Will there come a point, sometime in the future, when absolutely everything we eat is served in a bowl? One more indicator of diners’ round-container frenzy is the resurgence of that reliable breakfast staple, oatmeal, suddenly gussied up as a year-round — and incredibly popular — whole grain dish for all dayparts. Toppings can include everything from sweet (banana & peanut butter, dark chocolate and fresh fruit) to savory (bacon, goat cheese and even Brussels sprouts).
Oatmeal has been turning up on coffee shop menus for some time, but its foray into premium doughnut bakeries is something new. Justin Begford is co-owner of Cardigan Donuts, located in the Minneapolis Skyway system, which serves up chef-crafted artisanal doughnuts and locally roasted coffee.
Adding a “bowl” program of Greek yogurt and freshly cooked steel-cut oatmeal to the menu was a decision inspired by a fitness focus on Begford’s part: “I was training for a marathon, and I wanted to lose some weight, as well. I found that eating oatmeal and yogurt in the morning was comforting, filling and left me feeling good. We decided to add ‘healthy comfort’ choices to the shop’s menu. They’re a complement to the doughnuts, which are, in my opinion, the ultimate comfort food.”
The shop differentiates itself from standard offerings by using steel-cut oats, not instant, and by undertaking a long, slow cooking process. “It’s a proprietary recipe, but I will say that we use a blend of grains. We toast, soak and season them before cooking,” he says. “We are committed to making everything in the shop the old-fashioned way, and our oatmeal is no different.”
Some of the shop’s doughnut ingredients and toppings are also available at the bowl bar, including poached pear, baked apple, oatmeal cookie and banana caramel. Housemade jams, used to fill jelly doughnuts, also are available. Current seasonal offerings include strawberry-orange and blueberry-Riesling. All bowls are served with a whimsical fillip — a doughnut hole perched on the side.
“Some people use it as dipper, and others just enjoy it on its own as an unexpected treat,” Begford says. “We wanted to include the doughnut hole as a way to tie into our identity as a doughnut shop. And besides, who doesn’t like a doughnut, even a small one?”
Advice for the kitchen
“People really do notice the difference between traditional slow-cooked oatmeal and the instant microwave variety,” Begford says. “It’s worth the effort to make it fresh and greet your customers with hot, just-made bowls.”
Even with top-quality product, Begford points out that oatmeal “doesn’t sell itself.” Marketing and promotion will help sell bowls, as will a bar concept that displays toppings in all their appetizing glory. And seeing other customers with finished bowls is the ultimate selling point, he says: “It’s the difference between selling oil paints or finished paintings. When they see the bowls as they’re being served to others, customers will understand the appeal of healthy comfort.”
New York Times’ look at savory oatmeal
This college tested a DIY oatmeal bar, and here’s what happened
New York Times’ recipe for Savory Oatmeal with Greens and Yogurt
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