Layers of Flavor (Issue 760)

In which we are challenged to communicate the experiential aspects of our products to distinguish them and stimulate client hunger for them.

I can’t remember how we heard about this place or who recommended it. It’s a small place – about 30 seats – with an unusual name, Strip T’s, that might lead one to think “Las Vegas” (it’s really related to a steak sandwich that was on their first menu) … and it’s on a side street in Watertown, Massachusetts.

The place is casual, like an old fashioned storefront pharmacy or diner, with a sense of humor (a sign behind the counter read, “We’re not happy until you’re not happy”).

Apple, aubergine, paprika, orange slices stackedThe menu consisted of two roughly 5” x 7” sheets of paper clipped to a similarly sized bit of corrugated cardboard. Self-consciously not fancy. Scanning quickly, I thought, “A bit limited,” ‘though punctuated with some “don’t see them every day” offerings.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts combined with tsunami, wasabi-yuzu kewpie, and fish sauce. Okonomiyaki – a pancake with spaghetti squash, pickled ginger, and lomo. Rice “tots” featuring blue crab, battleship curry, and nori. A potato salad appetizer with togarashi-cheddar skins, cucumber, and ginger.

“All of this sounds great…. and what in the world IS all that stuff?” I wondered.

Our family enjoys potatoes… so I asked our server about the potato salad appetizer.

“Oh,” she said. “It’s purple potatoes mixed with soy sauce topped with tiny strips of cucumber, ginger, and scallions, with togarashi-cheddar skins on top.”

Not clear. I nearly moved on to something more familiar. However, feeling curious about the dish, I ordered it.

It arrived in a vessel about the size of a coffee cup. The menu and the server’s description didn’t do it justice. In the potato mix itself, hints of the soy sauce and other spices. The cheddar skins are half-dollar sized bits of crispy cheddar-touched potato skins coated with togarashi, a ground red pepper spice – they look a little bit like dark brown curled up potato chips dusted with reddish brown powder.

Mixing different combinations of the cool ginger, cucumber, scallions, and togarashi-cheddar skins guided me down flavor ladders that varied depending on which of the toppings touched my tongue first.

Layers upon layers of flavor…

… highlighting a problem we face every day – how to capture and convey the layers-upon-layers of flavor in our products before our clients actually experience them.

Beyond the product features, descriptions of how they’re made, etc. etc.: During the sales process, what word pictures convey “what it’s going to be like” such that buyers’ mouths are watering and that they’re not disappointed when they take their first and subsequent “tastes” of our products?

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