Small Plates of Insights from MenuDirections 2012

A roundup of informational nuggets from our conference.

By 
Peter Romeo, Director of Digital Content

MenuDirections abounded in ideas, some so self-contained that it’s difficult to lump them into categories or one of our larger themed stories from the conference (which you’ll find here.) Here, then, is a mixed assortment of those notions and insights. We like to think of them as small plates of brain food:

Nuts, contrary to the assertions of some pop diets, can be healthful additions to diets in moderation. Nutritionist James Painter noted that they make a particularly good replacement for meats.

One of the ideas floated for making soybeans sexier called for pureeing the beans, saucing them with some ponzu and serving the whole thing in a martini glass.

Tacos made with tempeh were also saluted, as was the substitution of silky tofu for ricotta in lasagna.

One of Mediterranean food’s operational benefits is its durability as a takeout food. It holds for long times at ambient temperatures, and many versions are meant to be eaten without reheating. That makes it “a great way to stretch your dayparts without having to keep the doors open all the time,” noted LifeWorks’ Marion Gibson.

An Italian meat platter—basically rolled salamis and other cold cuts presented cheek-to-jowl with sliced cheeses on some type of open-faced Italian bread—is a good way to get $20 from a couple of sharers who might otherwise buy two $5 sandwiches. It’s twice the money for half the food, and everyone’s happy, said Gibson.

The new frontier in the use of beans is getting them into breakfast and dessert items, said Chef Tom Smith of Food IQ. He noted how the menu-idea lab is tinkering with such products as waffles, breads and white custards made from ground-up beans. He also asserted that beans would be accepted by more “customers” in K-12 if the industry could brainstorm ways of enabling the beans to be eaten neatly on the go in hand-held products.

Rhubarb can give new color, literally, to margaritas served in catering situations. It can be a good sour base for the popular drink, and delivers an attractive, unusual hue, said McCormick Chef Kevan Vetter.

Keywords: 
menu development
By Peter Romeo, Director of Digital Content
View More Articles By Peter Romeo

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
salad

We’re currently piloting a Salad Bar Happy Hour 
in Cafe 16. Due to Health Department regulations, any self-serve salad bar items must be disposed of after service. The salad bar goes “on sale” for 25 cents an ounce post-lunchtime to help reduce waste as well as offer value to customers.

Menu Development
sauces

Adding an entirely new cuisine to the menu can feel daunting. But what if you could dabble in international flavors simply by introducing a few new condiments? For inspiration, FSD talked to operators who are offering a range of condiments plucked from global regional cuisines.

“Most ethnic cuisines have some sort of sauce or condiment relishes that go with their dishes,” says Roy Sullivan, executive chef with Nutrition & Food Services at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco. Condiments offered to diners at UCSF Medical include chimichurri (Argentina), curry (India), tzatziki (...

Ideas and Innovation
turnip juice brine

Give leftover brine new life by adding it to vegetables. In an interview with Food52, Stuart Brioza, chef and owner of State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, says that he adds a splash of leftover brine while sauteeing mushrooms to increase their flavor profile. “We like to ferment turnips at the restaurant, and it’s a great way to use that brine—though dill pickle brine would work just as well,” he says.

Menu Development
side dishes

Operators looking to increase sales of side dishes may want to focus on freshness and value. Here’s what attributes consumers say are important when picking sides.

Fresh - 73% Offered at a fair price - 72% Satisfies a craving - 64% Premium ingredients - 56% Natural ingredients - 49% Signature side - 47% Something familiar - 46% Housemade/made from scratch - 44% Something new/unique - 42% Large portion size - 42% Healthfulness - 40% Family-size - 40%

Source: Technomic’s 2017 Starters, Small Plates and Sides Consumer Trend Report , powered by Ignite

FSD Resources