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Media Spotlight – Menu Innovator®- Winter Part 2

Winter was an exciting time on the culinary scene. As chefs continued to dabble with Middle Eastern flavors, down-home cooking shared their attention. The focus on flavor and deeply rooted cooking resulted in the ultimate comfort food – a balance of simple ingredients with an indulgent edge. Throw in some attention grabbers like, chocolate and fermented foods, and you’ll look at this season as anything but dull.

Our Media Spotlight found this season’s most talked about cuisines to be:
1) Asian
2) Mediterranean
3) Southern
4) Italian
5) Latin

Our most talked about culinary topics included:
1) Vegetables
2) Locally Sourced Foods
3) Bold Flavors – such as harissa & fermented veggies
4) Seafood
5) Healthy Eating

One of our top cuisines, Southern, continues to evolve. The South boasts a fertile landscape and a long growing season, resulting in beautiful food – even in February- and a food culture that extends far past fried chicken. The ever so popular farm to table trend that transcends cuisines has been a norm for generations in the south – where chefs utilize the whole animal, cook with the seasons, and celebrate with regional cooking. Chef Donald Link keeps fresh fish fins from seafood brought into the kitchen, fries them up, and serves them as “chips”, showing that utilizing the whole animal can pertain to fish too! The current trend of small plates satisfies America’s modern comfort food obsession with chicken and battered mini-waffle strips and mini corn cakes. Avoiding fried food? Follow the lead of Jamie DeRosa at Tongue & Cheek Miami and use skillet cornbread to crust fish. To assume that southern food is greasy and boring could leave you missing out on some of the most satisfying, slow-cooked and tradition-bound dishes gracing tables at restaurants across the nation.

As we continue to note bold flavors, both on our plates and in our drinks, sour flavors are finally recognized for their strong, acidic, palate-cleansing ability. Maturing American palates desire flavors that come from sources outside of fat and salt, making sour the perfect natural flavor enhancer. Practices like pickling or making mustards in-house bring out the handcrafted theme that chefs are looking to add to their menus. Now, restaurants like Betony in New York are pickling in house, delighting their guests with beef tongue wrapped around a chip with pickled mustard seeds, adding a caviar-like pop to each bite. This sour movement isn’t just for the plate either! At Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok in Portland, Oregon guests can order drinking vinegars including tamarind, pomegranate, and Thai basil.

Just when you thought you had caught up on the beverage scene, with pour-overs and small batch liquors basking in the limelight, hot chocolate takes center stage. At Vicuna Chocolate Factory and Café in Peterborough, NH cacao husks and nibs are steeped in hot water, creating a fruity, tea-like hot chocolate. Cold-brew hot chocolate is another hit, where cacao is brewed for 24 hours and served cold. For the die-hard chocolate lover is the chocolate drinking ganache, often served with milk alternatives such as almond milk or coconut milk. With all of this hot chocolate-goodness don’t forget the marshmallows! At Bondir in in Cambridge, MA marshmallows get a makeover spiced with North African spice, ras-el-hanout,

Still searching for the right flavors to add to your menu? Winter shows us the balance of getting back to our roots with slow cooking and regional ingredients and kicks it up a notch with fermentation and chocolate! Eat well.

Culinary Systems Inc

Windermare, Florida 34786

Email. tlagana@culinarysystems.com

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