trend watch

Trend Watch: Arak, aji amarillo, freekeh

By Katie Belflower

Each edition of our Trend Watch with Technomic highlights three menu trends that are being seen across Canada right now, as well as how Canadian restaurateurs are incorporating them into their menus with great effect.


Arak is a Middle Eastern distilled spirit. The milky white alcohol is made from grapes and aniseed, giving it a strong anise- or licorice-like flavour.

It can be consumed on its own, but operators are featuring the Levantine spirit in cocktails alongside other spirits or liqueurs.

Menu examples:

  • Fairouz in Ottawa offered The Trade Route with Averna Amaro, Fernet Branca, Cointreau, arak, chocolate bitters, and orange twist.
  • Missy’s This That in Calgary menued Black Ice with Waterford whisky, arak, and soda.

Aji amarillo

A yellow-orange Peruvian chile pepper, aji amarillo has a spicy-fruity flavour, giving it a unique taste. The brightly coloured pepper is used in many sauces, as well as on its own, to impart sweet heat to dishes.

Operators are featuring the chile alongside other vegetables such as mushrooms or cassava, often with a creamy sauce to help balance the strong flavours of the pepper.

Menu examples:

  • Bar Sofia in Halifax served a Cassava Chicharron with lime aioli and aji spice.
  • Marcus in Montreal offered Caramelized Koji Portobello with basil, aji amarillo, and sour cream.


A staple in many North African and Mediterranean cuisines, Freekeh is a grain made from green wheat that has been harvested early and then roasted and rubbed, giving it a smoky, nutty flavour. The cereal grain has a variety of functional benefits, as it is high in both fibre and protein.

Operators are using the ancient grain in place of more traditional options such as quinoa or rice for a unique twist.

Menu examples:

  • Ayla in Montreal served Braised Lamb Shank with freekeh, yogurt, almonds, and pistachios.
  • Park by Sidewalk Citizen in Calgary menued Freekeh with fried egg, avocado, pea shoots, and pickled onions.

Trend Watch is based on menu trends noted by Technomic.

Katie Belflower is Associate Editor for Technomic, a Chicago-based foodservice research and consulting firm. Technomic provides clients with the facts, insights and consulting support they need to enhance their business strategies, decisions and results. The company’s services include publications and digital products as well as proprietary studies and ongoing research on all aspects of the food industry, including menu trends.