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Friday, October 30, 2015

Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo in Los Angeles, California



As the 2015 Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo commenced at the Los Angeles Convention Center, the aromas of food permeated the air. Vendors from the United States, Canada, and Japan presented their products to restauranteurs, chefs, and hospitality agents. It is a great way for producers to showcase products because the audience comes to them.

A Celebration of Women Chefs in Fine Dining featured a panel of celebrated women chefs that explored, discussed, and debated issues related to today’s fine dining experience along with the evolution of a woman’s position in the kitchen as well as the food she creates. The panel included Chefs Zov Karamardian (Zov’s Bistro), Anne Willan (La Varenne), Cathy Pavlos (Provenance), Amy DiBiase (Tidal), Amanda Martin (Leoness Cellars Winery), and was moderated by Josh Kopelman (Dining Out SanDiego). One point about fine dining that has changed in California is the way the public perceives it. Not so long ago, patrons would get dressed up for a white linen dining experience. But now, especially in SoCal, patrons will show up in t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops and think it is okay. Most do not get turned away as the restauranteurs do not want to lose the business. The new generation of diners needs to get over their “entitlement attitude” and show the proper level of respect when choosing a fine dining experience. Put on nice, presentable clothing, take in the ambiance, enjoy the culinary creativity of these talented chefs, and most importantly, put the phone away. It’s okay to take a photo, but leave the social media and texting for after dinner.

The Food Shows and Ferdinand Metz Foodservice Forum presented the inaugural Torch Award to Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken for their outstanding achievements and contributions to the restaurant and foodservice community. These celebrated entrepreneurs, authors, co-owners/chefs of Border Grill Restaurants & Truck, and co-stars of over 350 episodes of the Food Network’s “Too Hot Tamales” joined Certified Master Chef Ferdinand Metz in the Culinary Demonstration Theater for an intimate one-on-one discussion and demoed their Peruvian Ceviche. The ceviche was delicious just like in the restaurants. The ceviche was not overly sour or citrusy, just right. The avocado added a creamy taste and texture. The pickled red onions added a tangy and zingy flavor to the mix. Susan and Mary Sue have long been avid participants in the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program and strive to use sustainable seafood at their restaurants and food truck.

Here are some innovative products to check out:

Mustache Mike’s has been a crowd favorite since the food truck craze started in SoCal. Mike started selling his family’s Italian ice at his children’s soccer games and has been a hit ever since. When the food truck craze hit, Mustache Mike’s was the perfect product to go onto a truck. At the show, they featured Da Bomb (cherry, blue razz, and lemon), Juicy Rancher (watermelon, lemon, and sour apple), Big Daddy (cherry, pineapple, and orange), and Juice Head (pineapple, banana, and orange). The Italian ice is so creamy yet they are dairy-free. No matter what the combination is, Mustache Mike’s has the flavor just for you and your guests.

OtaJoy by Otatuku presented chicken kaarage tossed in their Kimchi Sauce. It has the spicy, tangy, garlicky flavor of kimchi but works well as a sauce to toss fried chicken or pork, use as a sauce on a sandwich, taco, or burrito, or as a dipping sauce.

Gelati Celesti is a wholesale maker of gelato truffles, sorbet filled fresh fruits, gourmet ice cream cakes, and bulk gelato and sorbet. Dulce de Leche Gelato is creamy with the sweet caramel flavor infused into the gelato. The truffles would be great to have on the dessert menu or presented for special occasions like anniversaries and birthdays.

Sierra Cheese has been around since 1955 using recipes from the old country (Italy). Their string cheese is made just like the old days. You can actually pull the strands off unlike most commercial brands. The cheese also has a nice creamy and salty flavor.

Upper Crust Breads and BonAppé have been providing premium quality bakery goods to the foodservice and retail markets for over 30 years. Their Pretzel Bread has that salt-glazed, dark brown exterior with chewy texture inside. These would be perfect as dinner rolls for a bread basket or used on the appetizer menu for sliders.

Tamaki Rice has been ranked among the top Koshikikari grown in Japan by the Japanese Association of Rice Taste Appraisers. This rice is produced by a farmer in Sacramento Valley near the base of the Sutter Buttes. The combination of the cultural practices, soil characteristics, climate, and water that flows out of the Sierra Mountains, produces the perfect Koshihikari kernel. It has the perfect stickiness and flavor. It would be great as a side for sukiyaki, tempura, tonkatsu, and musubi. Tamaki Rice is available at Marukai and Mitsuwa Markets.

Imuraya Mochi Coconut Cream Frozen Dessert Salted Caramel is a fusion of Japanese-style mocha with a frozen coconut cream filling. It is dairy-free, gluten-free, HFCS-free, vegetarian friendly, and does not contain any artificial flavors or colors. The salted caramel tastes just like salted caramel ice cream. The coconut milk gives it the perfect creaminess.

Pasta Mia started from Diego Mazza’s love of his Northern Italy heritage. Pasta Mia has been producing beautifully authentic pasta for over 30 years. Four Cheese & Truffle Ravioli with Alfredo Grana Padano Sauce is the perfect addition to a menu at an Italian restaurant. The aroma of truffles draws you in and the pasta on the ravioli is cooked to perfection.

Big Island Organics began in 1996 by Greg Petersen and Kristal Roach on the Big Island of Hawaii. Hawaiian Gingerade has the unexpected balance of spicy ginger and tangy lemon. Their products are currently available at Bristol Farms, Lassen’s, Nugget Markets, New Leaf, Pharmaca, Breaux Mart, Akins, Harmons, Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, and Whole Foods.

Superior Farms served up Pulled American Lamb. There are 68,000 ranchers across the United States that raise lamb. Selective European cross-breeds make up Superior Farms’ USDA Prime and Choice which have large, muscular cuts with tender and mild taste. The pulled lamb was amazingly tender and full of flavor. It would be great inside a taco, burrito, or pulled lamb sandwich.

RoxiSpice’s Cyclone would be the ultimate centerpiece for a bar. The Rein Drink Mix constantly swirls and looks like one of those swirly metallic bowling balls. It has LEDs to illuminate for a mesmerizing show.

Sun Noodle Brand was started over 30 years ago in Honolulu, Hawaii by Hidehito Uki. They make approximately 100 types of products from fresh ramen noodles for noodle shops, Hawaiian saimin for local restaurants, cold Chinese noodles for in-flight meals to yakisoba for the home cook. Ramen Lab is their new creative lab, test kitchen, and tasting room in New York City. It is an arena where chefs from around the world come to showcase their traditional, regional, and nouveau noodle dishes in a pop-up setting.

Coca Cola was on hand with the Freestyle where 100+ drink choices are available for your choosing. More and more restaurants are going from the standard fountain to Freestyle to offer patrons more beverage choices. They also had samples of the Fanta line of sodas.

Save the Date for next year’s Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo – August 28-30, 2016!

To view more photos, please visit OC Food Diva’s Facebook page.


For more information:
Los Angeles Convention Center
1201 S Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Competitor’s and Judge’s Perspective of the coming World Food Championships 2015



In a week, the World Food Championships descends upon Kissimmee, FL for the ultimate food fight. I am following Keoni Simmons from San Diego, CA for this year’s World Food Championships. He is a classically-trained chef and owner of the Hungry Chef. He has even formulated an Original BBQ Sauce using local ingredients with an essence of Hawaii. His family is originally from Hawaii and both of us grew up on the same local food. I had to chance to meet this awesome chef and ask him about the WFC. I am also including my perspective as a judge.

From left to right: Jeff Roberto (Sushi on a Roll) and Keoni Simmons (Hungry Chef San Diego)
If you could give just one piece of advice to someone competing at WFC for the first time, what would it be?

KS: “I would tell them to have fun! I know it’s a competition. If you’re not having fun then it is not worth it.”

CM: “Make a mental plan of what needs to be done from prep to submission. Practice at home with timing and plating. One of the competitors last year lost track of time and ended up rushing to the turn in. She tripped and lost one of her judges’ plates as well as her presentation plate. The missing plate ended up being a zero and our table had to give her very low scores on the presentation.”

What is the most important thing to remember when competing?

KS: “There are actually a couple things to remember: 1) Pay attention to the clock. If you do not turn it in on time, you get zero points. 2) Stick to your game plan. Do not change things around at the last minute.”

CM: “Focus is the most important thing to remember. Do not pay attention to your competitors or what they are cooking. Focus on your dish during preparation and make your presentation count. After you turn in, then you can check out what everyone else is doing.”

How do you stay focused when there is $100,000 on the line?

KS: “I am not really thinking about the $100,000. I am there to lay the smack down on the other competitors. To me, if I win the money, it is just bacon sprinkles on top of my doughnut and makes it that much better!”

What is the most difficult aspect of the competition?

KS: “The waiting to compete. You have a 100 different thoughts going through your head on how to make your dish better. Ignore them and stick to your game plan.”

What is the best way to deal with the heat of the competition?

KS: “With an Ice Cold Beer!”

CM: “Having met Keoni, I observed that he is an even-keeled chef. I can see him being calm and collected with his second chance of competing at WFC. Now that he knows what is expected, it will be just that much easier for him this year.”

Tell me about your journey to WFC 2015. Do you know what you will be preparing this year?

KS: “Last year, we had a month to get ready for the competition. We were in first going into the final 10 of our category. This year, we have had a lot more time to come up with our dish, hopefully that will help. Right now it’s down to the Island Soar Boy 2.0 and a sandwich using ribeye for the Sandwich Competition.”

For more information:
Kissimmee, FL
November 3-10, 2015

Keoni Simmons, Hungry Chef

Monday, October 26, 2015

Burger Theory has the building blocks for a great meal in Anaheim, California



Holiday Inn is making its mark again but this time with a new burger restaurant concept – gourmet burgers and local craft beer in a fun, family atmosphere. This Anaheim location opened on June 24, 2015 and is the 8th test location before launching nationwide. Since it is located in the Anaheim Resort Area, the restaurant is adorned with artwork and flat-screen TVs displaying live sports and the Disney Channel for the kids. It’s a great place to go after a day of fun or even to meet for an impromptu business meal.

Key Lime Key West Martini is the invention of one of the servers at Burger Theory. It tastes like a combination of key lime pie and piña colada. It also looks like a key lime pie in the glass as well. Rating: 5/5

Firecracker Shrimp ($9) is lightly fried jumbo shrimp with sweet red chili sauce. The coating is light and crispy. The shrimp is perfectly cooked with a great snap. The sauce is the perfect balance of sweet and spicy and pairs nicely with the Key Lime Key West Martini. Rating: 4.8/5

Buttermilk Tenders ($8) are golden-brown marinated strips of chicken served with honey-mustard or barbecue sauce. The chicken tenders are tender and juicy after soaking in buttermilk overnight. The breading is light and crispy. Honey mustard is a great dipping sauce for this. Ranch would also be a great option to add as a dip choice. This dish pairs well with beer. Rating: 4.3/5

Tuscan Chicken Flatbread ($8) is topped with fresh pesto, caramelized onion, roasted red pepper, and mozzarella cheese. It has a great combination of flavors and a good amount of toppings. A thicker, sturdier crust might be better to hold all of the toppings on. Rating: 4/5

Lone Star ($10 single, $14 double) starts with a 1/3 lb. beef burger blend of chuck, brisket, and short rib and topped with cheddar cheese, thick-cut bacon, parmesan-panko onion ring, and BBQ sauce. The beef blend on the burger has a great flavor from the different cuts of beef and just the right amount of fat to keep the burger juicy. The fries have a fresh-cut flavor. Use the Heinz 57 as a dipping sauce for your fries. It’s better than ketchup! The burger could use a little more BBQ sauce and a battered onion ring would work better for a crispier texture. Rating: 4/5

The Boss ($14) starts with two 1/3 lb. beef burger blend of chuck, brisket, and short rib stuffed with bacon and topped with onion, sharp cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, lettuce, and KGB (Killer Good Burger) sauce. This is like a Juicy Lucy but stuffed with bacon instead of cheese. The burger is juicy and tender, but would be better if cooked to medium rare. The blend of the sharp cheddar and the nutty Swiss are remarkable. An addition of a small square of cheese in the middle with the bacon might help keep the bacon from falling out and stay inside the burger with each bite. Rating: 4.5/5



  • Optional veggie patty is 100% meatless with mixed grains and vegetables, turkey, and chicken breast can be substituted for some of the house burger menu items or you can BYB (Build Your Burger).



S’mores has a layer of chocolate and graham cracker effect with fire-roasted marshmallows on top. The chocolate layer has a brownie like texture with decadent chocolate flavor. The graham crackers add a crisp grittiness just like a graham cracker should. It is served warm like a lava cake with a lovely Kerr jar presentation. Rating: 5/5

Brownie Sundae is simple but effective – chocolate, whipped cream, and caramel. It is not huge and just the right size after a huge burger. The flavor is decadent yet not heavy. Rating: 4.5/5

Check out Burger Theory the next time you are in the Anaheim Resort area for business or pleasure.

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

  • Happy Hour every day from 5 pm to 7 pm featuring discounts on draft beer, house wines, and select appetizers.

For more information:
Burger Theory (inside Holiday Inn Anaheim Resort Area) 
1915 S Manchester Ave
Anaheim, CA 92802
+1.714.748.7777
Hours: Daily from 6 am to 11 am and 5 pm to 10 pm

Burger Theory Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato