The weather shifts again and guests will soon be clamoring for all things autumn.
Higher octane and fuller-flavored brews paired with bold-flavored dishes that keep the menu offerings clean and satisfying, should round out seasonal menu changes.
The savvy guests visiting your establishment will be expecting seasonal flavors, prepared in ways that incorporate spices and ingredients from all over the world. Guests have moved beyond the American fall classics and are ready for your interpretation of a world-influenced fall dish.
At The Bar
Breweries are embracing true Oktoberfest-style brews, highlighting pale, Munich-style festbiers and traditional, copper-colored Marzen styles. Festbiers offer a lighter, crisper flavor while Marzens offer a richer, sweet malty flavor.
Give local breweries a try to find something truly unique and then use the beer as an opportunity to chat guests up at the bar and educate them on the styles and the local brews.
Be sure to do a tasting before you order from your rep, as some Oktoberfest beers can be quite polarizing. Should Oktoberfest beers not make sense in your establishment, there is a variety of styles that can be explored. And no, they don’t have to be pumpkin or pumpkin spice. Porters, browns, some lighter stouts, and reds bring a fall flavor that is quite complementary to fall dishes.
Don’t forget to use some of the seasonal brews in the menu play while working out seasonal specials!
Worldly-Inspired Seasonal Menus
The increased desire for world flavors provide an excellent opportunity to experiment with different spices. Bring new spices in for a seasonal special to see if guests truly like your use of spices like garam masala, sumac, fenugreek, and ingredients like sour cherries. Whether it is braising or grilling, experimentation with Persian and Middle Eastern flavors can be exciting for you and the guests.
Get creative with flavors that are reminiscent of fall, like smokiness. Smoked accompaniments to kabobs marinated in some Middle Eastern spices will be lovely with a lightly smoked Greek yogurt and some fall fruit, like fresh pomegranate.
Asian flavors can offer a deep umami that satisfies in the crisper months of the year. Think Korean stews, made with whole ingredients, because it is a cleaner menu that guests are looking for. Source or make some stocks and broth, then employ the vegetables that will not only satisfy, but help regulate guest’s health, like ginger and garlic. Use things like fish sauce, miso, or salted shrimp to bring the salty bite along with plenty of flavor. Ingredients like gochujang will bring some heat and even more depth of flavor to your dishes.
Embrace the growing trend of “ugly delicious” during fall months, and don’t be afraid to put out dishes that bring a lot of flavor while being monochromatic. Fresh add-ons to braised dishes will brighten up the plate or bowl. Eggs with runny yolks can help sexy up a dish as well, so don’t hesitate to include or offer one as an add-on.
While slow-cooked meats are at the top of the carnivore’s list in the cooler months, vegetarians and flexitarians alike are looking for simpler, plant-based options.
Chard is abundant in the fall and can be rather versatile. Like kale, chard offers a solid leaf that can hold up to short or longer periods of cooking. Braised chard can be the perfect accompaniment to a seasonal menu. Choose a delicious braising liquid, then finish the dish off with some currants, pine nuts, or feta. Chard can be magical when simply sautéed with an ingredient that brings a heavy dose of salt. Utilize the world flavors and try sautéed chard with some koji, as this can bring a depth of flavor and saltiness that will get guests talking.
Root vegetables are a great addition to autumn menus, but opt out of the steamed variety. Roasting root vegetables requires some time, but it offers a complexity that shows guests that you are celebrating the season. Explore ingredients like pomegranate molasses to brighten up a roasted root vegetable dish with acidity and subtle sweetness.
Fall offers an exciting time for menu planning, so get creative.
Give guests a clean version of whatever it is you decide to make, giving you a shorter list of ingredients to purchase, and them less guilt about eating your cuisine.
Craft some specials that get guests talking and use that momentum to keep their loyalty through the leaner winter months.
By Brian Murphy, Industry Expert