BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – For the first time in its 23-year history, the Taste of Buffalo, a foodie free-for-all attracting tens of thousands, is ordering restaurants to offer healthier options.
At least one item on each vendor’s menu must meet standards on fat, salt and cholesterol.
That means diners at the July 7-8 event will see mango sorbet and smoked chicken sandwiches among the hot fudge sundaes and bleu cheese burgers, a low-fat cookie there with the cheesecake.
But will they bite?
‘It’ll be interesting to see,’ said Ania Gurnari, whose family-owned bakery, E.M. Chrusciki, has offered its sugar-coated ‘angel wings’ and other pastries at the festival for more than 20 years.
Her father came up with a chewy spice cookie to meet the new healthy mandate, using applesauce to make it moist and sweet.
‘We are going to be serving New York-style cheesecake, there’s nothing fat-free about that,’ Gurnari laughed. ‘So having that side by side, we’ll see what choices people make.’
The idea is not to force tasters to shun their favorites, organizers say, but to give them a chance to try healthy dishes that might be just as good.
‘What a great opportunity … to recognize that a lot of people currently have a perception that healthy food has to taste bad,’ said Dr. Michael Cropp, president and chief executive of Independent Health. The health insurance company’s community outreach foundation worked with festival organizers to develop the new rules.
‘We thought, as a first step, if we can have all these restaurants demonstrate how they can provide a healthy option that tastes great, we are going to change people’s perceptions,’ Cropp said.
No one even noticed when Rita Sabharwal altered her chicken curry and rice dish two years ago to make it healthier, substituting more tomatoes for some of the oil.
‘We sold out anyway,’ said Sabharwal of Tandoori’s Royal Indian Cuisine. This year, Sabharwal has created a vegetarian dish of chickpeas and spinach, keeping an eye on oil content.
Each restaurant had to submit a healthy recipe that was analyzed by a computer program. No more than 30 percent of calories could come from fat and less than 10 percent from saturated fat. There were also sodium and cholesterol restrictions.
While some, like Tandoori’s, created brand new dishes, others tweaked existing ones. Louie’s Hot Dogs simply switched out the crushed tomatoes from its Sloppy Louie Burger with a lower-salt version to meet the guidelines.
Among other offerings will be a vegetable croissant, baked spring rolls and Cajun boiled crawfish.
Even at Chrusciki’s bakery, customers are looking for less guilty pleasures.
‘People ask for fat-free, sugar-free everything these days,’ Gurnari said. ‘Sometimes we look at them like, `OK, wrong place.’ But now, at least we can say we have this healthy choice item.’
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