Beyond The Trend: How to Differentiate your Spring Menu Offerings in 2019

Buffing out some bright spots in the kitchen can lift a tired menu. Ingredients are always going in and out of season. Capitalize on that!

The Spring season is an exciting time in and around the kitchen. The little glimpses of green, the arrival of less hearty vegetables, and the departure from root vegetables are excuses alone to get back into the kitchen.

Spring is as good of a time as any to evaluate your menu. Any time is a good time to evaluate your menu, right? Let’s not do a full-on menu engineering project right now, but take a look at the bottom performers. What dishes aren’t moving? Why? How can you kick-start sales with a few tweaks? A little social media mojo, perhaps, and a flourish across the menu may give a righteous lift. Spring is about new beginnings. Differentiate your menu with some seasonal ingredients. Go in your own way and find your own way out.

Berries

Despite what appears to be year-round growing, strawberries actually have a season. For many parts of the country, look for local, flavorful berries in late April and into May. Strawberries come from the big rig distributors in January, too. But buying in season means better quality and equitable pricing, keeping in mind produce is one of the few commodities that has an indirect relationship with the price; quality is up when prices are down. Take advantage of both elements. Dot in-season strawberries in salads, across desserts, and scaled into breakfast breads.

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Shutterstock

Spring in the Sea?

Seasonal fish really is a thing. Pay attention to sustainability and seasonality. Do the right thing; customers are watching. What is doing well to add color to your spring menu revisions? 

Oysters will wane as the waters warm, but they are plump and reasonably priced along with briny clams from Long Island, for instance. Bluefish and rockfish/striped bass are doing their thing right about now. Crabs are also becoming an option along the Mid-Atlantic. Seasonal salmon is still a bit off for the Alaskan harvest, so take a look at some seafood that is different from other times of the year - and take advantage of strategic pricing. Arctic Char is popping up on menus but has a tight season somewhere in the middle of the summer. Look to sustainably farmed seafood options to fill the gap.

Greens, shoots, and sprouts

Just after the coffee, spring peas are a reason for getting up in the morning. A short growing season, English peas are ingredient stars with minimal fuss. This is one of those times when you want the flavor of the vegetable to outweigh the creativity of the chef. A quick blanch, sauté, or steaming of just-shelled English peas is like standing on a rooftop shouting that warmer days have arrived.  

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Shutterstock

Ramps, fiddlehead ferns, and nettles make up soft spots in cooks’ underbellies. “One of the key edibles for a midwest spring,” says Michael Tsonton, chef at Chicago’s Ravinia music festival, excited about nettles.

In the Pacific Northwest, pop-up Chef Sebastian Carosi is amped about the growing season coming out of hibernation.

“Around these parts, we are just starting to enjoy the shoots, tips and spring things that come with the end of winter. We are harvesting licorice fern root, grape hyacinth, nettles, magnolia buds, and blossoms, [and] truffles,” says Carosi.

Why not blend spring greens and the pickling/fermenting trend wave?  

“We are also picking young dandelion, chickweed, dead nettle, wild field mustard and plantain leaves that we turn into wild greens’ kimchi with a slight ferment,” adds Carosi. 

Look at Lamb

Lamb is a great option to pump up the flavor. Lamb works in tacos, meatballs, burgers, and more.

Spring lamb is symbolic in holiday celebrations and, fundamentally, a glowing point on a redecorated menu. Depending on where your lamb originates, pricing on imported, frozen product can be effective to boost margins.  

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Shutterstock

Soon enough sweat will run down your chin and the chore of getting through summer will be a reality. For now, look for the little garden treasures that are still covered in the chill of the morning. Pluck with care, waste some time, see things from a better side. Your customers will appreciate the extra attention. And keep the inquisitive cooks reeling with field baskets of new toys.

Want more tips for Chef Jim Berman? Listen to this recent episode of Chef AF where he sits down with Chef Hari Cameron, a semi-finalist for the James Beard “Rising Star Chef Of The Year” award in 2013, and they chat about the reality of cooking with the seasons, best chef practices, and why local-only isn’t going to work.

These Chef Innovations are Poised to Breakout in 2019

Let's face it, restaurant customers are finicky. And we are all customers. We want trusted dishes. But we want new dishes that are interesting. We want to be entertained. But we don’t want every meal to be an adventure. We like some pieces of the menu to be thought-provoking, but don’t want to be confused and frustrated with whackadoodle inventions.

Let’s all agree that innovation has a place, albeit controlled and calculated. Innovation does not mean the latest kitchen gadget, either. Innovation is as much technique as it is the tools in your hand.

So, how can chefs stir customer interest when they want it to be stirred in 2019?

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Shutterstock

3-D Food Printing

Definitely not something that will ride the wave of tenacity and ubiquity, but interesting, nonetheless.

Think of 3D food printing much in the way chocolate fountains were kinda cool when they first started dribbling their goopy chocolate all over tablecloths at weddings far and near. Novel? Yes. Technology-driven? For sure. Practical? Debatable.

But there are serious chefs latching on to the technology. For example, Paco Pérez at Barcelona’s Enoteca has unleashed 3D printed dishes. The Michelin-starred chef uses printing technology in place of design work that would be nearly impossible to accomplish by hand.

Do you really need a sneaker printed out of marzipan? No. But you also don’t need a big-ass block of ice carved into the likeness of King Tritan leaking water all over the floor, holding up chilled shrimp. But we still do it.

For now, it is something to talk about it. We did the same thing with those pictures printed on rice paper and layered onto sheet cakes. Why? Because we can. And, yeah, it sells.

Plant Proteins

Tofu. Chickpeas. Almonds. Hemp seeds. At casual dining restaurants like Firebird’s, Red Robin and Chili’s, healthy halo dishes are flourishing. And it isn’t just vegetarian dishes. It is the dynamic flavoring as much in demand as their meat-based counterparts.

Zaytina, for instance, menus a stew of green chickpeas and tomatoes. Not a timid offering for the likes of José Andrés. Then there's the flourishing fast casual darling, Honeygrow, big on noodle, rice, and greens as the basis for their popular bowls, but takes tofu one step further with a roasted, spiced treatment. Veg-centric is a macro-trend that is pervasive with strong ties to plant protein menuing.

Digital/Continuous Temp Logging Tools

A real piece of technology that we can - and should - hook our food safety talons into? Anything dealing with improved food safety. And a technology piece that takes some of the human factor (translation: labor) out of the cost equation is definitely on the menu. T

aking temperatures of refrigerators, freezers, low-boys, and walk-ins is a forgettable annoyance at best and tedious at worst. But it needs to be done. Or should be done!

Logging temperatures is a health department requirement in many municipalities or shortly will be. And it is good business sense to keep an eye on equipment performance to prevent failures and hella costly repairs or replacements. Continuously record temperatures of in-place equipment and get alerts to keep things smooth. While it takes 30 seconds for a cook to log temps, he can forget or fake it. Yes, I am looking at you. Take the risk out of this risk factor and sleep easier.

Tableside Cooking - What’s Old is New. Again.

Not every innovation is new. Some developments are reinventions from the by-gone days. Remember Dover sole prepared tableside? Or crepes in a copper pan set aflame to the "oohs" and "ahhs" of onlookers? The novel element of tableside cooking is much akin to the allure of open kitchens.

Guests like to see the action that it takes to make Aunt Stella’s alligator pie get flambéed. If Chicago’s Tony Mantuano is doing tableside dishes at River Roast, then it must be cool.

The Wayback Machine

Classic French fare is not going to replace braised short rib, jackfruit tacos, or quinoa bowls today. But it is getting a refreshed nod. The demise of jacket-and-tie restaurants is no secret. Like tableside cooking, though, what is old is new again. Elevated French food is the highwater mark for classically trained chefs. But what about for the new crew of kitchen renegades? Well, they appreciate - and execute - a good confit like their predecessors. Most recently, a refresh to French-grounded menus with structured appetizer, entrée, dessert formats is reemerging.

Small plates, shareables, and communal dining are not fading. New York’s Benno, the recently opened namesake of Chef Jonathan Benno, brings acclaim to classical French (and a dollop of Italian) to the notorious trend epi-center of the U.S. The turn to classic dining as a mainstream option is still a ways off. But it does hold enough novel individualism that it is new to people that grew up without fitted suits, button downs, and carpeted dining rooms devoid of Edison lights.

A little flourish to the ordinary keeps customers interested. Yes, eighty-percent of sales will still come from the top 20 percent performers. But giving customers something to keep them involved is what has chefs, customers, and Instagrammers asking for the “what’s next.”

Musselman’s Apple Butter Fusions Make it Easy to Incorporate Asian Flavors on Menus

Peppering an otherwise consistent menu with new on-trend items ensures a restaurant concept can avoid appearing stale to their customer base.

With that in mind, chefs are always looking for simple ways to refresh menus. Instead of starting from scratch, they will often turn to an innovative foodservice product solution to spice things up.  

We recently discovered that Musselman’s Apple Butter now has a Fusions line of six flavored apple butter flavors.

For years, chefs have been using the consumer-favorite Musselman’s Apple Butter as a base to create a delicious flavor profile for a protein, side, or dessert. 

"We’ve actually been showing people how to combine two types of flavors together for many years. So we thought, why not just create that item to take all the work out of combining it. That way it’s ready for use,” said Allie Canterbury, marketing manager of food service, Knouse Foods. “And then we also put it in a squeeze bottle to make it easy to use for an operator. It’s always been something we've been creating in-house and showing people. So we figured why not just do it.”

And from there, Musselman’s Apple Butter Fusions line churned into a dynamic product offering.

Musselman’s Apple Butter Fusion line |  Foodable Network

Musselman’s Apple Butter Fusion line | Foodable Network

The video above, which is part 2 of a tasting series of the Musselman’s Apple Butter Fusions product line, reveals that each flavor is wonderfully versatile with multiple applications for food. 

But besides being versatile, these fusion flavors are on point when it comes to the recent consumer trends.

A recent Foodable Labs 2019 Flavor Trends Report revealed that Asian flavors have spiked on menus at restaurants of all types of cuisines across the country. Asian flavors have become especially prevalent on menus at independent restaurants and fast casual concepts to accommodate a crescendo of consumer demand for these flavors. 

Using Musselman’s Apple Butter Asian Fusion provides a simple yet creative foray into the Asian craze. This product offers a sweet yet savory taste with slightly spicy cinnamon notes mixed with soy and sesame flavor. 

“The Asian is a really neat flavor. It's a little more salty and savory than the others. It’s been used as a dressing and it's great in a coleslaw. I've also seen people using it on tacos, within noodle dishes or as a marinade and wing flavor,” said Canterbury.

It takes simple to signature and is vegan, fat-free and trans-fat free too. Watch the video above as it is used to flavor for zucchini spiraled noodles. 

Another Musselman’s fusions flavor is Sriracha, which is also a popular Asian flavor.  

Sriracha has been trending for a decade, but flash forward to today and it has garnered a passionate and loyal following all over the world.  

Musselman’s Apple Butter Fusions Sriracha and Asian Flavors |   Foodable Network

Musselman’s Apple Butter Fusions Sriracha and Asian Flavors | Foodable Network

Sriracha has been added to Musselman’s Apple Butter to infuse some heat into its latest offering as a Fusions flavor.

“The Sriracha Apple Butter Fusion is a great wing flavor. We've seen it used on pizza, as a drizzle, mixed with mac and cheese, spread on sandwiches, and tacos. We've even seen it on omelets for an extra spicy punch,” said Canterbury.  

In the video above, Chef Andi uses it to elevate the otherwise traditional wing sauce and then to create a mac and cheese recipe with a unique twist.

The Sriracha Fusion also has a Clean Label, meaning it contains no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial colors or flavors, and no antimicrobial preservatives. It is also vegan, fat-free and gluten-free.

Looking for new ways to enhance your menu items? Stay tuned for our part-three featuring two other Musselman’s Apple Butter Flavors next week!

Editor’s Note: This is a sponsored post.

Video Produced by:

Vanessa Rodriguez

Vanessa Rodriguez

Writer & Producer


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Musselman’s is Taking Apple Butter to the Next Level with its New Fusions Line

Consumer tastes are constantly evolving. Today, guests are craving flavors that are exciting yet approachable. But they are also more discerning in their expectations that their dishes be made with clean ingredients.

With that in mind, at Foodable Network, we are consistently surveying products that cater to the consumer demand for both delicious and clean label foods.  

Apple butter remains a consumer favorite and Musselman’s Apple Butter is a leader in the category.

But Musselman’s isn't complacent in its success, choosing to take its apple butter to the next level. The company is shaking up the marketplace with the launch of a foodservice line of Fusions featuring on-trend flavors that have been blended with apple butter by chefs for years.  

Musselman’s Apple Butter Fusions Line |   Foodable Network

Musselman’s Apple Butter Fusions Line | Foodable Network

Musselman’s is Turning Simple to Signature 

“We wanted to make sure we were pairing apple butter with not only things that work well with it, but also with flavors that are on an upswing,” said Bob Fisher, vice president of marketing, Knouse Foods, the parent company of Musselman’s. “These items have a tremendous amount of flexibility and a wide range of uses. Far more than I think we anticipated when we first developed the idea for the product line.” 

Musselman’s launched the line to offer a solution for operators who are looking to pique the palate of millennial diners in the QSR/fast casual and family dining sectors. 

“What we love about the Fusions brand is it brings apple butter to the masses. It's making apple butter a younger, more vibrant, more exciting, and unique category than before. It’s our way of expanding apple butter into a segment that is far more engaging,” said Allie Canterbury, marketing manager of food service, Knouse Foods.

Not to mention, the Fusions’ squeezable bottles make them easy to use and cook with.

Like Fisher said Musselman’s selected its six Fusion flavors because they are flavors that consumer can’t seem to get enough of. 

In the video above, Foodable Host Layla Harrison is joined by Culinarian Andy Tilis where they discuss Musselman’s iconic Apple Butter and two of the new Fusion flavors.

One of Musselman’s new Fusions flavor they taste test is the Mango Habanero.

Musselman's Apple Butter Dijon Mustard and Mango Habanero Fusions |   Foodable Network

Musselman's Apple Butter Dijon Mustard and Mango Habanero Fusions | Foodable Network

In a recent Foodable Labs report on flavor trends, habanero ascended jalapeño as the most used pepper by chefs over the last year. As far as mango is concerned, it is one of the top two fruit infusions on chef’s menus today, according to recent Foodable Labs data.  

The Mango Habanero is vegan, gluten-free, and fat-free. It’s a triple threat of flavor with the tastes of apple, mango, and habanero all in one. It’s sweet yet spicy profile makes it perfect to pair with fish, especially salmon or cod. 

In the video above, Andi uses the Mango Habanero to glaze a cod to give the fish an extra burst of flavor. But she also demonstrates how the Fusion can be used as a dipping sauce for sides like sweet potatoes.   

It’s also popular as a savory sauce added to wings, sliders, chicken strips, nuggets and much more. See what other proteins and sides this Fusion pairs well with in the video above.

The other flavor highlighted above in the tasting video is the Musselman’s Dijon Mustard Apple Butter Fusion. This flavor, which is also vegan and gluten-free, offers a sweet base saturated with the spicy and tangy taste of Dijon mustard. 

“It takes an ordinary sandwich and makes it so much more,” said Fisher.

This Fusion isn’t only a great spread for sandwiches, but can also create an elevated taste experience for classics such as burgers, paninis, sliders, and of course, on soft pretzels. 

Stay tuned for our part-two video coming soon that showcases other new exciting Musselman’s Apple Butter Fusion Flavors that turn the ordinary to “oh wow.”

Editor’s Note: This is a sponsored post.

Video Produced by:

Vanessa Rodriguez

Vanessa Rodriguez

Writer & Producer


VIEW BIO

Are you a Chef? You Should be Looking at These Opportunities in 2019

Are you a Chef? You Should be Looking at These Opportunities in 2019

Call it innovation, call it being ahead on trends. Either way, there are untapped opportunities to grow business, impact sales, and develop as a professional.

What’s next for the astute chef that is looking to build fiscal strength and operational mastery?

Delivery is its own segment

Menu engineering that accounts for the booming delivery segment is emerging. But not all dishes do well when they grow legs; Delicate fried items, for instance, get soggy before they make it home. Some dishes, on the other hand, are marvels of transportation efficiency. More of these items are making their way onto menus because these dishes travel best.

Why? Unless you have been unplugged for the last few years, you can’t help but notice that delivery is big, with over 8% growth in the segment projected for 2019. Third party transportation operators are ubiquitous and those with disposable income - yes, millennials - are all abuzz about good delivery options.

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