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Top 5 trends in restaurant side dishes

Original article posted on Nation’s Restaurant by

Photo courtesy of Village Whiskey

Although most of the attention on a plate tends to go to the main course, side dishes can add distinctiveness, visual appeal and health cues. As more restaurants focus on shared and small plates, these items, which require low emotional and financial commitment on the part of diners, can also be a great way to boost checks.

The National Restaurant Association surveyed nearly 1,300 chefs about the top food and beverage trends they’re seeing.

No. 5: Pickled vegetables

Paleo-friendly, generally gluten free, low in calories and distinctive, pickled vegetables are a growing side dish trend. Pictured here is the seasonally changing selection of housemade pickles in mason jars at Village Whiskey, which has locations in Atlantic City, N.J., and Philadelphia.

No. 4: Black rice

This eye-popping, somewhat sticky form of brown rice is sometimes used for desserts in Southeast Asia, but it’s on the rise as a side dish in the United States, where it’s praised for being rich in nutrients, and tasty besides. McCormick & Schmick’s offered it as a side dish last spring with grouper.

No. 3: Quinoa

Chefs interviewed by the NRA say this popular, protein-rich grain from the Andes still has legs. It is being featured this spring in a variety of salads and wraps at 38-unit Green Leaf’s, a subsidiary of Villa Enterprises.

No 2: Ancient grains

Retro items remain trendy at restaurants, and you can’t get more retro than “ancient.” This category of grains, which have been used for millennia, include, among others, millet, teff, quinoa and farro. The last, a variety of wheat that was an important staple in ancient Rome, is pictured here as part of a salad at Tulio in Seattle, which also has shaved asparagus, shaved Parmesan, lacinato kale and stinging nettle oil.

No 1. Non-wheat noodles

As the gluten-free trend continues unabated and pasta remains a beloved part of the American diet, it should come as no surprise that wheat-free noodles was the side dish trend most frequently cited by chefs that the NRA surveyed. Pictured here is rotini made with a blend of white corn, yellow corn and rice, with lamb ragout, rosemary and Romano cheese.

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