American Airlines’ frequent fliers out of New York’s- JFK Airport may have noticed some changes to the menu both in the Flagship First Dining lounge (review coming soon!) and the buffet within the Flagship Lounge.
Partnering with Chef Sarah Grueneberg, American will soon roll out some fantastic new menu options. American Airlines invited Simple Flying to test out the new food and get an inside look at the thought process behind the new food options.
Chef Sarah Grueneberg
Chef Sarah is an award-winning Top Chef alumnus with her own restaurant in Chicago. Called “Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio”, this eatery is known for some outstanding Italian food created by James Beard Award winner, Sarah Grueneberg.
As part of American’s partnership with the James Beard Foundation, Chef Sarah curated a host of new menu options for American’s onboard and on-the-ground experiences.
Naturally, Chef Sarah loves to travel. And, one of her goals was to curate a menu for an airline. So, when this partnership with American Airlines came up, she was more than excited to get to work. And that is how, in about three weeks, Chef Sarah was able to create over 30 different kinds of dishes.
American Airlines’ new onboard menu items
First up in the Flagship Lounge was the Artichoke Ravioli which came with tomato sauce and green olive pistachio pesto. Just off the presentation, I was a bit unimpressed because it did not look anything special. However, after one bite, my perception changed.
Chef Sarah really went for a simple look to this dish that paid off well. Unlike other dishes curated for the sky, the salt content was not sky-high. The real kicker was that the stuffed ravioli preserved the flavor. Furthermore, Chef Sarah explained that the ravioli is a dish that can stand a little overheating and still retain flavor. If I ordered this on a plane, I would not be disappointed.
After a second helping of the ravioli, another dish made its way to me. The Spinach and Ricotta Rotolo pasta with Pomodoro sauce, basil pesto, and pine nuts was elegantly plated. And, after one bite, I was hooked. Between this dish and the ravioli, I would say that the Rotolo offered a little more texture variation thanks to the pine nuts and also looked more appealing. Needless to say, I enjoyed this dish quite a bit.
These dishes will roll out onboard transcontinental flights in premium cabins between New York-JFK to Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Rotolo will become more widespread as American plans to introduce this on outbound flights from the United States to international long-haul destinations.
In terms of presentation, Chef Sarah said she wanted to focus on the textures and the colors of the dish. Rather than glam it up, she prefers the simple nature that adds color to what could otherwise be a dull experience on a flight, with some overhead lighting, the hum of the engines in the background, and limited bursts of color.
New dishes on the ground
Debuting on December 3rd in the JFK Flagship lounge, the Tuscan Kale Salad was served next. Normally, I would probably avoid a salad, but this one was definitely worth trying. There was a medley of different textures that played off each other. And, I did not find any need for additional dressing.
It was then time to try the grilled Roman-style Artichoke with black truffle and fontina fonduta. The presentation of this dish was the simplest of all. However, this was perhaps the most flavorful artichoke I have ever had. If you are not a fan of artichokes, I would not recommend discounting this dish. It is well worth a try as Chef Sarah, with a penchant towards artichoke dishes, knows how to make an artichoke dish appetizing.
Now, this is where Chef Sarah showed some of her resourcefulness to avoid waste in the cooking process. While many would throw away the artichoke leaves, Chef Sarah uses them in the creation of the next dish. How? Well, she uses the leaves to make a stock that works well with the Mushroom Bolognese.
Everything served was vegetarian. But the mushroom bolognese took my taste buds by surprise. Although the dish had zero meat, the flavor of the dish made up for it greatly. In addition, the pairing of peas and carrots added a sweetness to the dish that was unexpected, but greatly appreciated!
A new dessert menu item!
Of course, a meal would be incomplete without dessert. The dark chocolate budino with candied citrus, mandarin olive oil, feuilletine chocolate crunch, and a nice helping of whipped cream was the perfect way to end the tasting. The olive oil, frankly, was a nice surprise. Not only did it add some shine to the dish, but it also gave off small hints of citrus that paired well with the whipped cream and candied oranges. If you are in the Flagship First Dining room, I definitely recommend ordering this after your meal.
As for ingredients, because the on-the-ground experience is more restaurant-style, American Airlines sources a number of ingredients from local farms with an emphasis on healthy, fresh produce.
Coming soon: a new menu with wine pairings
American Airlines will also, in Flagship First, be introducing menus with paired wines. Although this is not something terribly unique, American has not done this before and, with the help of master sommelier, Bobby Stuckey, will highlight wines that work well with each dish on the menu itself.
American Airlines is really trying to enhance the premium customer experience through this new partnership with the James Beard Foundation and Chef Sarah Grueneberg. Perhaps, one day, even international main cabin food on American Airlines will look like this.
What do you make of American Airlines’ new menu items? Let us know in the comments!