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MenuMasters: Middle Eastern-Mexican mashups and fast-casual vegetable dishes

Plus a mushroom Reuben, a trending Burmese salad and a cocktail from José Andrés

There’s a type of mezcal called pechuga, which means poultry breast in Spanish, for which a raw chicken breast is hung in the still during the third distillation, which reportedly adds a savory quality to the finished spirit. Chef, restaurateur and philanthropist José Andrés took that idea and asked mezcal merchant Ron Cooper why that chicken breast couldn’t be replaced by the Spanish delicacy of Ibérico ham. It turns out that it could be, and the result is Cooper’s Del Maguey Ibérico Mezcal, which is the base of a cocktail at Andrés’s cocktail bar Pigtail in Chicago.

Although meat is being added to spirits, where it might reasonably be thought unnecessary, it is more often being removed from menu items in which it was once deemed essential, such as the Reuben sandwich, which at Hearth and Hill in Park City, Utah, makes it with local mushrooms, instead.

Mushrooms are not technically plants, but fungus (the difference is that their cell walls are made of chitin instead of cellulose), but its plants that are spreading on menus at fast-casual chain restaurants, such as the new garlic roasted Brussels sprouts at The Habit Burger Grill, and the new Asian Apple Citrus Salad at Noodles & Company.

Elsewhere in vegetation the Burmese Tea Leaf salad is catching on at assorted Southeast Asian restaurants, including The Dutchess, a new Burmese restaurant in Ojai, Calif.

New culinary mashups are also on trend, and one that we’re seeing more of is Middle Eastern and Mexican, exemplified by the Taco Arabic at Evette’s Chicago.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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