We’ve done a lot of articles about restaurant food ingredients in the past months, highlighting how pork has made a comeback in American restaurants’ tables, how chefs earn big bucks preparing their own charcuterie in their restaurant kitchens, and how turkey has ceased to become a mere holiday treat and slowly became a year-round restaurant delight, along with a lot more.
Now we shall take a look at another widely used ingredient, our dear old veggie.
Vegetables have always been considered nutritious and wholesome by many. But despite its popularity among the more health-conscious diners, others still regard it with downright apathy when dining out. To solve that, there’s been a rush of media mileage exerted towards highlighting the value of veggies as an important food group—restaurant preparations have been made tastier, menu selections on restaurants’ menus and menu holders were made wider and more extensive. Farmers now grow more new, colorful assortments, ingenious chefs now whip up savory vegetable menu items in their restaurant dining rooms, and magazines and cookbooks started featuring enticing vegetable cooking recipes that take advantage of the season’s harvests.
In fact, vegetables are now moving to the forefront of various culinary segments. This, according to the recently released Vegetable & Sides: Culinary Trend Mapping Report published by San Francisco-based Center for Culinary Development (CCD) and the Maryland-based market researcher Packaged Facts.
“The continuous rise of farmer’s markets that offer new and wide ranges of vegetable varieties has increased the consumers’ vegetable IQs, largely influencing their lifestyles,” said Kimberly Egan, CCD’s chief executive officer. “The growing trend now encourages them to include vegetable-centric food to their everyday diet, including restaurant dining. They’re not limiting their vegetable options to sidings, but have now expanded to vegetable entrees without meat, desserts that include veggies and green breakfast purees and smoothies.”
Such new vegetable “extensions” in restaurant menus and menu holders include:
• Fried up Brussels Sprouts as side dish or snack. It’s a hit among diners!
• Sea Vegetables—kelp, dulse and nori. Chefs use them as additional flavorings to stir fries, rice dishes, vegetable batter coatings, spice blends and spice rubs.
• Veggies as savory baked delights. Pastry chefs have gone way beyond the usual zucchini bread and carrot cake as they spread out their culinary wings on other unique vegetable flavors in desserts, such as the Smoked White Chocolate Parfaits served with Fennel Mousse, and Beet Cake topped with Fromage Blanc Frosting.
• Vegetable Juices. Consumers—the Millennials, in particular—have taken a great liking to vegetable juices as they continuously work their way towards their 5-a-day helpings of vegetables and fruits.
• Farro (also known as emmer wheat) as another option for carb-lovers. Fine dining restaurants now serve faro-based bread, pasta, flatbreads, croissants, crackers, soup mixes and cookies that are most popular in Italy.
• Sweet potatoes going into the mainstream of quick-service restaurants. We need not do a hard sell for sweet potatoes—they’ve always been considered a classic. Now that they’re getting more popular among diners, restaurants now find it a lot easier to convince them to try their unique creations.
• Kale following the path of bagged beans and baby spinach. Everyone now recognizes this leafy green as a super food—with its soul food image and healthy resonance.