Dining out is something that the Joneses like to do. Maybe a little too much. Some nights, it's just Mr. Jones and me, but we don't always opt to leave the kids home. They deserve a nice night out, too, right? Barring the occasional refereeing that comes from eating in or out with kids, enjoying a nice meal as a family is usually a pleasant experience for us. Except for one thing...
Crappy Kid Menus
While my husband and I usually get to choose from a fine selection of menu items, our kids are given the limited meal options of grilled cheese, pizza, peanut butter & jelly, or a bowl of pasta with butter. These meals (save the pasta) are usually served with french fries. It doesn't really seem to matter whether it's a nice restaurant or a casual hangout, most places don't stray from the high carb, high fat meal options for kids. I've asked chefs why they do this and they all seem to have the same reason. They put menu items that are "safe" for keeping kids happy so that mom and dad can enjoy a night out.
[Insert picture of little terrorists holding parents evenings hostage if they don't get their PB&J, dammit!]
What we usually end up doing is ordering a substantial appetizer that can serve as a meal for each of the kids, have them split an adult entree, or share a sushi roll with a cup of miso soup each. It's not that my kids are food snobs and don't like eating the crappy kids menu items. They'd pick pizza and a bowl of pasta every time if I let them. But personally, I think it's a waste of calories and money to order those items.
Kids Deserve Better
Recently, I started noticing a trend of restaurants that are serving a broader menu for kids. I wonder if it's because more and more parents are doing what we do or if the chefs have decided to treat the kids that they serve like real people with real appetites for good food. Either way, it's nice to see better menu options at places like the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay.
The Hyatt Regency Mission Bay (located just minutes from Sea World) has launched a healthy kids menu created by 11 year old cooking phenom, Haile Thomas and renowned chef and health food pioneer, Alice Waters.
Waters, known for her culinary philosophy that maintains cooking should be based on fresh, organic, and seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally (all things that are important to me when I'm cooking for my own family), worked with Hyatt to develop a full organic meal offering including a salad, chicken entrée and a dessert.
“All children deserve to eat real food,” said Alice Waters. “I wanted to do a small, three course meal, within the context of Hyatt’s initiative, that could be sourced exclusively from organic farms across the country. Of course it’s about taste and ripeness and seasonality—but it’s bigger than that, too: it’s about supporting the people who are taking care of the land for our future generations.”
Menu items include:
- Romaine Lettuce Hearts, Carrot Curls with Lemon Vinaigrette for Dipping
- Grilled Chicken with Pesto Sauce, Roasted Potatoes and Cherry Tomatoes
- Strawberry and Orange Slices served with a Sweet Juice in a Real Orange Cup
I hope more and more restaurants add better menu items for kids to enjoy. If enough parents ask for the items, maybe the chefs will start to think beyond "safe" foods. To echo what Ms. Waters said, kids deserve better in a dining experience and meal choices when eating out with their parents.
If you can't get out to San Diego and want to make a yummy meal that the kids will love at home, try this recipe from the above menu:
Grilled Chicken w/ Pesto Sauce, Roasted Potatoes and Cherry Tomatoes
Ingredients: 4 oz. Grilled Chicken Breast 4 tbsp Olive Oil 2 tbsp Dijon Mustard 1 tbsp Thyme leaves, fresh 1 ea Medium Garlic Clove, grated 1 pinch Kosher Salt 5 ea Roasted Potatoes 1 ea Grilled Cherry Tomato Skewer
1 1/2 ea Yukon Gold Potatoes 3 tbsp Olive Oil 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
4 ea Cherry Tomatoes 1 tsp Olive Oil 1 pinch Kosher Salt 1 ea Skewer
For the Pesto Sauce: 1 ea Egg Yolk 1/2 tsp Water 1 pinch Kosher Salt 1 1/4 cup Olive Oil 1 ea Garlic Clove 2 cups Basil Leaves 1/2 tsp Lemon Juice 1 tbsp Pesto Sauce
To assemble marinade: Whisk together olive oil, mustard, thyme, and garlic. Place each chicken breast between oiled parchment and pound to 1/3 inch thick. Cover chicken with marinade and season with salt. Grill chicken over a hot fire with the smooth side facing down. Place a grill plate on top of chicken and sear until well marked. Flip chicken and complete cooking.
For the pesto: Place egg yolk in mixing bowl. Add water and salt, whisk together. Slowly drizzle one cup of olive oil into yolk mixture. Place garlic, basil leaves and remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil in food processor. Whisk together with yolk mixture. Add salt and lemon juice to taste. Refrigerate overnight. For the tomatoes: Skewer tomatoes at stem, brush lightly with olive oil and salt. Grill to order on hot fire until tender and slightly blistered.
For the potatoes: Wash potatoes. Cut in half lengthwise. Toss potatoes in olive oil and salt and place in pan. Roast in a convention oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, until tender and golden. Plate chicken, tomato skewer, potatoes and add a dollop of pesto sauce.