As the last hours of 2011 tick away, we are taking a look back at the food trends we liked in 2011.
Meatballs: This year meatballs proved once and for all that they didn’t need to be on top of spaghetti to shine. One of the most popular events at this year”s New York Wine and Food Festival was the sold-out Meatball Madness competition which was won by The Little Owl in NYC, where they serve more than 1.000 meatball sliders a week. Michel Richard who is known for cuisine that is more haute than homey opened a Washington DC restaurant called simply Meatballs and former Top Chef cheftestant Dave Martin opened up The Meatball Factory in NYC. In Chicago, Phillip Foss is bringing meatballs to the street with his Meatyballs Mobile truck as has L.A.'s Great Balls on Tire. These chefs are following in the tracks of meatball mavens Daniel Holtzman and Michael Chernow who not only opened 2 new branches of The Meatball Shop in NYC but released The Meatball Shop Cookbook filled with internationally inspired combos like Bouillabaise Balls, Jerk Chicken Balls, Tandoori Lamb Balls and thyme-tinged Bunny Balls.
Nordic Cuisine: With Copenhagen’s Noma topping the Best Restaurant list for the second year in a row, the New Nordic Cuisine is gaining momentum internationally. When Swedish super chef Mathais Dahlgren was in NYC earlier this year , he explained the principles behind the Nordic Food Manifesto: emphasizing regional authentic cooking and the purity of the ingredients. “It’s about telling a story of who we are with food.”
Extreme Ice Cream: Frozen treats have never been so innovative or chic. In NYC People’s Pop’s have taken the humble ice pop to new locally sourced and artisanal heights with flavors like watermelon-cucumber, roasted red plum and blackberry-black tea. Salt & Straw ice cream in Portland, Oregon (above) uses cream sourced from fourth-generation Lochmead dairy to craft unique flavors like Pear with Blue Cheese —made with pears from Salem and crumbles of Rogue River Blue Cheese and Brown Ale with Bacom, crafted from craft beer from Laurelwood Brewery and bacon from Olympic Provisions. In Petaluma, California Three Twins Ice Cream is churning out certified organic and mostly local flavors like cult favorite Lemon Cookie, Strawberry Je Ne Sais Quoi and Dad’s Cardamom. At Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco you can feast on flavors like Rosemary’s Baby — with toasted pine nuts and fresh rosemary, Salt & Pepper, Hibiscus Beet , Jesus Juice (red wine and Coke), Boccalone Prosciutto and the bourbon and cornflake infused Secret Breakfast. And in London the chin chin laboratorists flash-freezes their ice cream in front of customers with liquid nitrogen. And the acclaimed Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams of Columbus, Ohio released Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home to help others recreate signature flavors like Cherry Lambic Sorbet, Black Coffee and Influenza Sorbet, which features a sickness-soothing combo of cayenne pepper, ginger, bourbon and orange oils.
Collaboration Beers: Collaboration beers are when two or more craft brewers swap knowledge, recipes and/or ingredients to come together to create a tasty brew. It’s way to work with brewers they admire, create relationships and just play with hops. This past year the collaborations seemed to come as fast as we could drink them. Some highlights: John Kimmich of the Alchemist Pub and Brewery in Waterbury, VT, Jamie Floyd of Ninkasi Brewing Company in Eugene, Oregon and Mitch Steele of Escondido California’s Stone Brewing Co. combined talents to create “The Alchemist / Ninkasi / Stone More Brown Than Black IPA,” the proceeds of which went to help families in Vermont affected by Hurricane Irene. Stone Brewing also collaborated with Bryan Baird of Baird Brewing Co. in Numazu, Japan and Toshi Ishii of Ishii Brewing Co. in Guam on “Baird / Ishii / Stone Japanese Green Tea IPA” which raised $64,000 for victims of the earthquake and tsunami tragedy in Japan. Another collaboration to aid Japan was put together by The Bruery of Orange County, California and Dogfish Head of Delaware dubbed “Faster, Bigger, Better, Bolder (Gradually, Quietly, Steadily). And we were lucky enough to be there on brewing day when Dogfish Head’s Sam Caligione and Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch created SAVOR Flowers , which was brewed using rose water in place of regular water, along with a tincture of hibiscus, lavender and jasmine flowers that was aged in Samuel Adams’ Barrel One (the whiskey barrel Sam Adams first used to make its barrel-aged Triple Bock in the early 1990s).
Peruvian Food: Peruvian cuisine, the melting-pot result of native Quechua tradition and Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and African immigration, has hit the international stage. There are four times as many Peruvian restaurants in the U.S., in cities like NYC, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, LA and Pittsburgh than there were just a decade ago. Peruvian food prophet Gaston Acurio opened a branch of La Mar, his haute seafood spot in NYC, and considers this the next step in the cuisines global expansion. If you think that dishes like cauzas , cuy , and anticuchos are unlikely candidates to capture the American palate, Acurio would like to remind you that sushi was once a very weird thing in the U.S.
Rooftop Gardens: Farm–to-table isn’t enough for some urban restaurants who went roof -to-table by setting up mini-homesteads on their rooftops. Bell Book & Candle in NYC’s West Village grows herbs, fruits and vegetables in their aeroponic roof garden 6 stories above the dining room. Uncommon Ground in Chicago boasts the first Certified Organic Roof Top Farm in the U.S. Chef Hector Santiago raises dozens of kinds of peppers on the roof at Pura Vida in Atlanta, and the 3,000 square foot garden above Pyramid Restaurant & Bar in Dallas even grows watermelons, pumpkins and figs.
Food History: Chefs looked back to the future in 2011. Modernist chef Grant Achatz’s latest restaurant, Next, opened with an Escoffier-inspired menu titled Paris, 1906. At London’s Dinner, arch-modernist Heston Blumenthal’s newest restaurant includes dates next to each item, like the Meat Fruit which dates to 1500 and The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts has a whole chapter on the old-style cuisine of railway dining cars.
Blood: Bloody good food was more than just a saying this year as increasing amounts of blood is appeared on menus. Blood pudding, Swedish blood bread, blood pancakes, blood cups, sauces thickened with blood and horse & pig blood brűlée. Leading the sanguine swarm was Brad Farmerie of Public who wrote the July cover story in Food Arts magazine about cooking with blood. He is also fond of pig’s blood popsicles, which he coats with peanuts and describes as a “savory Snickers bar.”
Charcuterie: In another case of what’s old is new again, the centuries old art of charcuterie is continuing to spread. Inspired by Michael Ruhlman’s book Charcuterie , PunkDomestics.com hosted Charcutepalooza, a year-long challenge to readers to create their own confited and cured meat creations. All the while charcuterie-centric spots like Girl & The Goat in Chicago and Cannibal in NYC opened and chefs in Detroit, Minneapolis and Houston became practitioners of prosciutto, speck and salumi.
Pickles: Pickling and preserving are some of our favorite things, from traditional preparations like Korean kimchee, to housemade maraschino cherries at the bar or more unique preparations like the mango-strawberry-peppermint pickles that Jerry Traunfeld serves at Poppy in Seattle.