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Local Restaurants Are Marketing New Food Products for Retail Sales

The pimento cheese at Hunky Dory.

This week, I headed to the Rhode Island Tabletop Show, which was held with Hope and Main at Farm Fresh Rhode Island‘s Food Hub on Kinsley Avenue in Providence. Dozens of Rhode Island’s veteran food and drink businesses, as well as many new ones like Little Maven Lemonade and Kassumay hibiscus fruit spreads, were there distributing samples to buyers, media and guests. I got the chance to chat with the business owners about their passions and learn about their plans for the future. It was like a food lovers’ reunion. Many Rhode Island restaurants are now marketing a popular food item from their menus as packaged food products that will be distributed at grocery stores and markets. Here are a few new food products you can look forward to seeing and buying at your local grocer.

La Arepa corn cakes

La Arepa Venezuelan restaurant in Pawtucket is now packaging its arepas for retail sales at the restaurant and at Dave’s Marketplace locations in the frozen products section. Elena’s Sweet Corn Cakes are handcrafted Venezuelan cachapas that can be eaten with breakfast, lunch or dinner. They are gluten-free and made from corn. Fold up some eggs inside one with cheese for a morning meal, stuff it with shredded chicken, lettuce, tomato, cheese and hot sauce for lunch, or make a casserole with them with sauteed beef, onions and peppers for dinner. La Arepa owner, chef and CEO Nohemi Rodríguez decided to expand sales for the arepas to a greater audience because they have been very popular at the restaurant. “I was looking for a way to reinvent myself,” she says. “Hope and Main and the Dish-up program helped me develop one of my products and get them to market. This product is part of my menu and is widely accepted by children and adults. It is ready to eat and you can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, accompanying it with the protein and vegetables of your choice.” 582 Smithfield Ave., Pawtucket, 401-335-3711, laarepa.com

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The team at La Arepa, serving corn cakes at the Rhode Island Tabletop Show.

Flavorfied gluten-free pizza crust

Sanjiv Dhar, the owner of Indian restaurants Kabob and Curry, Rasoi, Rasa and Chaska, teamed up with consultant Sean Buchanan, and is now marketing a new food product called Flavorfied Gluten Free Pizza Crust. The crust is made from chick pea flour, dry spices, water and vegetable oil. “This is a modified version of an Indian savory pancake, and years of trial and error gave it the consistency of a pizza crust,” Dhar says. “The seasoning in the crust is flavorful and not spicy, so we came up with the name Flavorfied.” Buchanan was a huge fan of the savory pancakes and is now helping to develop them as a food product. “Sanjiv and I are flavor junkies and we both come from the restaurant world, so we know what people want,” he says, adding that they wanted to create something that can be enjoyed by people with different dietary needs. “We’re both flexible eaters. Sometimes vegetarian, vegan, lactose free, with hot sauce and without. We’re inspired by people who want to eat better, but are tired of all of the sacrifice.” flavorfied.com

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Sanjiv Dhar with the Flavorfied Gluten Free Pizza Crust.

Hunky Dory’s pimento cheese

Hunky Dory is a cute little restaurant in downtown Warren specializing in Southern-style cuisine. Chef and co-owner Sam Duling owns the restaurant with his partner Joanna Ray, and they previously lived together in Charleston, South Carolina, before moving to Rhode Island. Duling worked at Sean Brock’s renowned Husk restaurant in Charleston and is bringing his southern roots to Warren. They decided to market their pimento cheese, a staple in the South, to help spread word about Hunky Dory throughout Rhode Island. “We chose the pimento cheese not only because it’s a favorite among guests, but it always embodies Hunky Dory so well,” says Joanna Ray. “We love that it can be a great addition when hosting a party (we think of it as hospitality in bite-form), but it also brings nostalgia and comfort for those who grew up eating it. Sam developed our version of pimento cheese partly from his childhood, but also from being inspired by our time in Charleston, SC.” It’s made with cheddar cheese, pimento peppers that are roasted in house, cream cheese and Duke’s mayo. “We just couldn’t find a version of it in the grocery stores here that brought us back to the pimentos we enjoyed down south,” she says. “So we started making our own.” You can order it as an appetizer at the restaurant, or purchase it at Stock in Providence and at Johnson’s Roadside Market in Swansea. Serve it with chips and crackers at home. 40 Market St., Warren, 401-245-1809, hunkydoryri.com

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Joanna Ray and Sam Duling, owners of Hunky Dory.

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