The Way We Ate in 2011
Friday, December 30, 2011
Most of us don’t go around wondering what we’ll be eating next year, and it’s always seemed to me that “trend” lists were something invented by the media to keep ourselves busy. But so much changed so fast last year that I’m taking a look back at what we ate - and why. And then - forgive me - I’m going to project what these choices might tell us about what we’ll be eating next year.
2011 was the year when kale became cool. It probably has something to do with the wide availability of lacinata kale (also known as Tuscan or dinosaur kale), which is so much more versatile than the ordinary kind. We ate it roasted (into healthy chips), sauteed (with just about everything), and raw (as a major salad ingredient). This is very good news for the other leafy greens: next year I expect to see more collard, turnip and mustard greens showing up on our dinner plates.
Salty Caramel Everything
Americans have always loved the conjunction of salty and sweet. Pastry chefs everywhere started salting their desserts. This year that was expressed in the explosion of salted caramel puddings, candies and sauces. Next year? Expect a plethora of savory sweets. Cocktail cookies anyone?
A few years ago everyone was talking about the way salsa had replaced catsup as the condiment of choice. This year Sriracha trumped salsa, showing up in a wide variety of recipes. When I visited the Wired cafeteria, I discovered a bottle of Sriracha on every table. Next year, Korean flavors will make a giant surge, and kimchi may push Sriracha off its perch.
It all started (in this country at least), with Nutella. Once sophisticated palates embraced the marriage of chocolate and hazelnuts, they went looking for a better brand. The result? Eataly sells about ten different varieties of Gianduia. Next year: other nuts will be folded into chocolate, for a wider variety of flavors.
Bitters, Bitters, Bitters
Mixologists embraced bitters in a very big way. That’s big news, because Americans have never embraced bitter flavors. In the long term this will pave the way for a whole new range of bitter foods. But what I see in our immediate future is an explosion of home-made bitters.
Macarons in a wide variety of colors and flavors, battled it out with cupcakes. The macarons won. Next year, I think, pie will win the sweets sweepstakes, and we’ll see pie shops springing up all over.
Meatball sliders are so 2010. 2011 was the year of everything else: oyster sliders, pork belly sliders, fried chicken sliders. They’re cute, they’re delicious - and there are still a lot of unexplored possibilities. I don’t expect to say good-bye to the slider anytime soon.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
It’s the title, mostly that's so irresistible. On menus everywhere this year, the ubiquitous dessert may mean that puddings of all sorts are ready for their closeup.
In 2011 it was every chef’s favorite ingredient. But it’s just uncured bacon - and the bacon craze continues unabated.