Oser Communications Group

Restaurant Daily News May 21

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Restaurant Daily News Marketplace Saturday, May 21, 2016 H CRUSTACEAN CREATIONS By Micah Cheek When Alison Barshak tried to sell the idea of microwavable whole lobster tail to seafood companies, the concept was met with some resistance. "At first I just wanted to license it to lobster compa- nies, they kind of just thought I was nuts. So I said, 'Fine, I'll do it myself,'" says Barshak. Now, Barshak's Absolutely Lobster has become a finalist for the Seafood Excellence Awards, has been featured on QVC and is being prepared for distribution to large chain retailers. The idea behind Absolutely Lobster is rooted in Barshak's culinary pedigree. She had made a name for herself in Philadelphia restaurant scene with the restaurants Striped Bass and Alison at Blue Bell. "I was a chef, and I made a conscious decision that it would only be seafood in the restaurant. I learned a lot about seafood through that process, just the logistics of it," says Barshak. Because of her location, all the seafood Barshak served was very fresh. But when she moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and became a home cook, she encountered a problem. "When I moved to Atlanta I just realized that it was very difficult to get that Northeastern lobster experience," says Barshak. While she had access to previously frozen lobster tails, the thawing process had had an effect on the meat. "Everyone who buys a lobster tail is buying a previously frozen tail," says Barshak. "It's defrosted for the convenience of the customer so they don't have to defrost it, but every store and restaurant does the same thing." Barshak discovered that when a frozen lobster tail is defrosted, it loses five to eight percent of its moisture con- tent in the process, making it more diffi- cult for a cook to get the juicy texture that is the hallmark of a well-prepared crustacean. Barshak's answer was to skip the thawing step entirely. "You take the lob- ster tail and microwave it from frozen, and you capture all the juices," says Barshak. "There's a lot of hype about lobster, and it's true, but if you're not getting the juices and the texture, you're missing out." The idea was to package lobster tails individually in plastic to capture juices, with the tail split and a pat of Vermont butter enclosed. "We split the tail, so that the meat bastes in the butter, and so it's easy to pop right out of the shell. It makes it so easy," says Barshak. After three minutes in the microwave and one minute to rest, the six ounce portion is firm, yet juicy. The melted butter mixes with released lobster juice to form a thin sauce that Barshak recommends putting over pasta or other sides. "You can do surf and turf; each of you can have half a lobster tail," she adds. Barshak finished developing Absolutely Lobster in Maine, where she had local lobster suppliers taste the product. "What's really great, the lob- ster guys, when they taste it, they say, 'This is what a lobster should taste like,'" Barshak says. After extensive testing, Barshak tried to license her product to a number of seafood companies. "It's challeng- ing, because I'm selling something people haven't seen before," says Barshak. "Most people don't want to be bothered with something new, or try something different." Unable to find a company that would use her methods, Barshak decided to find a lobster com- pany and a copacker, and go into busi- ness for herself. From there, Barshak put a strong focus on sampling to pro- mote her business. "We would go to stores, and we would do the demos and the tasting." says Barshak. "We have incredible sell-through when people taste it." In fact, a taste test by Ray Rastelli III last year has resulted in wider distribution and investment from Rastelli Foods Group. With Absolutely Lobster, Barshak hopes to reduce the anxiety some con- sumers have over serving seafood. "Seafood's an expensive protein; you want to be able to put it on your plate and say, 'Wow that's really good,'" says Barshak. "The microwave really controls it and takes care of it for you. It takes out all the guess work." The meat for Absolutely Lobster is also sus- tainably farmed, free of antibiotics, and is not pounded, meaning the lobsters are not kept in holding pens for long periods of time. "When people talk about farm to table and sustainable sources, this is one of our great resources," says Barshak. "Here's something that's indigenous, and I feel like more people should be enjoying it." SPANISH OLIVE OILS THAT MARRY TRADITIONAL PURITY WITH MODERN SCIENCE By Lorrie Baumann "Sometimes you stop looking, and your passion finds you," says Tom Sutherland, Co-founder and Brand Manager for The Olivique. "That would be the definition of how olive oil came into my life." It happened one day at the elevator in his apartment building in Madrid. Sutherland ran into a neighbor there, who told him, "Now I know why I met you," Sutherland tells the story. "We're going to conquer America." "I said, 'Wow! I thought Christopher Columbus did that," he replied to his friend. "He said, 'Don't be silly. I'm talk- ing about olive oil.'" From that casual conversation sprang The Olivique, a two-year-old company that came to the Winter Fancy Food Show this year to launch four vari- eties of Spanish extra virgin olive oil as part of a delegation of food producers sponsored by Spain's National Trade Commission. The Olivique oils are each made from a different olive varietal: Picual is a unique oil that rich in oleic acid and has a strong flavor with notes of wood and fresh herbs. Koroneiki, an olive that's native to Greece but is now also being grown in Spain, produces an oil with full body and robust taste with a peppery finish. It's also very rich in oleic acid. Cornicabra is a milder oil with note of fresh herbs and tomato that pairs beau- tifully with salads or vegetables. Finally, Arbequina is the olive that produces the oil that's most familiar to many Americans. It has a delicate, grassy taste with notes of apples and almonds that enhances subtle flavors without over- whelming them. Each of The Olivique products is pure extra virgin olive oil, Sutherland says. "Some folks are adding cayenne and lemon, not only to olive oil but to balsamics. We don't do that," he says. "Our slogan is truth, simplicity in olive oil." He points out that infused oils may actually be blends that disguise bad char- acteristics, such as age. The Olivique, by contrast, depends on transparency, veri- fication and certification by third-party laboratories and customer education to sell oils that each have a portfolio of documentation that's available to the company's distributors from its web site. "We wanted to have as much documen- tation as possible, so that people can access as much documentation as they wish," Sutherland says. The Olivique oils are produced in the region around Toledo, Spain, which is not the highest-producing olive oil region in the country. "We went to Toledo because we wanted to participate in newer denominations that are produc- ing oils that are very interesting, young and fresh," Sutherland says. The olives come from family farms that haven't been in large commercial production in the past and have trees that may be up to a hundred years old or more. The newer orchards, in which the trees were planted in straight rows, are harvested with modern machines, but the older orchards, in which there are no straight lines, are harvested by one of the last migrant olive-picking families on the Iberian peninsula. They spread cloths on the ground beneath the trees and then shake the branches with long poles until the olives tumble down onto the cloths. "Our olives don't sit on the ground, not even for a minute," Sutherland says. "The olives fall onto a cloth, and then the olives go straight to the mill. That's been from the beginning of olive trees, and that's how it still happens. When they finish, it goes straight to the mill for crushing." "It's also beneficial to collect the olives under a full moon. It helps to make it much more romantic, and it affects the flavor somehow," he adds. "We're starting to work with the moon cycles. I do believe it has an influence. Fortunately for us, we're very grateful to have a scientific mind in our romantic quest." The Olivique oils are currently being sold in Zabar´s in New York, Jimbo´s, Bay Cities and Vicente Foods. Distribution is through Gourmet Merchants American (GMA). For more information, visit www.olivique.com. MARIN FRENCH CHEESE TAKES BEST OF CLASS AWARD AT WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP CHEESE CONTEST Marin French Cheese's Triple Crème Brie with Black Truffles took the coveted Best of Class Award for flavored soft-ripened cheese at the World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison, Wisconsin, March 7-9, 2016. Made with fresh cow's milk and cream from neighboring Marin County dairies, Triple Crème Brie specked with Black Truffles lends itself to an irresistibly earthy aroma of mushrooms balanced with sweet cream, each year earning high distinctions in regional, national and international con- tests alike. Other honors conferred to the Marin French team of dedicated cheesemakers during this recent competition include third place in the soft-ripened category for Petite Supreme, a high butterfat, extra-crème cheese with an aroma of sweet milk, and fourth place for Traditional Brie in the brie category. Equally impressive, Sonoma-based sister company, Laura Chenel's, received accolades once again this year for its creamy, fluffy-textured Original Chabis fresh goat cheese, garnering third place in the Soft Goat Milk Cheese category. The Orange Blossom Honey Log won its first award at the event, placing third in the Flavored Soft Goat Milk Cheese with Sweet Condiments category, while the Chabis Garlic took a fourth place prize in Soft Goat Milk Cheese category. Laura Chenel's Original Buchette was recognized with a fifth place award. "Each year we are impressed by the increasing level of competition at this high- ly regarded competition," says General Manager Philippe Chevrollier. "We are very proud of our cheesemaking teams at both Marin French and Laura Chenel's for being such strong contenders where ingenuity, skill and know-how are key," he adds. The World Championship Cheese Contest, established in 1957, is organized by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. This year, the organization saw a record 2,955 entries from 23 countries and 31 states.

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