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Chipotle uses Kansas City to test market chorizo

By JILL WENDHOLT SILVA

jsilva@kcstar.com

June 02, 2015 01:00 AM

UPDATED June 02, 2015 08:40 PM

Chipotle Mexican Grill has chosen Kansas City as the test market for a new menu item: chorizo.

The Mexican-style fresh sausage — a blend of ground chicken and pork with paprika, cumin, garlic and red wine — is available throughout the city’s 33 locations starting Tuesday.

“Kansas City is probably a really good barometer of how people will respond to the chorizo anywhere,” says Chris Arnold, Chipotle’s Denver-based communications director.

You might remember that in the fall, Chipotle introduced sofritas, a braised non-GMO soy product by Hodo Soy that was originally test marketed in San Francisco. Now the company is testing the chorizo as another protein option that can be served as a burrito, bowl, salad or taco for $6.95.

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Since the company’s founding 22 years ago, very few new menu items have been added, although travelers may have glimpsed the chorizo in an earlier test run at New York airport locations as a breakfast menu option.

Chipotle corporate chef Nate Appleman, a James Beard Rising Star Chef in 2009, worked on the development of the sofritas, but he has really been chomping at the bit to roll out the chorizo since he arrived at the company.

“I’ve been beating the drum for five years,” Appleman said in a recent phone interview from San Diego. “It was one of the first things I worked on.”

Appleman has long been a proponent of nose-to-tail cooking, a philosophy that encourages use of the entire animal, even the less glamorous parts, such as the snout and tail. It’s a philosophy that fits neatly with Chipotle’s “Food With Integrity” mission statement: The company buys from farmers who have raised their livestock without antibiotics or hormones.

In recent months, the company has also found it difficult to supply all its stores with humanely raised pork shoulder used for its carnitas option.

Chorizo uses ground meat from various parts of the hog, so adding it may help ease that supply-chain glitch while wasting less of the animals they do have. Chicken is far and away Chipotle’s largest selling item, while the chipotle adobo marinated steak is the spiciest.

Appleman’s chorizo recipe blends the pork with chicken for a lighter, less greasy sausage. The patties are seared on the in-store grill and crumbled before serving. Is it spicy? That depends on your definition of hot, but one thing is for sure: “This is a full-flavored chorizo.”

He recommends combining the chorizo with white or brown rice, black beans, tomato salsa, sour cream or cheese, and maybe a little guacamole.

In another nod to Kansas City, Chipotle is bringing its “Cultivate Festival” to Penn Valley Park 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on July 18. The festival, which has been held in Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Dallas, Minneapolis and Phoenix, is in its fifth year.

The Kansas City event includes free music by national bands such as Portugal, The Man and Smallpools, chef demos, including one by Colby Garrelts, a taster’s hall featuring craft beer, wine and ciders, as well as an artisan hall featuring local foods from Rye, Shatto, The Roasterie, Little Freshie, Poppy’s Ice Cream Truck. Educational booths will feature interactive exhibits focused on sustainable food practices.

There will also be samples representing Chipotle’s next concepts, Pizzeria Locale, set to launch in Waldo, and the Southeast Asian-flavored ShopHouse . There are10 ShopHouse restaurants on the East and West coasts.

For more information, go to ChipotleCultivate.com.