Issue link: http://magazine.progressivegrocer.com/i/689994
38 SOLUTIONS JUNE 2016 "Condiments and flavoring elements are often the first part of cuisines to emerge." — David Kamen, CIA Consulting Club Mediterranean BY K AT H Y H AY D EN Legumes are the international food of the year, hummus sales are humming, and Greek yogurt is poised to take over all dayparts. It's safe to say that the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East- ern regions are having a moment on American menus. More proof comes from the robust fast casual restaurant segment, where several emerging concepts apply the build-your-own model to hummus-based bowls, fat- breads, rice or salads that are piled with proteins like ke- babs, shawarma (spit-roasted meatballs) and kifa (spiced meatloaf), then fnished with salads and bold sauces. Garbanzo Fresh Mediterranean, a Colorado fast casual chain, lets diners customize their meals with a dozen veg- etable-based extras like spicy red pepper hummus, baba ghanoush (eggplant spread) and tabbouleh grain salad. In New York City, the Maoz chain ofers a simple vegetarian menu based entirely on a proprietary falafel that blends chickpeas, fresh vegetables, herbs and a secret spice mix called Te Maoz Magic Powder. Plant-forward food "We're seeing a real movement behind eating more plant-forward food, and the Mediterranean region is great for that," says Chef David Kamen, project man- ager for CIA Consulting, part of Culinary Institute of America's (CIA) continuing education division. Kamen is responsible for the planning and management of custom projects for professional foodservice operations. "Tis region is heavy on herbs, greens, healthy grains, seed pastes, nuts and nut pastes." Jennifer Aranas, senior project manager at Chica- go-based menu research frm Datassential, also sees better health driving the consumer appeal of Mediter- ranean foods. "One of the drivers for this cuisine is the wealth of research that afrms benefts of eating patterns in these areas," she says. Aranas cites the abundance of plant-based foods, olive oil as a primary fat, high fsh and legume consumption and low red meat consumption as the healthful ingredients of Mediterranean menus. So far, olives, olive oil, eggplant, chickpeas and artichokes are the ingredients proliferating Accent on Cuisine: Falafel is experiencing robust growth on U.S. menus.