Suddenly Summer Seafood
More daylight and warmer temps usually mean lighter dishes on menus, along with seasonings and sauces to complement them. Recent findings from Technomic Inc. reveal these dishes are heavily showcasing seafood paired with citrus and other fruit flavors--especially lemon, lime and peach, as reported by Chicago’s Business Wire (April 12, 2010).

The increase in seafood dishes could also be partly economic. “We found that restaurants have begun rolling out a number of new seafood dishes, especially entrées incorporating grilled shrimp, salmon or tilapia,” says Bernadette Noone, director of product management at Technomic. “We believe the higher incidence of seafood dishes is the direct result of a fall in seafood’s retail price points. We’ve also seen countless restaurants introduce new menu offerings featuring citrus and other fruit flavors.”

Technomic’s recent look at seafood dishes reveals such menu additions as shrimp tacos, lobster tails, grilled salmon and mahi mahi, to name just a few. The seafood trend seems to show up across all restaurant segments, from QSRs to fine-dining establishments. A sampling includes Orange-and-Chipolte-Glazed Grilled Salmon at Jackson’s Steakhouse; Blackened Tilapia with Crab-Stuffed Shrimp at Luby’s; and Crispy Shrimp Tacos at Carrows Restaurants.

Many chains prepare seafood entrees with light sauces and seasonal ingredients, in order to heighten patrons’ warm weather experience. Technomic also reports citrus and fruit flavors showing up in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

In a Pickle
As American as apple pie, the crunch of a good pickle is right up there with the snap and pop of fireworks for evoking the sounds of summer. Americans consume more than 2.5 billion pickles a year, according to the Houston Chronicle (May 25, 2010), and the country’s recent financial woes mean more homemade pickles are showing up on U.S. dinner tables--and on menus.

More and more chefs are creating their own delicious versions for their restaurant customers. Houston restaurants, such as The Grove, t’afia, BRC Gastropub and Zelko Bistro, all feature house-made pickles, and some chefs are discovering the beauty of pickled vegetables, as well.

“You could buy good pickles, but where does it end? We need to learn how to do it. It’s important we go back to the basics and learn the nostalgic trades,” said Jamie Zelko, chef-owner of Zelko Bistro in Houston. Zelko recently put up some pickles (made with Texas Kirby cucumbers and fresh dill from the farmer’s market) and has also been working on pickling watermelon rinds and homemade preserves.

Not only is pickling not as labor-intensive as some think, it is also fun. According to chef Jeff Axline of BRC, “To us, the pickles are something easy to do; they’re something we can share.” BRC offers a delicious and easy-on-the-pocket jar of house-cured, half-sour garlic dill pickles as a pub snack. An instant hit, the pickles are served in a glass jar with some asparagus spears.

Executive chef Ryan Pera, of The Grove, has been producing house-made dills since the restaurant opened. Pera’s recipe uses the classic dill, garlic and whole black peppercorns, as well as allspice, coriander, juniper berries, fennel, star anise and cinnamon