2010 Food & Wine Predictions: Send It Back
SEND IT BACK:
Even the finest ingredients can be fodder for compost when they’ve saturated your plate and your gullet so many times that they’re as worn out and weary as you are. We need change, people. We need growth, and development. We need new food trends for 2010, and a lengthy reprieve from what we keep eating despite our reservations. I was going to try to keep this follow up article short, because frankly we’re tired of seeing and discussing these hackneyed food trends that are ready to be put to rest. However, then I started writing…and writing, and writing. It seems that my disdain knows no bounds, and apparently I have a lot more to say about the petrification of certain food trends than I thought.
1. This Little Piggy Needs a Vacation. I love bacon. I mean, I really, really love bacon. I love things wrapped in pig, infused with pig, and speckled with bits of crunchy smoked or cured pig. However, the race to incorporate bacon into everything from drinks to dessert has taken on a life of its own. After trotting off the breakfast buffet, 2009 brought us caramel mousse with candied bacon, bacon cupcakes, bacon fudge, bacon chocolate chip cookies, and even bacon infused vodka and bourbon. The day that we read about bacon and dulce de leche cheesecake with a bacon and graham cracker crust under maple bacon ice cream, I finally broke. Please, for the love of god, give it a rest with the bacon before the strawberry and bacon shortcake hits the table.
Fruits & Vegetables
2. Stomping Through the Pumpkin Patch. Pumpkin and cranberry are still being used to herald all things fall and winter. Between September and March we get so saturated with pumpkin recipes that I feel like Lucy looking for a Charlie Brown to kick in the shins. Do we really need another pumpkin latté or maple and pumpkin omelet in the world? I thought not. Although the slightly sweet and immensely versatile pumpkin will continue to be popular on the home and holiday tables, it might be time to remind parsnip, chestnut, celeriac and acorn squash that they’re more than just the red headed step-children of the fall vegetable basket.
3. Premium Vodka Has No Flavor. Stop buying mango and passionfruit “infused” vodka. Enough with the buffalo grass vodka and the espresso-mocha vodka. Let’s bring the focus back to why we truly love vodka, which is because Father Vincent can’t smell it on our breath during Sunday service. Enough said.
4. Killin’ the Chillin’. A good bellini does not come out of a slushy machine. Do you hear me? Please, make note of that for the next time that you’re at Milestones on a Friday night (God help your soul) and someone says, “I LOVE this place! They make the best bellinis! Ooh, this one comes with a kangaroo!” I love slushies as much as the next kid, and I particularly like a good swamp water slushy that’s heavily greased with spiced rum to make me whistle as I walk my imaginary dog home from the convenience store, but let’s just call a spade a spade.
As for martinis, I thought that the faux-tini phase was over and done with in 2008. Oh, the more fool I. Can we honestly pour pineapple juice and Malibu into a martini glass and call it the Tropicantini with a straight face? Chemical laden and vaguely radioactive looking frozen cocktails will continue to be slurped up with abandon by drunken sorority girls (and myself) on “Margaritas Mondays.” However, to actively seek our bellinis or ‘tinis in 2010 brings shame to both you and your red mock-croc stilettos (which are really cute, by the way).
5. Forced Fusion. I grew up eating ‘Lebanese fusion’ cuisine (think of egg foo young but with a pinch of cinnamon in the gravy), and honest fusion sprung from foods and tastes that marry well and belong together will always have a place in my heart: This is fusion at it’s best.
Kimchee and bean sprout poutine is fusion at it’s worst. There is a certain freedom and joy to be found from the safety of your own kitchen, or the cushioned seat of a trusted restaurant, when you can dabble in flavor mixology and experiment with combining cooking techniques or ingredients that aren’t necessarily brothers in the pond. However, there is no excuse for forcing inherently different flavor profiles on one another, and watching them wrestle through a sriracha and sesame gumbo, just to prove a point.
6. Creaming Crème Brûlée. Lavender ginger crème brûlée. S’mores crème brûlée. Yuzu crème brûlée and, of course, pumpkin crème brûlée. Pomegranate and lobster crème brûlée. There are so many other things that we can do with eggs and burnt sugar, and yet here we are. I am tempted too add pots de creme to this list, particularly as this is still the kissing cousin of crème brûlée, but there’s a white chocolate and lavender pots de creme in my immediate future and I’m not willing to jeopardize that.
7. Marooned on Macaron Island. I might actually stick my head in the oven if I have to look at one more post detailing how to bastardize French macarons or fairy cakes. The macaron, when well done, is an elegant little treat with a light meringue top and base which barely conceals a gooey, sugary spreadable interior. As for the twee little cupcakes, who doesn’t love a cakey treat slathered in rich, decadent frosting? I know, right? Almost as good as bacon. That is, until the pitter patter of delectable macarons and tap dancing fairy cakes become a thundering base as they march through the annals of all things sweet in 2009. When every page of every food porn site hosts at least one homage to these fine treats, we’ve gone too far. When flavors like chocolate and pistachio are supplanted by chili de arbol macarons with a lemon verbena and foie gras filling, or rose and basil seed macaron with fennel pollen filling, we’ve gone too far. Sweet potato cupcakes with matcha moshi buttercream and yet another g.d. red velvet cupcake are a sign that we’ve gone too far. As for the maple and bacon cupcakes, well, don’t even get me started…
Condiments & Miscellaneous
8. Fish Egg Sacks and Fatty Liver. It is becoming increasingly apparent that there is a new sect of foodies out there who value their food as much for what it cost or what rivers they had to cross to obtain it as they do for taste. Intimidatingly expensive ingredients like foie gras (fatted goose liver), fennel pollen and bottarga (sundried fish egg sac) are being waved like flags to distinguish the real gastronomers from the rest of us plebs. I do not believe in spending money just for the sake of spending money (unless it happens to be for shoes), and frankly although the briny taste of bottarga is divine and I have a soft spot for le foie, they will not magically make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
In the same way that the use of mascarpone will not transform an ill-fated tonnato noodle casserole, it’s less about the price and prestige of your ingredients and more about they’re used. Simply being able to find and afford almas caviar will not make your blinis any lighter. If you have ever had a creamy lentil soup which brought you to spasms of ecstasy, or a vine ripened tomato that dribbled sweet salvation down your chin, you know what I mean. Elusive and expensive ingredients are an experience and a treat, but with all the gusto of my culinary heart I refuse to respect somebody just because they fry their potatoes in duck fat instead of canola oil. Mind you, I would like to know where they work and if they’re hiring…
9. This Is Why You’re Fat. Have you ever entered a hot dog eating contest? Okay, have you ever been sober when you entered a hot dog eating contest? The sense of remorse, followed by overwhelming nausea, more than negates any fleeting gratification in your questionable accomplishments. Gluttony is not a source of pride. And yet 2009 saw a push to bring us over the top fatty foods where after two bites you start bleeding gravy. Websites like This Is Why You’re Fat help us to entertain this perverse fascination with puffy tacos and deep fried macaroni and cheese pizzas, while helpfully mocking the rest of the nation to join us in obesity. And yes, that was spoken from Fatty Pants Herself.
Are we not tired of trying to outdo one another with how much saturated fat can be contained in a single cupcake, or do we need to continue this triple dog dare ya to make something nassssty…?
10. Powdered Marrow – My Favorite. – Molecular Gastronomy has arguably been the biggest food trend of the last decade, at least in many of the nation’s ground breaking restaurants. In 2010, however, there will be a surge of people who want to return to flavor and textural interest rather than just forcing ingredients to act creatively, whether they want to or not. With the continued downward turn in our economy, for a celebratory meal we’re going to be looking for affordable honesty and integrity in our meals. We want the meat and potatoes, and we want them beautifully presented. We don’t want a single ounce of shaved sous vide wagyu beef with green pea powder and a wee scoop of potato sorbet, and we don’t want the accompanying snifter of Ceylon Satinwood smoke to be wafted over our meals with a lichen wrapped kangaroo paw. Is this a turn away from food as an exciting challenge, to titillate our senses and tease our palates? Perhaps, because if we’re still hungry at the end of the meal then that’s $300 which was not well spent, and it’s more than just the spherified tomato water which will have you seeing red.
Don’t worry, though. It’s not all negative! There are great things that we’re looking forward to in 2010, these…just aren’t them.
So tell me, what did we miss? Are there ingredients or food trends that you’re ready to see take the big six steps down? Please do share, because misery LOVES the opportunity to commiserate.