Citrus brightens up winter menus

Abundant during the winter months, citrus fruits invigorate food and drink menus during the chilly weather. The endless variety includes limes, lemons, tangerines, navel oranges, red grapefruit, and all the hybrid offspring, from the highly anticipated Meyer lemon to tangelos and pomelos. 

Using citrus fruits in winter menu items satisfies consumer demand for seasonal ingredients and for healthier fare. These sour-sweet powerhouse fruits not only pack in large doses of vitamin C and potassium, but also offer folate, fiber, and trace minerals. Customers looking to tone down the calorie count have good reason to look for citrus on the menu; the fruits add only about 100 calories per cup to any food item.

No wonder, then, that citrus flavors are gaining in popularity among consumers, and chefs and foodservice operators are incorporating citrus to intensify food and drink: 

  • Chef Chris Koetke of Chicago’s Kendall College is using a little brown sugar, some candied ginger and a splash of citrus to give his Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Orange & Ginger a spark of magic.
  • Chef Kris Wessel of Florida Cookery in Miami’s James Royal Palm Hotel incorporates grapefruit, red navel oranges and other citrus into a wide selection of ceviches.
  • At Park Avenue Winter in New York City, chef Kevin Lasko tosses up a Cured Lemon Caesar Salad as a brunch appetizer and menus Skate & Peekytoe Crab with Blood Orange sauce.
  • Technomic’s Beverage Consumer Trend Report found that restaurant patrons enjoy lemon, lime and other citrus flavors in colas as much as light-colored sodas. While some chain operators have added innovative citrus-infused drinks, such as Starbucks’ line of Refreshers beverages, including Cool Lime and Orange-Melon varieties, the trend is showing up on adult-beverage menus as well.
  • Citrus ranked second among leading vodka flavors, according to Technomic’s 2012 SpiritsTAB report. And as noted in Technomic’s MenuMonitor, lime, orange and lemon are three of the top four flavors in adult beverages on the menus of the Top 500 restaurant chains, emerging concepts and leading independents.
  • The incidence of lime in adult beverages is up 14 percent, to 1,432 items in second-quarter 2012 from 1,251 in the same period of 2011. Orange, too, is in more beverages (up 10 percent to 912 from 826), as is lemon (whose incidence increased by 10 percent, to 844 items from 764). Likewise, citrus is used to describe more adult-beverage items—353 in second-quarter 2012, an increase of 13% over 2011’s 312.

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