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Side dishes to take center stage

Menu expert Nancy Kruse discusses food trends for 2011

Menu developers are likely to shift their focus away from the center-of-the-plate and concentrate their energies on side dishes in 2011, according to food trend expert Nancy Kruse.

“I think we’re on the brink of revitalization of the side-dish category,” said Kruse, who is president of The Kruse Company in Atlanta and a columnist for Nation’s Restaurant News. “It’s been the least developed and most commoditized.”

She said the “wild popularity” of sweet potatoes has refocused research and development chefs’ attention on this normally sleepy category, and predicted the industry would see more yams — beyond fries — as well as more interesting uses of regular potatoes.

Green vegetables are “absolutely going to burst wide open,” she added, noting that they have been largely absent from menus for so long. She also reasoned that health concerns would direct more attention to such better-for-you foods.

Some casual-dining chains will be charging a premium for seasonal fresh asparagus this spring, Kruse said, adding that customers “will absolutely go for” upcharges on such health-centric items that they tend not to cook at home.

“Customers are looking for a reason to do the right thing,” she said, and if green vegetables are finished with a nice sauce or nuts or another upscale flourish, “I think they’re irresistible.”

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected].


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