Elevated bar plates, vegan fare, and tacos with “swagger” were just a handful of the cutting-edge menu trends customers of Basic American Foods discovered during the 13th annual Taste The Trends Tour recently held in Chicago.

“Our Taste The Trend Tours have become an annual event for our customers, giving them solid tips on incorporating leading flavor and ingredient trends into their menus,” says Loren Kimura, Basic American Foods’ president and CEO.

Justin Large, chef of Big Star (co-owned by Chicago chef and restaurateur Paul Kahan, along with Avec, Blackbird and The Publican) delighted guests with the menu’s top-seller: crispy tacos stuffed with pork belly tossed in tomato-guajillo salsa and garnished with white onion, queso fresco, and cilantro.

“As far as we have been able to find out, this taco is unique to Big Star, making it quite popular with diners,” Large says. “It was also voted the most-in-demand dish in Chicago by Time Out Chicago magazine, adding to its popularity.”

Other trend-setters offering tastes from their menus along with keen insights on diner demands include:

·Harry Caray’s Tavern at Navy Pier

·The opulent Elysian hotel’s executive chef, Jason McLeod, and chef de cuisine of the Elysian’s Balsan restaurant, Daniel Grant

·The Southern, where executive chef Cary Taylor whips up time-honored Southern dishes to complement the bar’s small-batch bourbons, microbrews, whiskeys, and specialty cocktails

·Chef Bill Kim’s Belly Shack and his street foods melding Korean and Puerto Rican flavors

·Karyn’s on Green offering upscaled vegan comfort food

·The pork-centric and much-lauded Purple Pig and chef Jimmy Bannos, Jr.

·Aldinos, co-owned by chef Dean Zanella, who emphasizes rustic Italian fare with local ingredients

·Flo & Santos Pizza & Pub, a marriage of classic Italian and Polish cuisines led by chef Mark Rimkus, with Southside Chicago-style thin-crust pizza with housemade sausage on the menu alongside traditional pirogies, potato cakes, and Polish vodkas

“Like always, this year’s Taste The Trend Tour delivered the best, offering menu inspiration from some of Chicago’s — and the nation’s — leading chefs and restaurateurs,” Kimura says. “We’re already looking forward to experiencing the next taste and venue sensations on our 2011 tour.”

Menu Innovations, News