Turn Your Holiday Menu Up a Notch

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Ethnic flavors dominated this year’s National Restaurant Association Culinary Forecast. In the ethnic food category, Peruvian cuisine was tops, evidenced by the number of new restaurants and spurred by continued interest in the ancient grain quinoa. Rounding out the list: Korean, Southeast Asian (Thai, Vietnamese, etc.), regional ethnic, and “ethnic fusion”. Diverse flavors from around the globe are also popular in breakfast dishes (think chorizo scrambled eggs and coconut milk pancakes) and a variety of kid’s meals.

An ethnic spin can transform ho-hum holiday dishes into fantastic fare. The season provides an abundance of opportunities from breakfast, appetizers, and main courses, through cocktail parties.

Street food (thanks to food trucks) and small plate trends can tantalize the more adventurous eater as well as entice those with wary palates. Open up their horizons with familiar or easy-to-share foods including appetizers and finger foods, sandwiches, and dips (hummus, tzatziki, and salsas).

Cocktail parties present an additional opportunity to experiment with ethnic food; set up food stations where guests can travel the world through small bites. Gourmet small plates and snacks highlight the quality of ingredient flavors in small, shareable portions. By using Asian, Mexican, and other global accents, favorite small-plate flavors can be further elevated.

Pairing ethnic flavors is also rising in popularity. For example, ingredients such as lime and cilantro that are common to both Asian and Hispanic cuisines serve as a natural flavor bridge.

Mexican fare continues its popularity for any food course. Hispanic foods and beverages appeal to a wide variety of consumers and mainstream food processors have taken note. Many are adjusting their product mixes to meet more sophisticated tastes. For example, mole, the national dish from Mexico, can serve as a show-stopping, special main dish.

The holidays are for celebrating with family and friends; inspire new traditions or embrace old ones by traveling abroad through food this holiday season.