Vendors hawk food trucks to chef uniforms, digital advertising systems to slush machines. Also in the mix at this Wisconsin Restaurant Association event are food and beverage samples from tiny to major manufacturers.
In the showcase are new products, some of which the average consumer can order online, buy at their local market or seek out when traveling. For example:
European-trained chef Monique Jamet Hooker’s credits include the operation of a successful Chicago culinary school and restaurant (Monique’s Café), hosting “The Seasonal Kitchen” television show and writing “Cooking with the Seasons” (published long before the concept gained popularity with mainstream chefs).
Now she lives in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area and has come out of retirement to develop Got2HavPie, products that use organic ingredients from family farms and involve clients at Vernon Area Rehabilitation Center.
The business began with a line of certified-organic piecrusts, for bakers who don’t have the time to make the perfect crust on their own.
Newer products include four types of gluten-free cookie dough (chocolate chip, cranberry, ginger nibs and hazelnut), croissants, brissants (a cross between a croissant and brioche) and the European kouign-amann (a crusty, buttery, multi-level cake made with bread dough). gottohavpie.com
How new is the Citrus Ginger BellaVitano from Sartori Company, the globally respected artisan cheese producer in Plymouth, in its 76th year of business? Specialty shops began selling it less than two months ago.
The fruity flavor in this semi-hard cheese is subtle and a pleasant surprise. The product was under development two years at Sartori, best known for its SarVecchio, which is similar to a Parmesan and a best of show winner nationally and internationally. sartoricheese.com, 800-558-5888
Nueske’s applewood-smoked meats were introduced during the Depression era in Wittenberg and 80-plus years later remain a huge hit, especially among chefs in some of the Upper Midwest’s finest restaurants.
Smoked bacon and ham are at the core of production, although other pork specialties, poultry and beef cuts also are sold. The company’s newest product is the Bacon Cheddar Bratwurst, which is more finely ground than the average brat. Smoked bacon added to the recipe, as is cheddar from Vern’s Cheese in Chilton. nueskes.com, 800-392-2266
Bourbon Pecan Pie is the newest flavor for 2015 from Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, a family business based in Madison since 1962. Expect bourbon-flavor ice cream with a swirl of sea salt chocolate fudge ripple and roasted pecans.
The ice cream maker produces 100 flavors at their plant and has three retail stores in Madison, which double as training centers for wholesale customers. chocolateshoppeicecream.com, 800-466-8043
Making their debut at the Midwest Foodservice Expo this year was Sotea LLC, the Green Bay maker of fruity and carbonated teas. Green tea extracts, natural fruit extracts and natural cane sugars add health and nutritional benefits to these beverages, elevating them beyond the simply sweet fizz of pop.
The concept was developed with an assist from a flavor specialist. Citrus-A-Peel, Blackberry Breeze, Peach Passion and Mojito Mist already are stocked in grocery stores in and near Green Bay. mysotea.com, 920-550-1832
Sprecher Brewing Company, Milwaukee, is best known for its bottled beers and sodas, but the company creates and sells food items, too. That includes beer-flavored barbecue sauces and kettle chips, beer- and root-beer-spiked mustards, a beer bread mix and popcorn that tastes like root beer.
The brewer’s newest product is Hard Ginger Beer, which also contains a strong lime flavor. The ginger beer comes after the release of Hard Root Beer, which is a bourbon-flavored malt beverage. sprecherbrewery.com, 414-964-2739
Squeezable sauerkraut, marketed as less mess and waste than the traditionally packaged and prepared version, is the first product for Sconnie Foods, Eau Claire. It is sold in a plastic container similar to the average mustard, although the spout for dispensing is wider.
“Keep calm and squeeze kraut” is inventor Tracy Lundberg’s fun motto. Her $5,000 grand prize from The Idea Challenge, sponsored by the Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corp., helped along product development. The Bavarian version adds sugar and caraway seeds to the fermented cabbage. sconniefoods.com
Becky’s Blissful Bakery, Pewaukee, since 2007 has stirred up sweet, from-scratch batches of caramels without using corn syrup. Owner Rebecca Scarberry consulted a food scientist to perfect her recipe, and now her customers include Sundara Spa in Wisconsin Dells.
Becky’s makes sea salt caramels, dark chocolate sea salt caramels, salted beer and pretzel caramels and straightforward caramels in 20-pound batches. Another way to look at it: That’s 30,000 caramels per week. beckysblissfulbakery.com, 262-327-4111