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Trendinista: Boning up on bone broth

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Customer demand isn’t the only thing fueling the emerging bone broth trend. A ready supply has helped, too. Operators have gleefully discovered they already generate a large volume of this product every day, where its manufacture is the first step in their kitchen’s soup and sauce-making routine. Now they can sell broth as a standalone item—one that delivers sensational markups for what is basically meat-flavored water that uses up bones, trim and scraps that might otherwise be thrown away. 

Probably the most visible purveyor of bone broth (think of it as the intermediate step between stock and soup) is New York City’s Brodo. It’s a walk-up window operation that’s part of chef Marco Canora’s much-honored Hearth in Manhattan. Canora opened this concept in November 2014 and was soon serving 200 thirsty customers a day.

Brodo charges between $4.75 (8 oz.) and $9 (12 oz.) for a cup of sipping broth (rich meat broth made with chicken, turkey and beef). Customers can intensify the flavor with add-in options (ginger juice, fermented beet juice, shiitake mushroom tea) that cost $.75 apiece. Comfort food, umami bomb, cold-weather restorative—whatever you call it, Brodo’s broth is a hit.

Canora’s success also contains a note of caution for other operators. Classic broth making can be a day-long-plus process that ties up a lot of stove-top real estate, as this video shows:

Canora was lucky in that Hearth’s kitchen could accommodate a second stove he could dedicate exclusively to broth production. Other operators may wish to consider whether they have sufficient equipment capacity to roast meat bones for the requisite couple of hours, then simmer the broth on a burner or flat top range for up to 24 hours while still making all the rest of the food their restaurant needs. 

Equipment issues aren’t slowing down the broth trend elsewhere, though. New takes include:

Medea’s Espresso and Juice Bar in Asheville, NC, sells a coffee cup-sized portion for $5.50. This concept gives its bone broth a health food spin, noting that it “is incredibly rich in numerous antioxidants, amino acids vitamin and minerals.”  Customers are encouraged to order ahead online “to make sure it is in stock.”

Los Angeles restaurant Pistola now sells a bone broth cocktail that combines six ounces of lamb consomme and two ounces of Glenlivet 15. Dubbed “From the Kitchen with Love,” the drink sells for $22. Mixologist Aaron Melendrez says he is looking to add more broth-based booze concoctions soon.

Belcampo Meat Company, which operates five combination butcher shop/restaurant concepts in San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, now sells cups of its bone broth for $3.50 per. No broth purveyor has better access to the most desirable meat bones.

• Top Chef Season Five winner Hosea Rosenberg’s new Blackbelly Market restaurant in Boulder, CO, sells “Barnyard Broth” (made using pork, beef and poultry bones) for $4 a cup, $12 per quart. “I've known how to make a proper stock since I became a professional chef—that's one of the first things you learn," Rosenberg tells Eater. "We'd always planned to sell stock out of the market for people to take home and make soup with, but selling it as something to sip out of a cup—that's kind of mind blowing. I didn't see that trend coming but it's right up my alley."

If bone broth making isn’t up your particular alley but you’d still like to plug into this trend anyway, here’s an option. The bone broth bar at JoLa Cafe in Portland, OR, uses a prepared broth purchased from local producer Pacific Foods. The restaurant offers five flavors of broth priced at $3.75 for a 10 oz. serving. Customers can customize their choice from there.

“Bone broth is super nutritious and nourishing, but also super difficult and time intensive to make,” said JoLa co-owner Jenny Quirie. “Pacific, a local company we trust, makes it possible for us to make bone broth accessible to everyone.”

So who’s drinking all this bone broth? Health food aficionados and paleo diet followers make up a key part of the market right now. But mainstream customers could soon follow their lead. The ongoing popularity of Asian restaurants that serve broth-based dishes like ramen and pho has transformed many U.S. patrons into de facto connoisseurs of flavorful broths.

Bone-broth sipping isn’t a big leap for these customers. Nor might it be one for many restaurants, particularly those that sell a lot of coffee and/or juice. If you’re looking to experiment a little with your beverage menu this winter, think about giving bone broth a try.

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