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An Inside Look at Sides

Side dishes are turning into a main focus for many operators. “They used to be one of those things you could ignore," said Kay Logsdon, editor-in-chief of The Food Channel. "They were just 'there.' But lately we've noticed that side dishes are a prominent part of the meal—to the point of overtaking the center-of-the-plate."

These are the top 10 side-dish trends reported by The Food Channel in conjunction with CultureWaves, Mintel International and the International Food Futurists.

  1. Intentionally seasonal: Freshly picked or sourced seasonal vegetables and fruits are shining in side dishes.
  2. Grow your own: Whether it’s a community garden, or produce from a Community Supported Agriculture program, gardens are growing as a source for sides.
  3. A toast to roasted: Roasted is the new grilled; the new fried. It brings a depth of flavor to many side dishes.
  4. You say potato: Healthier potato preparations and a greater number of sweet potato sides are showing up on menus.
  5. Rice is nice: The new whole grain rice blends are shaking up the side of the plate with a large selection of new varieties.
  6. The new American regional: It might be nostalgia, it might be the increase in domestic travel, but diners love to learn about a food’s heritage. Side dishes are full of great stories and regional influences.
  7. Taking root: Root veggies are now available year-round and appreciated for their hearty flavor.
  8. Ethnic side lines: Over the years, restaurants have embraced ethnic main dishes to the point of fully acclimating them into the American menu; now it’s time for sides.
  9. The incredible shrinking protein: Chefs have pushed protein to the side by plating smaller portions. The result is the elevation of the side dish.
  10. Color is hot: Consumers are learning that brightly colored fruits and vegetables are often the healthiest and appreciate seeing them liven up the plate.

Source: The Food Channel; November, 2010