The fall season brings us all sorts of wonderful ingredients, from root vegetables to savory spices to sweet fruits. There’s no wonder it’s the harvest season. As caterers, we are challenged to switch up our menus to incorporate these autumnal flavors—but, as business owners, we can’t spend all of our time inventing new recipes and creating new menus from scratch.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take a menu overhaul to create inspired and delicious meals that speak to the autumn vibe. Sometimes, a few ingredient swaps are all it takes to transform your dish into something fresh and seasonal.
Here’s what our experts have to say about menu planning as we set our sights on fall events.
Mix up what you know
Chances are that you already have some popular choices on your menu. People like them for a reason, but if the ingredients are out-of-season, they will become costly to make and could even sacrifice in freshness. Consider a recipe as a solid foundation and find ways to switch things up for an all-new dish.
“Add seasonal ingredients to standard dishes,” encourages Lon Lane of Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions. “For example, a summer dish of heirloom tomato and fresh basil bread pudding with Manchego can transform into a savory roasted butternut squash and rosemary focaccia bread pudding for fall.”
Anthony Lambatos of Footers Catering agrees: “Many of our menu items use the term ‘seasonal’ in them, which allows us to change that up as different vegetables and fruits come in and out of season without necessarily having to create a brand new menu item in our software. Our seasonal wild rice and quinoa pilaf changes four times a year to better suit what is available each season.”
Photo courtesy Jenny DeMarco Photography – www.jennydemarco.com
“Stick with things that work, which saves time rather than trying to reinvent the wheel,” encourages Adam Gooch of Common Plea Catering. “Most menu items focus on a main ingredient, so swapping that ingredient can change it completely and easily move into the fall season.”
Gooch continues: “For example, for the spring and summer menus, we do a blackberry and brie canape with jam and dill. In the fall, we change it to an apple and brie canape with apple butter and sage.”
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“This rule goes for beverages, too,” adds Lane. “Add spices to make spiced cider, mulled red wine, and other fall-inspired drinks to add to the bar.”
Align with the trends
We all know that design trends come and go based on the season and the food industry is no different. If you’re looking to make a splash with your fall menu, look to the latest trends to guide your menu from the ingredients used to the style of presentation.
“Our clients want convenient, sophisticated food experiences with fresh, natural, additive-free food and they want transparency in the source and the way it’s prepared,” explained Meryl Snow of Feastivities Events. “While this philosophy is year-round, you can incorporate it into seasonal dishes by trying new things with your menu throughout the year.”
Snow continues: “For example, meat is no longer the only source of protein — seeds, lentils, quinoa, chickpeas, hemp, flax, and split peas will actually take centerstage this fall. You can keep much of your menu the same while still introducing something completely fresh and never before seen. Maybe your chicken dish becomes a seitan dish, or your beef dish becomes a lentil dish. Get creative and work with the trends, not against them.”
Ingredient swaps are really the way of transitioning a menu between seasons. There’s no harm in creating a new recipe from scratch, of course, but recreating an entire menu each season can be costly in both time and resources. You already know what works — tune into your innovative side and discover new perspectives of old favorites.
Cover image courtesy Mike B Photography – www.mikebphotography.com