OlovesPackaging[1]The people at Oloves™ (http://www.oloves.com) were nice enough to send me some samples to conduct a consumer review.  I received the samples last week and here is what I thought:

  • Packaging Apparence – These olives come in a cool silver pouch with a tear away top.  It was very easy to open and all of the samples held up very well in the shipping box without the need for much extra packaging. This was obviously produced outside the US with the UK ingredient and nutritional statement on the packaging, but still easy to follow.  They have a very nice product shot on the front with a, ’50 calorie snack’ tag on the front.  It has a very simple yet upscale feel, along with enough support to be a great traveling snack.
  • Product Appearance – The olives themselves held up pretty well being in a soft pouch with little excess oil or brine, but you will notice that they don’t have the integrity of olives in a glass jar, which is to be expected.  I will note that the Mediterranean flavor variety was a much darker green than the Hot Chilli Mama and the Lemony Lover varieties.  Nothing on the package noted a different olive variety.  I liked that the olives were not swimming in oil or brine making it a better quick snack option.  The Mediterranean and the Lemon varieties had the appropriate amount of garnish for what I expected, however the chile version looked like it was lacking in chile flakes.
  • Eating Experience – Starting with the Mediterranean, I felt it had a great flavor with notes of garlic and basil, however the texture of the olives were overly soft.  They had just the right amount of tangy brine flavor and did not over saturate my mouth with oil like other olive brands.  Still, the olives being extra soft made this my least favorite of the three varieties and If they were the same texture as the other two, it could have easily been my favorite. Next was the lemon variety which had a much better olive texture.  There were some interesting lemon pieces in the package which tasty more like candied lemon than fresh squeezed lemon juice, but was still a nice little treat you would not normally find.  For me, I could have used just a touch more garlic flavor as well as a more natural lemon flavor in the olives. Last was the chile variety.  My first tasty was perfect, great olive texture, just the right amount of heat and a touch of lemon, however my next piece was over the top hot.  I noticed that the chile flakes were not evenly distributed over the olives, which makes me believe they added the chile flakes after the olives were brined.  This allows for ‘hot-spots,’ not an even amount of heat throughout the product.  Also, on their ingredient statement, it showed lemon pieces are supposed to be mixed in with this variety as well, but I did not find any in my particular package. All around experience was very favorable, but felt there could be some small tweaks to make it even better.  I will note that I did not find any pits or stems which you can sometimes find in other brands of olives.
  • Value – From what I researched, the cost of these seem to be in line with other pre-portioned olives out there.  You will get a better value buying olives in bulk, however with these, you get the convenience of an easy open and transportable snack. They also promote being all-natural, gluten/dairy/nut free, vegan and kosher.
  • Overall – I had a very favorable experience with Oloves™ olives.  I enjoyed the easy-open and fancy looking packaging, the lack of oil/brine to pick though, along with some good flavors.  I felt that if the Mediterranean variety used the same olives as the other two, if the lemon variety moved away from the candy lemon flavor, and the chilli variety had a more even heat, this would have been quite the product!  I give Oloves™ olives a 3.5 out of 5.

Oloves[1]

NERDSTEAK is more than happy to review any food, beverage, restaurant, CPG or equipment items you have to offer.  Feel free to contact Mike directly at chefman316@aol.com to arrange for shipping of samples, or to schedule a review.

Mediterranean Farro Salad

2 cups cooked Farro
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup Feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
2/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup toasted walnut halves, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated and thinly sliced

Cook Farro to the package instructions, then let cool to room temperature.
Whisk vinegar, mustard, salt, black pepper, garlic, oregano, zest and red pepper flakes together in a large bowl.  Continue whisking, and slowly add the olive oil until creamy and thoroughly mixed.  Add the Farro and remaining ingredients into the bowl, then toss until evenly coated.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Honey Dijon Farro Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Fontina Cheese, Flat Leaf Parsley

Honey Dijon Farro Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Fontina Cheese, Flat Leaf Parsley

Brussels2

Sriracha Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Almonds and Coconut

3 cups quartered brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons Woodland Foods Sriracha Seasoning Blend
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 400°F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Toss brussels sprouts with olive oil and Sriracha Seasoning Blend. Pour a single layer of brussels sprouts on the sheet pan, and roast in the oven until the edges start to brown and the sprouts start to become tender, about 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven, and add the almonds and coconut to the pan, tossing until evenly incorporated.  Continue baking until the sprouts are tender and the nuts start to brown, about 5 to 8 additional minutes.  Add additional seasoning to cooked sprouts if needed.

Makes about 4 servings.

You can buy the Sriracha seasoning blend right here!

 

 

Inside out: The chef's perspective article from Examiner.com

Inside out: The chef’s perspective article from Examiner.com

 

I was recently interviewed by Examiner.com about my background as a chef and how it relates to food allergens in restaurants!  Let me know what you think!

Click here to read the interview!

IMG_1227The people at SexyPop (http://sexypop.us) were kind enough to send NERDSTEAK some of their product to review! I received a case of samples yesterday, and here is what I though:

  • Packaging appearance – I will say that the packaging looks pretty nice. They have a large swirl logo right in the middle with their brand name on top, and variety on bottom but I have two concerns with what I received.  First, my samples were VERY pillowy.  Obviously this helps insure minimal broken pieces of popcorn in the bag, but they were so pumped with air, it was a little difficult to do the ‘pinch and open’ on the top, which could have happened due to the product being air shipped which can change the pressure inside the packaging. This is a minor detail, but worth noting. The second concern is that their brand name is aligned so high on the the top of the packaging, and the variety is so low, that on a standard grocery shelf, it might be difficult to read what it is. There are a lot of different tag lines on the packaging, along with a goofy ‘poppin’ rap like lyrical treat on the back.
  • Product appearance – The popcorn itself looked very nice, with most of the contents being whole popped pieces, with little to no unpopped kernels. None of the varieties looked overcaked with seasonings, and the white cheddar variety had more cheddar flavor vs. what I assumed it would have based on appearance (that’s a good thing).  The popcorn had a nice white color and didn’t appear shiny or oily.
  • Eating Experience – I would say all the varieties had a favorable flavor and texture, with my favorite being the Bangin’ Cheddar.  I would have like just a touch more black pepper flavor from that specific variety but still tasted great.  I noticed a lot less of the ‘seasoning on my fingers’ problem you might find with other popcorn brands.  I personally like salt, however the Lightly Salted was right on point with having just enough.
  • Value – After doing a quick search with comparable products online, the current price for SexyPop is a little on the high side, but you are getting slightly less calories per serving.  I would assume that once SexyPop can stock shelves and move more volume, they will be able to lower the price to be more competitive in the better-for-you popcorn market.
  • Overall – I give SexyPop an overall score of 3.5 out of 5.  The product itself is very tasty, but the price point is a little too high to be competitive with the other brands.  I do like the fact that as opposed to promoting their product as ‘healthy’ since it is a lower calorie snack as well as GMO-free, Kosher, cholesterol-free, and trans-free, they are going with the ‘trendy’ marketing campaign similar to what the pistachio people are doing.  If you have a chance to try SexyPop, I recommend it!

IMG_1229

NERDSTEAK is more than happy to review any and all products you have to offer! Please contact us directly to arrange shipping of samples.

Out of all the reality TV show hosts which pertain to flipping a poor performing bar or restaurant, I feel Jon Taffer is the best of the best.  Not only do you have to be knowledgeable in in the food and beverage industry, you have to know how to motivate and inspire. Here are a few reasons why he is the man:

  • Industry knowledge – Like many of the reality hosts, Mr. Taffer has years of experience and knowledge, however, he knows how to translate this into action.  He knows how to separate his personal opinion against what is needed for each bar or restaurant to be successful.  He looks at consumer data from the area, making sure there is an actual business need for the changes he implements.  Unlike other celebrity chef or bar consultant types, he does not have a cookie cutter standard on each operation. He also knows how to bring in other industry experts to get the job done.
  • Professional Chaos – If you really pay attention to him during his show, you will see that almost every time he introduces himself, he is EXTREMELY professional and proper.  Anyone in the industry should follow this same demeanor.  It isn’t until someone lies, cheats, or puts others in harms way, does he amp up into the beast he is know to be. He is full aware of all his actions and what the response will be.
  • Motivation – Yes, he may verbally abuse a poor performing employee who has a negative impact on his or her establishment.  Yes, he may bring people to the brink of tears or fist throwing.  But what happens, after all of the yelling and screaming, when the unmotivated employee actually starts doing well? He is the FIRST to provide support and praise this action. He will 100% give credit where it is due, and if you have just spent the last 3 days being yelled at by the ‘enemy’ and then the ‘enemy’ becomes your support system, brings out the best in you, and inspires you to achieve   what Mr. Taffer knew you could do all along…that is how you truly change habits, and bring a positive, reassuring attitude to the workplace, while also reassuring the credibility of your actions.
  • Needs no credit – It takes a team to pull off a complete overhaul.  Mr. Taffer always lets you know that company ‘xyz’ was the one who created your new sign in under 3 days, and changed all the plumbing, and added that cool new super cold tap in the bar, and provided all the kitchen equipment.
  • Aware of his surroundings – A skill that many people DON’T have, is being able to spot when a true problem is.  Maybe the chef or the bar staff is not lacking due to motivation, it’s because they haven’t been trained properly.  An employee might continually be hostile to his manager because the manager is actually his brother, and there are underlying family issues involved.  In order to fix a problem, you need to be aware of the root cause before changes can be made.
  • Out with the old – It does not matter if you are an iconic brand, and have been in operation for years. If the establishment is performing poorly, things need to change, and that is sometimes hard to hear.  Your grandfather built this bar from the ground up and it has a nostalgic value to YOU, but YOU are not the customer.  Mr. Taffer teaches people to separate their personal preferences against what is going to ultimately make money and add value to the business
  • Family Matters – A trend with many struggling businesses is that it is family owned and operated.  This makes the manager/employee dynamic very difficult to follow.  No matter the type of business, having a healthy family outside the 4 walls is equally important inside when running the business.  Mr. Taffer always seems to find where the family bonds are broken, and uses the business success to mend it.
  • Not above it – There is a certain expectation when opening a high class martini bar in Vegas, verses a biker bar in the middle of nowhere.  Mr. Taffer is not above serving hot dogs and hamburgers because THAT is his consumer base, that is what the people want, and that is what they are willing to pay for.  He does not expect to serve 10 courses when there is only a closet sized kitchen to work from, but on the other hand, he knows how to produce a high caliber product within any price point.  If you are serving cheap hot dogs, they will be the best cheap hot dog, and they will make the business money.

Mr. Taffer, if you ever need a chef to come in and help a struggling bar or restaurant, i am your man.  I get it :o)

ID-100128822You can hit that gym for 3 hours burning over 2,000 calories, or walk your dog around the block…depending on your fitness level, you still need to think about what to eat to recover after intense activity so you can keep yourself in top shape without turning into a zombie the following day.  It is recommended to have protein for muscle recovery and carbs/fat to replenish energy storage 30 minutes after activity.  Don’t assume that because you have SOME protein you will ‘bulk up’ as it is just as important for recovery as it is for muscle building. Here are a few good options for post workout recovering, or to recoup after shoveling all that snow:

  • Eggs – 1 large egg contain only 70 calories with almost 7 grams of protein. Pair some eggs up with kale, tomatoes, onions and avocado, and you have a super nutritious meal that will fill you up, and is surprisingly healthy.
  • Hummus and Pita – Chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) have both protein and carbs, plus when blended with olive oil and tahini, you have a very dense mix of protein, carbs, and healthy fats.  Remember that this is a bit calorically dense, but since you just used up a bunch of energy, this is the perfect time to add energy back.
  • Trail Mix – Nuts for protein and fats, fruit for carbs, trail mix is natures candy! It also has the benefit of being portable…so mix your own and take it with you.  Pairing nuts with dried blueberries and banana will also keep your immune systems in tip-top form.
  • Quinoa – It is super trendy AND super healthy with even more nutrients than brown rice, plus the added fiber will keep you fuller longer.  It can be eaten hot or cold and can be snuck in meals anytime of the day.
  • Protein Shake – You may or may not consider this an option, but protein shakes have been specifically formulated for muscle growth, recovery, and storage.  However, make sure you do not overdue it, as you may be gaining weight in either muscle, or fat form.  You need no more than 20 to 40 grams depending on the type of activity you just finished.  Also make sure you have carbs in the mix to replenish your energy as well.
  • Stir Fry – Many people are very hungry after workouts, but as stated before, don’t assume you can eat truckloads of food. For those of us who like the ‘full’ feeling, its a good idea to bulk on on the low calorie veggies, with the addition of protein (shrimp, chicken, tofu…) and some whole grains.  Sodium is an electrolyte that needs to be replenished if you worked up a good sweat, so a little soy sauce doesn’t hurt either.
  • The Salad – Maybe not smothered is super high fat dressing or made with 50% cheese, but a well planned salad full of colors, crunchy nuts and seeds, and even some dried fruit would be an excellent choice after raking up all those leaves.
  • Sandwiches – Protein and carbs in sandwich form.  Easy to make, easy to carry, but tasty to eat!

There are 1,000’s of other options, so comment with your favorite post-activity meal or snack!

These bad boys happen to be gluten-free!

Gluten-free cranberry & double chocolate rolled oat cookies...nom nom nom

Gluten-free cranberry & double chocolate rolled oat cookies…nom nom nom

White Rice Flour

580g

14.34%

Sorghum Flour

414g

10.24%

Baking Soda

20.8g

0.51%

Salt

12.5g

0.31%

Xanthan Gum

02.5g

0.06%

Unsalted Butter, melted

600g

14.83%

Brown Sugar, Light

1000g

24.72%

Egg, Whole

415g

10.26%

Gluten Free Oats

1000g

24.72%

Cranberries, Dried

500g

12.36%

Chocolate Chips, White

600g

14.83%

Blend your flours, baking soda, salt, and xanthan together. In a separate bowl, blend butter, sugar, and eggs.  Add wet ingredients to the dry, and mix until evenly incorporated. Fold in oats, cranberries, and chocolate chips.  Refrigerate for 1/2 hour.

Plop 1 heaping tablespoon of dough on a parchment lined baking sheet, and cook for 15 minutes in a 350°F oven.  You will need to form the cookies before you bake then, because they do not spread out on the pan like a traditional cookie.  Also, let the cookies sit for 5 minutes before placing on a cooling rack.

Drizzle the top with melted bittersweet chocolate and a little sea salt if you are feeling sassy.

More of the same...nom nom nom

More of the same…nom nom nom

 

TrendSince everyone and their mother has been posting what they can expect from the food world in 2014, I thought I would add my own little list of things I expect to see rise and/or fall in the following year:

The fall of quinoa – Other than pumpkin spiced everything (yes I know it is seasonal), pretzel bread, and sriracha, quinoa has been taking over restaurant and retail outlets in the US…which also means as the demand increase, so does the price.  Consumers are going to find there there is a whole list of ancient grains they can incorporate into their diet which rival the nutritional value of quinoa, such as kaniwa, amaranth, buckwheat, bulghur, farro, freekeh, grano, millit, oat groats, spelt, sorghum, and teff, not to mention all of the non-processed rice varieties.  Hurry up and buy in bulk before these other options become ‘the next big thing’ and the price increases on those as well.

Hipster Sweets – Think of all the old school desserts which the hipster crowd is ready to reinvent.  One that I am hoping for is salted butterscotch, (salted caramel knockoff)!  With the boom of specialty beverages as well, we are going to see updated versions of bananas foster, cherries jubilee, baked Alaska, mangos diablo, and peches louis…half of which the hipsters never even heard of.

Turmeric-Shakur – Indian, middle-eastern, and mid-asian cuisine is becoming more and more accepted in the US.  One ingredient in particular climbing the ladder is turmeric. It has a bright color and has been used in curries for years, as well as a coloring agent for multiple purposes.  It also contains curcumin which potentially can treat a whole list of illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and allergies.  Not of these claims have been definitively concluded yet, except for turmeric being a tasty addition to your spice cabinet.

Hot Chile Time Machine – Jalapeños, chipotle, cayenne, and habanero are only four of the hundreds of varieties of chiles out there.  It is time to bring in the specialty varieties like aleppo, aji amarillo, calabrian, puya, wiri wiri, mulato, and scorpion to increase heat, build eccentric flavor, and add variety to your menu.  Consumers are accepting heat in their foods more than ever before…thanks fast food!  Sriracha will have some more time at the top, then harissa will take over…

PB&Hey, That’s Not Normal – First, we had peanut butter, and it was good.  Then the alternate nut butters came along, and they were also good.  Now it’s time to raise the bar and flavorize all these tasty spreads.  Due to the fact that the US now wants to add fat back into their diets, we will see an increase of nut and nut butter consumption, but lets take it a step further. Pumpkin spiced walnut butter?!?!?! Maple and black pepper pecan butter?!?!?! Salted agave peanut butter?!?!?! Why not throw in some sriracha bacon rhubarb jam in the mix? (Maybe TOO trendy?)

American Comfort Story – We are going to continue seeing a rise in the American comfort food arena in the upcoming year.  Chicken & waffles made 1000 ways, mac & cheese with artisan locally sourced cheese, meatloaf with specialty game meats, pies with strange crusts, weird fruits, unfamiliar seasonings, salted red velvet cronut cake-pop cupcakes…!!!!!!!!! How many desserts can we mash together???

What are some of your predictions for 2014? Your guess is as good as mine!