Ingredient Challenges: Restaurant Trends: On the National Menu
Burgers: Size is EverythingThe burger is making a statement in a big way! One of the most-publicized burgers, thanks to Paris Hilton, is the Carl's Jr. (Carpinteria, Calif.) “1 Lb. Double Six Dollar Burger.” (The original, smaller Six Dollar Burger is shown here.) The new burger contains two half-pound charbroiled angus beef patties, three slices of American cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle, mustard, mayonnaise and ketchup on a toasted sesame seed bun. It weighs in at a hefty 1,420 calories and 101g of total fat!
In case the consumer is left wanting more, the “Six Dollar Burger” can be augmented with guacamole, chili, onion rings or bacon. Carl's Jr. is not alone among quick-service restaurants offering big burgers: Sonic (Oklahoma City, Okla.) is serving the “SuperSonic Cheeseburger”; Checkers/Rally's (Tampa, Fla.) has the “Big Buford”; and A&W Restaurants (part of Yum! Brands, Louisville, Ky.) serves the “Deluxe Bacon Double Cheeseburger.”
Casual restaurants also offer gigantic sandwiches. The Cheesecake Factory (Calabasas Hills, Calif.) menu offers the “Ranch House Burger” topped with pieces of steak, cheddar cheese and bacon, and Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (Greenwood Village, Colo.) allows its customers to customize its already enormous burgers with endless toppings, including fried egg.
PizzastaHaving trouble deciding on pizza or pasta? How about pasta on pizza?! Happy Joe's Restaurant (Bettendorf, Iowa) features its original “Spaghetti Joe,” a pizza topped with spaghetti, garlic-herb butter and spaghetti sauce with beef, mozzarella, provolone and cheddar cheeses.
According to Mintel's (Chicago) Menu Insights, the most popular pasta used to top pizzas is classic spaghetti. Other restaurants, such as Café Baci (Sarasota, Fla.) and Mama's Pizza (Hackettstown, N.J.), add classic Italian pasta meals to their pizza. They offer “Penne Vodka Pizza” topped with vodka sauce and penne, “Cheese Tortellini Alfredo Pizza” (a white pizza with cheese tortellini and Alfredo sauce) and the classic “Baked Ziti Pizza” topped with ziti, mozzarella cheese and red sauce. These pizzas are not recommended for those following a low-carb diet!
Just a Little CevicheCeviche, one of South America's fine culinary secrets, is descending upon the American restaurant market. In the past year, Ceviche has crept onto fine dining menus nationally, as tracked by Mintel's Menu Insights, and is beginning its transition into the casual and family/mid-scale restaurants.
This atypical appetizer is breaking American menu boundaries with its authentic seafood recipe, which often combines lime and onion notes with other flavorful inclusions. Top seafood ingredients in this delicious but simple dish are shrimp, scallops, mahi mahi, lobster and clams. Ceviche embodies freshness and health with its light appearance and texture and citrus flavor. Some ceviches are diverting from the dish's traditional Latin American flavor to incorporate tropical flavors such as coconut, papaya, malanga and mango.
Goat Cheese DessertsGoat cheese is changing cheesecake and ice cream. It is tempting the adventurous palates in fine dining restaurants across the country. Chef Emeril Lagasse substitutes goat cheese for cream cheese in his cheesecake, to appeal to the savory palate. Goat cheesecake often is served with savory accompaniments such as balsamic vinegar and nuts--a real departure from the realm of traditional desserts.
Goat cheese also is adding a unique flavor to the menus of Chef Charlie Trotter of Charlie Trotter's (Chicago) and Chef Scott Giambastiani of Viognier Restaurant (San Mateo, Calif.). Trotter pairs goat cheese ice cream with Russian banana fingerling potato soufflé and Alba White Truffles. Giambastiani offers goat cheese ice cream with a “Spring Vegetable Tart a la Mode.” The spring tart consists of piecrust, warm baby spring vegetables, wild mushrooms, caramelized onion, mascarpone, micro greens and pistachio vinaigrette. These two chefs are moving ice cream off the dessert menu and into the entree category!
Lighter Fare: Fruit in SaladsFruit is the perfect ingredient to boost nutrient intake and provide sweetening in salads. Restaurants from fine dining to quick-service segments recognize the consumer need for more-healthful, lighter additions to their menus. Family/mid-scale restaurants take the lead by offering the consumer a large variety of fruits in salads, which in addition to adding different nutrients, impart flavor and color to an ordinary salad.
According to Mintel's Menu Insights, the top five fruits in salads are oranges, pears, apples, cranberries and mangos. However, keep a look out for pineapple, green apples, grapes, strawberries, currants, grapefruit and pomegranate in salads. Panera Bread Company (Richmond Heights, Mo.) adds a sweet part of nature to its “Strawberry Poppyseed Salad” by combining all-natural, citrus-herb chicken, crisp romaine lettuce, fresh strawberries, blueberries, pineapple tidbits, Mandarin oranges and pecans--topped with sugar-free Poppyseed dressing.
The fruit is not always in the salad. Finding it may require a look at the dressing. Einstein Bros. (Golden, Colo.) serves up a “Kickin' Jerk Chicken Salad with Spicy Mango Vinaigrette.” This salad is comprised of mixed greens and napa slaw topped with jerk chicken breast, mandarin oranges, pineapple chunks, crunchy Terra Stix and spicy mango vinaigrette. The possibilities to combine sweet and savory are endless.
Shown above, Wendy's (Dublin, Ohio) is adding a new low-fat, strawberry-flavored yogurt cup with granola in response to the popularity of its fresh fruit bowl with yogurt introduced earlier this year.
Information in this column is from Mintel's Menu Insights, a key resource for analyzing trends in the restaurant industry. For more information, call: 312-932-0400, visit: www.menuinsights.com or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.