Is there anything a chickpea cannot do? Use them in their pure form in hummus or blend them with onions, garlic and spices for nutritious plant-based burger patties. They’re even taking the guilt out of pasta dishes: Try chickpea pasta as a high-fiber, high-protein, low-glycemic, gluten-free substitute for the traditional version.
Your menu of appetizers and small plates is an ideal place to test global flavors, experiment with a range of proteins and monitor the response to limited-time offers that have the potential to become menu mainstays. Options like coconut shrimp with tangy tomato dipping sauce are easily shareable and offer up tropical flavor that’s a little sweet, a little savory and very craveable.
At a time when small plates, all-day snacks and off-daypart meals continue to be in demand, your tapas menu can be a great draw. In addition to crowd pleasers like croquettes or potatoes with aioli, try to create some balanced meals in miniature form to elevate your menu. Adding some spice or heat can help too. Options like chicken tapas with sweet potato puree and green chili salsa tick all of the boxes for a satisfying small plate.
Consumers clamor for Swedish meatballs. Just ask IKEA, which recently released their recipe for the iconic dish in light of rave reviews from customers. To add a little comfort to your menu, you can make your own version as a shareable, crowd-pleasing addition to your appetizer or small plate selection.
Looking for a new addition to your entrée menu? Take some cues from popular appetizers. You can piggyback on consumers’ interest in little plates and snackable items – all while working with a foundation that is time-tested and guest-approved. Bruschetta is one example. Reinvent it with added protein and melted mozzarella and you have a new dish that manages to be as accessible as a classic appetizer.
What chef doesn’t want a ready supply of simple, versatile sauces and marinades? Chimichurri sauce can liven up a variety of dishes and, in keeping with its Argentinian roots, is an especially good complement to beef. Serve it atop steak crostini for a colorful, satisfying addition to your selection of small plates or appetizers.
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.
What are the holidays without comfort food? If you’re looking for something that brings savory and slightly sweet tastes to your breakfast menu, consider the sausage kolache (or klobasnek, according to its Czech roots). A mainstay in parts of Texas, the sausage kolache is a pillowy, mildly sweet dough filled with sausage and cheese. In the Czech Republic, kolaches can be filled with various combinations of fruit, cheese and other ingredients.
Crescent rolls aren’t just for your bread basket. They’re more versatile than they seem, elevating both the appearance and craveability of your appetizers, sandwiches and entrées. Roll crescent dough around pepperoni, asparagus or the filling of your choice for bite-size appetizers. Encase scrambled egg and sausage in crescent roll dough for a winning breakfast sandwich, or layer turkey, ham and your choice of cheese in egg-dipped crescent roll dough for a melty baked sandwich. Crescent roll dough works well as a flaky, buttery crust too, so use it as a base for a savory pie on your entrée menu.
‘Tis the season for snacking – and dips are always a welcome part of the holiday spread. In Whole Foods’ recent report on food and drink trends for the coming year, dips and dippable spreads feature prominently. It identified a number of plant-based ingredients including grains, beans and seeds that mimic the texture of yogurt and other dairy products. Watch for these newcomers as potential bases for dips. Further, the company sees a growing interest from brands in developing dips and spreads that are not only keto- and paleo-friendly but are also mindful of the environment. Many of these dips and spreads eliminate ingredients like palm oil and include sustainably grown seeds and nuts. Beyond the usual spreads and dips with bases of tahini, chickpeas, peanuts, cashews and almonds, look for new options made from such ingredients as watermelon seeds and pumpkin.