2012 Food Trends 2012, Part II

Only a few days ago, it seems only hours, but I hear time has a peculiar set of distortions, I listed five top food trends I think we can expect to see in the coming year.

To summarize: Animal Parts, More Ingredients, The Wow Factor, Drinks, and Salt.

Doesn’t this all sound like we’re playing Jeopardy?  I mean:

Contestant: “Animal Parts for $50, Alex.”

Alex: “An appetizer at a hot new restaurant in Boston for $17.”

Contestant: “What are coxscombs?”

Bing, bing, bing!

Contestant: “OK, Alex, Drinks for $100!”

Alex: “House infused lemon ginger vodka, Limoncello, Luxardo Maraschino & raspberry  for $11.”

Contestant: “What is an Italian Teardrop Martini?”

Bing, bing, bing!

There are a few other trends in food we’re going to see this year:

6.  The Chef as Cuisine.  We’re gonna go global as chefs from culinary school, or tired of playing by the rules of classic cuisines, will exert their personalities and create food that reflects their moods, whims, and ideas.  It’s comparable to  the changes in American fiction stemming from MFA programs.  Elif Batuman wrote this up in The London Review of Books recently.  We have people who know form, but do not know content.  They know how to tell a story, but can’t see outside themselves.

7.  Food Poisoning.  The FDA tried to create an infrastructure last year to monitor and examine food produced here and coming into the U.S.  Didn’t happen, legislation failed to pass.  Anecdotally, I can’t begin to tell you the number of people who told me they got sick over the holidays either eating at home or in restaurants.  More broadly, last year we saw the banning of seeds from Egypt into the EU, fish from Japan too hot to handle, and greens from Mexico with E coli.  The question will be: What gets through?

8.  Appliances.  I love the idea of transforming ordinary kitchens into time-saving technology driven labs.  This year I got ahold of a pressure cooker and a juicer.  Chef Tony Maws turned me onto the power of the pressure cooker.  It has changed my life.  Pea soup with two minutes of prep and on the table in fifteen.  Short ribs with three minutes of prep and on the table in eighteen minutes.  The juicer?  OMG.  I get a wholesale crate of Florida oranges for $23 and it’s big glasses of juice all week.

9.  Restaurants Turning Asian.  Expect to see more upscale restaurants using spices, preparations, and ingredients from all over Asia.  Spengler was right: The West is dead.  Honestly, how many of you have had David Chang’s version of Korean fried chicken?  Show of hands, please.  You steam the chicken and then after 45 minutes let it cool.  Heat up Canola oil.  Fry fast.  This is the crispiest bird on earth.

10.  The End of the Restaurant Reviewer.  Who needs a reviewer when we have the Internet?  Let’s face it, word of mouth is what really counts.



2012: Food Trends: 2012

It’s only four days into a new year, and you can bet that 2012 will be the best year yet.  Ever!  After 2011 years A.D., we’re in for a year of shockers, surprises, and more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

In the world of food, that means the coolest stuff.

Here are my first five out of 10 predications:

1.  Animal Parts.  You think you’ve seen it all.  Well, you haven’t.  The big thing in 2011 was pork belly–aka bacon–showing up in upscale restaurants.  And why not?  This cheap, fatty cut of meat packs oodles of flavor at little cost to a restaurant and is a whiz-bang substitute for stuff that’s way pricier.  So you can be sure that 2012 will bring in hooves, tails, snouts, and organs.  If it’s under $3 wholesale, you’ll see it on menus in 2012 at $20 and up!

2.  More Ingredients.  Why cook simply and traditionally when you can crowd the plate with 47 ingredients, few of them familiar, and most from nations developing to the point of nearly having clean water available to the people harvesting the quinoa, Aleppo peppers, and rambutan?

3.  The Wow Factor.  Dining will become increasingly like being on the space shuttle.  Views, excitement, colors!  Who said anything about the food?  Who needs food?

4.  Drinks.  Some restaurants have figured out the magic formula to make rent.  “Mixologists” concoct drinks, sell them @ $11 to $18 a pop, and bang, we are rocking.  Look, a bottle of Plymouth gin retails at $28, wholesale at about $18.  You get about 8-10 drinks from one bottle so we’re talking $96, conservatively, which means a profit of $78 for every bottle emptied.  Nice!  Food profits are far more limited.  Drink up, chefs will say, drink up.

5.  Salt.  Yes, it’s bad for you, but salt is the secret ingredient in restaurant cooking.  Food will be more heavily salted in 2012.  (Shhh!  Loose lips sink ships.)  That and fat–lard, butter–make for memorable dining.  What’s that beeping sound?  You’re hooked up to a heart monitor, buddy!

More to follow…


High and Low

You gotta love it.  The NYT Magazine this past Sunday had as its cover story the true battles of obese people to shed pounds.  Called, “The Fat Trap,” the piece described how the body won’t cooperate with the mind.  People have the desire to lose weight.  The body wants to get bigger.

Then, just today, in the very same newspaper, came the story from the Congo about families in which kids take turns eating due to scarcity.  It’s Tuesday, right, so one kid eats and the others watch.  It’s Wednesday, so the kid who eyed the food the day before eats.

Is this the same planet?


Goodbye, Charlie

Today’s NYT reports that Charlie Trotter is closing his eponymous restaurant in Chicago after 25 years.  Never having eaten there, but having heard from friends of his prowess in the kitchen and ability to create flavors on the plate, I’m sorry to see him go.  There are eight months remaining before he shuts down, so who knows?  Maybe I’ll find myself in Chicago.

He was going to open in NYC, but that fell through.  So did his two places in Las Vegas.  Pundits writing in the Times spoke of the difficulty of a restaurant thriving past 25, but of course there is more to the story than this generalization.

Maybe his heart wasn’t it.  Trotter said he wants to study philosophy and political theory.  He said he has been accepted to graduate schools in Chicago and California offering degrees in these subjects.

Maybe his food and dining experiences declined.  The 2010 Michelin gave him two stars rather than the ultimate three.

Maybe he wants a life.  He married his longtime girlfriend Rochelle Smith in February, 2010.  His first marriage ended in divorce.

Could it be all of the above?

Will other chefs follow suit and pursue lives that don’t involve feeding the rich?

Goodbye, Charlie.

The Morning After

I don’t know if it was listing the consequences of excess drinking or whether it’s the start of a maturity or if it’s all downhill from here, but I hardly drank at all last night–one Manhattan with Old Overholt and a glass of Beaucastel–and, as a result, this morning I was up at 8, having gone to bed at 11, with all the vigor of a cartoon chipmunk, stripes and all.

First it was a quick jaunt to the park and in the park with the dogs.  Then breakfast, solo, as the house was filled with sleeping humans.  (No names, but a certain person was spied playing Scrabble on her cell phone at 1:14 A.M. What’s up with that?)

Breakfast was a tall glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, a small pot of Vietnamese coffee, and a poppy seed bagel with belly lox and horseradish cream cheese.

The o.j. came from a crate of oranges at Russo’s that cost $23.  Wholesale, baby, wholesale.  The same crate?  $60 at Whole Foods.  Do you feel the love?

The coffee was from Heirloom, in Medford, that imports it from ‘nam.  Chocolate notes, depth of flavor, made me hear bullets whistling.  Truly delicious.  Here’s yours: http://www.heirloom-coffee.com.

The bagels and lox were a duel between Barney Greengrass and Russ and Daughters.  Bigger bagels from Barney’s, lox cut thicker, the salt coming at the end rather than at the first taste.  Russ & Daughters had palm sized bagels rather than ones as big as a normal sized hand, had immediate salt from the lox, and was cut almost paper thin.  The winner?

A tie, of course.

Then it was paying all the bills and now?

Now it’s back to the park.