Mindful Menus: Adapting to Today’s Wellness-Forward Lifestyles
Many modern club communities are built from the ground-up with wellness at the forefront. Even the earliest clubs constructed in 20th century America were built as leisure escapes, filled with active pursuits to enjoy, from golf, cricket, and tennis to baseball, polo, and other country sport pastimes.
Dining was a logical supplemental offering, as was regular entertainment. The core purpose of clubs, even from their start, was connection and community centered around a lifestyle of active recreation. It still remains this way today, but dining is no longer supplemental. Now, it’s an essential part of club life.
Clubs continue to enhance amenity offerings as lifestyle preferences shift (welcome, pickleball). As tastes and preferences change to accentuate even more health and wellness in our lives, the culinary leaders within clubs are creating menu items that are more relevant to the present-day culture, personal values, and overall way of life. Here’s a look at some of the industry’s most mindful menu innovations.
FLEX FOR PLANT-BASED
With more consumers opting for plant-based diets than ever before, menus are following suit with more choices that are appealing for vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian lifestyles.
“Members and their guests are no longer willing to make sacrifices when they dine at the club,” said Kealoha Pomerantz, operations and culture manager at RealFood Hospitality, Strategy and Design, a Boston-based hospitality strategy and design firm and Troon company. “Members of all ages are changing the way they eat for varying reasons, so they want to maintain that when dining out and do so while also enjoying dishes that are as creative and satisfying as the mainstream animal protein-based offerings.”
Executive Chef Kyle Borden’s vegan curried lentils and peas is a featured specialty at Talking Rock, where fresh ingredients and creative cuisine come together for inspired culinary experiences against the natural backdrop of Prescott, Arizona’s terracotta viewscapes. Garnished with pickled coriander leaves, thinly sliced chili, and a drizzle of coconut milk, this entrée is a popular choice at the club’s dining venues and can account for more than 15 percent of total orders on some evenings.
“This dish has been selling really well and the feedback has been great,” said Borden. “I believe it is well-received because it’s something a little different for a club setting. I find a lot of the time plantbased eaters just end up getting a meal that’s thrown together, so they appreciate when they have composed dinner options to choose from.”
Curiosity and adventure are an everyday part of Talking Rock’s culture, and Chef Borden keeps with the theme in his plant-forward culinary offerings.
Toss the Gluten
At El Macero Country Club, in the heart of the Sacramento Valley just outside Davis, Calif., Chef Kaharim Becerra is tossing gluten from recipes and homemade pizza dough for the membership. Always available for lunch and dinner, Chef Becerra’s gluten free pizza crust is made from scratch, and vegan cheese is an easy swap on fresh pies from the club’s never empty pizza oven.
“The desire for lifestyle eating has skyrocketed in the last few years,” said Keith Culley, director of food and beverage at El Macero. “We’ve always received requests from those who have dietary restrictions, by choice or not, and it was time to start taking care of these members with options available on our menu, rather than making them feel like they had to reinvent the wheel each time they ordered.”
El Macero’s menus are designed to work with or without animal protein. Chef Becerra creates a rotating stir-fry special and gnocchi entrée by using whatever ingredients are in season at the time to anchor the recipes. The stir-fry is naturally vegan and the gnocchi is vegetarian so members know they can always rely on this option when they dine.
Seasonal & Healthy
At Westhaven Golf Club in Franklin, Tenn., Chef John Caferelli turned heads with a bang bang shrimp appetizer when he started breading the shrimp with naturally gluten-free quinoa. He even keeps one fryer in the kitchen as “free from gluten” to accommodate other menu modifications.
“When we devise the seasonal menus, we do so with an eye towards glutenfree and vegetarian offerings,” Caferelli explains. “If a sauce can be thickened with cornstarch instead of roux without loss of quality, we will usually go that route to accommodate more members with gluten intolerances. Certain items are floured with rice flour to make them gluten free, as well.”
Times change, people evolve, and clubs are more adaptable than ever to the needs of their members and guests. Just as pickleball grows in popularity and dress codes are eased, clubs are nimble in their efforts to accommodate and balance the dining wishes of many.