Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Flavor & The Menu
August 2, 2019

It’s certainly time to move on from the notion put forth by some in the industry that toast is just a hipster fad. Chefs are proving the staying power by maximizing the simple platform and building on it with remarkable creativity. Avocado toast was the gateway, and is still enjoying fantastic iterations. Now, though, the sky is the limit, interpreting a number of sustaining trends, like veg-centricity, seasonality, shareability and rusticity.

Ocean Prime, a modern American restaurant in the Cameron Mitchell Restaurants family, builds on the popularity of avocado toast while adding the concept’s touch with its Lobster and Avocado Toast. Served at lunch, it stars seasonal sweet pea-avocado spread and preserved lemon, and a generous portion of butter-poached lobster atop buttered brioche. Pea tendrils and lemon zest finish the profile. “The lobster toast started out as our take on a lobster roll. So, getting the bread right was key to making it work,” says Ian Rough, regional chef.

“Buttered brioche, cut thick and toasted to a golden brown, really makes this toast a winner.” For Ocean Prime’s holiday brunch menu, he crowns it with a sunny-side egg. “For some of our other Cameron Mitchell Restaurants concepts, we have done a fun smoked trout toast, and even looked at doing an uni scrambled egg toast,” he says.

Meat on Point

True Aussie Beef & Lamb

Antoinette Hicks’ BLT stars bacon, lamb and tomato, using toast as a platform for a meatier shareable.

Chefs are leaning into the comforting, hearty side of toast. At All Day Darling, with two restaurants in North Carolina, the Steak Toast delivers, topped with Gruyère, dressed greens and green goddess dressing, all on whole grain.

Callejón, a tucked away tapas bar in New York, moves toast into Spanish territory with its Skirt Steak Toast with romesco, scallions and garlic chips.

Antoinette Hicks, chef/owner at Baby Buns in Philadelphia, developed an Avocado Toast BLT at a recent culinary immersion hosted by True Aussie Beef & Lamb. It featured bacon, lamb and tomato. “I wanted to combine something comforting with something on-trend, and for me, when I think of the two, I automatically think about brunch food,” says Hicks. “Adding lamb to the toast is a way to keep it simple but interesting.”

Hello Hong Kong

Acorn

Hong Kong toast at Acorn in Denver features a seasonal offering with its kumquat milk jam.

Kaya toast, a sweet toast starring coconut jam, has made a few menu moves over recent months. Hong Kong toast is now showing up on the radar, a comfort-food favorite from Hong Kong that stars white bread slathered with condensed milk and butter. “Hong Kong toast, which always includes some sort of sweetened condensed milk jam, has endless possibilities. Our current offering features a kumquat milk jam, candied pecans, and cacao nibs on top of grilled brioche,” says Ian Palazzola, executive chef of Acorn, a modern American restaurant in Denver.

“My favorites always include some sort of local fruit, preferably something sour, which really balances out the sweetened condensed milk. Sometimes simpler really is better. Our brioche is one of my favorite breads in the world, and when you top it with the milk jam, it ends up tasting more like a grilled doughnut.”

Modern Magic

Bluestem Brasserie

The Chicken Liver Toast at Bluestem Brasserie in San Francisco demonstrates the creative ways chefs are featuring toast.

Chicken liver might be a tough sell for some, but thanks to a renewed interest in deli favorites, French fare and shareables, it’s finding a welcome home on modern toast presentations. Savory, rich and creamy, chicken liver spread brings a lot to the party.

At Bluestem Brasserie, an upscale modern American restaurant in San Francisco, the “bites” menu features Chicken Liver Toast with balsamic vinaigrette, rhubarb jam, pickled green strawberries, lemon oil and walnuts. “I think the success comes from the appeal of the open-face sandwich and how it presents the chicken liver as a complete thought,” says Stacy Jed, co-owner.

“People rarely ask to have the liver on the side.” She just added a toast trio on the menu, using a long, thick slice of Acme levain bread cut in three pieces. “We then top the pieces with chicken liver, steak tartare and salmon rillette,” she says. “Folks are loving it.”

SPREADING THE LOVE

For chefs looking for the next savory, umami-rich spread, chicken liver—combined with creative, intriguing ingredients—just might be the ticket.

  • Chicken Liver Toast: Chicken liver mousse with crispy chicken livers and Stilton blue cheese on toasted bread from Blue Dog Bakery
    —The Pine Room, Harrods Creek, Ky.
  • Chicken Liver Tartine with rhubarb, pistachios, citrus fern
    —Tartine Bianco, Los Angeles
  • Chicken Liver Toast with Masumoto’s nectarine, Calabrian chile and cucumber
    —Rustic Canyon, Santa Monica, Calif.

A Toast to Veg-centricity

Galdones Photography

The Prosciutto Butter Toast at Monteverde in Chicago showcases the crave factor in veg-centric dishes.

It’s hard to think of a better vehicle for veg-centric menu development than toast. It can move with the seasons, it pops on social media, it feels wholesome. Just as the veg-centric trend continues to deepen its impact, chefs are widening their embrace of what works on toast.

At Monteverde in Chicago, Sarah Grueneberg, chef/partner, reminds us that the savory, satisfying addition of meat has a great place on veg-forward menu items. Her Prosciutto Butter Toast features seeded rye, prosciutto butter, an abundance of crisp radish and lemon marmellata.

Launderette, a New American restaurant in Austin, Texas, menus an Oyster Mushroom Toast, showing great attention to detail with taleggio and a cremini relish, all on grilled sourdough.

At Walton Street Kitchen + Bar, a restaurant concept from Ballyhoo Hospitality in Chicago, the snack menu features Sweet Pea Toast with whipped ricotta, pickled shallots, mint, arugula and truffle vinaigrette, showcasing a riot of color and fresh, bright colors. “The dish is light and fresh for summer and spring,” says Thomas Leonard, executive chef. “It’s perfect for both vegetable and meat lovers.”

Seasonality sings in the Sweet Pea Toast served at Walton Street Kitchen + Bar in Chicago.

Party of Eight

Of course, toast offers a blank canvas for innovation, but a quick roundup of trend-forward spreads leads guests down a delicious and unexpected pathway.

  • 1. Seasonal pesto (mint pesto, scallion pesto)
  • 2. Flavored butter (miso butter, radish butter)
  • 3. Hummus or other bean spreads
  • 4. Seafood spreads (trout, sardine)
  • 5. Savory jam (bacon jam, tomato jam)
  • 6. Duxelles
  • 7. Nut butter
  • 8. Chutney
From the July-August 2019 issue of Flavor & The Menu magazine

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