Summer Menu: Get Out of the Rut
Summer is a great season for restaurants and their summer menus; the temperatures are warmer, different foods are in season and there is just a different vibe in the air.
So, since the seasons change, so why don’t some restaurant menus provide variety or change too?
“Too often people fall into habits and just continue to do the same old thing,” said Indy Food Blog™. “In restaurants, the daily special may become less of a “special” and just devolve into a picking an item from an ever-rotating selection of the same old thing. After all, it’s easy to make, and/or your guests rave about it when it’s the “special”; and, of course, it has a healthy profit margin.”
It’s also a way to burn out everyone in the process, such as guests, yourself, line cooks and a business, Indy Food Blog™ added.
Why not explore options and liven up your menu?
Restaurant owner Luke Patterson guides his menus based on seasonality and his menu is determined by weather and availability. For example, one of the things he looked for this time of year is asparagus.
“Real asparagus,” he said. “You can now get anything anytime, but for some people asparagus isn’t a treat when you have it all year.”
Of course, Patterson explained ordering locally takes more work, but for him, it makes him feel better about the restaurants he owns.
“That farmer is in my restaurant eating the food he grew,” he explained. “It feels a lot better, I know where it (the food) came from, I know who touched it, I know how many people touched it and I knew it grew here.”
Knowing where his ingredients come from makes him feel safe and he likes knowing his customers are safe consuming the food too.
While going 100 percent local may not be on your restaurant’s agenda, or it seems like a daunting task, take small steps. Imagine a summer menu from a customer’s perspective and the items you would like to see. If it’s something you’re interested in trying, work with one farmer on an ingredient that will be a month long special. It’s a great way to mix up your menu, provide fresh ingredients that customers will love and work with your community.
Make Use of Your Equipment
Certain pieces of kitchen equipment and supplies are made for one purpose, but not all of them.
“If you think about it, there are a ton of toys in your kitchen,” Indy Food Blog™ said.
“Unfortunately, it’s too easy to use those toys the same way all the time. Vegetables roast in the oven, or saute in a skillet on the stove (or, heaven forbid, Chef Mike gets used to steam/reheat them), stuff gets tossed in the fryer, flat top handles a few things, and proteins go on the grill. You may have forgotten how much fun your equipment can be to play with. You also may have forgotten how much fun it can be to combine ingredients in unsuspecting ways.”
Need an idea boost to mix up some of your restaurant’s summer menu items? Below are some ideas and photos from Indy Food Blog™ to help you mix things up at your restaurant.
“Take something familiar like a grilled pork chop. Marinate it in coconut milk, lime juice and a variety of Thai or Vietnamese type seasonings; serve it with an Asian slaw, and black rice.
It’s an easy way to take a protein all your guests are familiar with, and change the typical flavor profile into something that has a lighter, brighter flavor. It’s easy, and it’s different. Taking an inexpensive protein and marinating it elevates it a bit and helps to give it a lighter, more “summery” flavor.”
“Along the same lines, instead of making a typical roulade in the oven; make individual sized roulades stuffed with Mexican Pesto and grill them. After all, a thin cut of beef like flank or skirt cooks quickly; while grilling it instead of the typical braising will change the flavor just enough to be new.
Pair it with a Nopalitos salad and some mashed Yucca, and you’ve got another dish that’s familiar in concept, yet has a bright, fresh flavor.”
“How about the flatbreads that are so popular these days? How about grilling some of the vegetables to give them a nice carmelized texture and flavor, then cooking the entire flatbread on the grill as ordered?
After all, you grill is hot enough to toast the bread and melt the cheese. If it’s laden with cheese, a couple of minutes beneath a salamander can finish the job and add a little extra color if needed.”
Indy Food Blog™ challenges chefs to be more creative with what they cook and the equipment they cook on.
“Your guests will appreciate the variety, your line cooks will appreciate the challenge, you just might find yourself being more inspired and, I can guarantee, your guests will appreciate it.”