Mussel Mania

No, not a “muscle” mania wrestling tournament, but a love of shellfish is taking over menus around the country. Mussels have quickly become the seafood favorite in restaurants. According to Mintel Menu Insights, mussels have shown a steady growth on the menu over the past two years. Dozens of varieties, such as Prince Edward Island, Black, Mediterranean, New Zealand, Green and Blue Hill Bay, are being mixed into traditional seafood dishes and standing alone as flavorful appetizers and entrées.

The latest movement in mussels on the menu is its move to the center stage. Restaurants across the U.S. are serving big bowls of mussels accompanied by a flavorful broth. According to Mintel Menu Insights, mussels are carrying global flavors that range from Italy to Asia to Mexico to the Caribbean. Tamayo, in Denver, serves an appetizer of Cazuela De Mejillonesmade with steamed mussels, tequila, tomatillo broth, grilled pineapple and a cilantro-pesto crouton to soak up all of the juices. Home Bistro, of Chicago, added a fun twist to its “Amsterdam Style” Mussels entrée made with beer broth, anise, dried basil and garlic, by serving them with crispy truffle fries.

Old is New Again

The early to mid-1900s are reemerging on the menu by way of the classic cocktail. Classic cocktails such as the Sidecar, Manhattan, Bellini and Tom Collins are shaking up the cocktail menu in everything from popular chains to exclusive fine dining restaurants. According to Mintel Menu Insights, classic cocktails have grown 157% since Q1 2006, and they most recently increased 55% from same quarter a year ago (Q3 2006 vs. Q3 2007).

The leading classic cocktails on the menu include the Mai Tai, Mimosa, Manhattan and Mudslide.  Emerging classic cocktails include the Gin Rickey, Old Fashioned, Mint Julep, Manhattan, Sidecar, Roy Rogers and the Tom Collins. These drinks are stirred with their classic recipes and shaken with a contemporary twist. The Cheesecake Factory describes its Gin Rickey as stepping into the 20s, with a delicious combination of Tanqueray gin, lime, sugar and crushed ice. Aureole NY serves a Manhattan (Perfect) with Michter's Straight Rye, Stock Vermouth half sweet and half dry, house-made aromatic bitters and a lemon twist.

For more information, visit www.menuinsights.com or contact Mintel International at 312-932-0600. Mintel Menu Insights tracks menu trends and innovations from the 350 largest chain restaurants and 150 independent restaurants, also featuring the nation’s top 50 chefs.