|The Woodlands (Houston), Texas, October 2005 - Benchmark Hospitality
International, which manages 28 award-winning hotels, resorts, and conference
centers throughout the United States and in Asia, has announced Five Top
Dining Trends for the Future, as observed by its properties.
||Build Your Own Meal!
Today's consumers are educated in the kitchen and discerning in the
restaurant. This is sparking a hot new trend toward customer freedom
while dining out -- building their own entrées. Discriminating
guests are getting involved with assembling and accenting their own entrée
plate at restaurants, suggesting alternative side dishes and more.
Forward-thinking chefs welcome this consumer involvement, offering a
menu of suggested pairings, letting the customer decide what will best
please the palate. And customers are loving it!
||Excellent Cuisine for just $20
An excellent meal doesn't have to cost a king's ransom, or a month's
grocery budget! Restaurants and bars are taking giant leaps towards
more affordable yet wonderfully creative menus, sometimes featuring lesser
expensive cuts of meat exquisitely seasoned, prepared and accented.
Top restaurants on both coasts are taking the lead and holding prices
to around $20 per entrée, making up the difference in volume and
creative cooking techniques. Brisket, clod steak, bottom round, duck
- which is inexpensive but expressive, and seafood such as squid, bay scallops,
clams and mussels are being featured at highly affordable prices.
||Less Formal. A Lot More Fun.
Ever been to a tuna sandwich tasting, or had shots of clear soup varietals
using seasonal ingredients? Believe it or not, this is a strong trend
that may have its roots in classic caviar tastings when small samplings
of Osetra, Sevruga and Beluga were commonplace at first-rate Russian restaurants,
back in the day.
Today, mini sandwiches featuring Albacore with seaweed salad, a miniature
tuna burger and cured Ahi with cucumber relish can be a delicious and fun
luncheon experience. Or shot glasses of potato leek soup, shiitake
mushroom and consomme with simple croutons -- a trio tasting - is becoming
as popular as a cocktail service with martini varieties, Bloody Mary expressions
and short whiskey tastings -- all in threes and fours.
The idea is variety to increase interest in flavors and make the dining
experience fun, less formal.
||Mundane "Snacks" Now Homemade & Fabulous
Homemade or "house made." Authentic French Bistros, Italian Trattorias,
German Bierhauses and American Pubs are all creating their own simple yet
delicious "snacks" to help guests take the edge off while ordering and
kicking back before dinner.
Customers, having officially discarded their Atkins diets, are snatching
these up and requesting more. Even mundane popcorn is now spiked
with highly fragrant truffle oil, offering a gourmet flavor (yes, popcorn!);
potato chips are given panache by adding roasted garlic and other stimulating
seasonings; and common oyster crackers are transformed with fresh herbs
like thyme, oregano and rosemary that truly elevate the snack to a high
level of taste.
||Fresh & Uncomplicated
The freshest ingredients are coupled with simple, uncomplicated preparations.
This trend is so hot that many chefs have redesigned their kitchen, bringing
it out to their guests. In these exhibition kitchens guests can select
the freshest ingredients - in some cases straight from the chef's own kitchen
With seafood, they select fresh from the daily catch: shrimp,
clams, lobsters, whole eviscerated fish, and more. Hot cauldrons
stand by simmering with herbs, citrus and mirepoix. The chef plunges
requested ingredients into the flavorful Court Bouillon followed by the
selected daily catch and then serves with seasoned drawn butters and plenty
A feast for the eyes and the body - fresh from the ocean, right out
of the kitchen garden and onto the plate with no masked flavors or long
And One More - Zinfandel is Back!
Today there's a Zinfandel to go with just about every dish. Depending
on the growing region and style of a particular winery, Zins can range
from lighter, fruitier wines to some with wildly robust, lingering flavors.
That's the beauty of this grape. There's a wine for everyone --
Zinfandel Rose, Zinfandel Port and a Sparkling White Zin that's wonderfully
With more people willing to experiment today, Zinfandel is once again
being considered to accompany seafood, steak, game -- or dessert.
Zinfandel Port, composed of fruit from four different vines, is an amazing
accompaniment to chocolate selections, especially those with raspberries
Benchmark Hospitality International, an independent hospitality management
company based in The Woodlands (Houston), Texas, operates resorts, conference
centers and hotels both domestically and internationally. For locations
of Benchmark Hospitality properties and for additional information, visit
Benchmark's Website at www.benchmarkhospitality.com.