Summing It Up
Lobster dogs? Jerked chicken salad? Clubs and resorts are leading the way in the search for creative, tasty, and easy-to-serve new snack foods.
Traditional snack bar fare such as hamburgers and hotdogs might still be the menu mainstay at golf course, tennis court and poolside snack bars, but it’s certainly not the only game in town anymore. When it comes to providing quick bites to fuel member and guest fun, an increasing number of club and resort chefs are thinking way beyond the bun and the usual bottom line.
Corn dogs may be kid stuff, but Athens (Ga.) Country Club Executive Chef Christopher McCook’s sophisticated spin on this easy-to-tote treat is anything but. Instead of the humble hot dog, McCook deep-fries lobster meat dipped in seasoned corn meal to create a portable pop.A dollop of sauce for dipping completes this upscale snack, which has a loyal following, even with its premium $15 price tag.
Between the months of May and July, when the Athens CC pool is open every day from 10 AM to 8 PM, many families eat at the snack bar an average of three to four times a week, says McCook.To keep the menu fresh and interesting for these regulars, he features a rotating repertoire of special additions, such as jerked chicken salad or chicken or shrimp quesadillas, to the core club sandwiches and burgers.
With anywhere between 50 and 75 people at the pool at any given time, quick service is just as important as food quality. Generally, the pool snack bar is staffed by four to five employees— one to work the window, two or three to prepare the food, and one to whip up smoothies and spirited adult drinks.
“For our salads and specialty sandwiches, all of the mise en place is handled in the main kitchen, so everything just has to be assembled to order at the snack bar,” McCook explains.
(He also offers a tip for crisping up the crust of microwave cooked pizza:A five-minute sizzle on the grill right before serving gives it just the right amount of crunch, he says.) Fine Glazes
Culinary creativity is also on the poolside menu at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, where Executive Chef Ralph Fernandez has upgraded the basic salad options (chicken, fruit and Caesar) to tempt the more adventurous palates of members and guests. Salads are particularly popular at this venue, where the clientele tends to skew to women with young children.
Fernandez adds excitement to salads by coming up with such unusual combinations as prime beef with celery root or grilled duck breast with kumquat sugarcane glaze on mixed greens. The addition of beans to a pico de gallo turns a basic Caesar into a Southwestern surprise. Vinaigrette dressings take on various exotic personalities, with accents of orange-juicesteeped orange opal basil; sherry, shallots and thyme; or walnut oil.
With the clubhouse only steps away, prepped ingredients come out ready to assemble a la minute, without requiring the expense of additional labor, says Fernandez.
As part of an over-$20 million remodeling, the pool complex at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. has acquired a deluxe new snack bar set-up it calls “Snug Harbor.” By day, sandwiches and salads, including Executive Chef Devin Levine’s Michigan Steak Salad with Portobello mushrooms, Michigan cherries, toasted pistachio nuts, Maytag Bleu cheese and grilled peppered beef tips (see recipe at www.clubandresortbusiness. com) are the main attractions.
This year, Levine expects his new “Deconstructed California Roll”—a presentation of warm sushi rice, shrimp, avocado, bean and pea sprouts, scallions and cucumber in a spicy ponzu dressing—to be a hit with the health-conscious crowd. Asian-style salads have a history of success at Southern Hills, says Levine, citing the popularity of a spinach, Napa cabbage, cashew, red pepper, bean sprout, shiitake mushroom, sesamecrusted chicken and sesame ginger dressing composition he came up with last summer.
For his sandwiches, Levine is experimenting with various rustic breads. In response to requests for more vegetarian selections, one sandwich the poolside crowd will probably see this year is a layering of roasted Portobello mushroom, sundried tomato, mozzarella, and arugula with crispy fried red onions on ciabatta. Even the potato chips are classy kettle-style rather than the regular, garden-variety kind, demonstrating Levine’s attention to detail.
Because Snug Harbor has its own fully equipped and staffed kitchen, everything can be made to order. That means maximum flexibility for customers who want to omit the onions or order half-sandwiches for child-sized appetites.
The on-site cooking capabilities also allow the facility to transform into a bistro in the evenings.
“Guests can order anything from shrimp cocktails or Asian chicken wings to grilled New York strip steaks or Szechuan-style salmon, all to enjoy as they sit around the pool,” he says.
Snacks that Score
Unlike the poolside set who can sit back and savor their snack bar selections, golfers are generally looking for food they can pick up and easily eat between tees. Chefs agree that they have somewhere between a two- and three-minute window to get their golf customers served and on their way.
For them,Quail Valley Golf Club in Vero Beach, Fla. has set up a “Caddy Corner” in the lower level of its two-story golf club building, where players can pick up pre-made sandwiches and salads without losing their game momentum. But while Executive Chef/Food and Beverage Director Joe Faria’s selections are wrapped and ready, they’re way above par.
A favorite sandwich option, for example, is a tortilla wrap filled with freshly grilled, flaked salmon salad made light with yogurt and summery-bright with mango puree. Everything—from the slicing of the wraps in two, to the packaging of chicken, fruit, and other salads in hinged containers— is designed for on-the-go convenience.
To save the golfers even more time, the self-serve “Caddy Corner” operates on the honor system, requiring members to simply sign for their purchases. Club staffers are assigned to monitor the food displays and ensure they are kept clean and well-stocked, says Faria.
At Southern Hills’ 10th tee, Levine makes sure to have a stock of hearty, yet easy-to-handle sandwiches—such as his California Napa Valley Wrap made with avocado, alfalfa sprouts, char-grilled chicken, roasted peppers, and roasted garlic mayonnaise—ready to grab and go. The main kitchen makes up about a half dozen each of the day’s featured sandwiches to start lunchtime rolling, then replenishes the supply as needed.
Levine also likes to offer a selection of “interesting
salads,” from pasta combinations to seafood to tabouli prepackaged in 10-ounce cups.
This summer, Quail Valley will expand a juice bar located on the second floor of its spa facility into a bistro/café, serving cappuccinos, iced coffees, flavored hot and cold teas, salads with organic greens, and upscale sandwiches such as a toasted poppy seed crepe or spinach tortilla stuffed with crab salad and avocado, dressed with a refreshing citrus vinaigrette. A staffer will be dedicated to juicing fruits and veggies as well as mixing up other liquid energy boosters, such as banana smoothies and peanut butter health drinks.
Smoothies, made with various kinds of fresh fruits, soymilk, tofu and protein powders, are also a new addition for Colonial Country Club this summer. At the club’s fitness center, liquid yogurt drinks will be used to concoct lactose-free coolers.
Introducing smoothies three years ago was a good move for Southern Hills, says Levine. The club sticks with five basic recipes based on crushed ice, fresh fruits, fruit purees and yogurt. C&RB
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