Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Flavor & The Menu
October 31, 2019

Chicago is a favorite destination among trend trackers, boasting one of the most dynamic dining scenes in the country led by a world-class culinary community. On a recent trends tour hosted by Barilla, trend expert and corporate consulting chef for Gordon Food Service, Gerry Ludwig, took a group of chefs to six Chicago hot spots. “We asked him to showcase establishments with innovative trend-forward menus, including pasta,” says Yury Krasilovsky, executive chef with Barilla Foodservice.

Pasta is a great carrier for a number of today’s trends, acting as a familiar, comforting canvas for more adventurous flavor combinations. “We’re seeing more chefs using pasta as a bridge to make new and innovative ideas approachable to guests,” says Krasilovsky. “Pasta is an “add comfort food” ingredient to almost any flavor profile, and we really saw that in Chicago.”

Here are three flavor trends captured at three of Chicago’s best restaurants today:

1. Global Mash-Up

Although global mash-ups are a go-to in so many formats—such as bowls, tacos and pizzas—pasta builds typically stay within the friendly confines of the Mediterranean. At Etta, a Modern American restaurant, chef/partner Danny Grant served campanelle with heirloom tomato and basil, giving it a surprise turn with the inclusion of red curry and a finish of cashew crumb. “The flavors were surprising and delicious, and demonstrated how you can take a familiar dish like pasta with tomato sauce and flip it toward modernity with a few creative, flavorful moves,” says Krasilovsky.

2. Modern French

We’ve been tracking the resurgence of French fare in this country, driven by a creative approach inspired by modern American cuisine. At the Duck Inn, a retro-inspired gastro-tavern, chef/owner Kevin Hickey riffed on the classic French escargot in his Snails and Spaghetti. He entwined thick spaghetti with herbs and garlic, along with creamy ramps, then topped it with baked snails and wild allium flowers. “He bridged New American and French, and all the creative flavor play in both, with spaghetti—a familiar, friendly pasta,” says Krasilovsky.

3. Pops of Flavor

Perhaps as counterpoint to the trend in textural crunch, soft-textured flavored pearls are showing up on menus nationwide, offering a softer pop of flavor with both flavor intensity and visual flair. Before balsamic beads or tapioca pearls, caviar was the king here. It’s back now, showing up in unexpected, often casual presentations. At Heritage Restaurant & Caviar Bar, an American restaurant inspired by Eastern European flavors, executive chef Guy W. Meikle, created a dish called Million Dollar Noodles. It featured lump crab, marrow butter, American trout roe, fried shallot, nori, crispy puffed rice and nasturtium leaves, all served over bucatini. “The trout roe added a burst of briny flavor to a rich, decadent pasta,” says Krasilovsky. “This pasta also showcased how chefs can take a simple noodle dish and give it a refined treatment with unexpected and high-impact ingredients.”

For more pasta inspiration, visit BarillaFS.com.

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