The apple has an exceptionally long and storied history. It was the famously forbidden object of desire in the Garden of Eden, and legend says that medieval marksman William Tell shot one off his son’s head with a single arrow from his crossbow. More recently, apple pie has become a cornerstone of our culinary culture, synonymous with American patriotism. Contemporary chefs, however, appear unconstrained by its history, as they use the fruit in unexpected and innovative savory applications.
Super in sandwiches, apple is a trendy condiment
At Duckfat in Portland, Maine, pickled apple offsets the unctuous protein in the duck confit panini, and sliced apples do the same for the rich cheese in the turkey Brie sandwich at Mitchell Delicatessen in Nashville. The promotional Southwestern brisket burger at Hops Burger Bar in Greensboro, N.C., was spiked with fried okra and jalapeno-apple chutney; however, Starbucks goes in a different direction with its Double Smoked Bacon Sandwich served on toasted apple brioche. Atlanta-based Tropical Smoothie Cafe features a Rustic Turkey & Apple Club Sandwich with house-made kale-and-apple slaw on thinly-sliced “seedilicious” bread. And Denver Biscuit Company, which is based in that city and promises “Better Biscuits and Southern Goodness,“ has revived apple butter, a spreadable preserve said to have originated in the 18th century, as an option to perk up its biscuit sandwiches.
Apples are super in soups and salads, too
At Chicago’s Cafe Marie-Jeanne, raw apple and fennel are part of a salad that also includes yogurt and crushed hazelnuts. At the Red Rock Resort near Las Vegas, Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar dishes up an apple and quinoa salad with chickpeas, Gouda cheese and roasted pumpkin seeds. Taking a very different tack, Kitchen Six in suburban Atlanta recently created a starter of apple and kabocha squash soup, while diners at Foreign & Domestic in Austin, Texas, have supped on chestnut and apple soup. Lucky Sunday brunchers at the latter can chow down on cottage cheese pancakes topped with a nifty apple-pumpkin butter.
Apples elevate entrées on seasonal menus
This winter, the special Roasted Maple Pork Tenderloin at Ninety Nine Restaurants came with apple-maple chutney; this spring, Boston Market introduced Sweet & Spicy Apple Rotisserie Chicken with slow-braised smoky apples. Band of Bohemia, a Michelin-rated brewpub in Chicago, exploits pork’s affinity to apples with grilled pork collar with cherries and pickled apples. On a distinctive and tasty note, Denver’s chic Avelina menus buttermilk-braised pork tenderloin with curried cauliflower, apple-vanilla purée and mustard-seed caviar.
Apples make bowls better, too, as with the Local Apple and Bacon Bowl with pomegranate, dried cranberries and sunflower seeds on offer at the Boston-based B. Good chain. And they also make breakfast better. The chef-Inspired DIY Oatmeal Bar concept available to students at Northeastern University in Boston has stepped up with creative cereal complements like sautéed apples and artisanal maple syrup.
They’re excellent in ethnic items
Working with an Italo-Asian ingredient list, San Francisco’s Rich Table’s chitarra pasta entrée pairs the pasta with uni, shiso and apple. Apples also have been trending as a pizza topping, turning up in the sausage and apple pizza with crushed glazed pecans at Spin! Neapolitan Pizza, a fast-casual operation based in Kansas City, Mo., where the apples and glazed pecans do double duty in Spin’s Sonoma Salad. Pizza My Heart, the aptly named Northern California chain, has won accolades for its Watsonville apple pizza with green apple slices that provide balance to the bacon, pepperoni and sausage. At American outposts of U.K.-based noodle-bar chain Wagamama, Hirata Steamed Buns are stuffed with pork belly, panko apples and Japanese mayonnaise; and the Crunchy Fish Tacos at The Peached Tortilla in Austin, Texas, are filled with fried whitefish, chile aïoli, purple cabbage and creamy apple slaw.
We can expect more chefs to up the ante and add value by promoting the specific variety of apple they use, like the Honey Crisp apples on the Wood-Oven Duck Pizza with Brie and arugula at Emeril’s Orlando, the lobster roll with bacon and Pink Lady apples that graces the brunch menu at Farm at Carneros in Napa, Calif., or the red quinoa and Fuji apple salad at the Los Angeles-based Lemonade chain.
Nancy Kruse, President of the Kruse Company, is a menu trends analyst based in Atlanta. As one of Linked In’s Top 100 Influencers in the US, she blogs regularly on food-related subjects on the LinkedIn website.