The events set up by the National Peanut Board (NPB) over a two-day period in early March in New York City were an effort to rebuild consumer confidence in the products made from the humble peanut. But what it did most, perhaps, was rebuild the confidence of every peanut industry participant and signal the return of positive press for peanuts.
In Vanderbilt Hall of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, the NPB set up Energy Central – an interactive and educational exhibit that featured a field of peanut plants, nutrition and culinary information, cooking demonstrations and appearances by noted chefs and athletes.
|A Peanut Sampling Menu
Few foods have the ability to go from the familiar to the exotic as effortlessly (and deliciously, we might add) as peanuts and peanut butter. They taste great on their own, but they’re equally great flavor carriers.
And with energy-boosting protein and over 30 vitamins and minerals, they’re a healthful addition to any dish. From simple twists on tradition to innovative new flavor combinations, talented chefs from across the country and around the world are re-imagining the possibilities of the lovable legume.
As you’ll see in the following recipes, the peanut-driven
excitement surrounds everything from appetizers and entrees to desserts and beverages.
PASSED HORS D’OEUVRES
Peanut Butter Mac and Cheese peanut flour used as a tkickener, served in a ceramic spoon
Bo bia (Chef Mai Pham)
jicama rolls with peanuts and fresh basil
Magic Bar (Chef Suvir Saran)
Xococacahua (Chef Roberto Santibanez)
hot peanut drinking chocolate
PASSED SHORT PLATES
West African Spiced Grilled Beef Salad
over winter greens with a roasted peanut vinaigrette
Sambal in the Style of Java
West African chicken and peanut stew, served over rice
SHORT PLATES AT THE STATIONS
Chef Mai Pham
Lemon Grass Restaurant, Sacramento
Lemongrass Chicken Stir-fry
with peanuts and chilies
Chef Linton Hopkins
Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch Public House, Atlanta
Shrimp &. Peanut Chowder
Peanut Cotton Candy
Chef Zarela Martinez
Zarela, New York City
Chiles Rellenos con Salpicon
shredded beef salad with peanut chipotle dressing
Helado de Cacahuate
peanut ice served in ceramic spoon
Chef Suvir Saran
Devi and American Masala, New York City
Chef Roberto Santibanez
Truly Mexican, New York City
Peanut Torito and Peanut Lemonade
to be served at bar
“When it opened, there were more than 200 people waiting in line to enter the exhibit,” said Roger Neitsch, a Texas producer and NPB chairman. “People were really receptive to our message. Some were happy to hear they could go home and buy peanut butter. Others said, ‘I never stopped eating peanuts.’”
Field A Hit
Michael Davis, NPB’s delegate from Florida, said the “peanut field,” which was made up of potted peanut plants and a peanut field back drop, was a big hit.
“New Yorkers were absolutely enthralled,” he said. “I was amazed at their interest in peanut farming.
People asked so many great questions, and some even took the peanut plants home with them on the train.”
Growers used the plants to educate commuters about how a peanut plant grows and forms the pods. But it was the reassuring of consumers that peanut products, especially peanut butter, are safe to eat that was the important message.
“We did change our message a little because of the recall,” Neitsch said. “But the timing of the event was good in that we got to tell folks that it is okay to eat peanuts again.”
Manufacturers, some of whom both provided samples and worked in the exhibit, included Hampton Farms, Mars, Moon Pie, Peanut Butter & Co., Planters, Smithfield Foods/The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg, Snyder’s of Hanover and Sunland, Inc. Other personnel, representing all the industry segments, worked in the exhibits as well.
It is estimated that nearly 10,000 people passed through the Grand Central Terminal over the two-day period.
Replenishing Product At Food Banks
While at Grand Central Terminal, the industry took the opportunity to announce their commitment to hunger relief by making an initial donation to the Food Bank For New York of $5,000 and six pallets of product.
“We know that in tough economic times, especially, food banks across the country rely on peanuts and peanut-based products for the nutrition they can provide,” said Raffaela Marie Fenn, NPB’s president and managing director. “We are making this donation to help replenish the Food Bank’s supply of peanut products following the recent recall. Most peanut butters and peanut products have not been affected by the recall, making them safe to eat — and to donate.
The Food Bank For New York City distributes food to more than 1,000 food assistance programs throughout the five boroughs and helps feed 1.3 million people who access emergency food each year.
Companies and brands donating product to the food bank included: Hampton Farms, Jif, KIND Snacks, Lance, Mars Snackfood US, MoonPie, Peanut Butter & Co., Peter Pan Peanut Butter, Planters Nut Company, Smithfield Foods/The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg, Snyder’s of Hanover, Sunland, Inc. and Virginia Diner.
Chefs Wow The Crowd
Another event of the outreach effort was held at the Astor Center in Greenwich Village targeting the culinary press. The event featured five renowned chefs who created traditional dishes from the unique world cuisine they represent with a peanut-inspired twist. Chefs also conducted demonstrations and answered questions posed to them from the press.
From hors d’oeuvres such as Bo bia, a jicama spring roll with peanuts and fresh basil, to salad dishes, such as chiles rellenos consalpicon, a shredded beef salad with peanut chipotle dressing, to soup, a shrimp and peanut chowder, and even beverages, such as xococacahua, a hot peanut drinking chocolate, the dishes were interesting, beautiful and delicious.
Some of the media attending the peanut sampling event at the Astor Center are as follows:
Director of PR, Hearst
Culinary Center Director, Whole Foods
The Wall Street Journal
Food & Beverage
Sony Plazastyle (Japanese retailer)
Flavor & the Menu
Director of Research, Good Housekeeping
Food Network Magazine
Specialty Food Magazine
New York State Restaurant Association
NY Times Food Reporter
San Francisco Chronicle
Nation’s Restaurant News
Murray’s Cheese (gourmet retailer)
Wine & Spirits A&P and Best Cellars
NYC-based Japanese publication (PEN Magazine)
Also attending were several freelance writers and cook book authors. In total, more than 90 media attended the event.
More than 80 culinary press, representing newpapers, magazines, television and on-line media, attended the event, tasted the wonderful creations and talked with both the chefs and peanut producers. Within a few days, news stories were already beginning to pop up in various outlets as a result of the event.
Jeffrey Pope, NPB delegate from Virginia, said, “Between the peanut cotton candy to the peanut pasta dish, the chefs did an excellent job showcasing the multifaceted uses of peanuts.”
Overall, the events over the two-day period went off without a hitch, drew large crowds for New York City and boosted the confidence of consumers and industry, alike.
“It was the best, most united promotional event that I have seen for the peanut industry,” said Robbie Blount, executive director of the Western Peanut Growers Association. “The group faced a negative issue head-on and produced extremely positive results.”