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MenuMasters: Trends for late summer and early fall

Watermelon and pumpkin spice are sharing space on menus as the seasons change

This has been the summer of watermelon, with the fruit appearing in many drinks and salads to reflect seasonality, but also, with its high water content, to help consumers feel hydrated, which seems to be a particular priority among younger people. That’s reflected in Chart House’s latest limited-time offer, a watermelon carpaccio.

Elote, the Mexican street food of corn on the cob brushed with spices and usually mayonnaise and cotija cheese, is also a trendy summertime offering, but usually not actually on the cob but in salads, appetizers etc., which we’re seeing with a new grain bowl at Zoup! as well as in a seasonal hushpuppy appetizer at the new Pioneer restaurant in Cleveland.

However, although we still have a solid month to go with summer, some chains are already anticipating the fall with new pumpkin-spice items. Krispy Kreme and Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Brews are among the first out of the gate with their autumnal specials.

In a less widespread but nonetheless interesting trend, miso, the fermented Japanese soy paste, is increasingly being used to add a savory element to cocktails, such as in the Yacht Rock at Hawksmoor NYC.

Enthusiasm for low-carbohydrate items continues, and Papa John’s is responding by offering guests pizza toppings in a bowl, but there is a time and place for starch, especially if it evokes both nostalgia and exoticism, such as with the Chaat Pommes Anna at Camphor in Los Angeles.

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