Desserts: Through a Straw

Drinkable desserts offer convenience and sometimes a healthy post-meal option.

Published in FSD Update

Overlook’s Summit Shuffle.

For operators looking to add something nutritious, portable and trendy to their menus, consider drinkable desserts. Whether you go seasonal with fresh fruit smoothies, ethnic with agua frescas or decadent with milkshakes, the options are limitless.

Take it from Richard B. Roberts, chef/manager at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., who offers smoothies and milkshakes in rotating flavors, including strawberry, mixed berry and mango. Chocolate and vanilla milkshakes are garnished with items like chocolate chips, crumbled cookies, candy and fruit. “Because Cornell has its own dairy plant, these [drinkables] get added appeal, and it gives our operation a chance to feature a high-quality, local product,” Roberts says. 

Joe Mullineaux, senior associate director for the University of Maryland’s Dining Services, can relate. Mullineaux also uses ice cream made from the on-campus dairy for his best-selling milkshakes. “We have a long tradition surrounding our ice cream,” Mullineaux says. “In most of our smoothies we use whole fruits and add in nutritional supplements, which takes the guilt away from dessert, making them very popular.” 

Michael Atanasio, manager of food and nutrition at Overlook Medical Center, in Summit, N.J., also uses the guilt-free dessert tactic. Atanasio offers many varieties of yogurt and fruit smoothies made with fresh fruit, protein and supplements. One smoothie, the Summit Shuffle, is made with a Greek yogurt base and is topped with almonds and dark chocolate. “I try and stay away from plain white sugar and use natural ingredients, like fresh fruit and vegetables, for sweetening whenever possible. Soon we’ll use our own honey,” says Atanasio, who recently added two beehives to his on-site garden. “Other bases, like yogurt or candied ginger, double as sweeteners and tie into the healthy craze.”

While milkshakes and smoothies are mainstays, don’t stop there. Take a page from Mullineaux’s book and consider snow cones: shaved ice flavored with syrup and often topped with marshmallow cream. Though it starts out solid, as the ice melts the cones becomes a fun, portable drink, says Mullineaux, who sells the dessert at special events, at the Dairy and at the campus golf course bar, where he adds liqueurs.

Made to order
Perhaps the biggest challenge of drinkable desserts is they’re typically made to order so as not to dilute or thaw. “It takes a good bit of work and skill to make a good drinkable dessert, and it can be messy,” Mullineaux says. “Training is key. And you should start small, building on new flavors after you master the basics.” Cornell’s Roberts agrees: “In building a hot or cold beverage program, keep the process simple, using [no more than] five easily replicable ingredients. If you have all the necessary ingredients in place, it is more of a systematic production.”  

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
star wars storm trooper

My favorite event—because I’m kind of dorky—is our “May the fourth be with you” (aka “Star Wars”) day on May 4. The whole dining team dresses up, and we offer things like Chewbaklava, Boba Fettuccine and BB-8 Buckeyes. We had a guest cry because they got to take a picture with Chewy.

Ideas and Innovation
tray number

We created lucky tray days to help create an experience surrounding our brand. The trays are numbered; we pick a number and the winner receives a free lunch. We’ve enlisted the help of one of our coaches, who calls out the random lucky winner, and it drums up a lot of excitement.

Menu Development
recipe revamp chicken soup

As a continuous care retirement community, The Garlands of Barrington in Illinois provides daily foodservice to 270 independent living and skilled nursing care residents, with the majority of sodium restrictions coming from the latter, says Executive Chef Nicola Torres. Instead of cooking two versions of chicken noodle soup—a favorite offered at least twice a week—he reworked his recipe into a flavorful lower-sodium version that appeals to all. “Everybody eats soup, so I created a homemade stock that uses no salt at all, ramping up the flavor with fresh herbs and plenty of vegetables,...

Ideas and Innovation
bus advertising jagermeister

Because many locals use the bus system, we paid for some full bus wraps to advertise [job openings within] our dining services program. The buses go all over campus where students can see them, and to apartments where the public can see them. To top it off, the cost wasn’t much more than newspaper rates.

FSD Resources