Cardamom, caviar and other trends from the National Restaurant Show

Menu Talk: Plus, breaking bread myths with "Modernist Cuisine" author Nathan Myhrvold.

This week on Menu Talk, your hosts, Restaurant Business senior menu editor Pat Cobe and Bret Thorn, senior food & beverage editor of Nation’s Restaurant News and Restaurant Hospitality, caught their breath after a whirlwind long weekend at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, and they shared insights into what they saw and tasted there.

Pat was struck by the prevalence of cardamom on the show floor, including in an Indian lassi and a new soda flavor from Tractor Beverage Co.

Bret noticed sprouted coffee, green coffee that is treated with moisture, time, and controlled temperature so that it sprouts, resulting in coffee that is lower in acid and less bitter.

Their colleagues at the show came across a wide variety of boba drinks, but Pat and Bret were more struck by the presence of caviar and caviar-like items, like Australian finger limes with pulp that bursts in a way similar to good fish roe, and other popping spherical food, such as encapsulated and flavored fortified fish broth that provided a lower-cost option for attractive presentations.

Caviar has become an increasingly popular embellishment at full-service restaurants, even in fairly casual venues. Pat also sampled dulse, a seaweed that she said tastes like caviar.

Restaurant Show attendees also often get invited to other events in Chicago, especially if they’re members of the media, and Pat and Bret both attended one by Unilever Food Solutions at fine-dining restaurant Esmé, where they were presented with a multicourse meal that, apart from being beautiful, interactive and delicious, represented some of the broad trends that Unilever explained to the guests.

And finally Bret played clips from his interview with Nathan Myhrvold, author of the food encyclopedia “Modernist Cuisine” and subsequent books, including his latest, “Modernist Bread at Home,” co-written with Francisco Migoya. Myhrvold debunked some common myths about bread baking, and our hosts learned that over-proofed bread doesn’t need to be thrown away: It can be saved.

Listen to the podcast to find out how.

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

Subscribe on Spotify.

Menu Talk is a collaboration between Restaurant Business Senior Menu Editor Pat Cobe and Bret Thorn, senior food & beverage editor of Nation’s Restaurant News and Restaurant Hospitality. You can subscribe to it wherever you listen to podcasts.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Saladworks-parent WOWorks is shopping for new brands to buy

The platform company is almost finished assimilating its existing six brands. Now it's time to add to the family, said CEO Kelly Roddy.


2 more reminders that the restaurant business is risky

The Bottom Line: Franchising is no less risky than opening your own restaurant. Just ask former NFL player David Tyree and the former president of McDonald's Mexico.


There's plenty happening at the high end of the pricing barbell, too

Reality Check: Decadent meal choices are also proliferating, for a lot more than $5.


More from our partners