Welcome to Best of Flavor 2016
Welcome to our first-annual “Best of Flavor” edition. The pages of this special issue come together as an inspiring collection of 125 stand-out flavor builds supplied by our readers.
Listed in order
The trend in updating deli favorites has pastrami and Reubens leading the pack, and with global mash-ups moving into eclectic ones, the Pastrami Dumpling at Packed is right on the money: spiced and cured brisket, violet mustard and pickled green tomatoes stuffed into a delicate dumpling.
Pastrami Dumpling with violet mustard and pickled green tomatoes.
Ataula’s Pepito sandwich is built of luxurious layers of braised veal breast, roasted red pepper confit, veal jus, horseradish cream and Havarti cheese on brioche.
The Bison Burger was only going to run as a weekly special at Brick House Tavern + Tap, reports Tim Griffin, Director of Culinary Innovation.
At Honey Butter, Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp, co-executive chefs and managing partners, are famous for their fried chicken, made extra craveable with a signature side of honey butter.
Just a few months after opening one of the four SuViche locations in Florida, the pressure was on.
Breakfast skillets are the original bowl builds, really, using potatoes as a base and often crowning the dish with decadent, melty cheese.
Breakfast is booming as a daypart, with clever tweaks appealing to today’s diners.
Sometimes the Next Big Thing is right under your nose.
Catelli Duo’s clientele skews female—about 60 percent are women.
Mini is big right now, and the bite-sized Mini Wagyu Burgers at upscale Joseph Decuis satisfy the demand for smaller portions with huge flavor.
Firehouse Subs Cherry Lime-Aid is sold internationally, but its roots date back to Jacksonville, Fla.
Utilizing Alfredo sauce’s longevity as a beloved profile, Fazoli’s put it to work as a flavor bridge in a bolder menu build.
Pincho Factory, a new Latin-inspired fast-casual, is known for a number of things, including its namesake pinchos (skewers of grilled meat), burgers and fries.
As Florida’s oldest restaurant, Columbia takes pride in its history as a family-run establishment—and in its longtime favorite dishes.
With the Ghost of Bloody Mary, Kent Beardens, Saint Marc’s Senior Director of Operations, and team have “delivered a radically different presentation.
At his new L’Amico, house-infused chile oil is a pantry staple for Executive Chef Laurent Tourondel.
Fig & Olive is known for its use of olive oils, sourcing different varietals ranging from the French Riviera and Spain’s Catalonia to Tuscany.
The oh-so-French Choc-O-Pain bakery and café specializes in sourdough breads and flaky pastries, including the Tarte aux Pommes—a traditional apple tart made with Granny Smith apples in a crust, brushed with butter and apricot glaze.
Today’s diners want the chance to sample adventurous flavors in manageable portions—that’s why small plates and dessert flights have taken hold.
Korea’s bold flavors are leading the pack of new global cuisines that are finding a place on American menus.
Chef/Owner Tony Conte turns to Calabrian chile peppers to round out his veg-centric dish of Ember-Roasted Beets with Calabrian chile kefir, pecans and maple vinegar.
To mark the Mexican holiday of Carnaval and the Lenten period that follows, Hacienda and La Señorita Mexican Restaurants wanted to introduce a seafood-centric LTO.
With the doughnut craze showing no signs of abating, it’s fun to see what’s next.
With trending Middle Eastern spices and easy shareability, muhammara is having a moment.
The flavor trends in the modern American tavern revolve around keeping dishes familiar but adding touches that elevate the flavor experience.
Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith, also known as the Hearty Boys, opened a two-year pop-up with Pastry Chef Gale Gand.
Fried squash blossoms are a special treat in and of themselves, but the version at both Cucina Enoteca and Cucina Urbana (part of the Urban Kitchen Group) takes them to cult-favorite levels.
There’s a story behind the deliciously unhinged version of poutine that Crop Rocks serves as part of its bar menu.
There’s so much innovation happening in the fried chicken space, and today’s diners are eating it up, responding to this trend’s comfort-food appeal and flavor-forward approach.
Diners may be seeking out healthful options on the whole, but put a plateful of sweet-and-savory indulgence in front of them, and they will respond.
Wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizzas are all the rage, with diners responding to the signature dough and distinct flavor of fire.
How apt that the Hachi cocktail falls under the “Umami” section of the beverage menu at Kuro, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Chocolate can lend a complexity to savory dishes, but for Mad Greens, it became the flavor star in a surprising LTO application.
No holding back—that’s the philosophy that made the Pub Burger the “best burger in Pennsylvania,” according to Thrillist.
With the goal of showcasing culinary expertise in the burger category and inspiration from its well-known beverage program, Hard Rock Cafe deftly tapped into the better burger and craft beer trend with last year’s launch of four burger and beer pairings.
Busting the myth that coleslaw is boring, Consulting Chef Kim Zupfer developed two different slaws that take familiar ingredients and kick them up a couple notches for Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp.
A top seller on the bar menu, Tropical Nachos capture the beachside feel of Baleen Restaurant while delivering a globally influenced flavor combination in a shareable format.
To tap into Millennials and other target consumers, upscale craft-beer bar The Brass Tap took a gamble on the growing popularity of the banh mi, exploring the bright, bold flavors and contrasting textures of this Vietnamese street food, looking to increase its veg-centric choices and open up its range of menu items.
With the toast trend continuing its roll on menus nationwide, this Moroccan Scrambled Egg Tartine offers a flavor-forward rendition.
Durty Nellie’s has been known for its live music and lively pub scene for years.
Modern Italian cuisine in the form of street food is a doubly good thing, and Piada puts the focus on authentic ingredients prepared simply.
The name of this dish—Beet Forest Cake—was born from the R&D behind it, as the final product took on the look of a traditional Black Forest cake.
As a menu item, pho has picked up steam, making it ripe for signature tweaks.
Showcasing how umami can make a vegetarian dish utterly satisfying, the beloved Pappardelle con Porcini at Casa D’Angelo features pappardelle pasta, porcini mushrooms, fresh tomato, white wine, herbs and shaved Parmesan.
Steaks are the most ordered item at Sizzler, so expanding that lineup makes good business sense.
Tying in to its theme of hearth-based cooking, the S’mores Soufflé is one of the most successful dishes on The Promontory’s menu.
Monica Kate, Corporate Executive Pastry Chef for Kneaders Bakery and Café, discovered scones while traveling through Scotland when she was 19.
Adam Hegsted, Chef/Owner of Wandering Table at Kendall Yards in Spokane, Wash.
With modern innovation around fried chicken pushing craveability and creativity to new heights, the challenge is finding the right balance of adventure and familiarity with your customer base.
Guacamole is one of those versatile menu items that appeals to a broad base of diners.
Salt & Straw can best be described as an ice-cream think tank, known for its funky-yet-genius flavor combinations.
Bold, herb-based sauces and spices take fish to a new level, boosting flavor while keeping the health halo intact.
“The idea is that everything we do can be articulated as an edible story,” says Executive Chef John O’Leary.
It’s hard to improve on the classic scallop wrapped in bacon, but Chef Thomas Chapman has done it.
At Nectar Restaurant, the Warm Grains Bowl epitomizes comfort that’s both good-for-you and bursting with flavor.
Upping the flavor ante and marking a clear point of difference are key in foodservice today.
Upping the flavor ante and marking a clear point of difference are key in foodservice today.
Now that calamari is a menu standard, octopus offers the next flavor frontier in cephalapods.
New on the menu, Boudin’s Forbidden Rice & Sesame Chicken Salad offers diners a nutrient-rich dish inflected with global flavors, all on the foundation of an on-trend ancient grain that delivers a compelling narrative.
With the Chocolate Budino, LYFE Kitchen seems to have grasped the brass ring: creating a signature dessert that nails the feel-good, better-for-you vibe.
Bold and spicy seems to be the order of the day.
Chef/Owner Thomas Malz hadn’t imagined that the Yeast Donuts he created would serve as Custom Deluxe’s signature.
Offering a visual “wow” and creative flavor combinations, the Fluke Kumquat Sashimi introduces a touch of unexpected citrus at the newly opened upscale sushi bar and teppan grill, Roku.
Many of the items on Sharky’s “Get It Naked” menu are riffs on regular menu items, with low-fat, low-calorie tweaks.
“Charcuterie boards are pretty common, but you don’t see jerky too often in a restaurant setting,” says Pakpao’s Executive Chef Jet Tila, a familiar face on the Food Network and an expert in Asian mash-ups.
Datassential’s 2016 MenuTrends puts lettuce wraps in the top-five fastest-growing appetizer category.
Toast by any name continues to invite innovation.
Eleftherios (Terry) Natas, Regional Chef of Richard Sandoval’s El Centro D.
Piatti’s chef Dylan Giordan was inspired while travelling in Spain by a simple dish of chocolate, sea salt, grilled bread and olive oil.
The Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas at Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant are a great example of how far vegetarian options have come in the last 10 years.
When McAlister’s planned its 2016 menu, the deli concept wanted to give guests a sandwich that delivered on their promise to provide a variety of American regional flavors to satisfy any exploratory palate.
Head-turning desserts are worth their weight in chocolate, and creating one that is a signature is even more valuable.
Buffalo Mac and Cheese with aged cheddar sauce, breadcrumb crust and Buffalo chicken.
The better-burger trend merged with a playful surfer culture results in creations like the Hana Hou Burger, one of the many creative flavor profiles introduced to the burger category at Islands Fine Burgers & Drinks.
Made from scratch since 1956, the craveable tartar sauce at Bob’s Clam Hut combines heritage and nostalgia with a mixture of mayonnaise, relish, finely chopped carrots and onions, it’s served with every order at this iconic Maine seafood shack
Looking for a flavor-forward dish that answered the need for a gluten-free, dairy-free, healthy menu option, Executive Chef Melissa Mangold landed on the Belton Asian Rice Bowl.
The Negroni Bianco has been showing up on forward-thinking cocktail menus, playing up the botanical side of the classic Negroni.
Snapper & Shrimp Curry: with seasonal vegetables and basmati rice.
When Agustin Mejia, Clyde Frazier’s Pastry Chef, decided to replace the Ricotta Donuts with churros, there was trouble.
America’s collective hankering for burgers isn’t going anywhere, but something new has crept in: a desire for a leaner, feel-good burger experience.
Cocktails get an instant update with the addition of fresh produce.
Pickled Blueberry Balls coated in shrimp paste, blueberry paste, ginger purée, freeze-dried blueberries and panko; with pumpkin-sesame seed butter, blue gastrique and blue agar
Tomato, Peach and Fontina Skillet Dip with grilled baguette slices.
College dining has come a long way in the last decade.
With rave reviews from diners every time it’s on the menu, the local lamb entrée at El Dorado Kitchen is a best-selling special.
Sweet and savory flavor plays find a welcome home on flatbreads, which continue to dominate shareable menus.
The sweet-savory barbecue chicken pizza has long been a standard bearer for modern pizza innovation.
Burnt Carrots with chimichurri and yogurt sauce.
Sammy’s is known for its owner and namesake, rocker Sammy Hagar, and for its Beach Bar Rum.
Combining the juicy freshness of watermelon with a rich, soul-satisfying pudding seems like a study in contrasts, but the flavor and texture combination are in perfect harmony.
At this year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival, the National Honey Board (NHB) served up a one-bite wonder of Honey-Brushed Pear Crostini, which proved to be a crowd favorite.
Vast variations in clam chowder make it an ideal menu item for signaturization.
At a coastal resort known for its culinary edge, the expectation for quality, flavor-forward seafood offerings is pretty high.
Millennials and Centennials are looking for personalized touches at every turn in foodservice.
Thai Peanut Curry Bowl with yakisoba noodles, chicken, red onions, broccoli, Asian slaw.
Arctic Char with Brussels sprout leaves, quinoa, carrot, red pepper, almonds, celery leaves, parsley and sherry-mustard vinaigrette.
It takes culinary gumption to swap out bacon with sweet potato, but that’s what Rafi Taherian, Associate VP of Yale Dining, did when he created the S.
Responding to the shift toward transparency in ingredients, Caribou Coffee is striving to incorporate clean-label items, starting with real vanilla syrup and recently adding real caramel sauce.
Queso Fundido with California Walnut "Chorizo"
Trabocco Kitchen and Cocktails offers a wood-fired salmon using an almond wood for the oven, making it less smoky, lighter, and allowing the flavor of the dish to really come out.
“Throughout my career, I’ve made several versions of bouillabaisse,” says Serge Devesa, Executive Chef of The Willard InterContinental Hotel.
Corner Café poaches its Alaskan Halibut in olive oil with a small sachet of herbs, and serves over a cauliflower “tabbouleh” with finely chopped parsley and preserved lemon, toasted pine nuts, sultanas and olive oil.
The piadina is the next “it” sandwich, folding all the best of Mediterranean flavors into a toasted flatbread.
The Friday fish fry is a tradition for so many Americans.
Steakhouse Butters Bistro: Caramelized Shallots & Bleu Cheese; Béarnaise; Sriracha; Roasted Garlic & Fresh Herb; Bacon & Bleu.
Masala Fish Sandwich: New England pollock, arugula, cilantro-mint chutney, tamarind-date chutney, coleslaw, naan.
Pork, Beets, Roses: Beet and rosewater purée, ash-roasted pork belly, edible soot, honey goat cheese.
Everything Spice-Crusted Salmon with celery root slaw, Creole mustard, tomatoes, capers and lemon.
Maine Lobster with Turkish pasta and local beans.
“We heard that we owe it to ourselves to try the fried avocado.
The loaded fries/poutine trend keeps gaining momentum, fueled by its insanely craveable combination of french fries, sauce, cheese and toppings.
Watching flavor trends play out on college campuses is a smart way to see what’s coming down the pipeline.
Perhaps it’s a surprise that a light, floral cocktail like the Lavender Southside would invite demand in a meat-centric concept like Fogo de Chão.
“Over the past couple of years, I’ve been developing more and more vegetable-based small plates to meet the increasing demand from our guests,” says Gabriel Caliendo, VP of R&D/Corporate Executive Chef for Lazy Dog restaurants.
Executive Chef Greg Gettles of farm-to-table Piedmont Restaurant in Durham, N.
Responding to the modern demands of college dining, where enlightened students seek out global flavors and healthful cuisine, the University of Colorado Boulder has built a reputation for flavorful, globally diverse, from-scratch, campus dining offerings.
As one would expect from a Disney property, meals at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort (Boatwright’s Dining Hall & River Roost Lounge) often come with entertainment.
Dugg Dozen: Burger toppings include hickory-smoked bacon and crispy onion straws.
121Farm to Sea
Grilled Ribeye with pickled Romanesco, black truffle and pea tendrils.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and for Nick Tall, The Purple Palm’s Executive Chef, it helped guide him to one of the restaurant’s most successful and popular dishes.
In honor of the store’s 125th anniversary last year, Macy’s brought back its heralded Stuffed Baked Potato Bar to its restaurants, a concept born at the store in 1926.
U Food Grill's salad combines grilled chicken breast, red seedless grapes and a tikka masala sauce.