Reviewing the content for this issue, it was almost as if someone charged me with writing my dream menu.

For example, in this month’s Market Spotlight, Lisa White provides an update on the bustling barbecue business. In many ways, barbecue represents some of the tastiest innovation the foodservice industry has seen. That’s because at its best, barbecue takes some cuts of meat, such as beef brisket and pork shoulder, that might otherwise be chewy and difficult to eat, and turns them into regional culinary delights.

Pitmasters often describe their cooking methods as low and slow but there’s much more to creating good barbecue than meets the eye. While traditional barbecue hotbeds like Texas and the Carolinas remain true to their authentic roots, operators on the coasts continue to make a name for themselves through various forms of innovation.

Speaking of authenticity, that’s something today’s savvy foodservice consumers demand regardless of where they get their meals. Given their unfettered access to the Food Network, countless consumers now consider themselves experts when it comes to menu authenticity. Today’s operators who say they offer authentic cuisine of any kind better be able to back up those claims with the use of proper ingredients, techniques and even equipment.

One emerging chain making good on such promises is Fork & Salad. This Hawaii-based fast casual spent considerable time refining its menu and systems and is set to bring its interpretation of island food to the mainland. While many concepts claim to be farm to table, that idea is the cornerstone of this chain. Recognizing the added costs that come with bringing food to the island, the chain’s founders decided to take a hyper-local approach from the get-go and that continues to be a key element in Fork & Salad’s success.

No list of my culinary favorites would be complete without some conversation around doughnuts and pizza. While these two menu items do not suffer from a lack of familiarity, they remain ripe for innovation — but from very different sources. Let’s start with doughnuts. Smaller, more artisan shops continue to come up with their own interpretations of this circular delight. Take, for example, Chicago’s Doughnut Vault. The brainchild of restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff, this operation continually has lines of customers waiting for its acclaimed artisian doughnuts served hot, fresh and glazed out of a small chandeliered shop.

And in the pizza community, the rapidly growing fast-casual segment uses well thought out pizza designs to hand over hot pies to customers faster than most of us ever thought possible.

Now those that follow me on social media must be scratching your heads wondering when I am going to mention beer and hot chicken? I had to save something for the 2020 editorial calendar, didn’t I?