A visit to Driscoll Farms

Did you know that a strawberry has 200 seeds? We learned this and much more during a recent visit and tour of Driscoll Farms in Watsonville. We are grateful to the AACT (American Association of Candy Technologists) for organizing this event and lovely dinner at the Shadowbrook in Capitola.

Driscoll Strawberry Plants


Thanks to a fascinating talk by Driscoll plant breeder Marty Modesto, we learned that there are more berry varieties than you or I will ever know – and it takes 5 years to test and produce each one! They use natural breeding methods to create patented berry varieties – tested for attributes like flavor, color, texture, shape and aroma. Thanks to Driscoll’s commitment to research and development, we can enjoy Driscoll’s berries year-round! It turns out that a strawberry doesn’t just taste like a strawberry…..each variety has it’s own unique flavor. We sampled 5 different varieties that Driscoll is using now…….but we learned that they are also doing research in every potential strawberry growing region in the world! During strawberry season, the strawberries are harvested and transported to the main facility within 2 hours – and then on their way to a grocery store near you! Once you buy your strawberries at the market, you can even trace your strawberries back to the field they came from

We will never look at a strawberry the same way again!

Menu of Options: Assortment of Toolbox Solutions

Have you ever wondered, “how can SPI Group help me as a chef?” “What are the tools and options in this supposed tool box?” Recently we have shown several customers our Menu of Options. New ingredient technologies in a more culinary and finished format. What this means in a tangible demonstration that shows you the tool in action.

Erin and Kathy in the kitchen

For example, 33% reduced sodium tea sandwich with 50% reduced sodium potato chip on a small plate just like your lunch – but better! Take a look at our menu (and Erin and Kathy in our SPI smocks) and let us know how we can show you real tools for your real products.

April is Soy Foods Month!!

So it’s National Soy Foods Month and there is a listing of new soy-based products like Sprouted Tofu and Soy Joy bars and the health benefits of soy @ www.nationalsoyfoodsmonth.com. But if you want to get a better picture of what’s new in innovative and delicious soy foods ask what John Scharffenberger,founder of Scharffen Berger Chocolate,The Slanted Door and The Ferry Building Farmer’s Market have in common! It is Hodo Soy Beanery and their healthy and delicious soy foods. Mr Scharffenberger in 2010 became involved with Hodo Soy Beanery and he is quite good at spotting food trends!! The Slanted Door features Hodo Braised Tofu on one of their delectable dishes and you can find Hodo’s super fresh tofu and tasty dishes at the Ferry Building Farmer’s market and other markets in the Bay Area each weekend!!

In fact, you can go on a tour of Hodo Soy Beanery in Oakland and view their process and taste their products. Not only do you get to see how tofu is made, but you will see how they make yuba, a delicious,chewy noodle-like strips made from a thin skin that rises to the top of steaming soy milk. The skin is hand lifted and cut into strip usually pan fried and marinated in a tangy teriyaki sauce to make Hodo’s Spicy Yuba Strips.
It’s my favorite!! Soy when you think of the health benefits of soy, think about it being delicious too.

A big thumbs up to Minh Tsai and his associates at Hodo Soy Beanery as we celebrate National Soy Foods Month!!

Food Trucks: the Future of Food???

Special thank you to Intermountain IFT for hosting a great meeting March 14-16 in beautiful Sun Valley, Idaho. This IFT section does a great job of host industry specific, technical and relevant speakers. I was particularly interested in a presentation by Ms. Pam Gray of Kraft Foods. Her presentation titled, “’2012 Food Trendictions’ – Predicting Tomorrow’s Food Trends Today,” was very interesting. Based on menu trends from Dataessentials, Ms. Gray discussed old, current, and future restaurant trends. Most fascinating to me was the Food Trucks, or street food. I am not a food truck person so am skeptical about this whole thing. In 2010 14% of consumers ate off a food truck or street cart compared to 16% who consumed a smoothie (I like to go to the smoothie shop and there are lots of brick & mortar smoothie shops). And with certainty food truck trends are showing up in our favorite main stream, chain restaurants in the form of ethnic flare in familiar delivery: edamame, humus, wonton, and ceviche
Tapa-tizer Mediterranean Skewers from TGI Friday’s, with humus and tzatziki
Carnitas Taco Pizza from Calif Pizza Kitchen, with caramelized onions and blue cheese
Chicken Wonton Tacos from Applebees, with sweet & sour chicken and Asian cilantro slaw

Other surprising facts from Ms. Gray’s presentation? The #1 sauce served in restaurants is Siracha. Not catsup, not Tabasco. The #1 trend coming from food trucks is portability in the form of sandwiches, wraps, individual baked goods (cupcakes, cookies), served in a cup (fries, tacos).