Thursday, Jul 11 2013 05:11 PM

THE DISH: What foods keep 'em coming back?

BY PETE TITTL Contributing columnist

A company called newBrandAnalytics wants to help restaurants understand what food and drink items inspire customer loyalty, and to do so they analyzed Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, Zagat and other social media websites.

They looked for rave reviews tied to specific food and drink mentions to come up with what they call the nBA Hot 100.

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Something to dish?

Do you have a tip, question or recommendation on Bakersfield restaurants, trends or food news in general? Email thedish@bakersfield.com and your input might wind up in a future column.

What makes the list today:

Food

1. Scallops

2. Short ribs

3. Octopus

4. Bone marrow

5. Kale (it's getting a lot of publicity for being a health-promoting salad ingredient)

6. Duck

7. Burrata

8. Beets

9. Wagyu beef

10. Sea urchin

Drinks

1. Cucumber cocktails

2. Green tea mojito

3. Sangria

4. The old-fashioned

5. House-made sodas

6. Watermelon cocktails

7. Blood orange cocktails (Muertos has a mean margarita that fits here)

8. Caipirinhas

9. Passion fruit cocktails

10. Hibiscus cocktails

Desserts

1. Red velvet cake (Still!)

2. Chocolate souffle

3. Doughnuts/beignets

4. Crème brûlee

5. Carrot cake

6. Churros

7. Key lime pie

8. Flan

9. Chocolate pecan pie

10. Tres leches (even Vons bakery is making this now)

New and different

Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers is now serving CrackerJack-flavored custard, complete with the traditional toy on top (protected from the custard by a sprinkle of actual Cracker Jacks ... Marie Callender's has added a new strawberry menu, which includes grilled salmon with strawberry-mango salsa and a Monte Cristo sandwich with strawberry-habanero jam ...BJ's has teamed with Big Poppa Smokers for a special summer barbecue menu that includes baby back pork ribs and smoked chicken, and added a 10th beer, an oasis amber. Lunch barbecue specials start at $5.95 ... Elephant Bar has a new Pineapple kick drink made out of habanero-lime syrup, pineapple juice, Chambord and Woodford Reserve ($8.75). New premium side dishes at the restaurant include macaroni and cheese, maple bacon green beans and sweet potato casserole ... RJ's in Rosedale has a Monday night special: $8 for a burger, fries and a beer ... Buffalo Wild Wings will roll out its own craft beer, Game Changer, on Monday to compete with all the brew pubs in the country. The pale ale made by Redhook Brewery of Woodinville, Wash., will be available only on tap at those restaurants ...Dickey's Barbecue Pit, 3505 Coffee Road, is offering a "throwback racetrack" sandwich through September: beef brisket and pulled pork are presented on a French roll with coleslaw and barbecue sauce. $7 alone, or $11 in a combo. They're also offering double orders of sides on the XL Family Pack through the end of August ... Panera Bread is now using antibiotic-free chicken in all sandwiches and salads ... Round Table Pizza has a special Maui Zaui pizza made from ham, crisp bacon, red and green onions, pineapple, Roma tomatoes and zesty red sauce ...

Small plates to stay

The National Restaurant Association surveyed bars and restaurants and found growing interest in the "small plates" trend due to a number of reasons, including a health-conscious push for portion control, social sharing and appreciation for artisan foods in a casual setting.

The trade group said some restaurants have menus with half portions and smaller portions (like the recently opened Black Bear Diner) and are offering light dishes with 400 calories or less that, according to Joy Dubost, the association's director of nutrition, "alter the perception that healthy food doesn't taste good."

National Hot Dog Month

July is the best month of sales for hot dogs, and French's Mustard passed along these amazing facts:

2.3 billion hot dogs are consumed in a typical July in the U.S.

During hot dog season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, 7 billion hot dogs are consumed which translates to 818 hot dogs every second during that time period.

The first words Mickey Mouse ever uttered in a cartoon were "hot dogs" (in "The Karnival Kid," 1929). The cartoons he was featured in previously were silent ones.

Buttered coffee?

The latest version of the brewed bean drink that I read about on a blog called theKitchn.com is buttered coffee, a variation of Tibetan tea which has butter, tea and salt or black pepper. Apparently some baristas are putting one pat of butter in the cup then pouring the black wakeup liquid in. Blogger Chris Perez found the extra ingredient added "an assured creaminess" and he didn't pick up the familiar taste of the dairy product until the end, finding it quite interesting mixed with the bitter taste of coffee. Watch for it to see if it takes off, or better yet, try it at home.

You could pair it with that other Internet sensation of the moment, the Cronut. In New York City these creations are sold for $5 each at the Dominique Ansel Bakery, and since only 200 are available, lines form an hour or two before the 8 a.m. opening. It's shaped like a doughnut but made with croissant dough and filled with vanilla cream.

Bakers of Bakersfield, get to work. (There's a three cronut per person limit because folks had been selling them on the black market.) This month they're offering a lemon-maple version of the cronut.

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