Whether the menu lists them as small plates, bites, snacks, starters or sides to share there’s healthy enthusiasm for dishes designed for do-it-yourself dining. After years of coping with enormous restaurant servings, calorie counters are thrilled with the opportunity to savor smaller portions.
Atlanta native and novelist Patti Callahan Henry who walks daily for fitness and to unscramble plot lines says, “I do love the ‘small plates’ section because then I can get two of them.”
Registered dietitian Toby Amidor likes the trend toward tinier too, “I always feel frustrated with places that don’t offer small, tasty food so this is the perfect answer for me!”
Not having to commit to one entrée for dinner appeals to diners in search of a variety of flavor experiences. Patricia Tinsley, an Atlanta marketing professional, likes the small plate offerings at The Spence, “I never order entrees there so there’s more to linger over and make (wine) pairings with.”
Little servings don’t necessarily mean less work for the chef. The dim-sum style of service at Gun Show stars a parade of chef Kevin Gillespie’s small scale creations with large impact including plates of smoked pork belly with cornbread and marinated butterbeans and North Carolina trout with corn mousseline and shrimp salad. The good thing is you don’t have to decide which to have; you can order both and keep going.
Atlanta lifestyle author and consultant Kimberly Kennedy, says “I’m a fan of variety over the predictable meat and three. Each small dish is like art to be appreciated on its own merits.”
Millennials Morph the Menu
So what’s driving the trend away from the traditional trio of appetizer, entrée and dessert? Marketing experts say it’s the desire to lure in the millennial generation, representing twenty seven percent of the US population. Between 18 and 34 years old this slice of the populace pie has a high propensity for dining out.
A report from the Center for Culinary Development says Baby Boomers known as the “me generation” have nothing on millenials because this younger crowd demands customization and flexibility.
Katie Chapman, 22, (my daughter) observes, “Baby boomers grew up when dining out was mostly a special occasion.
If someone orders his or her own dinner, it’s awkward to ask ‘Can I have a bite of your steak?’ We eat out as a way to socialize and have conversation and small plates open up the table for sharing.”
Nina Hemphill Reeder, lifestyle editor for Upscale Magazine says she likes the flexibility of the grazing style menu, “Friends can come late and leave early and eat without throwing off the balance of a multi-course sit down meal.”
The report also notes millenials favor fitness and understand more about healthy foods and ingredients than their parents or grandparents. Bring on the quinoa, kale and hummus.
Downside of downsizing
The lobster mac’n cheese may come in a small ramekin but you’re still looking at a 500-calorie splurge. Atlanta dietitian Marisa Moore, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says pick a variety of foods to balance your meal, “The good news is that there are often a number of vegetable dishes available from hardy greens and roasted vegetables to simple salads.”
Amidor says, “Although the plates are small, several put together make a meal. Choose two to three small plates tops and spread the love by sharing with the table.”