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.
Want to bring some variety to the greens you offer on your menu? Brussels sprouts are a relative of cabbage but can offer a different experience than you get with cabbage, kale or other hardy greens. They’re also versatile: Try them roasted, steamed, sautéed or even deep fried in both sweet and savory combinations. They can round out a meal as an appealing side dish simply dressed in olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper – and can also work well in a salad as a complement to such wide-ranging ingredients cranberries, bacon or your favorite cheeses.
Has your restaurant resolved to use less plastic in 2020? It seems everyone has some plastic guilt nowadays – and there are businesses cropping up to help operators replace plastic and also find new uses for the plastic that already exists. Take Riegel Linen, which was among eight companies to win Restaurant Technology News’s “Restaurateurs’ Choice Award for Environmental Good” competition. The company, which makes linens for a range of industries, found a way to integrate leftover plastic bottles into its textiles. Riegel Linen collects, sorts and inspects plastic bottles, then sterilizes and dries them before crushing them into chips, Restaurant Technology News reports. Once melted down, the material is made into a new fiber that Riegel Linen uses to make napkins and tablecloths. Its RieNu napkins are made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled polyester.
It’s hard to beat pasta as a winter comfort food. Easy to prepare and customize, pasta is an appealing base for everything from light broths to rich, creamy sauces made from pork or meat. Bucatini Amatriciana is one example of a pasta dish that manages to combine a handful of ingredients into an impressive, satisfying dish. While the authentic Italian version of the dish uses guanciale, a fatty cured pork cheek, pancetta is easier to source and replicates the dish’s rich, satisfying flavor.
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.
One of the best parts about serving turkey during the holiday season is the leftovers, right? If you served smoked turkey on your menu this year, its depth of flavor can enhance any number of post-holiday meals. Stick with seasonal flavors by mixing up a turkey-cranberry salad to serve on bread or greens, or create your own take on James Beard’s turkey-and-stuffing hash. Or, parlay the smoky flavor into new dishes that can benefit from a little heat, like a barbecue-style smoked turkey sandwich with pear chutney, smoked turkey enchiladas, or a three-bean smoked turkey chili.
It’s hard to deny the growing mainstream appeal of plant-based foods. The grocery store giant Kroger recently announced it was launching Simple Truth Plant Based, its own line of plant-based burgers and sausages, as a generic alternative to premium plant-based brands. Impossible Foods has won celebrity endorsements from the likes of Jay Z, Serena Williams and Katy Perry. You’re likely experimenting with more plant-based options on your menu. But could you default to vegetables? The University of Cambridge may offer a glimpse into what that might look like for you. Hospitality and Catering News reports that the university’s catering service, which operates 14 outlets and manages more than 1,500 hospitality events each year, removed all beef and lamb from its menus in 2016, replacing those items with plant-based options as part of a new Sustainable Food Policy. In making the changes, the university set out to reduce its consumption of meat, improve and increase the availability of plant-based options, remove unsustainable fish from its menus and reduce food waste. In the process, the university catering service trained its chefs in vegan cooking and its café managers in marketing for sustainability as opposed to profit. In the years since the university implemented its Sustainable Food Policy, it has been able to share dramatic effects with its guests. Despite a rise in how much food the university purchased, overall carbon emissions across the university catering service have dropped by 10.5 percent, according to the report. Further, there was a 33 percent reduction in carbon emissions per kilogram of food purchased and a 28 percent reduction in land use per kilogram of food purchased. Finally, even though food costs have increased since the university launched its policy, its gross profits have increased by 2 percent.