Brunch culture is currently ruling the world, and eggs benedict is king—followed closely by Queen Mimosa. This classic egg-meat-bread-sauce combo is a byword for “weekend indulgence” for diners across the country.
To Suzy Badaracco, president of Culinary Tides and a trends forecaster for the food industry, this soft spot for soft eggs has to do with economics. “We’re in a stall pattern right now, in neither recession or recovery. When that happens, diners want comfort foods and retro items, but served with a twist.” She says the traditional presentation of eggs benedict is “comfort based,” but she says diners will be more interested if you move the story forward with unique seasonings, spices, presentations and accompaniments.
Badaracco notes chefs incorporating global flavors in the standard recipe, or trying presentations such as serving it in individual cast iron skillets. “With Nordic food still trending, it can be paired with arctic berries or Danish kringles as the base,” she says. To accommodate low-carb eaters, she suggests subbing a vegetable like artichoke hearts for the English muffin. “Or try roasted pepper or chipotle in the hollandaise,” she suggests. “Whatever you do, keep in mind that current global trendsetting cuisines include Central America, South America, Middle East, Nordic and Filipino.”
While Badaracco associates eggs benedict with a “50s and 60s vibe,” it’s actually been around much longer than that, depending on which story you believe—Delmonico’s or The Waldorf. In one version, the dish was created in the 1860s at Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City after a regular customer, Mrs. LeGrand Benedict, didn’t want any of the dishes on the menu. After a consultation with chef Charles Ranhofer, a new dish named after Mrs. LeGrand was created (Delmonico’s is a supporter of this theory).
An alternate version takes places decades later, in 1894, when Lemuel Benedict, a Wall Street broker, visited New York’s Waldorf Hotel with a terrible hangover. Mr. Benedict ordered buttered toast, crisp bacon, two poached eggs and hollandaise sauce as his cure (The Waldorf is a booster of this theory).
Part of a trend
Badaracco says our current obsession with brunch culture is a “cousin” of the all-day breakfast phenomenon that gained popularity a couple years back. “Brunch has been riding on all-day breakfast’s coattails,” she says. She also associates brunch with futurist Faith Popcorn’s cultural theory of “clanning,” which takes place during fearful times. “People stick with those they know and trust, and brunch caters to that feeling,” she says. “You may go out to breakfast by yourself, but brunch is more social.”
Hop on the bandwagon
If your restaurant already offers brunch, consider including a twist on eggs benedict for your specials (read below to see how more than 50 chefs around the country are adding their own spin to the benny platter). If brunch is not yet a menu staple, keep in mind that Restaurant Business Magazine says adding a brunch menu is one of best ways to expand a restaurant’s business–morning menu items often carry a higher profit margin than later meals. The NPD Group, a food and consulting research firm, has noted that breakfast was the only meal to see a growth in traffic out of three meal times last year.
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