Blog Archives

Random Thoughts, and Trends

I was scanning the news this morning and thinking foodie thoughts in a rather stream-of-consciousness fashion. Nothing seemed to stick, it was all random. My brain went with that theme and suddenly I was humming the Arlo Guthrie tune about a pickle…

 

That was my inspiration today. My commentary on some of the new cooking and eating trends is entirely random, and without any expertise other than my own tastebuds. It’s fun to be adventurous and think outside the box, but when I threw so many random trends together it made me wonder if we aren’t trying too hard to be unusual. But then, comfort food and retro recipes are other popular trends. Anything is possible.

  1. Brinner – when you miss breakfast, you can have it for dinner! Some of this trend is centered around the concept of putting a poached egg on top of a dish, but there’s something to be said for making more meals acceptable for all those wonderful Sunday brunch dishes 🙂
  2. Gyros – it’s cooler when your wrap has an ethnic name, isn’t it? The Greek flatbread with flavourful fillings is the new wrapped sandwich craze. Portable food is always cool in today’s world. If only there was an app that would allow telepathic texting while you eat…
  3. Donuts – what else can you put in them? It’s frankly scary the range of fillings available in fried pastry, and then consider the variations of stuffed food similar to a donut – like kolaches (great with plum jam but now possible with candied jalapenos and smoked beef, just because).
  4. “I dare you” food – ever tried beef tongue? How about fresh grated horseradish? Foraged greens? Moss? It’s all out there for the adventurous. Chefs love shock value too sometimes.
  5. New twists on beverages – craft beer pubs are passé; look for beer bars with odd themes (think different glassware or decor and innovative beer styles). Wine is okay, but mead is more fun. And cocktails can come with any kind of garnish now, even scented feathers!
  6. Salt cod – no really, you have to try it! Andrew Knowlton, the editor of Bon Appetit magazine, said it looks like “a last-resort snack for those beyond the wall in Game of Thrones”, but treated properly it is delectable.
  7. Nitro coffee – because life just keeps getting more Fast & Furious. Seriously, why have just caffeine when you can have it injected with nitrogen and served from a tap? It has a creamy texture not unlike a pint of Guinness. Or you can just have cold brewed coffee, the minimalist version.
  8. restaurant names like never before – in an effort to be new and inventive, owners are picking terms like “luncheonette” and “provisions” to sound unique. Couple this with some wacky ingredient or animal name (think anise hyssop or blue oyster) and you’re all set. Only trouble is everyone else is using the same kind of formula – go figure. It sounds like the new Facebook quiz – “What would your name be if you were a restaurant?”
  9. Lithuanian and South African cuisine – it sounds like someone spun a globe and said “quick, what countries have we not featured on menus recently?” But there are some interesting foods to try – a Lithuanian stuffed potato dumpling called a cepelinai sounds delicious, and I love bobotie, a sort of South African shepherd’s pie.
  10. Pickles – you thought I was going to leave you hanging, didn’t you? Don’t you agree, what with kimchi everywhere now and pickled mushrooms as garnish and pickled fruit on cheese boards… the recession wasn’t that bad we need to preserve everything! I love a crunchy dill pickle like the next person, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

How trendy are you? Does any of this stuff even pique your interest, or are you more of a Meatless Monday, Tuna Casserole Tuesday kind of person? Does your family enjoy trying new things? I’d love to hear your comments.

Advertisements

Porridge for Dinner? Definitely!

There is a new trend going around, called “brinner”. It’s all about having breakfast food for dinner. The latest variation in comfort food, if you ask me. But I’m not complaining. It wasn’t dinner but rather lunch when my mom would occasionally make apple pancakes on a cold winter day – one of my favourite childhood memories.

But back to today’s meal. We are lucky enough to have a freezer with some pretty awesome leftovers. Since hubbie’s specialty in summer is southern-style BBQ, we have portions of some of the best pulled pork ever stashed away. Tonight it sat atop a delicious mound of steaming soft polenta. Polenta is just an Italian word for porridge made from cornmeal. Granted, it was served savoury – gussied up with aged cheddar, chopped zucchini and some coriander. The pulled pork was heated with some sautéed peppers, onions and then Greg cilantro at the last moment. I pulled a Sangiovese from the cellar, and presto chango, we had a trendy meal. 

Thanks to Howard Soon for making local Sangiovese possible. #bcwine

Simple and elegant, just like a great breakfast. Or a good dinner. 

Here’s to your good health and happiness! I do hope you’re enjoying good food in good company. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, it’s some of the best quality time you can have. 

Sweet or Salty?

sweet-vs-salty-snacks

I had just finished my weekly column for the local news website, writing about popcorn. (It’s Popcorn Day next week, and I was munching on some as I wrote, so it seemed like easy inspiration.) As my mind wandered to think of what to write here today, I remembered my first taste of movie popcorn the year I lived in France… it was confusing. I had the taste expectation of buttery fluffy  kernels half melting in my mouth. Instead I got cauliflower-shaped kernels that were coated in a sugary crunch. It wasn’t bad, but my memories collided with my tastebuds and I was distracted. The association didn’t make sense in my brain.

Taste is mostly about smell, and that is hard-wired into our memory in our brains, so remembering a food experience as a whole has a lot of baggage attached to it. Once I got my head wrapped around a new experience, I was fine to have French popcorn at a French movie. (I just needed to switch it up – I couldn’t enjoy someone else dubbing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice either – I had to see francophone films to keep things on an even keel.)

With all the experiences we log in our brain and our taste buds, we do seem to come out on either side of a preference that divides the world – whether we like sweet or salty. Would you choose chips or cookies? It’s not a random choice – did you know we are genetically predisposed to one or the other? Some people really are born with a sweet tooth.

There are factors that influence us – what our mothers eat during pregnancy, then what we associate as comfort food. Some people actually need more sugar in food to perceive sweetness; they often have as many as one third fewer tastebuds than the average person, and so are referred to as non-tasters. By contrast, people with more tastebuds generally are more sensitive, and they often prefer salty tastes. (Think of cooking – salt improves many flavours, and helps hide bitterness.)

In case you’re wondering, I prefer salt to sweet. My “sweet tooth” is more for fat – I love dark chocolate, whipped cream, custard, pastry… and I’ve grown to like kettle cornkettle-corn-2, which is a lot like the stuff they serve in French movie theatres – salty and sweet.

Whichever way you lean, I hope you get to snuggle up and enjoy your favourite treat this weekend. Happy snacking!

 

 

 

#OscarsSoWhite #FoodSoDiverse

red carpet

Okay, I’m taking advantage of controversy to get your attention. I do believe that food can help people to calm down and take a breath, though; sitting around a common table partaking of a meal is a good time for discussion. We learn other people’s points of view. The news about the upcoming Oscars being “so white”, that is, not having any nominees who are black – it is worthy of serious consideration. I don’t think that a specific colour is the issue, but rather that colour of any kind should not be part of the discussion, just like gender shouldn’t. The only reason I like the idea of Best Actress and Best Actor categories is that it offers a chance to recognize two performances. But we don’t give an award for Best Female Director and Best Male Director, or Best Film with Women and Best Film with Men, so why do we need to differentiate?

multicultural world of hands

Oscars Governors Ball 2016Thankfully, food doesn’t seem to end up in this pitfall often. Wolfgang Puck is preparing the Governor’s Ball for the 22nd year in a row, and he has a plethora of dishes for people to taste, with many flavours and backgrounds.

In an effort to bring together the many sides in this argument, I thought I would offer a few menu suggestions for Oscar night celebrations that featured a range of food from various cultures and countries. Perhaps I could encourage people to look past borders in the same way we should look past the mirror when we see people. They are all people, and this is all food. Beyond that, it’s just meant to be enjoyed, and savoured.

How about an international menu? You know, small plates from around the world, in celebration of all the countries that make great movies and have wonderful stories…

  • Spanish tapas, like chorizo & prawn skewers or a Spanish tortilla of potatoes & onions… and a bit of Sherry of course
  • Italian antipasto, like warm olives with some capicollo and Asiago… and maybe a glass or two of Prosecco  bubbly toast
  • French canapés, like cheese straws made from puff pastry and cherry tomatoes stuffed with salmon mousse… and a lovely aperitif like Lillet
  • Indian street food, like samosas and pakoras with some mango and tamarind chutneys for dipping… and a bit of Gewurztraminer to wash it down
  • British nibbles, like mini “jacket potatoes” filled with sour cream and chives or slices of roast beef with horseradish mustard on toast points… you could save the Port for later in the evening
  • Hungarian sausages with a paprika mayonnaise for dipping… and a refreshing Pilsener
  • German pickled white asparagus wrapped in ham… with a lager, or do you prefer a Doppelbock?  beer toast
  • Scandinavian smorgasbord items, like smoked salmon on dark rye or pickled herring or Swedish meatballs … and a bit of Aquavit for toasting?
  • Asian bites, like wontons and spring rolls or maybe just a platter of freshly made sushi… with sake, because why not?

Or perhaps we should stick to North America, more in the range of “comfort food”:

  • BBQ ribs, slow cooked to perfection? would we have to argue about what kind of sauce they had?
  • chicken wings – we could have some hot, some teriyaki, some salt & pepper… but we have to include the celery sticks and blue cheese dip
  • a cheese ball? or is that too corny? or maybe designer grilled cheese is better
  • corny, that reminds me – we need to have chips and salsa!
  • Okay, seriously now, how about quesadillas, and pulled pork sliders, and lobster rolls and salad wraps?  wine food sample plate
  • If we wanted something more Canadian for fans in the Great White North, we could offer salmon jerky, fresh oysters, Alberta beef in mini Yorkshire pudding, prairie chicken drumettes in saskatoon berry sauce, Winnipeg goldeye on bagel slices, poutine (of course) and grilled scallops with fruit salsa… not to mention there’s plenty of wine and craft beer to choose from

Even with food it’s easy to fall into a stereotype of what one expects to experience; meanwhile chefs and home cooks around the world are busy knocking down the walls of tradition all the time.It is possible to celebrate history and at the same time look forward in appreciation of the innovations that came later. Sometimes there is a natural evolution to things getting better, and other times we have to think and learn from our mistakes. British food for some means overcooked roast and bland mushy veg, but that is not the case in most places anymore. By the same token I think we can work to make sure that an evening like the Academy Awards night recognizes good work, regardless of where the work came from or what kind of person (or gender or colour) created it.

I for one will still be watching, as I want to remember the many excellent memories I had in theatres this year. I want to spend an evening celebrating with my movie-going partner and soulmate. Perhaps we’ll make a list of our own and toast our very own winners. And we will continue to look for good movies to see, just like we look for new kinds of food to enjoy. A good job deserves to be appreciated, always.

multicultural word cloud

So what’s in store this year?

2016 hoopla

A new calendar year begins, and we all get a chance to be pundits. Since food is my topic of choice, I thought I might as well weigh in, so here are my top 3 picks for trends, and some gratuitous commentary on what I have read from other sources. Feel free to add your two cents below, please!

Food Trend Predictions for 2016

  1. HYBRID DRINKS – it’s not enough that bartenders have created shrubs, syrups and other concoctions to come up with weird and wonderful cocktails… now we have to combine what we already have! Have you heard of “boffee”, or nitro coffee? I wondered at first if that was just a redneck version of a wine spritzer, but no, apparently it’s a real drink: iced coffee served “on tap” using nitrogen to create bubbles, just like a draught beer. superfood cocktailsCoconut water, Red Bull and all kinds of superfoods are being added to cocktails; just think, you can get drunk and prepare for your hangover at the same time!
  2. CLASSY SNACKS – crackers and cheese just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore, folks. You need ethnic dips, ancient grain chips, popcorn with exotic oil & seasoning… or at least use goat cheese drizzled with honey on those gluten-free crackers.funky small plates Serving snacks is an art as well; if you haven’t invested in funky small plates, then you’d better visit Pinterest soon for a cool idea using something you can find in your pantry and “up-cycle” with a bit of burlap and a hot glue gun 🙂
  3. COOKING WITH GARBAGE – If you have been in a hole and not listening to the outraged food geeks in our part of the world, you won’t know that we suddenly realized our penchant for having every kind of food available year round and it all being perfect and unique has meant we are wasting an obscene amount of food. Chefs have now made it cool to use the stuff our moms used to regularly transform from the back of the fridge to the table. cooking with garbageDan Barber from Blue Hill in New York served “Dog Food” on his menu last summer during his themed period of working with food otherwise not used – it was ground meat using the cuts the butcher couldn’t sell.

If you aren’t already trying out these new concepts, then here’s your chance to jump on the bandwagon. After all, you don’t want to be the last person in the lunchroom still eating a tuna sandwich, do you?

One trend whose demise I’d like to support is the use of the word foodie. Adam Sach’s recent editorial in Saveur is right on the money:

Maybe we can just focus on the pleasures of eating, cooking and drinking and leave the labels where they belong – on modified corn and the side of wine bottles.

As much as there are chefs innovating with new foods, new fusion and new science, there are also restaurant brands that are working hard to be everything for everybody. McDonalds has coffee now, and menu items which can be custom made (including lettuce wraps instead of buns). Forgive me for sounding snobbish, but I don’t think that improves anything. Do you really go to McDonalds for a healthy meal? That’s like going to Robuchon for take-out, or cheap chicken wings. As consumers we should encourage businesses to be unique, to do what they do best – not to be like every other place in town. Laziness doesn’t benefit anyone in the food chain.

I don’t want to sound preachy, but I do believe wholeheartedly in the importance of good food and the time to enjoy it properly. And when we want to enjoy junk food we should make that an authentic experience as well. No labels, no obligations. Life is too short.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: