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Perfecting Paninis


Nice board, but what’s it got to do with Paninis?

When I started to make paninis at my deli back 2006, I didn’t know what I was doing. Yes, I had worked all over Europe and spent a decade in most aspects of hospitality but paninis were new to me. With a little help and a couple of burnt hands later, I soon got the hang of it. In fact it really helped express my creative side. My retro style deli menu developed into a surf cafe theme you might see in far-flung exotic places.

Then a lightbulb moment happened while looking at sixties surf movie poster.

from a 1960’s cult surf movie to a ‘Legend in your Lunchtime!

I thought this was a marketeers dream, albeit with the stripes going the other way. I just didn’t have the budget to roll it out bigger; social media hadn’t gone mainstream & the 2008 recession killed lunch budgets nationwide. However, it didn’t stop customers from asking if I was part of a chain. From then on I called paninis – ‘ Toasted Panini Surfboards,’ because of their obvious shape similarities. Panini names soon became inspired by surf terms and global flavour influences. This suited my well-travelled background and I often quizzed customers from abroad for their food influences at home. Here are some of the resulting ideas, with some becoming Legend status, like the ‘Cuban Meltdown’. Our lunch phone orders then went into meltdown! Part of its success was down to being adaptable and the ability to move quickly with trends i.e. being 1st to market with Reggae Reggae sauce on paninis.

Panini list from the main menu

So, how far can you go with an idea ? For creative types, as long as you like. Here is a selection of Paninis from the specials board;

                            Christopher Columbusspanish chorizo, salami, mojo sauce & cheese.

                            Monte Cristocheese, ham, sliced boiled egg, dijon mustard.

                            Slumdog – Roast chicken, Indian spices, fresh-cut tomato, cheese & mayo.

                            Sunday Roast  – Pastrami beef, horseradish mayo, red onion & cheese.

                            Chicken Oriental – Roast chicken in satay sauce & spring onions.

                            Santa Lucia   – Honey roast ham, cheese & pesto mayo.

                            The Rising Sun – Roast beef, wasabi mayo, red onion.

                            Chicken Soprano – Roast chicken, mozzarella, blush pepper & balsamic.

                            Pizza Hawaii Panini – Honey roast ham, pineapple, cheese & sugo sauce.

                            Acapulco Beach – Roast chicken, hot nachos sauce, jalapenos & cheese.

                            San francisco – Roast chicken, ham, cheese, pineapple & BBQ sauce.

                            Italian Flag – Mozzarella, fresh-cut tomato & pesto or basil leaves.

                            Don’t waste my thyme! – Roast chicken, gouda, fresh thyme & olives.

                            Sicilian Cabbucio – Salami, mozzarella, fresh tomato, chillies & olive oil.

                            Sweet Irish dream – Honey roast ham, sliced apple & cheddar cheese.

                            Oh la la! – Brie, bacon & cranberry.

                            Capetown comedown – Brie, bacon & banana (S.A. beach favourite)

                            Jamaican meltdown – Roast chicken, bacon, jerk sauce & cheese.

                            Casanova –  Chorizo, harrisa mayo, cheese.

                            Club Panini – Roast chicken, bacon & mayo.

                            Chicken Caesar Panini – Roast chicken, mayo, olives, cheese & red onion.

                            Old MACdonald – Ham, mushroom, cheese & herbs.

                            Niscoise – Tuna, sliced boiled egg, red onion & olives.

                            Baga Beach – Roast chicken in coronation mayo & red onion.

                            Rabbie Burns – Haggis, bacon & brown sauce.

                            Cayman Melt – chunky tuna & cheese.

                            New Orleans – Roast chicken in Cajun spices & cheese.

                            Morrocan muddle – Roast pepper, hummus & Ras el hanout.

                            Antipasto panini party!mozz, pastrami, salami, tomato, red onion, olive

And many more for special events like the Barack Obama Presidential special or the Apprentice ‘no chicken wrap’ panini. The Inside-out Panini? Yes it does work if have the know how.

Well what do you think? Hungry yet? Thought so.

So you want to know what the customers top 3 were?

  1. Cuban Meltdown – a variation on a Cuban dish I had in Rio, Brazil & a wave term.
  2. Hawaiian Half-Pipe – a wave term & sweet chili sauce became huge in 2007.
  3. Catalan Curve – a wave term and I wanted to make Spanish themed panini.

Oh and toasted Focaccia baps were pretty popular too, want to know their top 3?

  1. Antipasto Focaccia party! – the craziest Italian sandwich there is, add some pesto for lift-off!
  2. Sicilian Cabbucio – from a Sicilian wedding trip in 2009, named after a Sicilian cap.
  3. Slumdog – my homage to 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire movie.

Any favourites? So next time skip the chain places and go independent, there’s far more choice, no?

ps. yes, they came from my head and by-the-way here’s amazing things to lift a paninis flavour: pesto mayo, sweet chilli sauce, balsamic syrup, wasabi mayo, harrisa mayo, horseradish mayo, mustard mayo & of course jerk sauce!

pss. I’m no longer in this business, I sold it in 2010,  but I hear that Cuban Meltdowns are still No1!

get grilling!

To Endless Summers…

As always, thanks for reading. Feel free to comment or rate and check my other stuff.

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