Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

12 Ways to Rise and Shine Wake up to a dozen on-trend breakfast ideas

In Las Vegas, RM Seafood spins lox and bagel into a modern brunch item with a dried caper and bread crumb-crusted egg, potato latke and dill crème fraîche.
PHOTO CREDIT: Krystal Ramirez

The breakfast and brunch categories are two of the most exciting spaces to watch in foodservice today. Chefs are showing remarkable creativity here, energized by a consumer who is embracing big, brash flavors.

There is an important anchor that tethers this enthusiasm: familiarity. At breakfast and brunch, that encompasses a big universe—everything from waffles to hashes.

But this category also holds a fast pass to acceptance via an ingredient that delivers familiarity no matter how exotic the build: the egg. Dishes like shakshuka and savory grain bowls become a safe culinary adventure, thanks to the welcome presence of a breakfast staple.

1 Salmon As The Star

A bagel with lox is not a newcomer to breakfast, but thanks to the modern seafood trend, chefs are elevating their game, showcasing salmon in creative applications. From upgrades to Benedicts to pulling in smoked and cured salmon in unexpected places, there’s lots of opportunity here. At RM Seafood in Las Vegas, the brunch menu stars a dish simply called “Salmon,” with house-cured salmon, a caper-crusted egg and potato latke.

  • Salmon Gravlax: Housemade cured salmon, charred scallion cream cheese, avocado, sourdough, poached egg, balsamic, micro greens
    —Mad Social, Chicago
  • Tater Tot Waffles with smoked salmon and caviar
    —The Riddler, San Francisco

2 Savory Grain Bowls

We’ve seen savory porridge take hold on some menus, set in motion by a fascination with Asian flavors and builds. We’re now seeing grain-based bowls push beyond lunchtime and into breakfast and brunch, promising a wholesome, satisfying base with any number of toppings—perhaps crowned with an egg to ensure breakfast messaging.

  • Breakfast Bowl: Stir-fried wheat berries, freekeh, farro, marinated greens, blistered red onion, lemon-herb vinaigrette, pepita romesco, poached egg
    —Lunetta All Day, Santa Monica, Calif.
  • Adobo Fried Rice: Pork belly, pickles, garlic rice, fried egg
    —Sari Sari Store, Los Angeles

3 Mexican Favorites

Chilaquiles and huevos rancheros are two flavor-packed breakfast dishes that are showing up on eclectic menus. Chefs are tapping into their bold flavor stories, understanding that they resonate because they spell “comfort food” in any language. Chilaquiles start with a base of corn tortilla strips, simmered with green or red salsa and finished with queso fresco, crema and maybe raw onion and avocado. Huevos rancheros, or rancher’s eggs, make a hearty, homey dish, with fried corn tortillas topped with fried eggs and hot salsa. Variations on the themes lead to menu differentiation. As evidence, look to the Chilaquiles Benedict at Snooze, based in Denver, which includes barbacoa beef over a stack of ranchero-sauced tortillas and melted cheese, with poached cage-free eggs, roasted poblano hollandaise, pico de gallo and Cotija.

  • Braised Chicken Chilaquiles served with Cotija, pickled onion and sauce piquant
    —DTB, New Orleans
  • Huevos Rancheros: Two sunny-side-up eggs, grilled bell peppers, verde sauce, chile oil, ranchero sauce, farmer’s cheese, avocado crema
    —Tupelo Honey, based in Asheville, N.C.
Both bold and comforting, Chilaquiles Benedict at Denver-based Snooze incorporates barbacoa, tortillas draped in ranchero sauce, poached eggs, poblano hollandaise and pico de gallo.George Lange Photography

Both bold and comforting, Chilaquiles Benedict at Denver-based Snooze incorporates barbacoa, tortillas draped in ranchero sauce, poached eggs, poblano hollandaise and pico de gallo.

 

4 Smoothie Bowls

A power-packed Hawaiian import that’s now practically a breakfast staple for West Coast Millennials and Gen Z’ers, smoothie bowls are making their way onto mainstream menus. Boasting power from a base of superfoods like açai or pitaya (also called dragon fruit), along with other nutrient-rich ingredients, the appeal comes from its wholesome profile that really knocks it out of the park with cool flavors and visually striking builds.

  • PB&J Smoothie Bowl: Dragon fruit, strawberry, banana, peanut butter and honey, topped with strawberry, blueberry, banana, granola, slivered almonds
    —Thrive Cafe, Loves Park, Ill.
  • Razz Party Açai Bowl: Banana, strawberries, peaches, açai, raspberry lemonade, topped with granola, banana, honey, strawberries, goji berries
    —Paradise Bowls, multiple locations in California

5 Chicken ‘N’…

Thanks to spiked interest in modern Southern dishes, where mash-ups inform traditional recipes, chicken and waffles have been gracing breakfast and brunch menus for a while now. Propelled by the surging popularity of fried chicken, chefs are innovating around this classic pairing, subbing out the waffles for other starchy fare, or innovating around the waffle batter itself. At Café du Parc at the Willard InterContinental in Washington, D.C., Peter Laufer, executive chef, serves a Waffle Fried Chicken: butterflied chicken breast dipped in waffle batter, cooked on a waffle iron, served with maple-balsamic vinaigrette.

  • Cluck-N-Gaufre: Chicken-stuffed sweet potato waffle topped with fried chicken, drizzled in a nutmeg hot sauce and B&B maple butter
    —Batter & Berries, Chicago
  • Fried Jidori Chicken & Waffles with a fried egg, bacon redeye gravy, maple syrup—Public School on Tap, based in Woodland Hills, Calif.
  • Chicken and Churros with fried spice-rubbed chicken breast, buttermilk syrup
    —Shakewell, Oakland, Calif.
A twist on a Southern classic: The chicken breast is inside the waffle in the Waffle Fried Chicken at the Café du Parc in Washington, D.C.Café du Parc

A twist on a Southern classic: The chicken breast is inside the waffle in the Waffle Fried Chicken at the Café du Parc in Washington, D.C.

 

6 Eggs Benedict

This brunch classic serves up a fantastic platform for clever innovation. Like a sandwich or a taco, eggs Benedict almost begs for creative play, with adventurous brunch-goers egging on the artistic interpretations here. At Dime Store in Detroit, General Tso’s Benny sees a base of steamed
rice cakes topped with two poached eggs, crispy fried chicken tossed with General Tso sauce and broccoli, finished with hollandaise.

  • Fried Green Tomato Benny with pimento cheese, fried green tomato, hollandaise, potatoes
    —The Little Lion, Philadelphia
  • The Hog and The Egg with Lake Meadow poached eggs, pork belly and hollandaise
    —Burlock Coast Seafare & Spirits, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  • Soft-Shell Crab Benedict: Poached eggs, English muffin, soft-shell crab, hollandaise, home fries
    —Pinefish, Philadelphia
The Hog and The Egg combines pork belly with poached eggs and hollandaise at Burlock Coast Seafare & Spirits in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.Burlock Coast Seafare & Spirits

The Hog and The Egg combines pork belly with poached eggs and hollandaise at Burlock Coast Seafare & Spirits in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

 

7 Hash

Hash is a wonderfully broad category that typically involves chopped ingredients tossed with diced potatoes. Whatever the build, it promises a hearty, comforting experience. The opportunity today embraces big flavors, globally inspired proteins and high-impact finishes.

  • ’Nduja Sausage and Potato Hash with escarole, cherry tomato, cipollini onion, organic fried eggs
    —Odys + Penelope, Los Angeles
  • Merguez Sausage Hash with crispy potatoes, caramelized onions, harissa agrodolce
    —Nine Mile Station, Atlanta
  • Miami Hash with congrí (Cuban black beans), shredded and crispy vaca frita beef, salsa verde, two eggs any style
    —Lightkeepers at The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne, Fla.
Modern hash takes on new forms. The Pork Hash at Alta, in San Francisco, combines new potatoes with fried peppers, mustard soubise and two sunny-side-up eggs.Alta

Modern hash takes on new forms. The Pork Hash at Alta, in San Francisco, combines new potatoes with fried peppers, mustard soubise and two sunny-side-up eggs.

 

8 …and Grits

Much like chicken and waffles, the Southern classic grits, often buddied up to shrimp, is finding a home on breakfast and brunch menus. Chefs are turning to grits for their comfort-food cred, then moving them in any direction that fits their morning-themed menus, pulling in both unexpected proteins and assertive global flavors. As evidence, look to Jam in Chicago. Its Lamb & Grits boasts braised lamb neck, merguez, Jimmy Red grits, poached egg, romanesco, chermoula and American Grana. Then there’s the Harissa Shrimp & Grits served at Rice in Washington, D.C., with coddled egg, charred peppers and six-month-aged manchego.

  • Grits á Ya Ya: A sauté of applewood-smoked bacon, portobello mushrooms and spinach over smoked Gouda cheese grits, spiced shrimp and sweet potato hay
    —Great Southern Cafe, Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.
  • Poached Eggs and Grits with Gruyère, roasted mushrooms, Madeira sauce, toast sticks
    —The General Muir, Atlanta
  • Cornmeal Fried Buster Crab & Heirloom Grits, served with blueberry XO, bacon and sweet corn salad
    —Maypop, New Orleans
Grits get dressed up in the Shrimp & Grits offered at Parks & Rec Diner in Detroit, with housemade popcorn grits, harissa and hot sauce.PARKS & REC DINER

Grits get dressed up in the Shrimp & Grits offered at Parks & Rec Diner in Detroit, with housemade popcorn grits, harissa and hot sauce.

 

9 Toasts

Although artisan toast was pegged by some as a hipster fad, it has proven itself as a sustaining menu item in both breakfast/brunch and the shareables categories. Chefs are now upping the ante, showcasing a world of flavors that speak to today’s broader trend of modern, inventive combinations. Avocado toast is still king, but add-ons have become more sophisticated and creative.

  • Beets on Toast: Seeded bread, roasted beets, goat cheese, brown-butter crumble, arugula, orange
    —Band of Bohemia, Chicago
  • Avocado Toast: JJ’s avocados, hot pickled carrots, green garlic crème fraîche, wood sorrel, house za’atar
    —Sqirl, Los Angeles
  • ZTB Tartine with crusty bread from local favorite Zak the Baker, topped with local stracciatella, “freezer jam,” sea salt and California olive oil
    —Glass & Vine, Miami

10 French Toast

Another breakfast/brunch staple, today’s innovation in French toast calls for mindful construction, with every element given a creative upgrade, including fun inclusions, decadent stuffings and unexpected crusts and finishes. Cereal crusts are demonstrating a playful way to add texture. At Hook & Spear in the Marriott Newport Beach, Calif., the Crunchy French Toast is crusted in Corn Flakes, and served with strawberries and bananas. And at City Winery in Nashville, Tenn., the Frosted Flakes Pain Perdu sees brioche crusted with that kid-favorite cereal, then topped with maple-macerated black pepper berries.

  • Malted Custard French Toast with macerated stone fruit, lime-leaf cream, pink peppercorns
    —Jam, Chicago
  • Fruity Pebbles French Toast with whipped cream, maple syrup
    —Blue Duck on Broad, Philadelphia
  • Ginger Brioche French Toast with sherry pastry cream, raspberries, candied citrus
    —Lula Cafe, Chicago
The Malted Custard French Toast takes a sophisticated approach at Jam in Chicago. Macerated fruit and lime-leaf cream with pink peppercorns complete the picture.Ken Carl

The Malted Custard French Toast takes a sophisticated approach at Jam in Chicago. Macerated fruit and lime-leaf cream with pink peppercorns complete the picture.

 

11 Modern Yogurt Bowls

Yogurt is a natural at breakfast, of course, but like modern bowls, the trend leans toward thoughtful attention paid to each element. Not to be confused with yogurt parfaits, modern yogurt bowls boast global touches or unexpected flavors—still with the promise of a wholesome, tangy yogurt experience. At Henley in Nashville, Tenn., RJ Cooper, executive chef, menus Goat Yogurt and Muesli topped with macerated berries and bee pollen.

  • Yogurt topped with mixed nuts, seed dukkah and seasonal fruit
    —The Exchange, Los Angeles
  • August Fruit Bowl: Golden raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, Straus yogurt, toasted almonds, mint
    —Foreign Cinema, San Francisco
The artistic Goat Yogurt and Muesli bowl at Henley in Nashville, Tenn., showcases berries, mint and bee pollen atop a yogurt base.Henley

The artistic Goat Yogurt and Muesli bowl at Henley in Nashville, Tenn., showcases berries, mint and bee pollen atop a yogurt base.

 

12 Baked Eggs

Shakshuka, that Middle Eastern braised breakfast dish, is proving the Sriracha theory—that even when something is tricky to pronounce, if it’s got a good flavor story, consumers will embrace it. Chefs are tapping into this dish’s comfort-food profile and morphing it to fit their brands’ DNA. Shakshuka’s hip status is also opening up the doors to a larger braised/baked eggs category, where the potential for signature takes is endless. At Toups South in New Orleans, the Farm Eggs in Purgatory dish illustrates this. It’s prepared with andouille sausage and a jalapeño-tomato braise, then served in a skillet with toasted ciabatta.

  • Green Shakshuka: Baked egg in a vegetable stew with green garlic, yogurt, cilantro, paprika and toast
    —Go Get Em Tiger, two locations in Los Angeles
  • Moroccan Baked Eggs with spinach, roasted red peppers, harissa and goat cheese with couscous salad
    —Jet Wine Bar, Philadelphia
Farm Eggs in Purgatory, with andouille sausage and jalapeño tomato braise, balances savory and spicy at Toups South in New Orleans. Toasted ciabatta lends itself to dunking.Toups South

Farm Eggs in Purgatory, with andouille sausage and jalapeño tomato braise, balances savory and spicy at Toups South in New Orleans. Toasted ciabatta lends itself to dunking.

 

 
From the Nov/Dec 2017 issue of Flavor & the Menu magazine. Read the full issue online or check if you qualify for a free print subscription.

 

About The Author

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Katie Ayoub is managing editor of Flavor & The Menu. She has been working in foodservice publishing for more than 16 years and on the Flavor team since 2006. She won a 2015 Folio award for her Flavor & The Menu article, Heritage Matters. In 2006, she won “Best Culinary Article” from the Cordon D’Or for an article on offal.