Snacking, sharing, the rise of bar foods, the health-conscious quest for smaller portions and the appreciation for artisan foods served in a casual dining setting are all trends that have been collaborating to assure the continued interest in small plates items in restaurants.
Half-portions and smaller portions for a smaller price were one of the year’s top trends on the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot in 2013” survey.
Smaller portions also appeal to customers who seek a better-for-you experience. Joy Dubost, the association’s director of nutrition, says, “More casual-and quick-dining restaurants are now offering dishes that are as light as 400 calories or fewer. Chefs are also even more innovative in altering the perception that healthy food doesn’t taste good.” Using smaller plates and bowls, and taller, narrower glasses are strategies she suggests for controlling portions.
On the sharing front, TGI Friday’s recently launched its Taste & Share small plates menu with items such as Bacon Mac & Cheese Bites, Thai Pork Tacos and Hibachi Skewers. “Whether guests want to get together and taste something new or are looking for a little something extra before the main course, our Taste & Share menu is perfect for any occasion,” says TGI Friday’s USA president Ricky Richardson.
The newly opened 150-seat Tongue & Cheek restaurant on South Beach in Miami has been designed as a spot for great meals or drinks with friends at an affordable price. The menu created by owners Chef Jamie DeRosa and Michael Reginbogin opens with a Snacks section, with prices ranging from $5 to $15. Starters include house-made rye crackers with country ham and cheddar pimento cheese and a trio of boquerones (white Spanish anchovies) with citrus marinade, served on planks of media noche bread. “We’re not a tapas or small plates restaurant but we want to give diners a way to sample and enjoy different flavors and textures,” Reginbogin explains.
Here are five small plates recipes from these restaurants: Three Sixty in St. Louis; Jack and Charlie’s in Visalia, CA; Loews Hotel Restaurant in Nashville; Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse in Philadelphia and La Palapa in New York City.
• Striped Bass Crudo with Blood Orange and Jalapeno
• Spicy Roasted Grapes
• Barbecue Braised Mushrooms
• Two-Minute Calamari
• Potato Taquitos