Pumpkin Aplenty

As fall dawns upon the nation, pumpkin flavors tend to sprout on restaurant menus. However, each year sees new applications for pumpkin. Last year (2007) brought an outpouring of pumpkin items to limited- and full-service restaurant menus. According to Mintel Menu Insights, the classic fall flavors of pumpkin and spice could be found on menu items ranging from muffins to cheesecake, French toast to pancakes and lattes. 

Breakfast is the new occasion to enjoy pumpkin. IHOP created Pumpkin Pancakes—two pancakes made with real pumpkin and spice, crowned with creamy whipped topping and topped with old-fashioned syrup in its Pancake Surrender limited-time offer. Carrows Restaurants offers Grandma’s Pumpkin French Toast made with thick slices of egg bread dipped in a cinnamon pumpkin-spiced batter, grilled, dusted with powdered sugar and topped with pumpkin-spiced whipped cream and a crunchy topping.

Pumpkin snacks and beverages are also becoming all the rage. Dunkin’ Donuts introduced a Pumpkin Donut and Pumpkin Muffin. Starbucks serves Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins and Pumpkin Loaf. Both also serve Pumpkin Lattes. Pumpkin has become one of the most versatile seasonal flavors, and consumers are just eating it up!

Getting Cinny with It

The hidden gem of the spice rack, cinnamon is one of the only culinary spices that can be enjoyed in any meal from breakfast to dessert. It is popping up in sweet and savory menu items, and it is also infused in hot, sippable drinks.

According to Mintel Menu Insights, restaurant menus are boasting cinnamon and cinnamon varietals, such as korintje cinnamon and cassia, in sweet and savory food and beverage menu items. Bahama Breeze adds cinnamon to layer flavor in its mashed sweet potatoes served with oak-grilled Jamaican Grilled Chicken Breast. Café Annie gets creative with cinnamon in its Cinnamon Roasted Pheasant with Red Chile Pecan Sauce and creamy polenta.

Cinnamon is now taking center stage in hot beverages. Seattle’s Best offers a Cinnamon Latte, and Claim Jumper features Hot Cinnamon Sunset Tea. Cinnamon can be used in savory dishes and beverages to add depth of flavor to new recipes or to add newfound interest to existing dishes.

Soy Delicious

A couple of years ago, many consumers would have been saying edemame—what? Today, ede-mame has become so popular that it can be found in the Asian Salad at McDonald’s. 

Edemame is traditionally served warm with a sprinkle of sea salt as an appetizer at Japanese restaurants. American restaurants have picked up on this light appetizer trend. The Cheesecake Factory and Pei Wei Asian Diner have added steamed edemame with a sprinkle of salt to their appetizer menu. California Pizza Kitchen offers edemame as a high-protein, vegetarian addition to its Curly Mac and Cheese.

However, edemame is not meant to just stand alone. Many fine dining restaurants are incorporating it into Asian and non-Asian dishes. T’afia created chicken dumplings filled with orange chili spinach and edemame. Oyster’s has introduced a Roasted Sea Bass with potato-daikon puree, white corn, mushrooms, edemame and black truffle butter, while The Red Maple created hummus out of edemame and serves it with assorted chips.

Granita Delight

Quickly becoming one of the coolest dessert trends, granita is a coarse, semi-frozen dessert related to sorbet and Italian ice made of sugar and water. It originates in Sicily and is appearing more on fine dining dessert menus as a single palate refresher or paired with unique ingredients for interesting texture and taste experiences.

Like its frozen cousins, granita is found in a rainbow of flavors on the menu. According to Mintel Menu Insights, the top 10 flavors of granita are coffee, blood orange, berry, lemongrass, grapefruit, espresso, tangerine, chocolate, raspberry and passion fruit. Granita is a perfect canvas for popular and emerging flavors. T’afia serves seasonal granita varieties in flavors of mixed-melon-basil and organic strawberry-tarragon. Aureole NY serves Rose Scented Raspberry Granita with champagne aspic.

Other restaurants like to pair granita with desserts to add texture to the dish. Viognier serves a Raspberry Tarragon Granita with yogurt cream and lemon pepper chantilly. Farralon combines Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse with vanilla bean chantilly, tangelos and Turkish-spiced espresso granita.

For more information, visitwww.menuinsights.comor 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.