Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

The Next Wave of Casual Cuisine Emerging flavors and forms that will carry the torch for this mega trend

Michael Scelfo, executive chef at Alden & Harlow in Cambridge, Mass., showcases a modern sweet and savory combination in these pickled corn pancakes with maple buttermilk, topped with vinegary shishito peppers and salty popcorn.
PHOTO CREDIT: Culinary Iinstitute of America

Latin Flavors from Peru to Portugal

The diverse cuisines of Spain, Portugal, Latin America and the Caribbean provided attendees with extensive ideas for new menu applications.

The live demonstrations and tasting menus of Tijuana, by Javier Plascencia, chef/owner of Misión 19 in Tijuana, Mexico, were entirely devoted to aguachile, the classic Mexican citrus-marinated seafood dish he described as a “spicier, more complex version of a Peruvian ceviche.” The traditional shrimp version he demonstrated was a graduated build of salted shrimp tossed with lemon, lime and shaved red onion, folded into a combination of garlic, jalapeño, chiltepin peppers and salt that had been macerated in a molcajete.

He then created a non-traditional Carrot Aguachile, marinating shrimp and sea urchin in carrot juice, citrus, lemongrass and ginger, and topping the dish with shavings of cucumber, kumquat and carrot. During the tasting sessions, guests were also treated to a Kampachi and Asian Pear Aguachile and a Cilantro-Lime Scallop Aguachile “Shot.”

Plascencia asserted that, given the mainstream popularity of ceviches and seafood crudos, along with the explosive growth of poke dishes on menus, expanding bold and fresh flavors on American menus with aguachiles is a solid opportunity.

Corn masa

Barbara Sibley, chef/owner of La Palapa in New York, conducted a session highlighting the many uses for corn masa on the menu, demonstrating techniques for creating sopes (molded masa corn cups, steamed and filled with various meats and vegetables), doraditas de masa verde (fried, cheese-stuffed pockets of masa turned bright green by replacing the water in the masa dough with cactus purée), and chileatole (a rich chicken soup flavored with fresh green chiles and thickened with masa purée).

The Panucho

Joe Hargrave, founder and CEO, and Sara Deseran, marketing and branding director for Calif.-based Tacolicious, demonstrated another Latin masa-based specialty: the panucho, a puffed masa tortilla stuffed with refried black beans and topped with achiote-marinated pulled turkey, cabbage, avocado and pickled onion.

More clever Latin mash-ups

Clever Latin mash-ups were also featured during the tasting sessions, such as: the Merguez Corn Dog with pistachio romanesco and mint yogurt, put forward by Ross Melling, chef de cuisine at Bouchon in Yountville, Calif.; a tamale created by Claud Beltran, executive chef/owner of Claud & Co. in Pasadena, Calif., stuffed with Spanish longaniza sausage; and Grilled Octopus with Curry and Coconut Milk, from Elena Hernández, chef/owner of St. Francis Café & Market in Panama City, Panama.

While Latin foods are already popular with American consumers, these concepts show that there are still many opportunities to create unique offerings that lead to further menu differentiation.

Pupusas introduce a newer menu application of Latin flavors

Pupusas introduce a newer menu application of Latin flavors

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About The Author

Gerry Ludwig

Gerry Ludwig is corporate consulting chef at Gordon Food Service, where he creates trends-based culinary solutions for operators, conducts seminars and workshops and hosts trend-tracking tours.