Flavor & Menu Trends

July 28, 2011

Written by: Dean Small

Like fashion, food trends come and go, but the overall consumer appetite for appetizers seems to be staying put. In fact, 77% of patrons are ordering starters in fine-dining restaurants—even if it is in lieu of a more traditional main course.

We’ve briefly covered the bar food trend , in our February newsletter, it seems like a great time to delve into an exploration of some of the other au courant apps on menus today. Culled from a very quick perusal of full-service restaurant menus, these ideas demonstrate what’s selling best around the country—note that many of them are also cost-effective, easy to execute and/or vegetarian friendly.

Spiced nuts, olives and other bar snacks: easy, tasty and good for a few bucks in extra sales. Here’s a recipe for Union Square Café’s addictively sweet-spicy “hot nuts” to get you started

Dips and dunks. Served with crackers, crudité, bread/pita or other scoops, dips ranging from guacamole and pimento cheese to ethnic specialties like hummus and taramosalata (Greek caviar spread)

Bruschetta, crostini and flatbreads. Can you say low food costs and great product utilization?

Mussels. The version with almond-garlic butter served at Fore Street restaurant in Portland, Maine, is still one of the most popular items on the menu, but versions range from traditional white wine and garlic to Thai curry and more. Tony Maw, of Craigie on Main near Boston, prefers his with Buttery Miso Broth

Charcuterie and salumi. For kitchens with the skill, this almost-lost butcher’s art has been found again, there’s no shortage of sources for high-quality prepared versions of items like pate and artisanal hams.

Specialty fries. Frites with dips, poutine (the French-Canadian specialty that started with gravy and cheese curds but went on to sport toppings ranging from duck confit to goat cheese), sweet potato and other fried vegetables, and housemade tater “tots” all make worthy appetizers.

Ceviches and seafood cocktails. Upscale, elegant, and a bit easier to pull off than raw bar items.

Satays and skewers. Fun, dramatic and back from the ‘70s kabob craze, skewered foods can run the gamut from grilled meats to items like cherry tomatoes and bonconcini (small mozzarella balls) speared and served with pesto. Friday’s has just introduced two new skewered appetizers: a Mediterranean and a Japanese Hibachi.


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