From pineapple on pizza to maple syrup on bacon, sweet and salty flavors can bring out the best in each other. In her book TASTE: Surprising Stories and Science About Why Food Tastes Good, the author Barb Stuckey compares the experience of eating a sweet and salty food to “hearing beautiful music while sniffing rose petals.” It sparks the senses in two ways at once, creating an experience that is better and more memorable than it would be if a person experienced those sensations individually. What sweet-and-salty combinations can you create to elevate the flavors on your menu?
Eastern spices can lend warmth and depth to your winter menu. The best part is that they can help you create new comfort foods that are nonetheless both nutrient-dense and health conscious – which many guests are going for in the first months of the year. A base of seasoned rice, for example, can provide a solid foundation for such ingredients as vegetables, legumes and lean protein, while bringing some interesting global flavor to your menu. What combinations can you create?
Do your guests have entrée fatigue? Whether it’s about not wanting to commit to an entire dish, the growing power of snacks on the menu, or the desire to sample and share (in person and on social media) many different types of food, the trend of smaller plates doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. There are clear benefits for restaurants. A report for Upserve says small plates can encourage guests to be adventurous, manage their calorie intake (and guilt), enjoy more social time with those sharing plates with them, and photograph the experience for Instagram. On restaurants’ end, small plates can encourage your chef’s creativity and help you generate specials and limited-time offers that generate interest among guests. But they’re not for everyone – smaller restaurants tend to be best suited to them – and offering them can require any restaurant to make adjustments. As a report for Uncorkd says, small plates call for a different kind of service structure, organization and communication than more traditional entrée service requires. Your menu should clarify the size of the plates (and how many items will be included) so a four-top isn’t disappointed when three items arrive on a plate. If an item is meant to be shared, deliver it in shareable form – and ensure tables can be cleared of empty plates promptly so there is room for more. Ensure your servers are clear about how many plates you recommend per guest to provide the satisfaction of a full meal. Speaking of communication, small plates require both flexibility and organization: Your server should understand if a table prefers to receive plates all at once or as soon as they are ready – and also if the kitchen can make that kind of staggering possible – and communicate accordingly.
Calzones are an ideal winter comfort food. They offer the chewy, melty goodness of pizza, and can be customized with a long list of fillings and dipped into anything from marinara sauce to tomato soup to chili oil. No longer restricted to Italian-style ingredients, calzones can include ingredients as wide-ranging as blue cheese and barbecue chicken. But they’re an especially good vehicle for vegetables, from spinach to mushrooms to eggplant. In these plant-forward times, what varieties can you create?
Looking for a dessert that is a customizeable, Instagrammable crowd pleaser? Try adding a sweet pizza to your menu. There are dozens of possibilities for making a creative signature pie. The food website Delish suggests such varieties as caramel apple, Nutella with toasted marshmallows, or berries with mascarpone cheese. Dessert pizzas are ideal dishes to feature in-season ingredients, allow for some guest customization, and use surplus ingredients in your kitchen pantry.