Low-alcohol beer, prix fixe steak and Laurent Tourondel's latest moves

Menu Talk: Bret and Pat chat about a newly discovered Russian beer, how Sysco encourages innovation from small producers, and why Laurent Tourondel is the Energizer Bunny of the restaurant world.

This week on Menu Talk, hosts Pat Cobe, senior menu editor of Restaurant Business, and Bret Thorn, senior food & beverage editor at Nation’s Restaurant News and Restaurant Hospitality, start off with a beer tasting.

Bret discovered a low-alcohol brew called kvass in his new Brooklyn neighborhood, which is populated by Russian, Ukrainian and Eastern European residents. We watch along as he takes a couple of sips of kvass and gives his verdict. Here’s a hint: low- and no-alcohol beers, wines and cocktails are getting better all the time and it pays to explore new brands.

Pat visited Sysco headquarters in Houston to get an inside look at how innovative products get into the distributor’s supply chain. One of the divisions under the Sysco banner is Cutting Edge Solutions, which encourages small vendors and entrepreneurs to pitch their products for review. Those that are accepted are invited down to headquarters to meet with the Cutting Edge Solutions team for sampling and feedback. Sysco chefs and professional then work with the supplier to tweak the product, and after several revisions, a number of them make it to the finish line and into the supply chain.

The products I tasted are coming out in the fall and under wraps, but I did get to try a couple that had made it earlier this year. One was a compostable straw made from agave fibers upcycled from tequila production. Another was a jumbo IQF butterflied shrimp that can go directly on the grill and makes an impressive presentation.

Steak seems to be an ongoing topic of discussion here on Menu Talk. This week, we chat about Michael Mina’s newest branch of Bourbon Steak, which opened in New York City recently. Bret had a chance to dine there and was impressed by the showy (and pricey!) cocktails and the high-end cuts of beef. But we also talked about Entrecote and Skirt Steak, two restaurants that offer a prix fixe steak dinner.

Skirt Steak is one of Laurent Tourondel’s restaurants, and reservations are hard to come by. One reason: for $45 per person, diners get grilled steak, fries, salad and bread. That’s a pretty good deal at a chef-driven restaurant in Manhattan.

Tourondel started as a chef in France, but has since operated restaurants in several U.S. locales, including New York, Philadelphia, Las Vegas and South Florida. His concepts run the gamut, from burgers to high-end seafood, pizza, tacos and inspired Italian. Chef Tourondel’s energy is boundless, as he jets between all these established spots and oversees others opening in the near future.

Listen as the accomplished chef-restaurateur shares his journey and talks about what’s next. A bakery is in the works. But another French restaurant? Not so fast.

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Menu Talk is a collaboration between Restaurant Business Senior Menu Editor Pat Cobe and Bret Thorn, senior food & beverage editor of Nation’s Restaurant News and Restaurant Hospitality. You can subscribe to it wherever you listen to podcasts.

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