Breasts versus thighs — it’s a “parts is parts” chicken story as the foodservice business and the poultry producers that supply it continue to cope with a year of pandemic-caused disruption.
Like many other segments of the food supply system, the poultry industry pre-COVID had evolved into specialized segments. One group focused on serving the dining-away-from-home market, while a second set of growers and processors concentrated on chicken destined for the supermarket meat case.
Restaurant chains, especially those with chicken sandwiches on their menus, had originally specified those items to be made with smaller breast portions. At the other end of the production spectrum, supermarket chains continued to cater to consumer preferences for larger sized breast cuts. Markets had consequently become so specialized that poultry farmers adapted to this differing breast size demand by raising entirely different breeds of chicken for each use.
The pandemic scrambled all that specialization with the poultry industry retooling, for the short term at least, to produce bigger breast cuts for retail distribution. At the same time export demand for dark meat chicken from thighs and drumsticks plummeted, meaning that more of the cost of production had to be recouped through breast meat prices.
Because of its traditionally lower wholesale prices, dark meat chicken has always been favored by some segments of the restaurant industry, particular those operations that used chicken meat in stir-fries, stews, and the like. Chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill, for instance, are big users of dark meat.
As the restaurant-based demand for chicken begins to increase again, breast meat prices have been climbing, encouraging some chefs to take a second look at using thigh meat, which many consider more flavorful. Consumers, however, continue to prefer white meat chicken, especially in the increasingly-popular fried chicken sandwiches.
Needless to say, poultry producers are now jockeying to meet surging breast meat demand as the “chicken sandwich wars” once again heat up.
The Munich Haus German Restaurant in Chicopee will be holding their annual Hunter’s Harvest event on Saturday, April 17 at 6 p.m.
The menu of farm-raised “wild things” being offered will include chef-carved venison, bison, elk, and mountain goat along with a buffet of chafing dish creations like kangaroo kebobs, game stew, wild rabbit, and fried alligator.
Accompanying items such as cheeses, salads, chips and dip, spatzle, red cabbage, and sauerkraut will be served as well.
Tickets are $55 and are subject to advance purchase in blocks of four or six. All tables will be socially distanced.
Contact the Munich Haus at (413) 594-8788 for more information or to make reservations.
The Student Prince Cafe and Fort Restaurant in downtown Springfield will be hosting an Easter Brunch Buffet on Sunday, April 4, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Special chef’s selections on the buffet will include roast beef bourguignon, chicken cordon bleu, baked seafood with dill butter, and a ham carving station.
Tickets are $28.95 per person, and reservations can be made by calling (413) 734-7475.
The Table 3 Restaurant Group in Springfield has made two announcements regarding its restaurant operations in Sturbridge.
On April 8 the Cedar Street Grille will re-open in its original 12 Cedar Street premises after a year-long pandemic relocation to Table 3′s The Barn at Wight Farm.
Cedar Street Grille will be observing all relevant precautions, including six-foot spacing of tables, extra sanitation procedures, and enhanced air filtration.
Starting in April Avellino in Sturbridge will once again be hosting monthly “Cooking with Rico” events.
The first such session, which is planned for April 15, will feature the flavors of Tuscany. Chef Enrico Giovanello will demonstrate specialties from the region’s “cucina povera,” a form of economical cookery that focus on simple regional ingredients.
Each course of Giovanello’s demonstration will be accompanied by a specially chosen wine pairing.
Cost to attend the Cooking with Rico event is $55 per person (or $45 without wine). Tax and gratuity are additional.
Reservations can be made by calling Avellino at (508) 347-2321.
Now open in the Sky Tower Hotel lobby, TAO Asian Bistro & Lounge brings distinctive Pan-Asian cuisine to the Mohegan Sun Resort Casino in Uncasville, Conn.
Operated by TAO Hospitality Group, the new 300-seat restaurant features signature dishes such as satay of Chilean sea bass, lobster wontons, Peking duck, crispy snapper in “sand,” and tuna sashimi pringle. Several menu offerings will be unique to Mohegan Sun, including salt and pepper lobster, a 32-ounce prime Tomahawk steak, and hand-cut noodles.
The restaurant will operate from Sunday through Thursday evenings from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday evenings from 5 p.m. until midnight. Proper social distancing will be in force, and seating will, for the time being, remain at 50% of capacity.
For more information, visit taomohegansun.com.
Burger King locations are bringing back a fan breakfast favorite, the chain’s French toast sandwich. Built on a specially formulated bun designed to resemble French toast, the sandwich has egg, cheese, and a customer-specified option of ham, bacon, or sausage tucked inside. For this time around BK’s culinary team has also created a maple butter sauce to further enhance the sandwich experience.
The reprised French Toast Sandwich is available at participating Burger King locations starting on March 25.
Will a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card become a passport to restaurant food freebies? That might prove to be the case if a promotion launched by the Winston-Salem, NC-based Krispy Kreme catches on. Last week the donut chain announced that it will give anyone showing a valid vaccination record card a free glazed donut every time they visit a Krispy Kreme location. The free donut promotion is slated to last until the end of 2021.
Locally, Bill Stetson, the owner of Rumbleseat Bar and Grille in Chicopee, is offering a 20% discount every Monday to vaccinated customers. Stetson’s deal applies to both first- and second-shot recipients, dine-in only, and is planned to continue for as long as mask mandates remain in force.
More information is available at Rumbleseat’s Facebook page, facebook.com/rumbleseat/.
With cuisine provided by the nearby Nora’s Restaurant, the venerable Brass Rail Restaurant in Southwick has been reborn as a banquet facility, the Brass Rail Meeting House.
Every Sunday the Brass Rail now hosts a Sunday brunch; on Easter Sunday, April 4, a special brunch menu is being offered from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
The Brass Rail brunch features a butler- and chef-attended buffet. Among the breakfast-style selections available are quiche, French toast, an omelet station, and a waffle station.
Savory chafing dishes specialties range from Bourbon soy salmon to Nora’s chicken. A carving station, a pasta bar, and a dessert table are also part of the buffet experience.
Bottomless mimosas and bloody Mary cocktails are available as an additional charge option.
Although brunch walk-ins will be accommodated on a space-available basis, guaranteed seating can be reserved online at brassrailmeetinghouse.com.
Telephone inquiries about the brunch (or other Brass Rail events) can be directed to (413) 569-9585.
A sister operation to the upscale Capital Grille steakhouse on Newbury Street in Boston, The Capital Burger, which is slated to open on April 1, will be specializing in an array of specialty and classic burger constructs.
The Capital Burger, which uses a proprietary ground beef blend for its between-bun creations, will be featuring combinations such as The Capital Burger, a sandwich with a French onion soup flavor profile; a Bacon Cheeseburger finished with candied bacon, tomato jam, and Vermont cheddar; and a customizable Classic Cheeseburger. All sandwiches come with a complimentary jar of house-made pickles.
Spiked shakes, twenty different wines by the glass, craft-brewed beers, and specialty cocktails will also be available.
The Capital Burger, which will be serving seven days a week, is located at 159 Newbury Street. Their telephone number is (617) 262-1333; their web address is thecapitalburger.com.
Hugh Robert is a faculty member in Holyoke Community College’s hospitality and culinary arts program and has nearly 45 years of restaurant and educational experience. Robert can be reached on-line at OffTheMenuGuy@aol.com.
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