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Egging On Innovation – US Food Trends

07 February 2008

Scrambled eggs still satisfy, but creativity advances eggs beyond classic preparations.

This article first appeared in the 1 January 2008 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).

R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. To find out more about R&I, visit its website here >>

By Kate Leahy, Senior Associate Editor

Chef Mark Gordon changes his menu frequently at Terzo, a dinner-only spot in San Francisco's Cow Hollow neighborhood. On the menu, he offers variations on traditional, egg-based Spanish tortilla.

"There's always [tortilla], but sometimes it's with potato and caramelized onion; sometimes it's with ricotta, black pepper and marjoram," he says. "They've been doing it this way in Spain forever."

As diners approach eating out with an increasingly casual attitude, more chefs such as Gordon seek to serve updated and upscale but unpretentious food. In this balancing act, the all-familiar egg is gaining more attention.

Philadelphia-based Chef-owner Jose Garces serves about eight dishes featuring eggs between his restaurants, Amada and Tinto. Explains Garces: "I don't know if it's a finding or if it's a trend I've been following, but savory egg dishes bring this certain comfort level to a dish. And it's just been very successful for us."

One dish served at Amada presents a very literal interpretation of the relationship between chicken and eggs. A chicken breast cooked sous vide with truffled cream and roasted garlic is served with roasted fingerling potatoes and a fried egg. Yet while the dish, called Madre y Hijo, conveys culinary technique, it also touches upon the comfort of the familiar.

Eggs Benediction Spins on the classic dish of an English muffin, ham, poached egg and hollandaise offer refreshed takes on the familiar favorite. • Rocky Mountain Benedict, The Kneadery, Ketchum, Idaho: Smoked trout, fresh herbs, hot sauce and paprika give classic eggs Benedict a rugged twist. • Smoked Salmon Benedict on Potato Latkes with Chives and Mornay Sauce, Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, Nashville, Tenn.: Potato latkes take the place of English muffins, and eggs get topped with a creamy Gruyère and Parmesan Mornay sauce. • Toasted Baguette Benedict, University Center of Chicago, Chicago (Aramark): A toasted baguette supports poached eggs, while bacon, tomato, basil and hollandaise come together for a Mediterraneaninspired dish.

The same is true for Executive Chef Jason Rogers' playful spaghetti-squash nest, which is filled with an egg, baked, and served alongside seared turbot at Jill's Restaurant at the St. Julien Hotel and Spa in Boulder, Colo. The egg, hidden in the squash, adds an unexpected richness to the accompanying sauce once a diner cuts into the dish, says Rogers. He also uses eggs in salads, mixing coddled eggs with a warm maple, sherry and thyme vinaigrette that is tossed with treviso, radicchio, spinach or endive for a winter salad.

Best-Way Brunch When Marc Meyer saw the wood-burning oven in the space that became his popular Five Points Restaurant in New York City, he saw the potential of a brunch service void of egg-encrusted stovetops and prepoached eggs. Soon he was roasting eggs on top of soft polenta in a cast-iron casserole, baking eggs in salsa verde with cream and cheese, topping brandade with poached eggs and baking eggs in a skillet while basting them with butter. The resulting menu quickly made Five Points a go-to brunch spot. According to Meyer, cooking eggs in a wood-fired oven requires rotating the skillets frequently to encourage air circulation so that the eggs cook evenly. He has about eight skillets in the oven at once. "The beauty of it was, you cracked some eggs into a casserole; you took it to the table; it worked," he explains. For more of Meyer's brunch ideas, check out his book, co-written with Peter Meehan, *Brunch: 100 Recipes from Five Points Restaurant* (Rizzoli, 2005).

Like Rogers, Executive Chef Michael Haimowitz uses eggs to add unexpected decadence to his dinner menu. At Arthur's Landing in Weehawken, N.J., he poaches eggs in advance and then dusts them with flour, batters them in tempura and fries them to order to serve alongside monkfish. "The whole essence of eggs, specifically the yolk, adds a silkiness, a palate-opening kind of sense, to a dish," he says.

Taking the opportunity to reinterpret a familiar, well-loved dish with a new focus, Executive Chef Tom Fleming serves Eggs Rockefeller to VIP guests at Central 214 at the Hotel Palomar in Dallas. Creamed spinach acts as a base for poached eggs dusted with breadcrumbs and then browned under the broiler. "Here the centerpiece is really the egg," Fleming says.

ADDED VALUE

Although dishes such as Eggs Rockefeller feature eggs as the main ingredient, often success with eggs requires pairing them with other popular ingredients to influence ordering decisions.

"I don't think we're necessarily pushing eggs," Garces reflects. "They're more of a surprise." He prefers to use small chicken eggs or quail eggs, from which he trims away some of the whites so that the egg doesn't overwhelm the dish. With Arroz de Langosta, a sunny-side-up egg accompanies rice cooked in lobster stock, lobster, peas and fava beans.

Chef-owner Tom Carlin, who serves omelets frequently at lunch at Gladstone Tavern in Gladstone, N.J., notes that lobster-and-egg pairings provide operators with a way to serve a premium item while keeping menu prices reasonable. "You're pairing lobster with egg," Carlin explains. "You're getting a satisfying meal, but it is still affordable."

"It's a very easy pickup: Put the sandwiches in the oven and warm through and fry the egg," Conville says. "Everything comes out really nice and gooey."

Molecular Eggs Thermal circulators aren't going to replace skillets as the preferred egg-cooking tool anytime soon. Yet more chefs are using or simulating this high-tech tool to cook eggs. The inspiration comes in part from French physical chemist Hervé This' book *Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor* (Columbia University Press, 2006). Thanks to This and a few experimental chefs, slow-cooked eggs are stirring interest on upscale menus nationwide. •Craftbar, New York City: Bucatini; with heirloom tomato, pancetta, fennel sausage, Parmesan and slow-cooked egg •Jack Falstaff, San Francisco: Baby Romaine Hearts "Caesar"; with Parmigiano- Reggiano, garlic chips, Spanish anchovy and slow-cooked tempura egg •Momofuku Noodle Bar, New York City: Pork Neck Ramen; with Shanghai thick noodles and \[slow-cooked\] poached egg •Pura Vida Tapas and Bar, Atlanta: Aji Amarillo-Smashed Colombian Gold Potatoes; with slow-cooked egg, garlic chips and pink Bolivian salt
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