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November 14, 2019

5 Trending Proteins To Consider This Season

You know what day it is—the countdowns toward the holiday season are all around. Less shopping time! Early deals! And on it goes. But we’re not interested in the glitter right now. Instead, we’re thinking about the flavor of the season, the interesting ways we might shake up the plate, surprise a guest, and bring about something new while we’re at it.


What if you brought in a very special variety of pork? Kurobuta pork, specifically. Basically, the Waygu of the pork world, Kurobuta pork comes from the Berkshire pig and is known for being flavorful and incredibly tender. American Social in Miami serves it with cilantro, guava BBQ, spicy mayo, queso fresco, chayote slaw, Mexican street corn and Anthony’s Restaurant in the Pacific Northwest serves in a traditional Eggs Benedict. Mendocino Farms in California and Texas fancies up their sandwich menu by featuring the pork as the star of a Pork Belly Sandwich. All sounds delightful, right?

Bone Marrow continues to join menus and delight those that take the chance on the craveable flavor. Currently sitting on 2.1% of US menus and up 41.4% over the last 4 years, according to Datassential, we have high hopes for this creamy power punch. We were inspired by Atlas in Atlanta and their New Potato Gnocchi with white truffles d’alba, bone marrow leek puree, and garlic crumbs. Bacon Bros Public House in Greenville, SC features a Braised Local Beef Stew packed with bone marrow mash, carrots, English peas, leeks, mushrooms, and caramelized onion gravy. Yes, please.

What’s your stance on Rabbit? We give it a yes, of course, and have seen it more and more as restauranteurs and butchers have explored protein varieties. The growth rate has jumped up and down over the last few years, but we especially like the creativity we’ve witnessed on various menus. Al Biernat’s in Dallas, for instance, offers a Smoked Duck and Rabbit Sausage paired with onion, pimento, and jalapeno. Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA features Grilled Devil’s Gulch Ranch Rabbit with celery root purée, spinach, and mustard sauce. But we particularly like the southern adaptation at Dusek’s Board and Beer in Chicago where they offer Chicken Fried Rabbit served with hoppin’ john risotto, okra, chicory greens, pancetta, and brown tabasco.

You might have Venison on your mind right about now, but what about Elk? At Bizzaro Italian Café in Seattle, you could order their Elk Bolognese and experience wild Oregon Elk with fennel, thyme, Mama Lil's peppers, and pork shoulder slowly simmered into a creamy ragu tossed with handmade pappardelle ribbon pasta. Or share an Elk Quesadilla with friends and family at Hatch Taqueria & Tequilas in Jackson Hole where they combine marinated elk with grilled onions and peppers and Oaxaca cheese and load on a flour tortilla. Prepare to see more elk in the days to come, too. Datassential predicts double digital growth of Elk at 12.5% over the next 4 years.

One last protein to consider: Guanciale. Heard of it? It’s on a small number of menus, only 1.3%, and has been growing at over 20% in the last few years. Even more, Datassential predicts the delicious, robustly flavored meat will grow another 24% over the next 4 years. The name is derived from the Italian word for “cheek” which sums it up. Simply put, Guanciale is an Italian cured meat product prepared from the jowl or cheeks of the pig and there is no substitute, according to our team. If you can grab a version from your local butcher, consider yourself lucky. The fabulous flavor from the fat is sure to delight your guests. 40 Paper in Camden, Maine uses it across their menu—in their Bucatini Carbonara, Roasted Brussels Sprouts along with Sweet Turnips and Onions, and on their curated menus.

Whew, that’s it for today! Will you tell us if you’ve tried another up and coming protein worth talking about? We’re always on the hunt, no pun intended, and curious how we might turn it into a recipe. Send the ideas here, if you’re inclined. Or send a note on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and LinkedIn where a few thousand friends will thank you for the inspiration. For now, I’m off to our local butcher to see about some Guanciale.

Bo Chhay
Manager, Insight & Communication
Custom Culinary, Inc.