guests grabbing a cocktail too soon and burning their lips on the pieces — I was often fishing out the larger pieces as the trays left for passing.
MistyStix solves the problem. The capsule stirrer holds the dry ice and preventing burns from the dry ice. The unit can we washed and reused.
BTW the way I also learned of this terrific site for locating dry ice anywhere in the world www.dryicedirectory.com something to add to your computer and cell phone favorites.
Truffly Made www.truffymade.com
What I liked best was the simple clean mold designs and a willingness to help and even create custom molds. I told the rep in the booth of my quest for round ice spheres. He promptly showed me a sphere mold that was just over and 1” in Diameter.
He provided me with samples for testing. Now I’ll be ordering a few molds to make smaller ice spheres for some special cocktail and drink events.
- Vanilla Fig Balsamic Vinegar
Gourmet Blends gourmetblends.us
There’s a lot of good Balsamic vinegar floating around these days. Some OK, some good and what I found here had an exceptional clean, wholesome, satisfying taste — I dreamt for a moment I was standing in an aging room somewhere in Modena, Italy and that we were lucky to sneak a sample of something that had been waiting 12 years just for this moment!
The quality is high and the blends such as vanilla fig are sensational for dressing up some strawberries, persimmons and ice cream!
Best part two parts the boys can ship on large volume packaging – so you don’ have to fool around with all the smaller bottles and they work with you to create and work out the details for special unique gift packages to give to clients!
As mentioned in the start of this post — I listed just some of the more interesting booths I saw at the trade show. Can’t wait to put to use many of the new and different ideas I found.
Mark your planner now for next year: February 26 – 29 th 2012 in Las Vegas, NV.
Hope to see ya’ there!
P.S. Want more information on Catersource 2012? Here’s where to go: