The Best Sandwiches Put an Egg on It!

Every year I look forward to discovering the winners from Restaurant Hospitality’Best Sandwiches in America Contest. Since we won’t see this year’s winners until June, I rambled down memory lane, reading commentary from judges and the 2016 winners about their dishes.

Hot Dog/Sausage Category

The All American from Prairie Dogs Hot Dogs & Handcrafted Sausage in Minneapolis was made with an all-beef hot dog, crispy pork belly, sriracha aioli and Southern-style hash browns topped with a soft fried egg. I admit, this one surprised me. I mean, the winning hot dog has an egg on it? Love it! Sounds like the judges agreed:

“While an egg on a hotdog may confuse some people, it doesn’t take long for them to realize that once the yolk is broken, you’ve just added another sauce to an already great sandwich featuring pork belly. None of its rocket science, but one taste of this dog and your taste buds will fly to the moon.”

Pork Category

The Open-Faced Pork Schnitzel Sandwich from Bohemian House in Chicago was created with horseradish cream, sauerkraut, caramelized onion spread, Emmentaler cheese, a fried egg, pickled dill, mustard and grilled light rye bread. No surprise here – eggs are showing up all over menus with diverse partners. Here’s what the judges had to say about the chef:

“… he clearly sat down and mapped out the types of ingredients that would take a delicious slab of breaded pork and make it exceptional. It’s a virtuoso balancing act that blew us away.”

Breakfast Category

The biscuit donut, fried egg, pimento cheese and spicy fried chicken winner was made by Blue Smoke in NYC, and called Bright-Eyed Breakfast Sandwich. I’ll let the chef speak for the dish:

“Our fried chicken is seasoned with homemade hot sauce powder, and the donut is fully glazed with honey and sprinkled with Aleppo pepper. When you press down on the sandwich, the sunny side up egg yolk pops up through the donut hole, hence the name Bright-Eyed Breakfast Sandwich.”

Inspired! Can’t wait to see this year’s masterpieces.

2017-05-01 09:18:03

Martha Washington’s Great Cake

Since many of you are avid foodies I felt you’d want to add this recipe to your collection as it’s unlikely to already be there. And egg lovers should find it even more interesting – this is a cake that celebrates them.

It has quite a pedigree too, being well over 200 years old and bequeathed to us from Martha Washington. It is her Great Cake recipe, something no eighteenth-century house wife would have been without. Commonly made with spices, candied fruit, sherry and brandy, a Great Cake was a huge celebratory cake traditionally served during the Christmas holidays.

We know this to be Martha’s personal recipe as it was meticulously copied down by her granddaughter, Martha Custis. There are several existing copies of this recipe but the one transcribed by her granddaughter reads:

“Take 40 eggs & divide the whites from the yolks & beat them to a froth then work 4 pounds of butter to a cream & put the whites of eggs to it a spoon full at a time till it is well work’d then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powder’d to it in the same manner than put in the Youlks of eggs and 5 pounds of flower and 5 pounds of fruit, 2 hours will bake it add to it half an ounce of mace and nutmeg half a pint of wine & some fresh brandy.”

Although the younger Martha’s transcript was light on punctuation – not to mention details like types of fruit, and the amount and timing of adding the brandy and wine – she made sure to make the important facts clear. With 40 eggs, that must have been a great cake indeed! 

2017-04-17 10:00:04

Traditional Easter Aftermath

I remember my grandmother coming over to our house a couple of weeks before Easter each year to oversee our family’s tradition of dying eggs. “This is going to be fun!” she’d always assure us older kids. And despite feeling too grown up to join in, we did, and she was right. It was fun.

However, the coloring took second place to the egg salad we’d make after Easter, another family tradition. No, we didn’t use the colored eggs – they’d endured abuse as the focus of impromptu games unofficially called who-can-keep-it-spinning-the-longest, and see-if-you-can-catch-it. So by Easter our masterpieces were a scarce commodity.

But we loved our post-Easter egg salad, which was as much a part of our family’s tradition as Thanksgiving turkey. Ours was a very simple recipe: lots of hard-cooked eggs, some mayo, some yellow mustard and, a feature I’ve been told makes it “Tennessee-style,” some cider vinegar.

As I grew older I put my own spin on it. First I added celery for crunch, then tried jalapenos and sometimes just dill, chives or bacon. In fact, I found that just about anything I might put into an omelet worked well in egg salad. It’s a highly customizable item. As long as it still has the stick-to-itiveness to hang onto a piece of croissant, bread or crusty roll, I can keep on adding. If it no longer contains enough fluid to stick, I’ll add in a dollop of mayo or mustard, or just eat it in a bowl like… well… a salad.

Just a thought: doesn’t such a versatile and customizable item sound like an option in addition to fish fries on Fridays?

2017-04-03 09:54:17

Foodie Heaven

I’m about to share with you an apparently highly guarded secret. At least in my recent unscientific survey of industry colleagues waiting for a meeting to begin, I found I was the only one who knew about it. Secret or not, I’m sharing it with you, and thinking the product and menu development people among you might be happy I did.

I speak of “Food52,” a veritable treasure chest of food facts, musings, recipes, histories and hacks. Consider subjects like Poached Eggs Belong on a Bed of YogurtThe Surprising, Unorthodox Ingredient for Loftier, Fluffier Biscuits (hint: it’s an egg); and did-you-knows like What’s Really Happening Inside a Whiskey Barrel?

It’s a food fiend’s delight.

I’m hoping your introduction to this wealth of food-related intel will be helpful. Full disclosure, this is a consumer site, but don't roll your eyes until you take a look. The area to which I'm about to direct you may very well give you the inspiration for your next menu hit.

Enjoy the Masala Unda, basically Indian deviled eggs with ginger, coconut and garlic. The skillet of Spicy Rice Cakes with 7-minute Eggs might be more to your taste or maybe the Bacon & Egg Ramen or Shakshuka Pizza. These are among the 136 recipes that were entries into the site’s 2016 contest, “Your Favorite Way to Eat Eggs for Dinner.”

I hope you find the recipes showcasing creative uses of eggs at dinner of interest, but that’s just one aspect of this site. You’ll find hundreds of recipes and unique uses for any foods and ingredients you may find interesting – the unusual, the little known and the historic can be found here. I hope you enjoy it and that your menu may be the more interesting for it.

2017-03-20 09:08:22

Watching C-Stores

I recently ran across an article in CSP magazine, the prime publication for c-store owners and management. As I read about c-store hot foods, their trends and their popularity, I was struck by the similarity to what I’m reading in foodservice pubs. Info on bolder flavors; the focus on global cuisines; sambal as the trendy hot spice; and breakfast sandwiches reigning supreme in the morning – no, it’s not donuts, but a lot of breakfast sandwiches being purchased there instead of elsewhere.

Sheetz offers made-to-order, customizable breakfast sandwiches 24/7 every day of the year; Sriracha Bites and Buffalo Chicken Bites are popular at Wawa; and the Hub Convenience Stores partner in-store with Schlotsky’s, Godfather’s Pizza and Cinnabon. The most recent news is the breakfast pizza rolled out in January by 7-Eleven as part of its “two for $2”  pizza slice offer. It’s made with a peppered cream gravy base topped with smoked bacon, breakfast sausage, hickory-smoked ham, scrambled eggs, and Cheddar and mozzarella on top of a flaky biscuit crust. An entire pizza goes for $5.55.

C-store foodservice has come a long way since just hot dogs and fountain drinks.

If you’re still not sufficiently interested, here are some data points to perk you up: (Source: Technomic Q2 2016 Convenience Store MarketBrief )

  • 88% of c-store foodservice customers surveyed say they purchase hot foods from c-stores; they are also spending more on foodservice throughout the day.
  • 44% of c-store foodservice customers purchase c-store hot foods more often than they did one year prior.
  • 62% of c-store hot food customers visit for breakfast, and 51% would be likely to buy breakfast sandwiches.

Not exactly your fathers’ convenience store.

2017-03-06 09:46:39

Bowled Over with Flavor

When we’re pressed for time there’s nothing more convenient than getting our eggs, meat and cheese all together in one handy package, sometimes wrapped up in a hot biscuit, muffin or croissant, but with increasing frequency also available in a breakfast bowl.

Current QSR offerings include McDonald’s Fruit & Maple Oatmeal with cranberries, raisins and diced apples; and Taco Bell’s Mini Skillet Bowl of scrambled eggs, seasoned potatoes, melted cheese and pico de gallo, which can be customized with items including bacon, steak and guacamole. If these dishes can be provided via drive-thrus, what’s to stop them from being made with quinoa, seasoned rice or veggie hash and topped with kimchi, spiced veggie medleys, avocado, cashews or a soft cooked or fried egg?

Here are some real-life examples to spark creativity, whether for handing through a window or serving in-house:

  • Crispy Rice Bowl: radish, scallion, onion, cucumber, tomato, fried egg, halloumi and lemon. (Ruby’s Café, NYC, only at Murray Hill location)
  • Breakfast Grit Bowl: southern-style grits, smoked gouda, chorizo, salsa verde, cilantro, pickled jalapeño and poached egg. (Stomping Ground, Alexandria, Va.)
  • The Jerusalem Bowl: warm wheat berries, lentils and barley, zahtar chicken, roasted green chilies and two fried eggs. (The Sycamore Kitchen, L.A.)
  • Breakfast Bowl: brown rice porridge with avocado, lentil sprouts, kimchi, salsa verde and a spicy egg. (Hungry Pigeon, Philadelphia)
  • Carolina Rice Bowl: with house-made green garlic pecan pesto, house ricotta, local pickled vegetables and a poached egg. (CBD Provisions, Dallas)

And each of them mixed together in one symphony of flavors! 

2017-02-20 10:44:14

The forecast remains sunny

It feels like a good time to take stock of the breakfast daypart in foodservice.

First things first: the 2016 Datassential breakfast keynote report* shows that among its panel of 313 operators, 54% have seen breakfast sales rise over the past year. This continued increase year after year is especially impressive considering the disappointing data coming from other dayparts.

Then there’s the fact that the breakfast daypart is becoming difficult to define. Is it whatever we consume early in the day, say until 9:00? Or should that be until 10:30? Maybe only traditional breakfast foods? Does it include eggs, cereal or waffles eaten after midnight? Should we include egg-topped burgers? Normalizing all-day breakfast has made traditional daypart lines fuzzy.

And let’s not forget the disagreement in expectations of different demographic groups. While the adventure of authentic ethnic foods attracts younger groups who eat breakfast throughout the day, their grandparents are more likely to want traditional comfort foods in the morning. Truly, the how, what and when of many people’s breakfast habits would make your dear old Grandma feel faint.

Datassential’s report shows that egg dishes are menued at 9 out of 10 operations. Those offering both the usual Benedicts, omelets and breakfast sandwiches, as well as versions with unexpected ingredients and ethnic twists, will keep a wide spectrum of people happy.

The research also found that 42% of consumers like to eat p.m. foods in the a.m. – think breakfast pizzas or burgers – while the reverse, “brinner,” is beginning to be an actual marketing focus. Case in point is the dinner menu at NYC’s Clinton St. Baking Company, which has an entire section labeled “Breakfast for Dinner.” 

Bottom line: the foodservice breakfast daypart has become a dynamic opportunity and that’s an exciting place to be doing business.

* Datassential, The Keynote Report: Breakfast, November 2016 

2017-02-06 08:30:01

“New” Egg Dishes (Part 2)

Two weeks ago In the first half of this blog I described Egg Hoppers, a delicate Sri Lankan pancake made into a crisp basket cradling an eggy treat. Now we move around the globe to the Eurasian country of Georgia to find the hearty Khachapuri, essentially a cheese-filled bread. It’s one of Georgia’s national dishes but is also popular in surrounding countries. In fact, although the origin of Khachapuri is not in dispute, it’s so popular in Israel that it’s considered an Israeli dish. That’s not unlike Americans thinking of French fries (claimed by both Belgium and France) as ours.

The Georgian Khachapuri is similar to an Italian calzone or cheese pizza, making it attractive to the American palate at any time of the day. In the most commonly photographed U.S. version, the dough is formed into a flattened football shape with a well in the center to hold the cheese. An outer crust keeps the melting cheese inside from escaping. Operators can get creative by adding meats, veggies, spices and condiments, or let guests customize the dish as they would a pizza.

The dough and cheese are baked until the bread is golden and the cheese is melted. An egg and a large dollop of butter are normally added on top of the cheese, with the usual way to eat it being to pull off pieces of the thick, doughy crust and dip them into the cheese, butter and soft egg mixture. Being easy to share and customize makes it perfect for a family night, or groups of Millennials or Gen Zs.

2017-01-23 08:56:48

“New” Egg Dishes

I’ve been thinking about eggs lately. Actually, I think about eggs a lot – you already knew that. But recently it seems that everywhere I look I see new articles on discoveries of new egg dishes. New to us, yes, but not to the millions of people who’ve been eating them in Sri Lanka or South America for years. Many of these new dishes have been staples in other countries for decades or even centuries. It’s a classic case of If a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one to hear it… Except in this case millions of people have been eating these dishes but we weren’t there to hear of it.

One of the dishes that’s begun to receive attention is the Egg Hopper. (Fun name, yes?) The vast majority of recipes, articles and research mentions for hoppers just began to show up in 2015/2016 so this one is definitely new to us. A plain hopper is a common Sri Lankan breakfast item, basically a deep, lacy basket made from a thin rice flour and coconut milk pancake. It can be eaten at any time of day, commonly with an egg filling, but also holding curries, chicken or veggies. An egg hopper is made by cracking an egg into the hopper as it cooks, and is usually eaten with spicy sambols, relishes or coconut gravy.

Look for Egg Hopper on the Chef’s Tasting Menu at 1601 Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco, or the Aappa (hoppers) on the menu at Sigiri in NYC. As for those of us in Chicago, we’ll wait impatiently to find hoppers farther inland.

2017-01-09 14:13:41

The most wonderful time of the year

Don’t you just love this time of year? It’s that wonderful season when we make guesses about things as yet unseen, things about which we have only an inkling. Then, finally, the day arrives when we open the first one, and the future begins to take form. I speak, of course, of the annual distribution of next year’s foodservice forecasts.

Every forecast arriving to our inboxes makes an interesting and valuable read, and adding them together creates a well-rounded picture of the future of our industry. One of my recent favorites comes from a group you may not know, Andrew Freeman & Company (AF&C). Not only is the report entertaining but it also dives deep into many trend details and highlights examples of each.

Their 2017 Trend Report continues to amuse and educate, this year spotlighting several big trends that are particularly egg-friendly. The 2017 Dish of the Year – drum roll please – is the breakfast sandwich, something you might have seen me mention once or twice. The report states that breakfast sandwiches are popping up on dinner menus like the bacon, egg and harissa sandwich at the 112 Eatery in Minneapolis, and at Michelin-starred restaurants like Pineapple and Pearls in D.C. The entry closes by thanking 2016 for bringing us the all-day breakfast menu.

AF&C named Filipino the Cuisine of the Year, using examples like Buffalo Theory in San Francisco with its Sisig and Grits, a pork medley with chilies, onions, poached egg, chicharrón and cheesy grits. The growing trend of grain bowls is also discussed, citing one at NYC’s Lexington Brass, made with farro, heirloom tomatoes, toasted sesame seeds, falafel, feta and sunny-side-up egg with sumac vinaigrette.

Put this one on your list of thought-provoking year-end reads.

2016-12-26 07:02:54