Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Flavor & The Menu
April 5, 2020

Mary Sue Milliken and partner Susan Feniger are the powerhouse pair who propels menu success for their group of restaurants including Border Grill, Socolo, BBQ Mexicana, Border BBQ and Pacha Mamas. Milliken has a passion for the flavors inherent in seafood dishes found across the globe, with a special appreciation for ceviche as a showcase for the clean flavor of fresh seafood. “When seafood is really fresh, you can show it off pristine and raw—that’s when it has the most incredible flavor,” she says. “I love all the ceviches that we make.” She recalls one of her first experiences with ceviche, during a trip to Mexico: “We were out in a tiny fishing boat, with local fishermen. We caught fish, filleted and skinned them. Then we chopped the fillets really fine and mixed the fish with fresh lime, chile, cilantro and a little tomato. I could eat that for the rest of my life.”

Other travels have provided further seafood inspirations. “I loved being in Bali, where you just go up to a fisherman, look at what he’s caught, choose your fish and have a seat at the picnic table next to an open fire pit, where they cook it for you. You eat it right away, with your feet in the sand,” she says. Citrus and chile are among her favorite seafood pairings, as she finds that many species can hold up to those strong flavors. Seafood can also act as a go-to ingredient to transform a recipe, Milliken notes, citing how the umami of dried shrimp can lead to something “really special” when added to a sauce made from chiles, roasted peanuts, lime and garlic.

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