MenuMasters: trendy dishes for fall


Contrary to popular complaints, the pumpkin spice season isn’t the same every year, and not just because it now starts in mid-August. Restaurants across the country continue to innovate with variations on the theme using different fall flavors such as oatmeal cookies and cinnamon buns. This year’s fall flavor of choice appears to be apple, as seen in the latest seasonal offering from fall spice trend creator Starbucks.

It also appears to be the fall of grilled cheese, as grilled sandwiches with melted dairy products are springing up as limited-time seasonal offerings.

Chicken wings continue to fly out of restaurant kitchens with increasing speed, driving up prices and motivating operators to find new parts of the bird to sell. Chicken thighs can be problematic because they are not produced in the same shapes and sizes as breasts and wings, but Wingstop has had enough success with its virtual Thighstop concept that it has added the product to its regular menu.

Fried chicken is by no means an American favorite. Japanese karaage – a term for anything dusted with flour and fried, but it’s usually chicken – has been a long-standing custom and is increasingly seen in the United States. The Jinya Ramen Bar now serves it as an accompaniment to one of its noodle soups.

Fall is also the harvest season, a fact that Carrabba’s Italian Grill capitalizes on by offering Californian and Italian wines side by side, providing the opportunity to engage customers, educate and sell incentively.

Gourmet chefs are increasingly comfortable with combining the flavors and techniques of several cuisines, and with a finesse that was often lacking in turn-of-the-century fusion cuisine. A good example is the Kumiai oyster at Entre Sueños in Chicago.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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