Book a Meeting

The National Conference Center Blog

Posts Tagged ‘food and beverage trends’

Smart Snacks that get you through TSA

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

OK, we must admit plane food isn’t always appetizing nor is it typically all healthy. You usually are found throwing out the cookies and the pretzels from the snack pack in order to make it healthy. Smart Meetings released “The Healthiest Airline Menu Options” in their January issue. It seems in some of the cases, lower airfare means lesser quality food. Southwest Airlines, known for their $59 one-way deals fell last in the line-up with nuts as the healthiest option. And, if they have salt – that definitely doesn’t make them healthy.

We’ve listed 5 Smart Snacks that will make their way through TSA without a hiccup. Our intentions are healthy and practical:

  • Luna, Lara or any high fiber bar – Protein is a huge plus too, but any all-natural bar high in fiber will hold you over on the flight. Avoid bars high in sugar (>17 grams of sugar) to satisfy your hunger cravings. Slip it in your carry-on and you’re all set to go!
  • Almonds – Bring a baggie of almonds or the can. Enjoy or share with your neighbor; make sure you choose unsalted.
  • Apples and bananas – Fruit is allowed but if it’s been opened such as a grapefruit, it needs to be wrapped. Like peanut butter or hummus with your fruit? Better follow the 3 oz rule, TSA considers all spreads a liquid.
  • Celery, cucumbers and broccoli – Full of fiber and water, eat as many veggies as you’d like without ever reaching for your wallet to buy a snack.
  • Customized trail mix – Easy to snack on and customizable, we give this snack 5-stars. Combine dried fruits, unsalted nuts and maybe some semi-sweetened dark chocolate chips.

Smart snacks keep you full. However, if you’re thinking greek yogurts and cottage cheese, remember it must be 3 oz or it won’t make it past the TSA lines. What’s your favorite snack to travel with?

2012 Food Trends & Predictions

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Amuse bouche, complimentary served bite-size “snacks” wet your palate and offer more value for the money

“Goodbye Thai food and burgers,” says Executive Chef Craig Mason of The National Conference Center. He states those crazes have come and gone. Last year, I’d say his predictions were like hitting the bull’s-eye in a game of darts. Mason’s 2011 Food Predictions included more quasi-meal places like Chipotle would appear on the map and Chefs would prepare food with less seasonings, sticking to the basics – salt, pepper and garlic. Executive Chef Craig Mason’s 2012 food predictions are a list of commodities and concepts he views as popular in the next year:

  • Farm-to-table and more of it – Mason predicts a continuation of the current farm-to-table movement. He says local will begin to make strides towards becoming “the normal,” and almost expected. He doesn’t necessarily believe organic will be the standard in consumers’ food purchasing but foresees shopping at farmers markets to grow in popularity.
  • Flavored Vinegars – “We’ll see it more in restaurants first,” Mason explains, “Weird flavored vinegars, such as pomegranate vinegars, house-made vegetables and fruit pickles will be among those to start the movement.” Watch out for the follow up in grocery stores.
  • More heirloom food – You’ll begin to see fruits and vegetables that aren’t common or have disappeared from the produce section. Among those uncommon fruits and vegetables, Mason says will be honey crisp apples. 
  • All about value! – People spending money on dining out will be looking for the best experience with their money. He states, “People want to go out and be seen. The intrinsic need to go and be seen is human nature, but people will be looking for more value for their money in terms of service experience.” One trend the Executive Chef foresees, more restaurants incorporating amuse bouche, which Mason describes as little “snacks” to wet the appetite and awaken your taste-buds. Unique, up-scale establishments typically serve these single, bite-sized hors d’oeuvres; but in 2012, you may see them in places offering more value and experience for your money.
  • Imported wines – In 2011, Mason predicted an emphasis on local wine, but in 2012 Mason says there’s going to a high demand for higher-quality, value-priced wines from places like Spain and South America. He also believes the market should anticipate a high demand for natural wines that entailed minimalistic farming, meaning the farmers spray when they have to spray, rather than spraying everyday.
  • The explosion of special diets – Mason says there’s already a confusion of preference versus dietary restrictions. In 2012, consumers will be even more caught-up in diary-free, gluten-free, soy-free, rice-free menu options as a personal preference, rather than a dietary restriction.
  •  A great whole-grain explosion - Not only will 2012 see the trend in special diets but Mason predicts diners will begin to see different grain varieties on the menu. Quinoa will be a staple on many menus, barley will begin to replace rice and whole-wheat pizza will be a new menu addition for pizza-lovers.
  • More atmosphere – The Chef who enjoys grilling outdoors, predicts (and probably has secret wishes) that new restaurants will cater to people who enjoy a fun atmosphere. Mason says, “2012 will be the year of leaving behind the stuffy restaurants and sitting outside in a fun atmosphere, a place where people can have great food in jeans.” He also says beer gardens will become more popular.
  • Small chocolate treats – Dessert-lovers will see a resurgence of chocolate in main-stream dining. Tiny desserts such as chocolate truffles on a smaller dish will become the new trend.

How will these meal trends affect your events in 2012? Would you add anything to this list; if so, what would it be?


Hotels Buy Local, Guests Drink Local

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Photo Courtesy of Ed Felker

In the hospitality and meetings industry, green travel is becoming a new statement. Even in hotel lounges, cocktails that are made locally are becoming a trend. Hotels and conference centers are purchasing domestic wines, spirits and more. It’s no longer impressive to clients if the wine is from Italy and more impressive to eat and drink food grown locally.  As the CEO of Loews Hotel said, “Gourmet is going green” (Hotels Embrace “Buy Local” Mandate). On property, our own lounges serve locally made drinks such as Catoctin Creek, a Virginia distillery. We’ve included 3 hot toddies recipes from our January client tasting with Catoctin Creek. Warm up to these locally made drinks this Valentine’s Day Weekend (and enjoy being green):

Classic Tom Collins with Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin

2 oz of Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin
1/2 lemon
1 tsp of simple syrup
Soda water

Use a high ball glass. Squeeze in lemon and simple syrup. Add ice to fill glass. Add Gin. Add soda. Stir.

Hot Toddy with Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye
1 oz Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 lemon
1 cup hot water
1 green tea bag

Coat bottom of mug with honey. Separately boil hot water and place green tea bag in separate mug. Add Rye and squeeze in lemon into mug with honey. Pour in hot green tea into mug with honey, Rye and lemon. Stir.

Classic Martini with Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit
1.5 oz of Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit
0.25 oz of Vermouth
Lemon twist

Combine Mosby’s Spirit and vermouth with ice in a shaker. Shake well and strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Enjoy and drink responsibly! To learn more about Catoctin Creek visit their website.