As a continuation of my blog last week on molecular gastronomists –that are really just food scientists using industrial ingredients in non practical applications like fish thread garnish and flavored foams-I would like to give some recognition Van Drunen Farms (Momence, Illinois) a company that is all about molecular gastronomy, without even trying! Van Drunen Farms processes dried fruits. They do freeze dried, air dried, drum dried and low moisture (sugar infused for shelf stability) products. Now, I’m not saying that VDF is the only freeze dried company out there but they are the only freeze dried company that created a promotional calendar in 2010 with actual finished product samples that demonstrated how freeze dried fruits and vegetables could be used in a variety of applications. I thought the idea was brilliant and I harassed Ross Peterson (my Van Drunen sales guy) every single month to make sure he didn’t forget to send me my monthly gift.
Since I am a food scientist I receive ingredient samples from my suppliers all the time. Like all my other developer peeps, I have a lab stocked full of gums, starches, polydextrose, flavors, meat pastes, fruit purees, IQF vegetables, dried herbs and spices and caramel colors. I typically use these items on an as needed basis but sometimes I wish my ingredient suppliers would give me some inspiration. After all, all suppliers have a house full of creative R&D chefs and food scientists who don’t want to wait till RCA or IFT to show off their culinary capabilities. Sure I get brochures and application information but that’s not the same as actually tasting a finished product! This year, Van Drunen farms sent me a monthly finished product “gift” that utilized dehydrated fruits and vegetables in various applications. I had ice-cream, fruit salad, cakes and muffins. Some concepts were ready to eat, other products I had to take home, crack an egg, add some liquid and bake (thankfully, I went to culinary school so I was able to do this easily!). All the finished products uniquely incorporated a fruit or vegetable in a dried form. It was very molecular-gastronomy-ish but in a way that only a food scientist can appreciate. Here is a run-down of what I have received so far:
January-Freeze dried spinach herb blend: That came complete with a recipe on how to mix it with sour cream or yogurt
February– Freeze dried vegetable blend: This was like chex snack mix but with a variety of dehydrated corn, peas and red peppers tossed in with it.
March-Freeze dried Italian herb blend and olive oil: I used the olive oil and herb blend to make my dinner salads more exciting!
April-Low moisture blueberry muffin mix: The recipe this month was slightly more complicated and involved me having to add water, eggs, mix and bake. A great way to showcase low moisture blueberries-they don’t bleed in the muffin!
May– Freeze dried fruit snack mix: My co workers thought it was weird to hear me crunching away on dehydrated bananas and grapes but once they tried it, they were hooked too!
June-Smoothie Mix: I have not yet tried this unique blend of freeze dried fruit powders that turn into a smoothie when blended with liquid-but I am sure it will be very molecular gastronomic experience.
July-Dry Seasoning blend: I loved this variety pack of different spice blends that incorporate freeze dried herbs to make a rub.
August-Freeze Dried Ice-cream: My favorite of all the gifts. I LOVE freeze dried ice-cream. It reminds me of the freeze dried ice-cream that I used to buy at the Boston Science museum gift shop back in the 80’s. It was molecular gastronomy then, and it still is now!
September-Freeze dried herbs: This was not a particularly exciting gift but it is interesting to note that freeze dried herbs have much better flavor than dried herbs, they are just more difficult to find at the retail level.
October-Pumpkin bread: This cake mix included a small package of dehydrated pumpkin flakes. I still had to add my own pumpkin puree but the flakes gave it that extra bit of pumpkin flavor.
November-Freeze dried cinnamon apples. I eagerly await the arrival of the November gift!
December –Holiday snack mix: This snack mix appears to have M&M’s, granola and low moisture fruit.
So, the moral of this blog is, if you want to impress your customers, don’t just send samples with brochures, try to send tasty applications that utilize your ingredients in creative and fun ways. If possible-send a kit that allows your customer to take the ingredient home and finish off the creation via adding liquids or baking. I am sure all you suppliers know what it’s like to send tons of samples that just get tossed into an ingredient closet and thrown out 12 months later when the lab cleans out all their expired stuff. You can reduce the chances of this happening by taking your cold-call sampling process to the next level. I was truly inspired by many of the culinary concepts that Van Drunen Farms sent me this year and without this promo, I probably would not have even known about their low moisture fruits or ability to freeze dry ice-cream (I figured only the Boston Museum of Science knew how to do that molecular science stuff!!)