This renewed energy brings menu opportunity. Operators should not lose sight of the value of beef, pork, lamb, poultry and game—and the impact these have on the menu.
Meat-centric dishes speak to the modern evolution of “center of the plate.” They can take the central role in a traditional sense or encompass an array of burgeoning entrée categories—both healthful and indulgent—where meat is the star component.
Slow-cooking methods that deepen flavor, artisan techniques that cultivate authenticity, and memorable applications that surprise and delight—all resonate strongly with consumers. They also open the door for operators to incorporate points of differentiation onto their menus. The key is developing premium meat experiences within the context of simplicity and affordability.
What follows is a path toward exploration, charting current and future meat-centric flavor builders.
The Barbecue Plate at The Inn on Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., offers a great example of a modern Southern dish that features flavor complexity.
Sean Eckman, lodging executive chef, pairs Berkshire pork cheeks with cornbread tortellini, crisp cabbage and vinegar mayonnaise. “This dish is a play on a barbecue plate,” he says. “Given that ‘barbecue’ is an ambiguous term, we took liberty here with Berkshire pork cheeks braised in a traditional style with the expected spices, onions and ketchup—then borrowed flavors and ingredients from international barbecue styles, like soy sauce, ginger, rice wine vinegar and mirin.”
Once the cheeks are braised and tender, the jus is reduced and glazed over them. “The accompaniments are cornbread, in the form of sweet-corn tortellini, and coleslaw as crispy fried cabbage and vinegar mayo,” says Eckman.
“We removed the liquid vinegar component and substituted vinegar powder to render a thick and hearty mayo sauce.” The result is a meat-centric dish that has familiar flavors and ingredients, but presented in an original, memorable way.
1 THICK IS IN
Piled-high slices, hand-torn chunks and thick-carved meats speak to authenticity and engage consumers with a primal feel. Applying striking visuals amps up the first impression and drives purchase intent.
Our Famous Pastrami Sandwich: Slabs of smoked brisket deckles, buttermilk-fermented cucumber, caraway, cracked rye berry, anchovy mustard and dill on a white long bun.
—Harry & Ida’s, New York
Pulled Chicken Sandwich: Tasty and tender, piled high.
—Mission BBQ, based in Glen Burnie, Md.
- Carnivore Taco: Thick slices of roasted tri-tip + white cheddar queso + flour tortilla
- Sunrise Chicken Congee: Hand-pulled rotisserie chicken + gingered brown-rice porridge + chopped peanuts + sesame oil and hot chile oil drizzle
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