Whether for dine-in or takeout, pre-entrée starters or entire small-plate meals on their own, chefs are using innovative flavor profiles and presentations to offer new upfront enticements to club and resort diners.
Prior to the pandemic, between 60% to 70% of diners at Doylestown (Pa.) Country Club regularly ordered appetizers with—or as—their meals, reports Jason Hembree, the club’s Executive Chef. And even after the dine-in shutdown, when only takeout was available, members’ interest in the variety of taste sensations offered by appetizers has maintained its momentum.
On the Tuesday “Pub Night” menu at Doylestown CC, half of the offerings are now appetizer or small plate-size portions. The same goes for the Bistro menu for golfers that’s served between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.—“the bridge between lunch and dinner,” according to Hembree.
On the clubhouse’s a la carte dining menu, Hembree offers between eight and 10 appetizers/small plates, including two to four nightly specials. After expanding lunchtime appetizer offerings in January, sales of these selections have increased from 2.5% to 10%, he reports.
“We offer two lunch specials every day and one of them is an appetizer,” he notes. “As a result, overall lunch sales have grown.”
The pool restaurant’s menu features between six and eight appetizers, he adds.
Some of the appetizers at Doylestown CC are simply petite portions of club favorites, such as gruyere macaroni and cheese, falafel or a carefully curated cheese board. Others are original creations, such as polenta fries with yellow curry aioli, port wine-pickled onions, roasted tomatoes and aromatic olive oil, and a lobster spring roll stuffed with butter poached lobster salad and served with a shaved fennel salad, citrus yellow tomato coulis and sweet poblano pepper crème (see recipe, pg. 48).
During its November-through-April season, Indian Creek Country Club in Indian Creek Village, Fla. features two a la carte nights a week where the menu includes five appetizers.
“The smaller portions allow us to be more creative and members are not afraid to order something new in a smaller size,” said Luke Livingston, the club’s Executive Chef. “In fact, we see them ordering an assortment of appetizers because they’re so interesting.”
A signature appetizer at Indian Creek is a Peking duck wrap (see recipe, this page). For brunches, holiday buffets and golf events, the wraps are rolled to order at a buffet station. This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions during the holidays, the kitchen crew prepared a to-go kit, so members could build them at home for their families.
Crab cakes and tuna tartare are other favorites, both of which can never come off the menu. Other well-received selections have been Indian-inspired garam masala spiced scallops and bacon with curried butternut squash, spinach ragout and crispy apple (see recipe, pg. 49); naan flatbreads; spicy shrimp, and hoisin-glazed duck confit nachos.
On Indian Creek’s croquet court, the popular appetizers are mostly “one-biters,” Livingston says, such as Reuben spring rolls and Asian-inspired braised pork belly bao buns that he says have become “an obsession.”
“We change the menu every week to keep the membership engaged and get them away from their normal routine,” he adds.
Since increasing the number of appetizers for his fine-dining and new casual Field House restaurants, Executive Chef Samuel Faggetti at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Mo. says he has seen “a big jump on our check average.” On a regular night, the menu at the club’s fine-dining restaurant now features around 10 appetizers, and that number rises to 12 during the club’s peak season. At the Field House, the menu includes between eight and 10.
Appetizer-sized portions of boneless chicken wings stuffed with forcemeat, homemade Reuben egg rolls, and Philly cheese egg rolls have been stellar sellers on Bellerive’s takeout menus. At the recently opened Field House, which serves the golf course and the pool, appetizers range from chips and dips to rotisserie chicken nachos.
Crudos are also extremely popular at Bellerive, Faggetti reports, as are the chef’s Korean flash-fried ribs with red pepper paste and sesame seeds (see recipe, this page).
Some other well-received selections are grilled octopus with pimento dressing, poached new potato and Cerignola olives; yellowfin tuna tacos with spicy aioli and chives, and fresh fig and goat cheese wood-fired flatbread with balsamic cippolini onions and arugula.
“When members bring guests for dinner, they often order a number of appetizers for the table, to show off their club’s creativity,” Faggetti says.
In keeping with COVID-19 restrictions, passed hors d’oeuvres have been eliminated at small banquets and other dining events at Bellerive CC. Instead, Faggetti now arranges several hors d’oeuvres on individual plates for each diner.
“Timing is especially crucial when you’re doing hot and cold items on one plate,” he notes.
New Food for a New Look
When The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif. was able to open for outdoor dining, one of its restaurants was moved to the roof, and the format was changed from a sports bar to a biergarten. To go with the new incarnation, Executive Chef Derek Ingraham amended his appetizer menu to feature “beer-friendly” items such as smoked baby back ribs, pulled pork sliders, Italian sausage and corn dogs.
Two appetizers Ingraham cannot take off the menu are veal meatballs and quinoa salad. And whenever possible, he likes to build his appetizers around seasonal ingredients. During Dungeness crab season, for instance, he offered crab salad with mango and crab cakes.
“Younger members especially like to order a variety of appetizers, to create a tapas-style meal,” Ingraham points out.
Ingraham also serves pre-meals, including appetizers, to encourage staff to promote their favorites. That technique is also effective at Doylestown CC, where the small plates are included in the tastings of new menu items every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
And one of the ways Luke Livingston gets the buzz going at Indian Creek CC is to keep the men’s locker room attendants apprised of new menu additions. “They’re great about spreading the word,” he notes.
Hembree photographs and writes descriptions for new items to send to Doylestown CC members via e-mail, and Ingraham sends an e-mail blast every Tuesday to Olympic Club members.
At Bellerive, Faggetti produces weekly videos with menu updates. “Between 60% and 70% of our members watch our videos,” he says.
They may not look as striking as they would when served plated in the club dining room, but deconstructing appetizers allows chefs to maintain food flavor and texture integrity when they are ordered for takeout.
In the dining room at Doylestown (Pa.) Country Club, Executive Chef Jason Hembree’s popular house-made polenta fries are plated with a dramatic swatch of yellow curry aioli, an artful tangle of port wine-pickled onions, and a colorful complement of roasted tomatoes. For takeout, however, all of the components are packaged separately for plating at home.
For an appetizer of chicken liver pate with candied red onion and cracked pepper oil, even the brioche toast points that form the foundation are wrapped separately in foil, to prevent them from getting cold and soggy. All of Doylestown CC’s takeout items include reheating instructions.
Samuel Faggetti, Executive Chef at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Mo., also deconstructs his appetizers for takeout. For nachos, for example, he will send out a box of warm chips and separate containers of cheese, salsa and other toppings. He includes at-home reheating instructions with hot appetizers.
Not all menu items travel well, so Faggetti does not offer some popular items on his takeout menu, such as fish crudo and flash-fried cauliflower with caper vinaigrette, topped with a soft-boiled egg.
“Deconstructing requires a little more labor and packaging expense on our part, but we want the food to be as close to indoor dining quality as possible for our members,” Faggetti explains.
PEKING DUCK WRAPS with Hoisin Sauce, Scallions and Crispy Wontons
INGREDIENTS for the DUCK PREP:
1 cooked Peking duck, deboned; shred the meat and separate the skin
1 cup hoisin sauce
(Toss the shredded duck with hoisin sauce)
INGREDIENTS for WRAP:
¼ cup crispy duck skin, chopped
¼ cup green scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup wonton wrappers, thinly sliced and fried until crispy
1 package moo-shu shells
1. Steam the moo-shu shells till warm.
2. Brush the moo-shu shell with hoisin sauce.
3. In center of the shell, add Peking duck mix. Add a sprinkle of duck skin, scallions and wontons on top of duck mix.
4. Wrap tight like a burrito and cut on a bias.
(Chef’s Note: When plating, we paint the hoisin glaze onto the plate and garnish with scallions and wontons.)
Submitted by Luke Livingston, Executive Chef, Indian Creek Country Club, Indian Creek Village, Fla.
KOREAN FRIED RIBS
YIELD: 12 orders
INGREDIENTS for the RIBS AND MARINADE:
4 slabs baby back ribs, cleaned
2 cups soy sauce
2 cups lime juice
2 cups water
2 cups blended oil
4 ozs. shallots, chopped
4 ozs. ginger, chopped
4 ozs. green onion, chopped
PROCEDURE for the RIBS AND MARINADE:
1. Combine all ingredients and marinate ribs for 24 hours.
2. Remove ribs from marinade, place into a hotel pan and slow-cook at 225º F. for 4 to 6 hours, or until tender. Reserve and cool down before cutting into individual ribs.
INGREDIENTS for the KOREAN BARBECUE SAUCE:
16 ozs. Thai sweet chili sauce
4 ozs. gochujang Korean pepper paste
1/2 cup honey
2 tbsp. white sesame seeds, toasted
2 tbsp. black sesame seeds, toasted
2 ozs. lime juice
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup pineapple juice
Procedure for the KOREAN BARBECUE SAUCE:
1. Mix all ingredients and reserve.
1. Fry ribs at 350º F. in fryer for 2 to 3 minutes or until crispy, to reach a temperature of 165º F.
2. Toss into Korean barbecue sauce.
3. Garnish ribs with toasted sesame seeds and chopped scallions.
Submitted by Samuel Faggetti, Executive Chef, Bellerive Country Club, St. Louis, Mo.
BRAISED PORK BELLY with Hoisin Sauce, Scallions and Crispy Wontons
INGREDIENTS for the BRAISED PORK BELLY:
½ cup olive oil
5 lbs. pork belly
8 cups chicken stock
32 ozs. stout beer
1 bunch celery, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
12 garlic cloves
2 tbsp. peppercorns
10 thyme sprigs
PROCEDURE for the BRAISED PORK BELLY:
1. Preheat oven to 300º F.
2. Add ½ the oil in a large roasting pan at high heat and sear both sides of the pork; remove from pan.
3. Add rest of the oil to pan, and saute the onions, celery, carrots and garlic until caramelized.
4. Add beer to the caramelized vegetables and cook down halfway. Add chicken stock.
5. Add peppercorns, salt and thyme, then add seared pork belly back in.
6. Cover and braise for 3 hours.
7. Remove from oven and let cool down in the braising liquid. Once cool, remove from liquid and place on a baking sheet; put a second sheet on top and weigh it down overnight in the fridge.
8. Strain reducing liquid and reduce down until sauce-like consistency; adjust seasoning.
9. Next day, cut the belly in desired portion size. Sear at high heat to get crispy skin, basting with the reduced braising liquid.
INGREDIENTS for the PARSNIP PUREE:
1 lb. peeled and chopped parsnips
2 cups whole milk
½ cup apple juice
¼ lb. unsalted butter
PROCEDURE FOR the PARSNIP PUREE:
1. Put parsnips in a pot and cover with the cream and apple juice; bring to simmer and cook until the parsnips are very tender.
2. Strain parsnips very well and put into a vita prep; add butter and blitz until it is a smooth paste. Add as much of the cream from the cooking liquid to get your desired consistency.
3. Season with sea salt.
Submitted by Derek Ingraham, Executive Chef, The Olympic Club, San Francisco, Calif.
LOBSTER SPRING ROLL with Shaved Fennel Salad, Citrus Yellow Tomato Coulis and Sweet Poblano Pepper Crème
YIELD: 8 servings
INGREDIENTS for the LOBSTER SPRING ROLLS:
2 cups butter-poached lobster (knuckle and claw)
1 tbsp. minced celery
1 tbsp. chopped basil
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. Meyer lemon zest
1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
to taste salt and pepper
8 wonton wraps
PROCEDURE for the LOBSTER SPRING ROLLS:
1. Mix all ingredients except the wonton wraps and cornstarch, and refrigerate for one hour before making the spring rolls.
2. While making the spring rolls, you may want to roll them in cornstarch once completed. This will help to keep them dry until they are fried.
3. Fry at 350º F. for 3 or 4 minutes until golden brown.
INGREDIENTS for the YELLOW TOMATO COULIS:
(Yield: 1 cup)
4 yellow tomatoes, blanched and peeled
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 oz. olive oil 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
to taste salt and pepper
(for garnish) shaved fennel salad
Procedure for THE YELLOW TOMATO COULIS:
1. In a medium-sized pan, cook shallot and garlic until tender, then add tomatoes. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes on low heat, then remove and cool.
2. Once cooled, place into a Vitamix or blender along with honey and Dijon until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.
3. Toss shaved fennel with local microgreens, olive oil, lemon zest and salt.
INGREDIENTS for the POBLANO PEPPER CRÈME:
(Yield: 1 cup)
3 medium-size poblano peppers (charred on grill or open flame, then peeled)
1 ripe avocado
1 tsp. chopped cilantro
1 tsp. chopped scallion
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. chili powder
1 pinch Old Bay seasoning
1 pinch chipotle powder
Procedure for the POBLANO PEPPER CRÈME:
1. Place all ingredients into a Vitamix or blender and blend until texture is completely smooth.
Submitted by Jason Hembree, Executive Chef, Doylestown Country Club, Doylestown, Pa.
GARAM MASALA SPICED SCALLOPS AND BACON with Curried Butternut Squash, Spinach Ragout and Crispy Apple
YIELD: 2 servings
INGREDIENTS For the GARAM MASALA SPICED SCALLOPS:
4 scallops (U-10)
1 tsp. garam masala
salt and pepper
PROCEDURE for the GARAM MASALA SPICED SCALLOPS:
1. Sprinkle scallops with garam masala, salt and pepper.
2. In a hot sauté pan, sear the scallops until golden.
INGREDIENTS for the CURRIED BUTTERNUT SQUASH:
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 tsp. ginger, grated
1 tsp. curry powder
1 cup vegetable stock
Procedure for the CURRIED BUTTERNUT SQUASH:
1. In saucepan, sweat onions, ginger, apple and butternut squash in butter. Season with salt and pepper and add curry powder.
2. Add vegetable stock and cook until butternut squash is soft.
3. Puree in a blender and strain.
INGREDIENTS for the SPINACH RAGOUT:
2 cups spinach
1 tsp. bacon, rough diced
1 tsp. pine nuts, toasted
1 tsp. golden raisins
Procedure For the SPINACH RAGOUT:
1. In a hot sauté pan, cook bacon until crispy.
2. Add spinach, pine nuts and raisins. Season with salt and pepper.
INGREDIENTS for the GARNISH:
Thinly sliced fresh apple
1. On a plate, ladle a thin layer of butternut puree.
2. In the middle of the plate add the spinach ragout.
3. Place two scallops on top of the ragout and garnish with thinly sliced fresh apples.
Submitted by Luke Livingston, Executive Chef, Indian Creek Country Club, INDIAN SPRING VILLAGE, FLA.
TUNA TARTARE with Soy-Ginger Sauce, Wasabi Aioli, Avocado and Wonton Chips
YIELD: 2 servings
INGREDIENTS for the TUNA TARTARE:
1 cup sushi-grade tuna, cut into small cubes
INGREDIENTS For the SOY-GINGER SAUCE:
1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp. jalapeno, finely diced
1 tsp. ginger, grated
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. honey
1 lime, zested
PROCEDURE for the SOY-GINGER SAUCE:
1. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix together.
2. When ready to serve, add tuna and season to taste.
INGREDIENTS for the WASABI AIOLI:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. wasabi powder
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp.ground ginger
PROCEDURE for the WASABI AIOLI:
1. Mix all ingredients in a blender and blend well, season to taste.
INGREDIENTS for the AVOCADO:
1 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp. lime juice
pinch salt and pepper
PROCEDURE for the AVOCADO:
1. Add all ingredients in a bowl and blend well; season to taste.
2. Place in a pastry bag.
INGREDIENTS for WONTON CHIPS:
8 wontons (for garnish:)
PROCEDURE for the WONTON CHIPS:
1. Cut into rectangle shape and fry till lightly golden.
1. In a metal ring, place a 4-oz. scoop of tuna. Smooth out the top and cover the tuna with the avocado puree.
2. Remove the ring and add wasabi aioli and soy ginger sauce.
3. To garnish, sprinkle with sesame seeds, micro cilantro and wonton chips.
Submitted by Luke Livingston, Executive Chef, Indian Creek Country Club, INDIAN SPRING VILLAGE, Fla.
YIELD: 8 3-piece portions
INGREDIENTS for the CUCUMBER VINAIGRETTE:
(Yield: 1 quart)
1 English cucumber
2/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
3/4 cup packed cilantro
1 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. citric acid
to taste salt and pepper
PROCEDURE for the CUCUMBER VINAIGRETTE:
1. Cut the cucumber in half length-wise and remove seeds. Roughly chop the cucumber and place in a blender with the white balsamic vinegar. Slowly stream in the oil.
2. Add the cilantro, coriander and citric acid. Blend until smooth.
3. Adjust seasoning and then strain through a fine mesh strainer. Reserve.
INGREDIENTS for the TOMATO RELISH:
(Yield: 1 pint)
1 lb. ripe Roma tomatoes
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. aged sherry vinegar (Cepa Vieja)
to taste kosher salt
Procedure for the TOMATO RELISH:
1. Dice tomato into large chunks and place in a food processer. Pulse several times until tomatoes are uniformly chunky, but not pureed. Remove tomatoes to a fine mesh strainer and strain out all juices and liquids, leaving a dry tomato pulp.
2. Discard juice or use for another application.
3. Using the strained pulp, mix in olive oil and sherry and season with salt. Chill and reserve for service.
INGREDIENTS for the ICEBERG BRICKS:
1 head iceberg lettuce
fresh lemon juice
flaked sea salt
micro mustard greens or micro cilantro
Procedure for the ICEBERG BRICKS:
1. Remove core from iceberg lettuce. Soak whole head in ice water for 10 minutes.
2. Cut small bricks and pat dry.
1. Cut hamachi in thin sashimi slices and lay over iceberg brick.
2. Pour cucumber vinaigrette over the brick and fish to pool on bottom of the plate.
3. Place a small spoonful of tomato relish on each piece of fish.
4. Squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon juice and then sprinkle flaked sea salt on fish.
5. Garnish with micro mustard greens or micro cilantro.
6. Serve immediately.
Submitted by Samuel Faggetti, Executive Chef, Bellerive Country Club, St. Louis, Mo.