Food Fads for Functions: Comfort Food vs Healthy Choices

Checkerboard Salad cools with summery colors and refreshing tastes

Checkerboard Salad cools with summery colors and refreshing tastes. photo by Karen Kuzsel

What’s hot, what’s not lists usually don’t pique my curiosity but the Orlando chapter of the National Association of Catering and Events (NACE) cast a spell that had me drooling before I’d even registered for their monthly meeting. Not only was Mark Leggett, owner and designer for Arthur’s Catering going to be discussing food trends for events, but I was going to get to finally satisfy one of my “wonder what this would taste like” cravings.
Now I have piqued your interest, right?
About two years ago, I did a Prevue Magazine story that focused on why a meeting planner’s group returned to the Four Seasons in Phoenix, AZ for their annual conference. While not the only reason her group loved the resort, she said they couldn’t stop raving about the juicy cheeseburger sandwiched between a grilled glazed donut served at their western theme night barbecue. I couldn’t wrap my taste buds around this imagined flavor profile of the sweet donut soaked in the juices of a savory burger.
You know how when you first hear about something, then all of a sudden you seem to hear about it frequently? So it was with this burger, but I had yet to taste one for myself.
That all changed when the menu for NACE’s evening of “Comfort Food vs Healthy Choices: the clash between good and better” teased that one of the butler-passed mini-options would be a Krispy Kreme Burger enhanced by bacon and cheese.
It did not disappoint.
That said, I think the slider was the perfect size because there were so many other delightful dishes being presented that evening at the Ocoee Lakeshore Center and I wanted to taste all of them. There were Rosemary Potato Flatbread, a crunchy bite of Chicken & Waffle, and a Korean Pork Taco topped with a mound of kimchi and Gochujang to try.
Healthy corvina, farro and veggies brighten the palate. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Healthy corvina, farro and veggies brighten the palate. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Leggett got a laugh from the 100 members and guests when he described how we’d begun the evening with the good comfort dishes, would go next to the healthier choices of dinner, and those would be followed by a quick descent into unhealthy but totally delicious desserts. I could tell from the immediate titter that there were more than a few in the room who were eager to skip straight to the dessert: an artistically-plated medley of peanut butter and jelly macaroons, candied bacon, espresso pot de crème in a brown egg shell, and a spiked root beer float containing vanilla vodka.
“Food trends are being shaped by younger people and social media,” says Mark Leggett, who began Arthur’s Catering in 1989. It is one of Orlando’s premier caterers for social and corporate functions. They are one of the preferred vendors at the Ocoee Lakeshore Center. He noted that younger generations, much like we’ve all heard about the Boomer generation, want an “experience.” It’s not just the food, but how is it being prepared or presented that sets it apart from traditional fare.
“Vegan has become the new vegetarian. Menus have to have gluten free items.” In fact, our evening’s menu had GF written in bold next to the dessert and our refreshing checkerboard salad, a zesty combo of cubed watermelon, feta, red and yellow tomatoes and cucumber splashed with balsamic syrup, mint and coriander.
He said ancient grains, such as farro, quinoa, and wheat berries are trending. He must be right. I’ve been to several functions in the past week and all included farro or quinoa. For this dinner we had grilled corvina with a roasted pepper and fennel puree and risotto-style farro with spring peas and asparagus.
Leggett says smaller bite-sized portions are still popular, sweet & salty desserts are in, and corporate groups are willing to pay more for food experiences even at casual events. “Exotic meats are trending, such as rabbit, goat, bison and rattlesnake.”
Thank goodness we didn’t have rattlesnake for dinner. When I was a young girl in Texas I was told it tasted like chicken so my mom could get me to try it. I can’t remember what it did taste like, but chicken it wasn’t!
Leggett wrapped up his talk discussing trends in adult beverages. Local craft beers are huge as are small batch bourbon, flavored moonshine, and herb-infused alcohol, but topping the list is gin. Gin is in! And if the gin, basil, watermelon and lemonade martini we drank is an indication of where cocktails are headed… well…. Cheers!
A medley of old-fashioned favorites. photo by Karen Kuzsel

A medley of old-fashioned favorites. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries.  She is a Contributing Editor-Writer for Prevue Magazine and is an active member of ISES and MPI. She writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, Karen has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events.;; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.

2 replies
  1. tmlwrites2010
    tmlwrites2010 says:

    Karen – this is great, and your pix are really spectacular! As one who was there, you really captured the essence of the entire event, both visually and in your prose. Good job! I’m salivating [again] just looking at that adorable appetizer, but really remembering that vodka-root-beer-float. What’s not to love about that one? Thanks for the vivid memories!

    • karen kuzsel
      karen kuzsel says:

      Terry, The fact that you were there and enjoyed my replay of the event means a great deal to me. Thank you for taking the time to read it and to respond, especially when so favorably. Too bad we weren’t sitting closer that evening. I don’t like root beer so gave mine away to an avid fan at our table. I’d been to a cooking class earlier that day and had eaten enough without having to have dinner, so I left room that evening to eat tastes of all I wanted to try… Root beer was not among those choices, but that pot do crème was amazing!


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