Vegetables Take Center Stage in Today's Cuisine

By Paul Hancock Executive Chef, Miramonte Resort and Spa | August 13, 2017

Vegetables are no longer served as garnishes or accompaniments but, center stage in the dining scene in this day. Plate design and bold flavors are more paramount than ever. The “wow” effect is in full effect. Guests are more eager to try something new more than ever before. It is entertainment, so it has to be great and throughout the dining experience.

There is a cultural shift happening right in front of our eyes with vegetables. Vegetables have been the unsung heroes of the plate for many decades. That is changing. I will not enter the realm as to why this shift is occurring but there are probably plenty of reasons. Food evolves, trends evolve, and cultures evolve. From macaroni and cheese, to angel hair pomodoro, to ramen, then back to gourmet 5 cheese macaroni and cheese again. Dating back to Socrates and further, food heals, tonics and tinctures as well as other items were made to heal and fight disease.

Mixologists are crafting some incredibly creative drinks and libations throughout the globe. The use of house made bitters, tonics, herbs, spices, ice in different forms, helps to deliver a world class cocktail. Some are stand alone with bold flavors along with some that are toned down to compliment food pairings. This is incredibly fun way to deliver that “talking point” and keep the guest engaged.

Wines are accented with herbs, berries, vegetables that compliment, add a layer of complexity, and simply tantalize taste buds. Molecular gastronomy has taken a large role with the entertainment aspect of food and beverage concoctions. Marina Mercer, a master mixologist creates and pairs drinks with vegetables and fruits that excite. The fire breathing dragon, one of her creations, envelopes frozen raspberries into the drink, so that when consumed the “smoke” pillows out when you breathe from your face.

Bartenders and Mixologists are pushing the boundaries by creating some stellar drinks to appeal to health conscious as well by adding vegetable components like beet juice, cucumbers and that so special celery juice ice cube showered bloody Mary. Wine and craft beers are developing different flavor profiles and standing the test of time while going down the same path. Citrus flavors seem like a no brainer when added to accent an ipa, chocolate added to a stout, cherry wheat ales to the more adventurous flavorings with notes of mango, watermelon, and so on.

Vegetables tell such a dramatic story. They have essential minerals and nutrients that nourish. We should stop to listen more often. Versatility, sustainability, flexibility are just a few words that come to mind when vegetables are the topic. They tell a story, they bring marriage of flavors in symphonic fashion. They have been the bowties and now are the tuxedos to the main event but, have always been.

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.