The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association held its annual expo last weekend at the Orange County Convention Center. The FRLA show is a three-day extravaganza of seminars, competitions and exhibits for people in the industry (sorry, not open to the general public).
Each year I like to go out and walk the aisles of the exhibitions hall to look for food trends and for new gadgets designed to make a restaurateur’s life easier.
This year I was struck more by what wasn’t there. I had expected to see several food truck sellers and to see the vast exhibit space filled with demo models.
There was one food truck in the entire hall. And it was outfitted as an ice cream truck. There was at least one other vendor who offered trucks as part of its line of portable food service equipment, but no actual truck was on hand to climb into and test drive.
Does that mean the trend is trending out?
I also wasn’t able to glean any clues from the food that was being offered for sampling to the thousands roaming the aisles, other than that there seemed to be a lot of sausage products. Fewer desserts, too. Just about as much cheese as before. And less pizza products — both the edible kind and the production type. The show has featured a sort of expo within an expo for the pizza sector, with dough-tossing competitions and automated conveyor belt ovens and the like. The competitions were still part of the show this year, and there were various oven and accouterments sales folks, but it just seemed like there were a lot fewer this year.
Of course, these days, it’s difficult to draw the conclusion that a particular trend is dying out or that the economy has affected the participation in the show.
As for new products, only one caught my eye, and I’m still trying to figure out if I like it or not. It’s called Wine Shield, and it’s designed to keep the leftover juice in an open bottle of wine and the oxygen apart. When wine meets air, oxidation starts to adversely affect the quality. Restaurants that sell wine by the glass can lose profits if the wine goes bad before it can be sold.
There are, of course, numerous devices on the market to vacuum the air from a bottle or otherwise keep liquid and gas apart. Wine Shield works differently. It’s a simple round piece of plastic (actually made of the same type of material that is found underneath a wine screwcap) that the bartender slips through the bottle’s opening. The disk lands on the wine and opens up to create a blanket barrier. Think of one of those covers that floats on top of a swimming pool, but much, much smaller.
The company touts that this floating barrier will keep a wine drinkable for up to five days. It is not reusable, and there is no need to remove it from the bottle to pour more wine — tipping the bottle quite effectively allows the wine to flow from under the shield and out the neck. A pack of 10 costs about 75-cents each; order in bulk and you get the cost down to about 35-cents each. Seems like a big expense, but as the fellow who demonstrated it for me said, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than throwing out a $12 glass of wine. Or two.
Does it work? I can’t say. I have a sample to try out. Now all I need is the occasion of an open bottle of wine that isn’t finished. I’ll get back to you. This may take a while.