Monday, January 13, 2014

Break Out The Blinis and Caviar. Bacon-Flavoured Chocolate is Out. Roasted Cauliflower is in and Kale is Out. What’s Trending.



Break Out The Blinis and Caviar. Bacon-Flavoured Chocolate is Out. Roasted Cauliflower is in and Kale is Out. What’s Trending in 2014.


BY BRYAN LAVERY

Bacon-flavoured chocolate is out. Roasted cauliflower is in and kale is out. And, if that is not enough, those who sold their souls for a bit of transitory fame by using foams, liquid nitrogen, carbon dioxide and emulsifiers are also on their way out. Unless of course, you are a serious molecular gastronomist, Nordic, culinary modernist, or have a death wish.
There has been no spotlight shone on the diversity of Russian cuisine in the mainstream press. The iconic caviar topped pancakes called blinis should be having resurgence in popularity. It is a perfect a union as eggs and bacon. (Sustainable caviar that is.)

Chimichurri, poultry, variations on eggs benedict, regional Italian cuisine and anything remotely barbecue are still in; ramen noodles, pickles (can pickle juice really stop muscle cramps?) and the Southeast Asian cuisines are beginning to spike lots of interest among food enthusiasts.
One of the top food trends in 2014 will be the continuing obsession with chilies and heat. Food lovers and fire breathers everywhere are seeking out their next big chili high. Sriracha’s (think rooster bottle with hot, garlic aroma, vinegar kick and sweet finish) closest competition remains the Korean chili paste, gochujan, the savoury and pungent fermented Korean condiment made from red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt. Dab it on anything but be sure try it in your bibimbap, bulgogi and banh mi.

The Latin cuisines are big food trends that we have no quarrel with, thanks to a seductive blend of multicultural and native influences. Rio de Janeiro and the Copacabana School of Culinary Arts will bring Brazil’s seafood stews, grilling techniques, and both local and rare Amazonian ingredients into the culinary limelight when the country hosts the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics.

The cemita, whose distinguishing characteristic is the liberal use of the minty herb papalo, originates in the Mexican state of Puebla and joins the banh mi, cubano, and panino as part of the contemporary lunchtime sandwich canon. Peruvian, Cuban and regional Mexican flavours and ingredients are also being touted as the next big waves of interest.

Indian cuisine is having its day in the sun, emerging from its traditional confines with modernist interpretations.  Think fresh sea bass cooked with Amritsari spices and served with chole (chick peas) inside perfectly fried aloo bhaturas.

The spreadable salumi Nduja (en-DOO-yah), the fiery pork paste from Calabria, Italy, is becoming ubiquitous. Typically made with parts of the pig such as the shoulder, belly and jowl, as well as tripe, roasted peppers and a mixture of spices, it is giving pork rillettes a run for their money.

The culinary world is rapidly embracing smartphones, mobile apps and a host of convenient tools for the epicure in you. Multicultural gourmet street food and food trucks continue to trend and grow in popularity despite opposition from out-of-touch politicians. Food trucks stimulate culinary innovation, improve tourism, create employment and are an important part of the social and cultural fabric of a city.

Tattoos in the restaurant biz are hardly original, but the fact that chefs choose to ink themselves with symbols of their craft, specifically images of their ingredients or their ethos, is most assuredly worth paying attention to. Please don’t ask them to roll up their sleeves for a peek or ask them to dab a little sriracha behind their ears. And lastly, chefs: despite what you see on the Food Network, the head band is not back.

On a more Serious Note...

Members of the restaurant community will tell you that restaurant critics wield considerable influence with the dining public. Like any thoughtful patron, they will, we hope, bring appreciation, intelligence and sensibility to the table. But their mission goes beyond that. They must pass their impressions on to their readers. The media are important members of the culinary community. They alert the dining public to the diversity of choice on the dining scene and inform them while helping to arbitrate the changing standards for dining. 

No critic or diner is going to like or appreciate every style of cuisine or restaurant. It seems to me restaurant criticism is less cloak and dagger and more objective in their approach to reviewing a restaurant than ever before.

A review should characterize a restaurant, not compare it to another place with a totally different mission or philosophy. It should furnish you with enough fact and insight to make an informed decision. You can decide whether or not to go.

Trend spotters use a variety of ways to determine what`s hot and what`s not. The fact is, most trends have a shelf life of about a decade. Food magazines have heralded the return of comfort food at least once a year since the mid-1980`s. I have often marvelled at the way the culinary media, food magazines, trend predictors and industry influencers seize a collective thought with such a synchronicity of timing.

Food enthusiasts are particularly attuned to the concept of authenticity and experiential tastes when it comes to culinary matters.  With the simultaneous escalation of the food media, food apps and camera phones consumers accumulate tastes (and dishes) and those food preferences are archived and relayed immediately, often before the first bite. The new gastro-culture is particularly adept at sharing experiences through digital means, and the bragging rights associated with ``foodism`` are an evolving consequence.

As we become even more exposed to cultural diversity and the fact that the whole world of food is opening up to us there are a lot more culinary options open to us.

As for trending cuisine, it’s made from scratch and it’s innovative. Chefs continue to implement time-honoured traditions and trusted techniques yet delivering ingredients in revolutionary ways. They are the new culinary vanguards. Many of these trailblazers of the cutting-edge and emerging culinary regionalism are profiled on this blog. Our true culinary stars are not only our farmers, but also those labouring in restaurant, hotel and market kitchens, offering up some of Ontario’s finest food and most innovative drink experiences.

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