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The Florida Department of Citrus is finding ever more creative ways to promote the leading star in the state's produce lineup. Florida citrus is a $9 billion business annually; the department is always looking for ways to spur sales to new heights.

In late November at the 2010 Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association Show in Bartow, FL, chefs from around the world competed at the second annual USA Culinary Cup Challenge for prizes and medals. The FDOC sponsored Florida citrus juices and fresh Florida citrus as featured ingredients in all recipe submissions.

The dozen five-member culinary teams had five hours to prepare a four- course meal under strict guidelines for 55 diners while American Culinary Federation-approved judges watched.

Team Universal Orlando, representing the Universal Studios theme park, took top honors for a Florida Citrus Trio menu featuring Florentine Crusted Orange Cake, Florida Citrus Terrine and a Mojito Sorbet with Vanilla Bean Sauce. The winning team members were Mark Wachowiak, Raffy Pambuan, Michael Harman, Robert Martinez Jr. and Pete Imlah.

"The USA Culinary Cup Challenge provided the opportunity for chefs to demonstrate the versatility of Florida citrus and citrus juices as a featured recipe ingredient. We were amazed and inspired by the innovative menu items they created that showcased both the sweet and savory flavors of Florida citrus," said Leigh Killeen, director of marketing for the FDOC.

Meanwhile, earlier this fall the FDOC made a push to help the foodservice industry utilize more Florida citrus products in the street food category with a new cookbook designed specifically for mobile purveyors.

Gourmet street carts are popping up across the nation, in some cases offering culinary equivalents of fine sit-down restaurants in a fraction of the time and cost. According to the FDOC, these so-called global comfort foods are more than mobile food destinations — they are the source of trend-setting flavors that brick-and-mortar restaurateurs are copying.

In response to the mobile street food trend, the FDOC released its Taking Florida Citrus to the Street recipe book and CD in October, offering recipe suggestions and information for operators to optimize the use of Florida citrus on menus while growing sales and profitability.

Recipes cover the culinary gamut, from homemade sodas featuring Florida juices to ethnic-inspired entrees like the Korean Taco with Florida Citrus Kimchi, the Citrus Mojo Pork Cuban Sandwich, Duck Bahn Mi with spiced pickled orange, and even the Dogzilla, a bacon-wrapped hot dog slathered in orange Katsu sauce.

Dessert selections from the book include the Belgian Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich with Florida orange caramel, peanuts and salted caramel ice cream and Crepes with Florida Orange Chocolate Sauce and Toasted Hazelnuts.

“As customers continue to seek new, exciting foods when eating out, these recipes create an opportunity for operators to expand menu offerings that satisfy this need,” Ms. Killeen said.

For a free copy of the recipe book and CD, e-mail vhodak@citrus.state.fl.us. Recipes can also be found on-line at www.floridajuice.com.

(For more on Florida citrus, see the Dec. 6, 2010, issue of The Produce News.)