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The Ghost Pepper in the Foodservice Machine

The Ghost Pepper in the Foodservice Machine

Technomic identifies six emerging “hot” trends in food, snacks, beverages

Published in CSP Daily News

CHICAGO — Foodservice research and consulting firm Technomic has identified trends emerging for the second half of 2014, including hot peppers and sauces beyond Sriracha, barbecue flavors in QSR handhelds and classic snack brands incorporated into new menu offerings.

Here’s what Technomic experts see emerging:

  1. The Next Sriracha: Thailand’s take-the-top-off-your-head chile-and-vinegar condiment is the new chipotle. Now, customers are seeking newer and even bolder taste sensations imparted by peppers and sauces from Asia, Latin America and North Africa: habanero, serrano, harissa, shishito, togarashi, sweet chili, ghost pepper and spicy mayos and aiolis.
  2. Barbecue Love: Authentic regional interpretations of slow-cooked barbecue continue to have broad appeal, but the latest trend is the application of barbecue sauces and flavors to handheld offerings like sandwiches and pizza, often with barbecue pulled pork as the core protein. Even conventional barbecue chains have rolled out nontraditional barbecue-inspired handhelds, such as the BBQ Chicken Lettuce Wrap LTO at Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que.
  3. Name That Snack: Classic snacks are being incorporated into novelty foods that capture attention with over-the-top indulgence, like Subway’s Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt, Crumbs Bake Shop’s Girl Scout Cookie cupcakes or Dunkin’ Donuts’ iced coffee flavors inspired by Baskin-Robbins ice creams.
  4. Asian-Style Small Plates: Asian-influenced bites include Lazy Dog Cafe’s Dim Sum Dumplings and the Chicken Sriracha Bites served with ranch dressing at bd’s Mongolian Grill, but even fine-dining restaurants are incorporating dim sum-style service.
  5. Beverages Bubbling Up: Specialty teas; lemonade-and-iced-tea blends; restaurant originals such as housemade sodas; smoothies beyond fruit, featuring surprising ingredients ranging from kale or peanut butter - all are seeing increases in menu incidence. Fast casuals lead the way—Pret A Manger added Beet Beautiful Juice with apple, carrot, beet and ginger; Grand Traverse Pie Co. unveiled a Pie Smoothie; and Panda Express is testing an in-store tea bar. When it comes to adult beverage trends, hops rule; IPAs and other hoppy craft beers are proliferating in many incarnations.
  6. Shrinking Menus: Across all mealparts, casual-dining chains are reducing menus. Operations can slow down when menus get too big; a less-is-more approach can create a more user-friendly customer experience. Will the success of narrowly focused fast casuals lead to more menu and operational simplification in full service?

Chicago-based Technomic provides comprehensive global information, analysis and insights to food industry executives through consulting, market research, online databases, tracking services and industry events.

Spicy extract sends man to city hospital

PORTSMOUTH — A 25-year-old man was brought to Portsmouth Regional Hospital on Sunday afternoon with severe abdominal pain after swallowing a quarter tablespoon of capsaicin extract, according to the city’s public police log. He was found behind Port City Nissan on the Spaulding Turnpike after he ingested the substance, which is derived from chili peppers.

The act was initially thought to be a suicide attempt, but police later learned the man “just really likes hot sauce,” according to the log.

Portsmouth Fire Chief Steve Achilles said the pepper extract is used in food preparation in small doses, but he hasn’t seen a case where someone was hospitalized for drinking it straight.

Achilles said the recommended first aid measure for complications after eating something spicy is to drink cold milk, or a 10-percent sugar solution, which can negate the burning effect. Water is not recommended when it comes to relief from the burn of hot peppers, he said.

The heat of a chili pepper is measured on the Scoville scale from zero (bell pepper) to as high as 2,200,000 units (Carolina Reaper).

Achilles said he is not sure why someone would want to ingest something as hot as straight capsaicin extract, but he has seen similar cases in the past with other food ingredients. The Cinnamon Challenge, for example, which tasked a person to eat 1 tablespoon of cinnamon without the use of water in less than 60 seconds, has been known to sicken many people.

The fire chief said most of the food-related emergencies he has experienced are related to allergies or minor poisoning.

The History of Chilli as Poison Gas

Chilli is a potent spice; that much is well known. It is well-enough known that cooking with chilli can be a cough-inducing affair – and there’s a good reason why the Hunan kitchen is always a separate room and the ‘stovetop’ typically right at a window… if not on the balcony.

What’s less well known but keeps drawing attention is the history of chilli smoke as something of a poison gas. In some of its guises, it outright takes the prize for having been a means of war, long before the industrialization of war that came to a first dark flowering during WWI (the beginning of which now lies 100 years in the past), in others, it’s been rather less destructive.

One of the chilli’s traditional uses that somehow keeps attracting people’s attention is that as an educational means.

Detail from Codex Mendoza: Aztec children's punishment w| smoke of burning chiles

Detail from Codex Mendoza: Aztec children’s punishment w| smoke of burning chiles

Among many a cultural group where the cuisine is spicy, eating hot chilli is a sign that one has grown up into adulthood, but the toughness associated with the chilli had another, very different, context among the Aztecs, as well: Male children who didn’t want to listen were punished by being held over the acrid smoke of burning chilli (female ones only had to kneel in front of it…). Supposedly, this punishment was still practiced among the Popoloca in Southern Puebla in the 1960s.

Chilli was also among the things that were given as tribute to the Aztec kings.

Empires being as they are, tribute payments didn’t always go without grudges, though, and so it happens that we get to an outright chilli gas chamber: In the 1450s, the people of Cuetlaxtlan in the Northeast of the Aztec empire revolted against their overlords, killed their Mexica (Aztec) governor – and when messengers arrived to ask why the tribute hadn’t been paid, the local lords locked them into a room into which they led the smoke of burning chilli until the messengers were dead…

More usually, though, the smoke of burning chilli is considered rather more healing. To people, anyways.

Look at any book on incense, many of the reports about indigenous and otherwise traditional spiritual practices, and the smoke of some special substances is a sign straight to the gods. Hardly a substance more special than the chilli, but it’s smoke is a rather differently potent thing even when it comes to spiritual connotations:

In Southeast Asia and the Himalayas, as apparently among some indigenous groups in the Americas, there are places where the burning of chilli is considered a practice that will drive away evil spirits.

From Bhutan comes the great example of such burning pepper smoke being used to keep negative influences away from the stills lest they destroy the, uhm, potent spirits being brewed within.

Normally, of course, we’re just happy – if happily coughing at times – about the smell of frying peppers emanating from the kitchen, promising that good food is on its way ;)


Cooked Peppers Prompt Evacuation of Suburban Motel

Guests of Buffalo Grove Extended Stay America complained of burning in their throats
A motel in Buffalo Grove, northwest of Chicago, was evacuated Thursday night after guests complained of burning in their throats.

Firefighters traced the odor to someone cooking hot peppers on a stove on the first floor of the Extended Stay America, on the 1500 block of East Busch Parkway.

The hazardous materials response was requested at about 8:30 p.m. on reports of noxious fumes. Arriving firefighters were met with guests who complained of burning in the back of their throats.

The facility was ventilated and guests were allowed back into their rooms by 10:45 p.m.

No one was hospitalized or injured.


Seriously, Stop Refrigerating These Foods

By Christopher Snow April 25, 2014

Just stop it.

If you’re like a lot of people on the internet, you’re probably tired of people, governments, and disembodied voices telling you what to do. And to be fair, a lot of the things you shouldn’t put in your icebox are pretty self-evident.

You shouldn’t refrigerate pants (but should freeze them). You shouldn’t refrigerate a live mongoose. You probably shouldn’t refrigerate other refrigerators, because that’s wasteful.

But you know what? Since this list is potentially infinite, I guess we’ll save time and restrict ourselves to the foods many people think they should be refrigerating, but really don’t need to. Yes, that will be better.

Definitely Don’t Refrigerate…

There are some foods that are actively made worse by refrigeration. These are the items you should absolutely keep away from cold.


Refrigeration causes the starch in potatoes to turn to sugar, and while this might sound like a good thing, it gives them the wrong flavor. The skins will also darken prematurely while cooking, making them look less appetizing.


Potatoes[Credit: Flickr user “Buzz Hoffman”]
Here’s a weird one. You don’t have to refrigerate onions, but you do need to keep them physically separated from the potatoes. Spuds emit moisture and gases that will make your onions rot. Your best bet is to keep onions in the mesh bag they came in—they like air circulation.


Again, air circulation is key. Garlic bulbs will keep for two months without refrigeration, and if you keep them out of the damp air of the fridge you’ll avoid making all your other nearby produce smell like garlic. Some even say that refrigeration will make garlic sprout prematurely.


Is there anything more delicious and healthy than a ripe avocado? Avocado won’t ripen in cold conditions, so unless you need them to keep for awhile, you should let yours live outside the refrigerator until they’re ready to eat. There’s a popular legend suggesting the presence of the pit prevents browning, so if you only use half of an avocado, be sure to reserve the side with the pit.


Cold breaks down the cell walls in tomato flesh and causes them to become mushy and mealy. For better results, store them at room temperature and keep them out of direct sunlight, which can ripen them early and unevenly.


"I’m Chiquita banana and I’ve come to say, bananas have to ripen in a certain way." So went the original Chiquita commercial from the 1940s. Now, we’re not saying you should go and buy Chiquita brand bananas, but their refrigeration advice is solid.

Allow bananas to ripen at room temperature, and use your refrigerator when you want to slow the ripening process. Just be aware that refrigeration also happens to turn banana peels brown (though the interior is still unspoiled). Frozen bananas also make a great ice cream replacement for dieters.


Melon[Credit: Flickr user “el_finco”]
Fresh melon—uncut, we should specify—is best stored on the kitchen counter where it can properly ripen and sweeten. Only after you cut up your cantaloupe (or whatever) into bite-sized bits should the flesh be refrigerated (but never frozen).

Stone Fruits

Peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums, cherries, and so on should be ripened at room temperature, stem-end down. Only after the fruits start softening slightly to the touch and begin to smell sweet should they be moved to the refrigerator. Shelf life is three to five days after that.


Try to eat your bread before it gets to the point where you need to chill it to stave off mold, because if you end up refrigerating, the loaf will get tough and less tasty. For this reason, a lot of people freeze bread. Freezing preserves the texture, but then you have to deal with defrosting it. And who’s got the the time to microwave a slice of bread when they’re rushing to catch a train in the morning?


Cannolis[Credit: Flickr user “QuintanaRoo”]
It’s the same story with cookies and pastry. You can store them covered outside the fridge, and it’s true they won’t last quite as long, but refrigeration causes baked goods to go stale faster. Keep your cannolis on the countertop where they belong.

Hot Sauce

Not all hot sauces are created equal, but if it’s a vinegar-based hot sauce like Tabasco, you can almost always safely store it in the pantry for months on end. Cold weakens the flavor and changes the viscosity of the sauce, affecting the pour.


Once again the humid environment of a refrigerator is detrimental to the flavor of spices, and since most can be safely stored for years without refrigeration, there’s no benefit to cold storage at all.


Ugh. My family refrigerates honey and I’ll never understand why. Honey is one of the world’s earliest preservatives. It has a practically indefinite shelf life, and we’ve heard tales of archaeologists uncovering ancient Egyptian tombs with edible honey inside.

Don’t refrigerate honey. It’ll crystallize, and you’ll have to squeeze that stupid teddy bear even harder to get it out.

Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter
All-natural peanut butter does have to be refrigerated, because the peanut oil can rise, separate from the mash, and go rancid. Commercially processed peanut butter, on the other hand (like JIF and Skippy), can be stored for months without issue—even if the jar’s been opened already. But really, who can’t eat a jar of peanut butter in a month? It’s delicious, and good for you, too.


Nut oils (like hazelnut oil, mmm…) must be refrigerated, but for other types of oil you’re in the clear. Oils will become cloudy and harden when refrigerated, and while this doesn’t do lasting damage, you’ll need to wait for the oil to warm before it tastes right or flows properly again.

Maybe Don’t Refrigerate…

These are hotly contested. We’ve heard some pretty convincing stories of people storing these items at home without refrigeration, but you might want to keep them cool just in case.


Everybody stores apples in the fruit drawer, but that’s not entirely necessary. More importantly, it could reduce the amount of antioxidants in the fruit’s skin. Apples will keep for about a week outside the fridge, and depending on the variety they might last a bit longer inside—but whether the tradeoffs are worth it is up to you.


Go ahead and refrigerate your leftover iced coffee from lunch, but coffee beans and grounds should really be stored more carefully. Condensation created by the fridge or freezer can affect the flavor of the beans, and sensitive palates can detect the difference. For best results, store beans or grounds in an airtight container outside the refrigerator instead.


Certain organic eggs may be left out for a few days, as long as the shell is intact, but we’re not sure why you’d want to bother. You’ll get much better longevity out of a properly refrigerated egg, and there’s nothing smellier than a rotten one.


French Butter Dish[Credit: Wikimedia Commons, “James Sloss”]
Personally, I keep butter in a French butter dish, which holds butter upside down and inside an air pocket underwater. The water creates an airtight seal, while the butter remains easily spreadable at room temperature. The USDA doesn’t really advise this, but it’s working out fine so far.


Again, despite the “Refrigerate After Opening” labels, you really don’t have to refrigerate processed condiments like ketchup and mustard. They’ll do fine right there on the kitchen table, just like the ones left beside the menus at the local diner.

Salad Dressings

Some people refrigerate salad dressings, some don’t. Since most dressings are oil-based, and we’ve already established oil’s longevity outside the fridge, they should be fine. Salad dressings that aren’t oil-based are usually made of processed goop, and those are dense with preservatives anyway. Use your best judgment, of course.

Soy Sauce

The “Refrigerate After Opening” warning on that bottle of Kikkoman is only there because they’re required to write it by law. The truth is, all the salt in the sauce is going to keep the stuff safe for months without refrigeration.

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