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Show Season: Upper Lakes Specialists Offer Tips

Customers crowd the produce display to check out items from Bix Produce, Capital City Fruit, H. Brooks and other suppliers.

New school products were front and center at the Upper Lakes Foods fall show, with items ranging from healthier, oven-roasted crispy chicken wings to the digitally on-trend “Emoticons” from McCain Foodservice. These mashed potato bites are available in “ha ha,” “lovey,” “winky,” “wow” and heart shapes, and undoubtedly appeal to their middle school-aged audience.   

Elsewhere, customers sampled meats and sauces from the various “Hot Deals” tasting stations, and Creative Services Manger Mariah Berg pointed out the distributor’s various specialists were on the floor to provide restaurant owners with ideas and tips for menu innovation. 

Case in point: Brett Knutsen, a produce specialist who’s now Upper Lakes’ perishables category manager. Knutsen noted as more areas of Minnesota get saturated with restaurants, it becomes crucial to stand out and draw customer interest, which is where produce can come in.

“In produce, there’s constant evolution,” he said. “It’s a way to make little tweaks, produce can do that really easily.”

Take Buzz Buttons, he said. The flower has a bright golden yellow bud and eating it has a tingling affect on the mouth that brings an effervescent quality to drinks. It’s one fun way restaurants can add a new element to their cocktail list without remaking the entire menu, said Knutsen. He also highlighted caviar limes, a small fruit with a “really intense lime flavor” that can punch up a dish or enliven a dressing. 

Brett Knutsen, perishables category
manager for Upper Lakes, provides a
close-up look at caviar limes, which
can add interest and flavor as a garnish.

Chef John McLaughlin is all smiles
as he offers samples of cheesecakes
and pies from Sweet Street Desserts.

These tacos showcase chorizo skillet mix from Chef-mate.


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