Happy National Pasta Month, everyone! While we’ll talk spaghetti and rigatoni any day, we’re feeling a little stuffed from last week’s post on unusual fried foods. So this week we’re digging into some healthier grains. According to Flavor & The Menu, unlike trendy diet fads, the focus on increasing whole grains is here to stay. In fact, “100 percent of the 25 Healthy Menus R&D Collaborative members surveyed by Datassential say the focus on whole grains is a long-term trend.”
Grains offer the perfect blank canvas, leaving it up to the chef to create something craveable; whether light and refreshing or decadent and rich. So how can you leverage unique whole grains to work hard for your restaurant? Flavor & The Menu reports, “Whole grains offer a pathway to better-for-you positioning, but that’s not all that’s driving menu innovation. Today’s diner is also responding to nuanced flavors, firmer textures and compelling ingredient narratives.”
Diners are responding to flavor stories, linking farm to table. “Those stories work hard for a restaurant’s brand, expressing authenticity and craftsmanship in meaningful ways.” For example, quinoa, a Peruvian grain that was domesticated over 3,000 years ago and is known as the mother of all grains, can add modern day dimension to your dishes. Quinoa “sits squarely at the intersection of health, versatility and compatibility with other ingredients.” Additionally, It’s also highly nourishing, a good source of protein and gluten free making it suitable for a variety of dietary needs. In fact the grain is so in demand that, NRN named quinoa its menu ingredient of 2013, and the trend isn’t slowing down. If you’re looking to work some quinoa into your menu, try out a Curried Quinoa Salad.
Operators are also experimenting with blending whole grains in order to add different colors, flavor profiles and textures. Grains like barley, chia seeds and wheat berries add great variety to menus.
If making the leap to these more unique grains might not be right for your consumers, you can always add it as a switch-out option for regular pasta, much like brown rice can sub in for white rice. For instance, Noodles & Co. recently added a tasty whole-grain Tuscan linguine with broccoli and more.
It’s clear that whole grains’ popularity isn’t going to slow down any time soon, especially as consumers become more and more knowledgeable about the many varieties along with their flavor and health benefits. Look into new ways to incorporate alternative grains for both the health conscious consumer and the adventurous diner. What better time to do it than pasta month?