By Jessica Allen - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - 0 Comments
Sometimes it’s difficult not to grow weary in the face of keeping up with food trends. But there are writings relating to food of which I will never tire. Here are some of my favourites that’ve been covered really well in 2012 and that I hope to see more of in the year ahead.
1. Great profiles:
In 2012, I enjoyed reading more about people who make food rather than reading pieces devoted to food itself. There were some incredible profiles this year, from such big-name industry players as London’s Yotan Ottolenghi and Paris’s Apollonia Polaine–both from The New Yorker food issue–to local chefs like Toronto’s Keith Froggett, whom David Sax wrote about in The Grid. More please!
2. Heritage foods:
Speaking of profiles, remember when the New Yorker wrote about South Carolina locavore-extraordinaire Sean Brock in 2011? He’s the chef of Husk Restaurant who’s obsessed with bringing many of the region’s forgotten varietals of plants and animal breeds back to the table (he also has a cookbook coming out in 2013.) ”Since building a network of farmers, grain purveyors, food historians, and scientists during the past few years, Brock’s seed-saving mission has revived about 35 Southern plants, some of which might otherwise have gone extinct,” writes Cooking Light, which awarded Brock its Trailblazing Chef of the Year Award. In recent years, there’s been plenty of attention to paid to heirloom foods: from Red Fife, a Canadian grain that fell off our radars until Toronto chef Jamie Kennedy championed its virtues in 2006, to apples, of which there are thousands of varietals besides the ubiqitious Red Delicious, Granny Smith or Macintosh. And even though seed libraries, repositories that preserve seeds for generations to come, are nothing new (even Thomas Jefferson collected heirloom seeds), I hope to read more about them–and all things heirloom-related–in 2013.
By Jessica Allen - Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 9:40 PM - 0 Comments
Food trends can be fickle. You never know what sort of comestible is going to make it big. Imagine it is 1992 and you get the chance to step into a DeLorean that doubles as a time machine and travel to 2012 for dinner. Here’s how that meal might play out.
Server: Welcome to the future of food. May I take your …whoa. First thing’s first: nobody really wears oversized blazers with shoulder pads anymore. Most people’s jackets are really tightly tailored.
Man: Yeah, but not men’s jackets.
Server: Especially men’s jackets. But that’s not why you two are here. Please, sit down. Here’s our cocktail list.
Woman: Sweetie, look at this! They infuse their bourbon with bacon!
Server: We distill it ourselves.
Man: I think I just want an Old-Fashioned. Do you have that?
Server: Actually, we make the authentic version of the Old-Fashioned. Our mixologist–
Woman: What’s a mixologist?
Server: She makes our cocktails.
Man: Like a bartender?
By Scaachi Koul - Friday, July 20, 2012 at 2:08 PM - 0 Comments
A food historian, a food writer and a chef all chime in on the trend that’s been around for longer than you think.
How do you like your burger? Well, you need the juicy patty, of course, and maybe some lettuce and tomatoes. Any ketchup? Some mayo? And how many gold leafs do you want it wrapped in?
Last week, a New York City food truck launched a $666 “Douche Burger.” It’s a foie gras-stuffed Kobe beef patty with Gruyere cheese (melted with Champagne steam, of course), topped with caviar, truffles and lobster. It’s then wrapped in six gold leaf sheets.
Although the burger was intended to make fun of the super-rich, the owner actually received legitimate requests for it, showing the demand for high-priced grub.
The most unorthodox ingredient—edible gold—isn’t exactly a new gastronomical trend.
Magic Oven, a pizzeria in Toronto, has had a 24k gold leaf-garnished pizza for $108 on their menu for several years now.
Although eating gold sounds like the ultimate in gourmet luxury, it has no taste, texture, and adds nothing to a meal other than, quite literally, a lot of glitter.
“It certainly was being used in large feasts in the Middle Ages,” says Dr. Heather Evans, a food expert and historian. “This was the period that people referred to as the Dark Ages. Among the upper class, the small percent that had loads of money, this was a really glamorous, luxurious era. They wanted their fancy stuff.”
Toronto food writer Corey Mintz finds the gold-eating trend an act of inexcusable opulence. “Eating gold is the absolute height of tastelessness,” Mintz says. “If you find yourself eating gold, just take a moment for self-reflection, you’ll see just what a callous act it is.”
But Executive chef at Toronto restaurant Aria, Eron Novalski, has a simple explanation of why restaurants use gold leaf in their food. “It’s gold. It kind of speaks for itself.”
When Aria first opened, the menu included an opera cake garnished with gold leaf. “When I studied in France, we used to use a lot of it in pastries, and it’s become a trend to augment a dish,” Novalski says. “The glistening, the flakes—it’s almost like fire.”
It’s not cheap, either. A sheet of edible gold could cost as much as $50, depending on the carats.
Unlike other expensive ingredients or garnishes—like caviar—edible gold adds nothing to a meal other than, quite literally, dollar signs. “Take something like a truffle oil,” says Mintz. “It can be wonderful with, say, an egg. In macaroni and cheese, it’s just a way to make something seem fancy or expensive.”
“The cynic in me would say it’s a little bit of a gimmick,” Evans says. Mintz adds that advertising gold in your restaurant’s dishes is sometimes more of an advertising ploy to get customers in the room, only to have them buy a $12 meal.
“Right now in times of austerity, we’re all a little hungry for that sense of luxury that many of us might feel that we have lost,” Evans says.
That sense of luxury is popping up on low-brow dishes with high-brow ingredients, like burgers or pizzas topped with $50 worth of gold. In fact, the World Record Academy even has a sub-category for most expensive foods with gold. The most expensive pizza in the world with gold is at Margo’s Pizzeria in Malta, with nearly a $400 USD price tag. The Douche Burger is the world’s most expensive gold-covered burger. “People are trying to put new twists on classic foods,” Novalski says. “Now it’s coming to gold leaf.”
Evans says that the presence of gold on low-brow, casual dishes is similar to how replications in the fashion industry work. “Just like fashion, what we see on the runway one season shows up in a reduced and much cheaper version in Walmart in another season,” she says. “People are having access to that higher end food.”
Accessible or not, eating gold is still the height of gastronomical excess. “I’m all for waste,” Mintz says. “But for most people, if it seems like something only a Bond villain would eat, you should not eat it.”
By Jessica Allen - Friday, June 1, 2012 at 6:31 PM - 0 Comments
1. I’m not crazy about sous vide anything.
2. I’d choose really good butter over foie gras, if those were my two dessert island options.
3. Quinoa recipes always tell you to rinse the quinoa before cooking it. I have never done this. Wait, that’s a lie: I did rinse quinoa once and then spent an hour trying to clean my mesh strainer. I will never do it again. Also, I have never had black quinoa.
4. Eggplant recipes always tell you to sprinkle slices of the vegetable with salt, layer them up and then put something heavy on top–in order to remove bitter juices or something. I have never done this either. Wait, another lie: I did it once and thought, “why would anyone do all this work in order to prepare an average-tasting vegetable for consumption?” I think my eggplant parmigiana, caponata and ratatouille all taste fine despite skipping this step.
5. I don’t wash fruit before eating it. Lemons, grapes, apple, doesn’t matter. I am especially opposed to washing strawberries.
6. I don’t like sweet breads. (I just heard millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror.) But I keep ordering them in restaurants. You know why? BECAUSE THEY ARE ALWAYS COVERED IN DELICIOUS BREADCRUMBS AND THEN FRIED IN BUTTER AND SERVED WITH DELICIOUS SAUCES. People who say they like eating thyroid glands and pancreases are probably lying. They just like eating stuff that’s breaded and fried.
7. I don’t care for chicken like everybody else does. But I do like a quarter chicken dinner (with fries) from Swiss Chalet about twice a year. I love pork chops.
8. I don’t like it when restaurants advertise “zucchini carpaccio” or ” beet carpaccio” on their menus. Those things aren’t carpaccio. Carpaccio is raw beef tenderloin, sometimes gently seared. Zucchini carpaccio is raw zucchini.
9. I like showing off at dinner parties and on dates by boldly deboning whole fish and whacking off the head and the tail. I’m not actually very good at it, though. But if you do it with vigour and confidence, people won’t notice that you just mangled a perfectly good whole fish.
10. I will not buy cheap olive oil or “parmesan.” I will, however, stock up on Dr. Oetker’s frozen pizza when they go on sale, sometimes as low as three for $10.
11. Despite them being on the cover of magazines, the subjects of endless blogs, Tweets and print stories, I have never seen one of these new Toronto food trucks.
12. I have never eaten at a “pop-up” anything.
Whew! That felt great. Feel free to get your confessions–preferably just food-related ones–off your chest too.