A growing number of members are bringing their children to dine at the club. But chefs are finding that many of these young gourmands are looking for more sophisticated fare than the usual mac and cheese and chicken fingers.
While often an afterthought at restaurants, kids’ menus are top-of-mind at clubs throughout the country. Some feature reduced portion sizes of items on the adult menu and others are based on traditional favorites with kid-pleasing twists.
An example of the latter is Executive Chef Michael Shannon’s upscale take on mac and cheese. At the Somerset Club in Newton, Mass., young diners can get the pasta and creamy sauce they love with the chef’s Kabocha squash gnocchi in a cheesy bechamel sauce.
Sometimes it is only a small detail in a dish that attracts kids’ attention. The substitution of goldfish crackers for bread croutons makes a small side salad more appealing, he said.
Shannon also substituted grilled chicken lemon thyme chicken breast for chicken fingers on the children’s menu, a healthful switch that made both parents and children happy. The menu also features grilled steak, Caesar salad, Gulph shrimp cocktail and, for dessert, fresh strawberries with whipped cream.
At Indian Hills Country Club in Mission Hills, Kan., Executive Chef Ryan Bennett reports that older children like their food spicy.
“They’ll go for anything buffalo style or Nashville hot,” he explains.
Families enjoy sharing the club’s Kitchen Favorite Pizza, a homemade dough sauced with ranch dressing and topped with breaded and fried chicken tenders, jalapeno peppers, smoked bacon bits and mozzarella cheese.
“This recipe began with a former kitchen steward preparing it for the kitchen crew and then later other departments,” Bennett states. “A few years ago, we put it on the menu at our seasonal restaurant at our pool and it didn’t take long before families were ordering it in the main clubhouse as well, even though it isn’t technically on the menu. It is definitely a hit with our families here at the club.”
In his dining room, Bennett offers three separate menus—one, the regular a la carte menu, and separate menus for younger kids and “tweens.” Among the selections on the children’s menu are grilled wild Patagonian red shrimp and grilled hanger steak. Tweens have their choice of small plates including a chicken and cheese quesadilla or Caesar salad topped with a choice of proteins such as crispy chicken or Wester Ross salmon, or “big eats” such as a larger portion of the shrimp and hanger steak.
Youngsters can’t help but find something they like on their age-focused menus. The children’s menu offers 13 different items and the “tweens” menu 16.
Kids tend to like fish sticks, but not just any old sticks will do for the children who dine at Quail West Golf & Country Club in Naples, Fla. Director of Culinary Operations/Executive Chef Tim Recher offers them hand-breaded-to-order local grouper sticks.
Families at Quail West also come together at the dining room table on Sundays over Recher’s interpretations of comfort classics. Two favorites are his chicken confit pot pie and veal, and wild mushroom meat loaf in red wine gravy.
Kids can order half-size portions of just about everything on the adult menu at Wayzata Country Club in Plymouth, Minn., according to Executive Chef Paul Neu. House-made ravioli and half-size salads from the adult menu are popular choices.
Among the other entrees on the children’s menu are grilled salmon and grilled steak. Neu also gives young diners a choice of fresh vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, carrots, green beans and a small house salad. The menu also suggests the addition of a fruit cup.
During the club’s off-season, Neu puts together a kids panel to help him create the next year’s menu. He has also found that a number of the pre-teen and teen diners read his weekly blog detailing what specials he will be serving (he creates 10 specials each week), and they are excited to order these dishes when they come in.
Shannon pointed out that many of the young guests don’t even want to look at a children’s menu. So, he says, he, like Neu, will offer smaller portions of a la carte menu foods, such as 4-ounce cut-to-order filet.
Sometimes the young ones surprise the chefs with their selections.
“When I ran a 32-oz. rib eye steak, an 11-year-old ordered it,” Neu said.
Recher and Shannon have had junior diners request escargots. Until recent years, youngsters were aged 12 to 15 before they started ordering steak and fish rather than traditional “kid foods;” now they’re starting at 10 or 11, according to Recher.
“They watch cooking shows on their tablets and phones, and they want to try what they see,” he explains.
Families at Somerset Club like shareable menu items such as pizza and steak nachos. At Wayzata Country Club, family-style takeout dinners cater to members on the go. Among the offerings are a taco package for four, a barbecue package with ribs and chicken, and an Italian package featuring chicken piccata, spaghetti and garlic bread sticks.
Around Christmas time, Neu sells a take-and-bake lasagna. Recher also does a robust family takeout business on holidays ranging from Rosh Hashanah to Thanksgiving.
Aside from the regular menus, the chefs focus on families with special food-centric events.
A “Little Ladies High Tea” at Somerset Club gives youngster a chance to dress up and enjoy such grown-up items as cranberry-toasted almond chicken, caprese on focaccia and California turkey pinwheel tea sandwiches and a hot cocoa bar with mini marshmallows, chocolate shavings and peppermint. The sophisticated dessert selection includes assorted scones; mini cake bombs; chocolate mousse with chocolate soil and passion fruit pate de fruit; mini-ice cream sandwiches, and red velvet cupcakes.
For holidays, Bennett sets up two buffets, one positioned at a kid-friendly height so they can easily make their food choices. For Halloween, he is planning a Harry Potter-themed buffet featuring “charmed” chicken tenders and other selections with magical names to fit the theme.
Neu notes that over the past three years, Wayzata Country Club’s membership has skewed younger, going from between an average of 45 to 60 years old to between 30 and 40, leading to an increase in family meal occasions. To accommodate its families, the dining room was remodeled last year with booths in a designated family section, Neu pointed out.
Shannon is also seeing membership skew younger at the Somerset Club and youngsters accompanying their parents or grandparents for dinner has become more the norm. In response, the club’s grill room is being renovated into a dining space providing plenty of room for families.
Club Kids Have Class
When children see an item being prepared—or better yet have a hand in the preparation—they are more likely to order that item when they see it on a menu, drawing them away from chicken fingers, says Paul Neu, Executive Chef at Wayzata Country Club in Plymouth, Minn. Neu conducts pasta-making and cake and cookie baking and decorating classes for birthday parties or “just for fun” in the winter offseason. He includes children as young as four years old.
Ryan Bennett, Executive Chef at Indian Hills Country Club in Mission Hills, Kan., does cake decorating classes for kids in the club’s pastry shop. One of the activities of Indian Hills’ camp week is a build-your-own pizza station.
A hands-on class offered by Michael Shannon, Executive Chef at the Somerset Club in Newton, Mass., shows kids that there are delicious pasta dishes beyond macaroni and cheese. Last year, he held a class to make spaghetti carbonara.
“I’m hoping to do cooking classes for our younger members at least on a quarterly basis,” Shannon reports. “They can be a bit of a mess, but they’re so much fun and the kids enjoy them so much.”
He adds that he enjoys them, too.
Cheesy Baked Kabocha Squash Gnocchi
INGREDIENTS for Beef Kafta:
1 lb. Idaho potatoes, cooked and riced
8 oz. Kabocha squash puree, cooked until thick
0.50 oz. unsalted butter, melted
1 egg yolk
To taste – salt, pepper and nutmeg
2.60 oz. semolina flour
2 oz. cake flour
5 oz. all-purpose flour
16 oz. milk
onion pique (4 oz. onion, 3 cloves, 1 bay leaf)
2 oz. roux
2 oz. Kabocha squash puree
4 oz. cheddar cheese, grated (save some for topping)
4 oz. apple, small dice
1 roasted Kabocha squash, roasted, medium dice
1. Pour butter over hot potatoes, fold in.
2. Add egg, yolk and 8 oz. Kabocha squash puree, fold in.
3. Add seasonings to taste.
4. Combine flours, add to potato 1/4 at a time, folding lightly until incorporated.
5. Between flour additions, simmer a small piece of the dough to test for texture. In some cases, depending upon the humidity, you may not need to add all of the flour.
6. Roll out gnocchi into cords of desired thickness, adding more flour if necessary. Cut and shape.
7. Simmer until gnocchi floats, cook for additional 30-45 seconds.
8. Strain cooked gnocchi onto lightly oil tray. Place in cooler until cooled.
9. Make bechamel with milk, onion pique and roux. Add 2 oz. Kabocha squash puree and cheese to bechamel to mimic kids cheese sauce.
10. In hot saute pan, sear gnocchi until lightly colored. Add diced apple, diced roasted squash and cheese sauce. Toss to combine.
11. Portion in crocks and top with extra cheese. Bake at 400 degrees F. until cheese is golden brown. Serve immediately.
Michael Shannon, Executive Chef, Somerset Club, Boston, Mass.
Confit Chicken Pot Pie
Yield: 4 servings
INGREDIENTS for Chicken Confit:
4 leg and thigh chicken quarters
1.25 tbsps. kosher salt
2 tsps. sugar
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
10 garlic cloves, smashed
4 fresh bay leaves
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
3 fresh sage leaves
2 tsps. black peppercorns
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
melted chicken or duck fat, as needed
PROCEDURE for Chicken Confit:
1. Combine all ingredients except for fat and mix well.
2. Rub mixture into chicken, place into pan and cover with mixture.
3. Wrap and chill overnight.
4. Remove chicken from mixture, rinse and dry.
5. Take reserved mixture, rinse off salt and sugar and set aside the herbs and spices.
6. Place the chicken in a baking dish, add reserved herbs and spices and cover with melted duck/chicken fat.
7. Cover pan and bake in a 250-degree F. oven for approximately 6 hours and chicken is fully cooked, tender and pulling away from the bones.
8. Remove from oven and chill overnight.
9. Remove chicken from fat, strain and save fat for further use.
10. Pull chicken meat from bones and skin and reserve meat for further use.
INGREDIENTS for Pate Brisee:
2.5 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp. salt
16 tbsps. chilled butter, cubed
1 tbsp. ice water
PROCEDURE for Pate Brisee:
1. Cut butter into flour and blend until mixture looks like coarse meal.
2. Add just enough water a little at a time until it comes together.
3. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.
4. Once rested, remove from cooler, unwrap and rest on a table for 20 minutes.
5. Lightly flour table and rolling pin and gently roll out to approximately 1/8” thick, adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking.
6. Cut dough to proper size to line and top pie pan.
INGREDIENTS for Pate Brisee:
2 tbsps. blended oil
1 large yellow onion, diced small
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced small
1 celery stalk, peeled and diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
2 tsps. fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped fine
1 tbsp. fresh chives, minced
1/2 cup fresh peas, blanched
2 sage leaves, chiffonade
1 tbsp. Italian parsley, chopped
2 oz. all-purpose flour
16 oz. roasted chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
reserved pulled chicken meat
To taste – salt and pepper
Maldon sea salt for sprinkling over crust
fresh chives, for sprinkling over crust
PROCEDURE for Pate Brisee:
1. Heat oil in pot over medium high heat.
2. Add celery, onions, shallots and carrots. Sauté until translucent.
3. Add garlic and sauté until aromatic.
4. Add flour to singer (vegetables cooked in oil) to form a blond roux.
5. Slowly whisk in warm chicken stock until smooth.
6. Bring to a simmer and add cream.
7. Bring to a boil to check thickness, lower heat to medium and simmer until vegetables are tender.
8. Fold in herbs and chicken.
9. Simmer a few more minutes and taste to adjust seasonings.
10. Remove from heat and chill.
1. Line the bottom of a pan with pie dough, fill with pot pie filling and top with another piece of dough, crimping edges.
2. Cut vent in top, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with Maldon sea salt before baking.
3. Bake at 425-degree F. low fan until golden brown and interior is hot.
4. Garnish with fresh minced chives and serve.
Submitted by Timothy Recher, Director of Culinary Operations/Executive Chef, Quail West Golf & Country Club, Naples, Fla.
Kitchen Favorite Pizza
Yield: 1- 18” pizza
INGREDIENTS for BIGA:
13.5 lbs. High Gluten Flour
13.5Qt Water, warm
4.5 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6oz Instant Yeast
INGREDIENTS for Dough:
28 lbs. 2oz High Gluten Flour
4.5 oz Kosher Salt
6lbs 12oz Pate Fermentee
PROCEDURE for BIGA and Dough:
1. Whisk together Biga ingredients
2. Cover and chill overnight
3. Next day, add remaining Dough ingredients
4. Mix on 1st speed for 13 minutes
5. Remove Pate Fermentee amount from bowl, seal, and store in cooler
6. Portion remaining dough into 27oz or 9oz pieces
7. Roll into balls (6 lg per tray), spray well, bag, and freeze
INGREDIENTS for Pizza:
3 chicken tenders, breaded in seasoned flour and fried to internal temperature of 165 degrees
½ cup sliced jalapenos
½ cup cooked smoked bacon bits
½ cup ranch dressing
3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 27 oz. ball of pizza dough
PROCEDURE for Chicken Confit:
• Stretch pizza dough into an approximate 18” round and par bake for 3 minutes. Remove from oven and sauce the crust with ranch dressing. Spread mozzarella cheese over sauce and top evenly with the jalapenos, bacon bits and crispy diced chicken. Cook for about 5 minutes or until cheese begins to brown on 500 degrees in pizza oven. Remove from oven, using a pizza peel, cut and serve.pulling away from the bones.
Submitted by Ryan Bennett,Executive Chef, indian hills Country Club, Missouri Hill, Kan.
Yield: 10 servings
INGREDIENTS for Pasta:
32 whole eggs
16 egg yolks
6 qts. flour
1 tbsp. kosher salt
PROCEDURE for Pasta:
1. Add all ingredients to a mixer with a dough attachment.
Mix on low until dough is smooth.
2. Continue to add flour until dough is no longer sticky.
INGREDIENTS for Cheese Stuffing:
1 lb. mozzarella cheese
1 lb. ricotta cheese
0.5 lb. cream cheese
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. white pepper
0.5 cup liquid egg
PROCEDURE for Cheese Stuffing:
• Mix all ingredients in the Robot Coupe and mix until smooth.
INGREDIENTS for Ravioli Sauce:
2 yellow onions
2 cups celery, diced
0.25 cup olive oil
0.33 cup chopped garlic
2 cans whole plum tomatoes
1 can tomato fillets
2 tbsps. dried basil
1 tbsp. dried oregano
2 tbsps. kosher salt
0.25 cup sugar
PROCEDURE for ravioli sauce:
1. In a large stock pot, bring all ingredients to a boil and reduce to simmer for 3.5 hours.
2. Push finished sauce through a food mill.
Submitted by Paul Neu, Executive Chef, Wayzata Country Club, Plymouth, Minn.