RCA, the association of the Research Chefs of America, held its annual meeting, dubbed Culinology, in Charlotte recently, with thousands of culinarians from restaurants, food purveyors, and universities around the country in attendance.
RCA’s members are the food scientists of the restaurant world, pressing the culinary envelop with the latest techniques, technologies, and flavor combinations.
At the convention’s expo in the Charlotte Convention Center, hundreds of exhibitors offered samples of their latest products, everything from the newest hybrid tomato, to machines that lend a smokey goodness to anything you choose, in record time.
Sustainability remains a major theme in the food world, but the words of the weekend were flavor, taste, and fragrance, with many expo booths devoted to enhancing the experience of these key elements of dining.
Healthier foods made an impact as well. Neutraceutical ingredients (foods that are good for you), including many derived from the colors of fruits and vegetables, debuted alongside methods for lowering salt content and vegetarian dishes that appeal to the masses. Researchers have discovered that much of the nutritional value, including vitamins and other nutrients, of fruits and vegetables are bound up in their colors. The more vivid the color – the more healthy the food.
Treats featuring high-tech gums and gels, cream alternatives and dairy extenders, freeze-dried herbs, seasoning sprays, bean-rice fusions, gluten free hoagies, and a terrific pudding made of cellulose, faced off against dishes made with more familiar ingredients such as almonds, cranberries, truffle infused salt, mushrooms, hot and mild peppers, and much more, in a contest to find the most innovative and useful product, voted on by everyone attending the expo. Korean and Thai flavors vied with Greek and Mediterranean spice mixes, Southern comfort foods battled duck meatballs in tamarind glaze, pickled pimento cheese dogs went mano-a-mano with Tabasco-spiked sweet tea.
Our money was on the dark chocolate and almond butter s’mores from the Almond Board of California or the colorful fruit and vegetable infused mini-raviolis from GNT USA. However when the votes were counted, the winner was the purple ginger lemonade from Vegetable Juices, Inc., containing half a serving of vegetables in every 8 oz. serving. Look for it – or similar libations – on restaurant and bar menus soon.
For more info on events and attractions in Charlotte and the Carolinas, visit www.CarolinasBest.com
Renee Wright is the author of the Explorer’s Guide to Myrtle Beach and South Carolina’s Grand Strand, published in 2012 by Countryman Press.
Contact Renee by email at restaurantexaminer (at) gmail.com