Apples and bananas are commonplace fruit flavors on menus, yet operators still have room to explore applications that go beyond standard juice, smoothie, fruit plate or dessert presentations. As appeal of fruit flavors continues to grow—jumping from 40% in 2013 to 46% today, according to Technomic’s Flavor Consumer Trend Report—less familiar, if not entirely foreign, fruit preparations are appearing on menus. Some of these techniques are intended to make common fruits more kid-friendly (like fruity ketchup or fruit gummies in dessert), while others present a new dimension to a simplistic flavor (such as grilled apples or pickled blueberries) using equipment in-house. Here are five ways operators are taking fruits like apples, bananas, watermelon and berries up a notch.
Despite its simplicity, grilling fruits is a technique rarely found in chains. Grilling brings out fruits’ natural sugars and intensifies the flavor. Firm fruits such as watermelon, pineapple and peach take on heat well, but operators are increasingly looking to the common apple for grilled applications in salads, atop burgers and in omelets. IHOP capitalized on the trend over the fall with its Apple Ring Pancake featuring a grilled apple slice. The smokiness brought on by the grill added flavor notes to the dish beyond the mildly sweet apple.
2. In ketchup
Although the foundation of ketchup as we knowit today is tomatoes, original formulations featured everything from nuts and mushrooms to pickled fish and fruits. The trend of fruit ketchups recalls those alternate compositions. Popping up on menus now is banana ketchup, a Filipino fruit condiment made with standard ketchup ingredients (vinegar, sugar and spices), while swapping out tomato for mashed banana. With Filipino cuisine a major trend predicted for 2017, banana ketchup—which is featured on everything from burgers at Graffiti: A Social Kitchen in Cleveland to a condiment for fries at Sputnik in Denver to a ribs glaze at Jeepney in New York City—could be the next big condiment.
Fermented fare is still on trend (with mentions up 23.8% over three years per Technomic’s MenuMonitor), but we’re now seeing applications move beyond pickled vegetables to include fruits. Pickling any products in-house is not only inexpensive for operators but also provides an opportunity to market fare as premium and housemade and to use pickling jars as decor (as seen at Baroo in Los Angeles).
Berries in particular are getting the pickling treatment. Black Market in Indianapolis, for example, serves roasted marrow bones with a pickled blueberry-parsley salad.
The sour flavor that comes with pickling adds a new flavor dynamic to sweet fruits.
Although fruit peel is generally discarded, the no-waste trend has operators getting creative with the rind of fruits like citrus, watermelon and pineapple. Not only does fruit peel offer numerous health benefits, but it can also be spotlighted in many ways. Lemon peel, for example, can be zested or candied to enhance cocktails. Trending up in beverages is the use of pineapple peel to make tepache, a fermented beverage from Mexico popping up in restaurants like Rouge Tomate in New York City.
Fruit gummies are another way to present fruit flavors in a textural format with potential appeal to kids and adults alike. Like pickled fruits, fruit gummies can also be made in-house with gelatin and promoted as chef-crafted and premium. They also provide an eyeball-snagging presentation with familiar flavors. Standard & Pour in Las Vegas, for example, serves a Fruit Loop Panna Cotta with orange sorbet, hazelnut and raspberry gummies.