Attracting Tourists with Local Produce
By Michelle Ponto
Canada is known for producing fresh tasting fruits and vegetables. Using these ingredients when they are in season not only adds colour and flavour to your menu, but draws in tourists who are visiting the area.
Whether you are located in the fertile soils of the Maritimes, the wine country of the Niagara regions or the orchards of British Columbia, fresh produce during the summer months is available in abundance.
"The value of fresh ingredients is that they have better nutritional value and a natural flavour profile," says Mike Hansen, Senior Director of Produce for Sysco.
But better nutrition is only one of the benefits of using fresh produce. Using indigenous fare adds authenticity to your cuisine and makes it a part of your region. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to distinguish yourself from your competition.
Creating Regionally Inspired Dishes
When creating a menu, Executive Chef Alex Petrollini says it's best to start with the end result in mind. Whether it's a seasonal menu or a special occasion, it all starts
with a process.
"Mostly I am not looking at the sum of any ingredients but a complete process" something that the normal restaurant patron may never see or appreciate," says Executive Chef Alex Petrollini.
Petrollini has worked at a number of restaurants around the world and gathers his inspiration from everywhere including books and TV, as well as visits to other restaurants.
Other ideas can come from what's available in the area. A salad made of organic field greens with cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, bean sprouts and tossed in red wine vinaigrette is a light summery addition that can put a little seasonal pizzazz in your menu. While this salad emphasizes the organic greens, tomatoes could also be the focus of the salad.
"A signature tomato with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oil can transform what the consumer might see as average produce to something special," says Hansen.
Hansen also recommends using different varieties of tomatoes. This can range from Roma, cherry, grape and Heirloom, to golden yellow or green tomatoes. Also,
try to promote the salad with a tasty title. Words like "organic", "farm grown", "harvested locally" and "vine-ripened" create savoury images in the customer's mind.
Corn is another summer vegetable that can be used in a variety of ways. Try it in corn chowder, grill it and add it to a Caesar salad with garlic herb croutons, or add it to a fresh summer salsa that can be used for dipping or on top of grilled local fish. It can even be served on the cob as a side dish.
"Feature a seasonal vegetable or fruit as a side dish," says Hansen, when asked how to incorporate in-season produce into a menu. "Seasonal fruits make excellent desserts while seasonal vegetables can be used as an accent in specialty salads."
You can also use fresh produce and fruits as a garnish to traditional dishes. Locally grown strawberries and raspberries make a mouth-watering garnish to chocolate cake, crème brûlée, and ice cream.
Choosing Quality Produce
Sysco is the leading foodservice supplier in North America so when it comes to choosing quality produce, the choice couldn't be easier. Dedicated to food safety, Sysco has the largest team of quality assurance professionals and technical services experts in the industry.
To ensure you receive the best, every Sysco Brand fruit and vegetable that is provided has met specific guidelines including physical, chemical and microbiological reviews.
In fact, Sysco's dedication doesn't start with the final product. It begins in the field.
Before a fruit or vegetable is accepted as part of the Sysco assortment, the supplier has to pass a series of tests including sanitation, good manufacturing and agricultural practices, and food security. Sysco also reviews adjacent land use, irrigation water quality, soil amendment testing, and sanitation practices at fields, plants and coolers.
Once the produce is harvested, Sysco continues its stringent quality control focus by expediting it through strategically positioned distribution centres across the country. These state-of-art facilities and their produce departments, staffed with industry professionals, are designed to exceed your "fresh" expectations.
The best thing to do when planning your summer produce menu is to ask your Sysco representative to show you what's in season and grown locally. The customers that live in the area will appreciate your support to local farmers, while visiting tourists will have the chance to savour the great taste of Canada.
Did You Know?
Never refrigerate tomatoes.
To keep the flavour tasting fresh,
store them at room temperature around 13°C.