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Ann Holtzapple

Restaurant Menu Trends: Cold Weather Comfort Foods Your Customers Will Love

Sweater weather is officially upon us! As the thermometer drops and the leaves start to fall, winter’s arrival means one thing above all else for foodies: the return of comfort food! Let’s take a closer look at this phenomenon, along with highlighting some cold weather favorites perfect for warming up your customers from the inside out this season.


The 411 on Comfort Food

Just how mainstream has the concept of comfort food become? It’s now referenced in the Oxford English Dictionary, which describes it as, “Food that comforts or affords solace; hence, any food (frequently with a high sugar or carbohydrate content) that is associated with childhood or home cooking.”

Which begs the question: Why do we love it so much? According to a Time magazine piece on food and nostalgia, it’s not just because these foods are tasty, but also because the act of eating them leads to feelings of belonging.

This link isn’t merely emotional, as it turns out; it’s also biological. When we eat familiar food in the company of loved ones, “We receive positive reinforcement by obtaining physical sustenance along with great flavors and taste,” according to Spoon University.

And it’s not just about taste, either. As Virginia Commonwealth University researcher Chelsea Reid and coauthor of a study on “Scent-Evoked Nostalgia,” told Time, “Psychological research has demonstrated that smells are powerfully linked to memory, and to autobiographical memory in particular. The olfactory bulb, which is involved in the sense of smell, is linked to areas in the brain associated with memory and emotional experiences.”1


Top Five Comfort Foods

While different things count as comfort food for different people, the mere act of preparing a delicious, wholesome meal for others kick-starts the process. Looking to start making some comfort food connections of your own? Try these five hearty, heart-warming recipes.

1. Chicken and Waffles

Butter Be Ready may have shared this homemade chicken and waffles recipe in honor of the Juneteenth holiday, but this Southern classic is also the quintessential comfort food. Its crowning glory? Impossibly crispy, flavorful and juicy chicken, which pairs perfectly with light and fluffy waffles and a hearty drizzle of maple syrup.

Just be sure to save plenty of room. You won’t be able to resist digging into this deliciousness.

2. Classic Beef Chili

Think the best beef chili recipes require endless hours of simmering on the stove? Think again. Canned beans trim some serious time off this one-pot recipe with no sacrifice of flavor thanks to a potent mix of layered ingredients including chili powder, cumin, and fresh oregano. This one is guaranteed to keep customers coming back for more!

Vulcan’s Kettles are perfect for cooking chili and other winter soups and stews, and the embossed gallon/liter markings will never wear off.

3. Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin Mac n Cheese

Vegetarians don’t have to feel left out of the comfort food action, thanks to recipes like this one from Rachael Ray. A sophisticated spin on the macaroni and cheese of your childhood, this recipe is surprisingly healthy thanks to ample quantities of veggies and whole-wheat pasta.

4. Old Fashioned Cabbage Rolls

Offering everything you know and love about savory stuffed cabbage in a surprisingly simple recipe - with a twist. These use dill to complement the hearty flavors of a classic cabbage roll.

The heavenly aroma will have mouths watering long before this authentically-inspired meal hits the plate.  

5. Apple Crisp

What shortlist of comfort foods would be complete without a decadent dessert? We can think of no better way to end a meal at this time of year than with a crowd-pleasing crisp. Even better? One made with locally sourced apples, served straight out of Vulcan’s VC Series Gas Oven, and topped with a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream.

In addition to calling on your tried and true favorites this winter, why not try these five picks, too? You'll have satisfied customers who are craving comfort food coming back for more.



1. Reid, Chelsea A et al. “Scent-evoked nostalgia.” Memory (Hove, England) vol. 23,2 (2015): 157-66. doi:10.1080/09658211.2013.876048

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