Nancy Kruse, Bret Thorn on the latest restaurant fruit trends

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Fruit is best served with an element of surprise

The following is Kruse Company president Nancy Kruse's response to NRN senior food editor Bret Thorn's opinion on fruit trends at restaurants.

Gosh, Bret, you’ve sort of lost me with this one.

First off, it’s clear that we both applaud your mother. What you describe as parsimonious is completely in line with great culinary icons like Julia Child or M.F.K. Fisher, who scoffed at paying more for unblemished or out-of-season fruit. I think that your mom deserves major props for developing your discriminating palate.

But while I bow to your palate, I have to question your pocketbook. This whole cold-pressing trend, which undoubtedly yields a tasty product, seems a little yuppified to me, along with designer diets and high colonics. Six to eight dollars for a bottle of juice will surely limit growth, with the cost of both product and process restricting its potential in the mass market. Of course, I might have said the same thing about Starbucks a decade ago.

What I really love in the fruit category at the moment is the element of surprise, like the treatment of the peaches in the Caramelized Peach Salad at California Pizza Kitchen or the totally unexpected juxtaposition of strawberries with cucumbers in a summer salad at Fresh Choice.

Some sandwich restaurants are writing new rules for fruit, such as Be’wiched Deli in Minneapolis that offers sandwich toppers like apple mostarda, Medjool dates and preserved lemon — though not all in the same sandwich. Or No. 7 Sub in New York City, which apparently has yet to meet produce it can’t pickle, as witness the pickled lychees and blueberries used as condiments.

You and I are in complete agreement on the attractiveness of fruit in beverages, and I especially like the very contemporary mash-up of sweet with savory or spicy, like the Spicy Mango Mojito at Bahama Breeze or the Strawberry-Basil Lemonade made with gin at Houlihan’s, or even the Watermelon-Habanero Lemonade featured at Cosí a while back. They’re fun and frisky, I think, with or without the cold pressing.