By Flavor & The Menu
January 15, 2020
Over the last five years, the number of hazelnut growers in Oregon’s Willamette Valley has multiplied and the acreage dedicated to growing hazelnuts has doubled. That’s great news for chefs across the country, who value the superior quality of Oregon-grown over imported hazelnuts. With a ready supply, chefs are getting creative with the hazelnut, moving it beyond the traditional pairing with chocolate and exploring its remarkable versatility. The Oregon hazelnut stands above imported hazelnuts, boasting a distinctive flavor with notes of fruit and a rich velvety mouthfeel with no traces of bitterness. It also is known for its crisp texture and plump size, making it a star ingredient when textural play and visual impact is key to the build.
“We feel incredible pride serving the best hazelnuts in the world,” says Aaron Adams, chef/owner of Farm Spirit, a plant-centric restaurant in Portland, Ore. His hazelnut “grits” sees the nuts cooked with cornstarch, onion, garlic, water, baking soda and grapeseed oil. He finishes the dish with fried shallots and fresh herbs. “We use hazelnuts to exhibit our pride in Oregon’s agricultural products,” says Adams. He suggests maximizing their rich flavor and crisp texture by featuring them in unexpected, but welcome ways. Adams’ creative menu items like hazelnut masa, crackers and custard demonstrate the potential for innovation, particularly around plant-forward menu development—a growing demand in foodservice today.
John Gorham, executive chef/owner of Toro Bravo Inc, a restaurant group based in Portland, Ore., makes hazelnut romesco, using it as a signature condiment on the Alder Burger at Tasty n Alder. He blends dry roasted hazelnuts with roasted red pepper, smoked paprika, garlic and egg yolk. “I wanted to take a classic Spanish sauce and give the flavors an Oregon flair with a perspective of Spanish technique,” he says. “By using Oregon hazelnuts, it really transforms the romesco into a flavor reflecting the terroir.” He’s also “kicking around” a build with hazelnut muhamarra, giving this Eastern Med dip/sauce a New American twist. That exploration of terroir is a draw for diners, helping connect their restaurant experience to farms, growers and ingredients through distinctive flavors.
AN AMERICAN STORY
The story of Oregon hazelnuts resonates with diners across the country, telling a compelling story of sustainable American farming and pride in ingredient sourcing. Farms are passed down from generation to generation, and with that, the commitment to quality and consistency that makes the Oregon hazelnut a prize ingredient—both in the U.S. and around the world. An ideal climate and rich volcanic soil promises rich, intense flavor and pleasing plumpness. Careful processing ensures the signature crisp texture of Oregon hazelnuts.
The growth in supply for foodservice, the increasing demand for plant-forward menu options and the versatility of the Oregon hazelnut provide a solid platform for successful menu innovation.
Discover more creative foodservice solutions starring hazelnuts at Oregon Hazelnuts.