VEGETARIAN JOURNAL'S FOODSERVICE UPDATE

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Vegetarian Journal's Foodservice Update
Healthy Tips and Recipes for Institutions

Volume VII, Number 1 Winter 1999  

DO-IT-YOURSELF-VEGGIE-GRAZING-BARS
(or, how to make your customers happy and your foodservice life easier)
By Nancy Berkoff

After a million years in college/university foodservice, we often become dismayed at the amount of food which is either wasted or never tasted, especially when it is served from a steam table or cold line. We also get this prickly feeling up our spines when we have to schedule servers who may actually serve for one-half a shift and spend the rest of the time chatting. Why? Simply because they have to be available to serve. But, we all know the traffic is not consistent and the lag times when there are no customers may actually outweigh the busy times.

I toured an aircraft carrier not too long ago and was impressed with the dining room set- ups. There was a main serving line with standard entrees and side dishes, but (and this was remarkable considering the lack of space and the awkward design of the room) there were also several "bars" which allowed the customers to create their own varied and nutritious meals. There was a standard soup and salad bar, with many of the salad items left "unsauced," so customers could decide whether to use mayonnaise or cheese on there own. There were several kinds of cold beans and pasta, and cold rice again left unsauced, to be added to the soup or used cold on a salad. The dessert bar included fresh fruit salad, whole fresh fruit, canned and dried fruit, puddings, a small display freezer with pre-scooped ice cream and sorbet (customers could just reach in and make their selection), and assorted cakes and cookies. The sandwich bar included the "fixings" for sandwiches, but nothing assembled, so ingredients could be reused. The "fixings" included lots of sliced items, a variety of sandwich breads and rolls, peanut, almond and apple butter, sliced fresh veggies (lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, and zucchini), pickled veggies (cucumbers, cauliflower, chilies, capers), salad dressings and "crumbles" (crumbled cheeses, bacon bits, and nuts). A beverage bar included a variety of juices, all different kinds of milks, yogurt, hot beverages and even a blender set-up so customers could make their own concoctions.

The Navy chief said that the "bars" were very popular, despite being six-week cycle menus, and are used on a rotation basis. Since his "customers" were sometimes eating almost every meal for two or three months at a time in the dining hall, the bars offered variety and the ability to individualize meals.

A potato-and-pasta bar is an easy way to add entrees without adding labor or looking for space on your hot line.

You may find that "bars" are well received by your customers. They offer individuals some "food freedom" and allow you to satisfy some of their requests. You can decide whether to have a veggie bar separate from other bars or may integrate veggie items. If you do incorporate, please remember to have different serving utensils for the veggie items (you’d do that anyway, to avoid cross-contamination, right?) and to have all items clearly marked.

A potato-and-pasta bar is an easy way to add entrees without adding labor or looking for space on your hot line. Include both baked white potatoes and yams and several kinds of pasta (avoid egg pasta). Veggie toppings can include chopped fresh vegetables (red and green onions, bell peppers, carrots, radishes, celery, broccoli, and cauliflower, etc), sprouts (soy bean, alfalfa, broccoli, etc), chopped walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, herbed and plain croutons, herbed tomato sauce, mushroom sauce, and salsa, to name a few items. If you’d like to add some specialty items, try plain or flavored tofu cubed, soy crumbles, and even crumbled veggie breakfast strips. For variety, you may want to alternate cooked grains or different pastas, such as barley or couscous with the pasta or potatoes.

All types of fruit work on a veggie dessert bar, as does sorbet. If you’d like to add specialty veggie items, try frozen rice or soy ice cream, sweetened tofu (available in almond and vanilla flavors), and soy yogurt. Soy, rice, or grain milks can be used to make dessert smoothies.

Add soy cheeses (available already sliced and in many flavors) to your sandwich or salad bar or soy- or wheat-based "fake meat" slices. If these are not available, add veggie burgers (which can be used to make veggie chili) and/or tofu dogs. Many breads are already veggie. Make sure to check the label or ask your purveyor about added eggs, milk, or honey for your vegan customers.

Speaking of chili, add a veggie chili to the soup bar. Three or four bean chili is easy to assemble, can be made ahead of time, and holds for several days. Add some chopped onions, cilantro, tomatoes, chilies, bell peppers, and cut corn to your condiments list and you have a great meal.

Don’t forget to poll your customers and see what they would like to see at the "bar." The "bar" is a good way to test out new items in a friendly environment and make foodservices the hero of the day!


Excerpts from the Winter 1999 Issue:


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Converted to HTML by Stephanie Schueler



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