Margarita popsicles? Now there’s a perfect example of one of the latest food trends—the mixing of our childhood memories with our adult behavior.
Walk through any mall and you are likely to see the hottest new color for Spring on display. It’s a perfect margarita, part yellow and part green, and it’s showing up in everything from coats to clothing to accessories.
And, for the restaurant chefs and bartenders? Margarita marinades on meat, skinny margaritas with fewer calories, and margarita flavor and color used in desserts are all showing up across the nation.
So, in honor of one of the spring season’s most popular colors—and one of this year’s most on-trend flavors—The Food Channel took a look at margarita through the eyes of chefs, pastry chefs, brewers, a candy maker, and even a popular food industry event.
On the eve of the opening of the National Restaurant Association’s annual conference, which took place this month in Chicago, Noble, a brand and food marketing agency, hosted a variety of food industry notables for its 15th annual Color Party and sampled a few of the on-trend margarita items.
The menu included Spiced Short Rib Taquitos with mango “Margarita” salsa and avocado puree, from Smith & Wollensky Steak House; Camaron Tacos with shrimp, roasted garlic, chipotle mojo and avocado served in homemade corn tortillas from Mercadito Restaurant, Pistachio Macaroons from the French Pastry School of Kennedy-Kings College, the Skinny Rita with TY KU Liqueur and Marisol Latin Style White Ale from Goose Island Brewery.
Executive Chef Matt King of the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group explained how he is working within the trend. He said, “Using traditional Latin ingredients we have the bold meaty and slightly salty flavor of the short rib, spice from the ancho chile, sweet from mango salsa and a hint of richness from the Gevalia coffee rub. The short rib taquitos truly are all about balancing and layering flavors to work together building a dish where the flavor evolves with each bite."
The menu also featured Salmon Ceviche with Habanero Pepper Infused Maestro Dobel Tequila Espuma from Smith & Wollensky, plus a made-to-order guacamole, and Margarita bar with a grapefruit inspired Margarita and a grilled pineapple Margarita. And, of course, we can’t forget the lime-colored M&M candies from MARS, or the margarita Jelly Belly jelly beans provided by the Jelly Belly Candy Company, which makes its candy in Chicago!
French Pastry School Instructor and Chef Scott Green told us that while alcohol-influenced—and infused—pastry is right on trend, he is careful to honor the classics. “The macaroon is simply almond flour and meringue, and yet it’s wildly popular,” he said. Green also provided a chocolate sculpture for the event—fitting, since he and two others are currently preparing to represent the United States at the 2012 World Pastry Team championship, being held in July in Las Vegas.
That homage to classic preparation was seen in the creations of Chef Patricio Sandoval of Mercadito, as well. “ Everything we do has an historic tradition, with the new spin of seasonal ingredients,” he said. “People need to know they are getting something special when they go out to eat, but we believe in the basics.”
Adam Lilly, Brand Director for Goose Island, said their most recent brews have grown out of “the passion that our brewers have for the combination of food and beer.” The Marisol was actually the first of what he calls a “collaborative beer,” made in conjunction with a Chef—in this case, Rick Bayless, who owns several Latin-themed restaurants in Chicago (Topolobampo, Frontera Grill, Xoco, and the new Frontera Fresco in Macy’s flagship State Street store and Tortas Frontera at O’Hare International Airport).
Lilly explains, “We created this brew to complement Latin flavors. It’s available only in draft, and is refreshing and easy to drink.” Goose Island is continuing its customization series with a variety of different chefs, and Lilly says they are “continuing to push boundaries with ingredients and processes,” including their unique barrel aging of beers.
TY KU Premium Sake and Spirits also demonstrated its commitment to flavor with its SkinnyRita. Danielle Duncan, TY KU Market Manager in Illinois, attended the Color Party and told us, “The TY KU brand goal is to showcase the incredible taste and the inherent benefits of Japanese Sake & Spirits. More and more, consumers care about what they put into their bodies and that the ingredients they consume are both natural and pure.” The Skinny Rita was a hit thanks to both its flavor and lower calories, and is impacting the growth of the company to the fact that their products are all natural and low calorie and that the sake portfolio is free of sulfites and gluten.
Chef Green summed up the presentations by these chefs by saying, “The challenge is to stand out. Recognize what it is that you do well. You have to do what makes you happy. People can taste passion.”
So, while margarita popsicles and bright colors may fade from style, the memories created by these chefs at the 2012 Noble Color Party won’t soon be forgotten. Because each of these companies and products showcased were created with passion—and passion never goes off trend or out of style!
Check out these recipes from the event:
Note: The Food Channel, LLC is a sister property of Noble.