If you’ve been thinking about adding some meat-free dishes to the menu, October might be the right time to do it. Vegetarian Awareness Month kicks off Saturday with World Vegetarian Day, created in 1977 to honor the lifestyle and educate others about the benefits of a vegetarian diet. Organizations nationwide, including in San Francisco and Baltimore, will celebrate with festivals devoted to meat-free eating.

Early advocates of vegetarianism opened the country’s first meat-free eatery in the 1895 in New York City, going against the meat-heavy traditions of the day and espousing the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet, according to the blog Restaurant-ing Through History. High meat prices early in the 20th century, through World War I, led to a boom, which didn’t repeat until the 1970s.

Making sure your meat-free meal is really vegetarian

It’s probably not a big deal when omnivores out for a meatless meal inadvertently end up eating fish sauce, beans with a bit of pork or meatless soup made with chicken stock, but it’s a different story for vegetarians. (read more…)

McCormick & Co. recently created the position of chief science officer, as the leader in global flavor emphasizes its commitment to flavor innovation and healthy choices. I reached out to Hamed Faridi, a 14-year veteran of the company, to discuss flavors, trends, food science and more.

Globalization, health and wellness, and competition are influencing the culinary landscape. As the head of research and development at McCormick, what must you and your team focus on to drive flavor innovation?

We focus on science-based innovation that is designed to predict, identify and develop exciting flavors matched to consumers’ expectations. Consumers want flavors representative of the global marketplace — ingredients from the Mediterranean, India, South America, Asia and North Africa. They also want healthy choices, and they don’t want to compromise on flavor to get it. Consumers and customers want it all when it comes to flavor — wide range of flavor, convenient package sizes, various price points and healthy options. (read more…)

SmartPulse — our weekly reader poll in Restaurant SmartBrief — tracks feedback from restaurant owners and managers about trends and issues.

Last week’s poll question: What is your restaurant’s busiest time of day?

Dinner: 39.18%
Lunch: 35.67%
Breakfast: 13.45%
It varies: 10.53%
I’m not sure: 1.17%

According a recent LivingSocial survey, most Americans eat out during lunch. Learn more of the findings. (read more…)

Wendy’s worked with a pickle chemist to revamp its burger; San Francisco is home to a collection of culinary gems; and the FBI leaves no pancake unturned during a search of seven IHOPs.

Read about all this and more in last week’s top five most-clicked links in SmartBrief on Restaurants:

Image credit: narvikk, via iStockphoto (read more…)

The celebration might have been short-lived for 50 New York City eateries that made Zagat’s most-popular list. The U.S. attorney for Manhattan announced that his office will review all 50 to ensure they comply with accessibility rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

Are you in love with Shake Shack burgers but wonder whether they would be even better with cheese fries or a double patty, if only it were on the menu? The Daily Meal clued us in on how to order from the popular New York chain’s secret menu.

Some questions of etiquette

Jonathan Kauffman advised novice wine drinkers on how to avoid looking — and feeling — foolish when approving a bottle or signing off on the first sip.

Helena Echlin served tips on how to act when you’re at a communal table, an age-old tradition that is seeing something of a renaissance, even if Zagat called it one of the most annoying trends. (read more…)