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Trendy Foods Spice up Event Menus

Trendy Foods Spice up Event Menus

From local to global to completely out there, anything can inspire a food trend. Below, event experts talk about their favorite flavor fads and how they make the most of them in an epicurean world.

COMPANY: Bong Su Restaurant & Lounge

ADDRESS: 311 Third St., San Francisco, CA 94107

TRENDY INGREDIENT: Perilla

DISHES: Used in bun cha noodles; lemon grass beef noodle salad; strawberry shortcake

THE SCOOP: This herb from southeast Asia and India adds spicy, minty notes to dishes, according to executive chef and owner Tammy Huynh. Her use of the herb in the restaurant's perilla-infused strawberry shortcake is part of the current trend of adding savory ingredients to desserts. Huynh notes basil, lemon grass, bay leaves and Vietnamese cilantro are also good options for adding spice to your sweets.

COMPANY: Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center

ADDRESS: 6000 W. Osceola Parkway, Orlando, FL 34746

TRENDY INGREDIENT: White asparagus

DISHES: Seared diver scallop-white asparagus-chipotle compote; white asparagus and house-smoked salmon with a concasse of organic parsley nage, toasted pine nuts, kalamata olives and locally grown tomatoes

THE SCOOP: The rare white asparagus — a source of vitamins A, B, C and iron — hails from France, where it is preferred over the more common green variety. According to director of food and beverage Robert Stanfield, the vegetable is “shielded from the sun by mounding earth around the plant, and the stalks develop entirely underground, producing a sweet flavor and remarkable texture.”

COMPANY: Creations in Catering at Dole Ballrooms

ADDRESS: Iwilei Road, Second Floor, Honolulu, HI 96817

TRENDY INGREDIENTs: Hawaiian ingredients such as moi — or threadfin — ogo seaweed, alaea salt and taro root

DISH: Moi cake — similar to crab cake — with taro root kataffi pastry crust, ogo aioli, and a heart of palm and roast Kahuku pineapple salsa

THE SCOOP: Executive chef Koji Oishi makes good use of local Hawaiian goods, which are becoming popular throughout the world. Moi, farmed through aquaculture, was served to the ali'i — or kings — of Hawaii in ancient days. Ogo is a seaweed used in the popular Hawaiian poke fish salad. And alaea salt, according to company president Michael E. Rabe, is a red rock salt harvested from ocean salt flats on the island of Kauai. It gets its color from volcanic clay and has a slight mineral aftertaste. According to Rabe, the yam-like taro root, brought to Hawaii from Micronesia, is older than rice and potatoes and is considered “the original staple.” Rabe attributes guest appreciation of such exotic fare to “globalization and fusion in the epicurean world.”

COMPANY: A Thyme to Cook

ADDRESS: 426 N.W. Corner Road, North Stonington, CT 06359

TRENDY INGREDIENT: Black currants

DISHES: Black currant sorbet with lemon verbena, Thai basil or pineapple sage; black currant and Cointreau mousse

THE SCOOP: With one of the largest black currant farms in the United States down the street from A Thyme to Cook, the catering business doesn't have to go far to find its new favorite fruit. Company president Linda Sample prefers the antioxidant-rich berry, related to the gooseberry, over “the overused pomegranate” for glazes on duck and lamb. Sample's penchant for using black currants is due to “a strong trend to take an ingredient out of the norm for use in a different realm,” she says.

COMPANY: The Fairmont Chicago

ADDRESS: 200 N. Columbus Drive, Chicago, IL 60601

TRENDY INGREDIENT: Heirloom tomatoes

DISHES: Heirloom tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad with pesto

THE SCOOP: Heirloom tomatoes — known for having unique tastes, flavors and shapes — fell out of favor for more than 50 years because they lacked the market appeal of more uniform tomatoes. The recent popularity of heirloom tomatoes demonstrates a preference toward organic and locally grown produce, notes Brad Parsons, executive sous chef. “This is a long-term change in consumer lifestyle and not something that's going away,” he says.

The Next Big Things

Here's a list of other ingredients caterers see making a move into the mainstream:

  • Flavored honeys with lavender, cinnamon or anise notes

  • Goat butter, made with goat's milk

  • Coffee- or tea-flavored vegetables, fish, chicken or beef

  • Figs

  • Pizzettas

  • Mangosteen, a tropical fruit — unrelated to the mango — with a citrusy, peach flavor

  • Smoked salts

RESOURCES

A Thyme to Cook
877/THYME-TO
www.athymetocook.com

Bong Su Restaurant & Lounge
415/536-5800
www.bongsu.com

Creations in Catering at
Dole Ballrooms
808/521-7101
www.hawaiicaterers.com

The Fairmont Chicago
312/565-8000
www.fairmont.com/chicago

Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center
407/586-0708
www.gaylordhotels. com/gaylordpalms

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