When it comes to high-impact ingredients, a pickled element should be a go-to. As our palates are maturing (so the experts say), we’ve adopted a new love for sour, and its unique ability to bring both a pleasing balance and vibrant contrast to any flavor experience is noteworthy. The house-pickling movement has furthered our enjoyment and awareness of just what pickled ingredients can do for a menu item, not only from a flavor standpoint, but for the backstory, too. Here are 8 menu trends that showcase the power of pickles, as demonstrated by the following menu examples.
1. Brining Shines Bright
The fried chicken boom has brought with it the attention to the flavor nuances of the brining process. Pickle-brining has become a go-to flavor strategy here, offering that subtle sour contrast that so well complements anything fried. Case in point: The buttermilk and pickle-brined chicken sandwiches at Fellow in Los Angeles, paired with aged cheddar, oven-roasted tomato, dill pickles and iceberg, on sourdough bread.
2. Pickled Fruits Go Farther Afield
Taste buds have a love affair with the counterbalance of sweet and sour. The preservation movement that propelled pickling in foodservice is now seeing all manner of unique fruits in the brine, like blueberries, pears and mangos, many of which are a culinary trait of global kitchens. In Brooklyn, Taiwanese-American restaurant Win Son tops its butter-grilled shrimp cake with pickled pineapple, layered amid a mian tuan bun.
3. Spreads & Dips in a Pickle
Adding a tangy element to a creamy dip or spread makes a flavor-forward complement to burgers, fish sandwiches and anything fried. The pickled aïoli slathered on the brioche bun lends signature flavor to the cheeseburger at Wilshire in Santa Monica, Calif., layered with aged cheddar, caramelized onions and house-made pickles.
4. Plant-forward Plays
Veg-centricity is advancing produce innovation on the menu, and pickling is a creative companion here, offering a major flavor boost to veg-centric menu items. At Bar Annica in Brooklyn, the entrée of Charred Cauliflower comes with a pickled beet pâté, blackened cabbage and garlic confit.
5. Modern Spikes of Flavor
Tucking in a pickled ingredient where one might not expect it is one of the power plays with pickles. The side dish of roasted Brussels sprouts with pickled shallots at the newly opened Freebird Kitchen & Bar in White Plains, N.Y. is just one example showcasing a spike of surprising flavor.
6. Crudité with Cachet
Crudité platters are making a comeback on modern menus, showcasing farm-to-table sophistication. Canon in Sacramento ups the crudité model with its pickle plate featuring a range of house-pickled seasonal veggies served over ice.
7. A Cocktail Boost
Pickle juice adds a modern tang to cocktails like the White Heat, with cucumber-infused Ice Pik vodka, pickle juice, Peppadew chiles and olives, served at Jordan Hotel’s Sliders in Sunday River, Maine.
8. A Slow Melt of Sour
Ice cubes are proving themselves a power flavor player on drink menus, and pickle juice is a perfect foil for a slow melt of sour. Pickled ice cubes make up the Bloody Mary at Milk Money Bar & Kitchen in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.