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Menu Trends = Healthy Highlights

Nearly nine in ten Americans think eating healthy is important, but 63% say it’s difficult at restaurants because there aren’t enough healthy items.

It’s time for that to change: 2009 saw a trend towards healthier menus, but 2010 will see a sharp increase in good-for-you food and drink. This year’s healthy menus will feature inherently nutritious items - those with fiber, omega-3, vitamins and antioxidants--that deliver on flavor, too.

West Hollywood restaurant, Hugo’s Tacos, is responding. They boast a commitment to healthy living on their menu, citing several healthy choices such as vegan pasta with organic semolina and flax seed and gluten-free items.

Food allergy conscious and gluten-free meals all rank in the top 20, illustrating that consumer interest in health and nutrition continues to grow. But trends extend to how patrons order for children, too, so be sure to give your kid’s menu a healthy boost. Healthful options for kids include produce, super fruits, bite-size and half portions.

Drilling into Regional Ethnic Dining

name the top favorite ethnic cuisines Americans love and Mexican, Chinese and italian top the list. in July, four in five adults told Mintel, global product and market research firm, they’d eaten ethnic food at a restaurant in the past month. Truth is cuisines like Mexican, Chinese and italian have become so mainstream that patrons are digging for deeper, more regional ethnic palate pleasers such as foreign foods with Moroccan, Brazilian and Tuscan flair.

Mintel reports that trends show restaurants will increasingly pinpoint specific regions--Tuscany, Brazil, Morocco, or even within the uS such as north Carolina BBq to develop tomorrow’s ethnic food.

Tableside Theatrics

Forgo the Flambé and punctuate the dining experience with memories in a glass. Start quenching patron’s thirst for theatrics with flaming coffee, champagne carts or tableside beverage tutorials.

The dramatic flare of flaming coffee and a one- minute wine lesson are just two of many ways tableside beverage opportunities add value to the guest experience.

At Michael Mina San Francisco, wine director raj parr has always served vodka on the caviar cart, brought to the table when ordered a la carte. But he recently introduced a champagne cart for service at all tables as guests are seated.

“Rather than cut back during this recession, we want to add to the guest experience. At first, we were too busy to have a champagne cart. now we can offer a choice of champagne and make each guest at every table feel important,” he says.

Parr’s intent is to create a service without making it too fussy; offering a range of prices helps keep the service within most diners’ reach. “We approach each table with care -- we don’t want to overwhelm the guest with too much formality,” notes parr, who pours wine by the glass at the table as another important experience for the diner. “When you bring the bottle to the table to pour a glass of wine, the guest has the opportunity to look at the shape of the bottle, the art or design of the label and details of its origin.”

Playing off nacional 27’s nuevo Latino theme in Chicago, general Manager pete Seger serves up popular tres leches cafe tableside in an irish- coffee glass. Locally roasted South American coffee is poured from a miniature aluminum coffee pot. Dulce de leche ice cream is added, and Licor 43, a Spanish vanilla liqueur, is poured on top.

The penrose room at The Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs occasionally receives requests for Cafe Valentino. “We flame our version of irish coffee at the table with Amaretto rather than whiskey,” says Executive Chef Bertrand Bouquin. “As with Caesar salad and Chateaubriand for two, guests look forward to the experience.”

Source: Flavor & The Menu

TASTY FACT

Amuse Bouche: [ahmuse booche] The culinary word sings of hospitality. Literally defined as a “mouth amuser,” these bite-sized flavorettes are small expressions of big flavor and are an outlet for the chef to present his or her creative theme for the night. They are usually the same for all table guests and are a gesture of hospitality, offered at no charge.