The end of the year can only mean one thing: Summary year-end lists and trends forecasting. Here’s mine, from the January issue of House & Home magazine. The list is the same, but the writing isn’t (trying not to plagiarize myself here), so enjoy, and try them out, and why not pass them along? Here they are, in no particular order. I, for one, think we have a lot of delicious things to look forward to in 2011. Let me know if you agree. (And go suck an egg if you don't.)
1. Pop-Tarts Redux: Nostalgia never goes out of style. Case in point, the reemergence of that childhood favourite, the Pop-Tart. The world’s first pop-up Pop-Tart restaurant recently launched in Times Square, where the iconic toasted confection is being spun into menu items like the Fluffer Butter, marshmallow spread sandwiched between two Pop-Tarts frosted fudge pastries; and Sticky Cinna Munchies -- cinnamon rolls topped with cream-cheese icing and chunks of Pop-Tarts cinnamon-roll variety. But we prefer the slightly healthier home-baked varieties using simple wholesome ingredients via internet-spawned viral recipes.
2. Greek-style Yogurt: Yogurt is one of the fastest growing segments in the supermarket, and Greek-style yogurt, specifically is in high demand. Why? It’s thick, rich-tasting and delicious. When topped with good quality honey, it also makes for a dessert-worthy dish of Greek decadence. What’s more, doctors and magazines such as Cooking Light agree that eating a snack with protein rather than just carbs can help curb hunger, which in turn keeps daily calories in check, and this is where this new generation of thick low-fat yogurt comes in extra handy. With our favourite brand, Fage, finally hitting Canadian stores, we’re eating more of it than ever. Added bonuses: It’s rich in B12 (perfect for fighting off those winter blues) and is full of good-for-your-belly live bacteria.
3. Friendly Butchers: Last year the culinary rock stars were organic farmers, but this year it’s the friendly butcher’s turn to shine. People are taking butchery courses, are raising their own animals (or buying a share in one), and befriending the hip baseball-capped meat purveyors behind the shiny counters at new organic spots such as Kensington Market’s Sanagan’s Meat Locker or the consistently smiley service at stalwarts like Cumbrae's and Armando’s on Granville Island. Our newly forged relationships mean our butchers know what we like and will go to the back to get us the grass-fed hormone free beef that we desire.
4. Coconut Water: We’re touting it as this year’s “it” food. From its pure, potassium-rich water to its virgin oil being spun into products ranging from skin care to nutritional supplements (helping in the realms of digestion and high blood pressure), the coconut’s benefits are attributed to lauric adicd, capric acid and capyrlic acid. But let’s not forget its toasted flakes topping our buttercream-iced cupcakes or its rich milk stirred into our favourite curries. We also wouldn’t say no to a pina colada right about now. Still, the slightly sweet water straight from the young green coconut is perhaps the purest form of our favourite new ingredient (though we also enjoy the Vita Coco and Zico brands when we can’t get it fresh from the nut.)
5. Smoked everything: We loved it in BarChef’s Smoked Manhattan, in our favourite new smoked finishing salt and in our smoked meats, be it a Montreal smoked meat sandwich at Caplansky’s or the perfect BBQ at Brooklyn’s Fatty ‘Cue. Smoke is everywhere this year, and we’re totally addicted to its earthy, warming appeal. How to get the taste at home? While chefs prize their Big Green Eggs, we’re secretly coveting the Kalamaoo Outdoor Gourmet K900HS hybrid freestanding grill (starting at a mere $15,895). Bottom line: From mesquite wood chips to BBQ sauce, smoke is hot.
6. Fried Chicken: Dished out from Harlem soul food kitchens to upmarket Jean-George’s restaurants, fried chicken is eaten down south, up north and throughout the belly of Canada. We’ve discovered that Korean chicken joints make some of the best stuff around – and Momofuku’s David Chang recently invented the superlative take on Korean fried chicken. Be it the Popeye’s chain or Thomas Keller’s crunchy dish at Ad Hoc, this is simple home cooking that’s also a finger licking guilty pleasure.
7. Young Chef Brigade: A new breed of chefs in their twenties and thirties aren’t waiting around to be given the chance to helm a kitchen – instead they’re making their own kitchens, and everything goes in them, in their largely bare-bones, nose-to-tail, field-to-table restaurants opened on a shoestring budget (in restaurant terms.) For instance, Toronto chef Nathan Iseberg opened The Atlantic with an initial budget of just $600!
8. Urban Bee Keeping: We’ve gone from growing herbs and heirloom vegetable gardens, to raising backyard chickens (for eggs) and now urban bee keeping. Some cities allow beekeeping, some ignore it and others have bylaws that restrict or ban the activity. Calgary has nothing on the books that doesn’t allow for keeping honeybees, providing they’re not a nuisance, while Ontario has a provincial regulation that does not allow bee hives within 100 ft of a property line. That said, from Manhattan rooftops to neighbourhood hives, we’re all abuzz about joining the ranks of these pollinating superstars, and we can’t wait to get our hands on the UK- designed urban bee hive called the Beehaus. Plus, it goes without saying that their sweet honey is the bee’s knees.
9. Kale Chips: A powerhouse of a vegetable married with a tasty crunchy snack? Who knew that eating our rich leafy greens could taste so sinful? Places like Live Food Bar and better health food stores have started packaging and selling them and Mark Bittman even showed us how to make them at the NYTimes web site: That’s what called hitting critical kale chip mass.
10. Fregola Sarda: This tiny toasted handmade Sardinian pasta has a unique nutty flavour and addictively tender bite. It’s also good for you; it has less carbs more dietary fibre and fewer calories than a typical pasta. Cooked in broth like rice, it’s a saucy side dish complimenting a simple fish dishes or rustic roasted meats, but cooked then cooled like Israeli couscous, it also makes for a great salad. It's popping up on rustic Italian restaurant menus from Noce in Toronto to Manhattan's hot new the Lambs Club.
That's all for now. Best wishes from the National Nosh, for a healthy, happy and delicious new year. And please, don’t forget to cook!