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Chamomile for Cocktails

Marolo's Grappa & Camomile, an Italian liqueur made by infusing chamomile flowers in Nebbiola-grape grappa, has been around for a while, but it's starting to get some love from good bartenders like Kelley Swenson at Portland, Oregon's Ten 01. His chamomile sour was my first run-in with chamomile mixed in a cocktail. It changed my opinion of the herb, which had always been colored by its role as the oldest, crustiest tea bag leftover in the "mixed herbal tea" sampler. Combined with gin, lemon juice, and honey, the Grappa & Camomile took a simple sour and gave it a twist of earthy, floral flavor. It was an eyeopener to someone who had previously regarded chamomile as tasting like watery dirt.

Chamomile cocktail action has also been spotted at San Francisco's Cask Spirits, in the form of J. Witty Organic Chamomile Liqueur, and at New York City's Death + Company, where Old Overholt Rye is infused with chamomile, then mixed with Campari and St. Germain.

New Fermentation Craze Developments

Kombucha, once solely the drink of people who wear Crystal Body Deodorant, landed on the front page of the New York Times Styles section a couple weeks back, marking its graduation into the mainstream. Fermented products in general are having a heyday: kimchee, sauerkraut, cured meats, coffee, craft beer, stinky cheese, no-knead bread, yogurt. Here are some interesting new developments in the fermentation movement.


When Did “Cheeseburger” Become a Flavor?

Throw away that can of cheeseburger-flavored Pringles—not just on general principle, but because the company is issuing a recall of that flavor of chips, plus its taco-flavored chips. The Christian Science Monitor, which has published a complete list of recalled brands, writes:

"The chips contain hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), a common 'flavor-enhancer,' made by Basic Food Flavors, Inc., that has been found to be contaminated with salmonella."


Pickle Your Cocktails

Pickled things have been going strong on the trend-o-meter for a while, and now they are hitting the bar, going a few steps beyond the dirty martini. Grub Street has been a tireless picklespotter, noting that New York City's The Breslin is serving "off-the-menu pickle backs" (a shot of pickle juice to go with whisky) and Chicago's The Drawing Room is making a Chicago Dog Caipirinha, made with cachaca, sport peppers, and a celery-salt rim (there are no actual hot dogs involved).

Also spotted at 10 Downing Food & Wine in New York City, where a cocktail called the Pickle is made by muddling dill and cucumbers with salt and simple syrup; and in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the Black Forest Inn makes a Krautini with sauerkraut juice, Steinhäger (a mild German gin), and a touch of Kümmel, a German caraway seed liqueur. "I've heard more often than not 'I'm surprised how much I like it'," says Erica Christ, the bar manager at the Black Forest Inn. "People who would get a dirty martini really do like that pickley, sour, salty taste...Still we do get about one in five that is like BLECH!"

Make your own pickle-enhanced cocktail using our Martinowitz recipe (pictured).

Image source: Christopher Rochelle,

Pistachios Are Everywhere!

Pistachios have been showing up in desserts, encrusting fish, paired with meats, on top of salads, and even in cocktails at restaurants around the country. They make any dish taste meatier, they are pretty and green, and they are packed with vitamins.

Spotted at: Farm 255 restaurant in Athens, Georgia, in a pistachio Manhattan made with Dumante Verdenoce pistachio liqueur; in a pistachio frangipane (a pastry filling typically flavored with almonds) fig tart at New York City's Nougatine restaurant; in pistachio-crusted cod with cauliflower risotto and curry oil at Atlanta, Georgia's Canoe restaurant; and served with pork shoulder with chard, roses, and figs at Boulder, Colorado's Black Cat restaurant.

"The fig-rose combination is straight out of Persian cuisine, however it is a nontraditional use, as it is normally a dessert," says Eric Skokan, the chef at Black Cat. He makes what's known in Middle Eastern cuisine as a tarator sauce out of the pistachios to serve alongside the fruit-laced meat. It's a creamy dippin' sauce, normally made with tahini (not to be confused with tartar sauce).

Try one of's pistachio recipes.

Image source: Flickr member theogeo under Creative Commons

Earl Grey Is In

Earl Grey tea has more of a "pinkies up" vibe than tattooed pastry chefs with gauged earrings, but the tea is being explored as a trendy dessert and cocktail flavoring by folks like Luis Villavelazquez, the executive pastry chef at Absinthe and Arlequin Café in San Francisco. At Absinthe, he's currently serving Earl Grey shortbread with honey Jell-O and mixed citrus sorbet. The tea's floral and citrus aromas make it work naturally with citrus desserts, as well as floral fruits such as quince, explains Villavelazquez. Instead of steeping the tea or making an infusion to flavor his pastries, Villavelazquez says he "spice-grinds it fine into a powder and either mixes it in with the dry ingredients, or the fat." He also digs the way the tea "brings a winter scent" to seasonal desserts.

Also spotted at: Sugar Cube, a new dessert truck in Philadelphia, where it flavors the crème anglaise served on chocolate bread pudding (another trend!); Rye in Williamsburg, in a desserty cockatil called the "hot buttered rye" made with tea, molasses, rye whiskey, and spiced butter; 2941 in Falls Church, Virginia in chocolate cake served with Earl Grey ice cream, almond nougatine, and blood orange segments.

Hungarian Curly-Haired Pig Is In

Mangalitsa pigs, a curly-haired Hungarian breed introduced to the U.S. just a few years ago, are the darling of pork-obsessed chefs, who love cooking with their succulent meat and plentiful lard. "With the Mangalitsa, it's a fine cooking pork, but really, it's all about the fat," says Keith Luce, who instigated a program at Washington State's Herbfarm restaurant to raise its own Mangalitsas a few miles from the restaurant. "We rendered the fat, we whipped it, and spread it on bread." Here are some of the Herbfarm's pigs in action:

Also spotted: in San Francisco, on Ryan Farr's upcoming winter roast dinner menu in a terrine that will also be made with with smoked lengua, head cheese, and blood sausage, then be baked in brioche; Ibérico-style as an appetizer at Elements in Princeton, New Jersey; in Chicago at The Bristol, where Grub Street reports its brains are being mixed with ricotta and stuffed into tortelloni, as well as at Blackbird, which is currently serving an entire tasting menu dedicated to the pig through the end of the month that includes a dish made with smoked whipped lardo, radishes, nasturtiums, and sea beans.

There are only a handful of American Mangalitsa producers (see a list here). If you want to try cooking it at home, Foods In Season will ship pork raised by Wooly Pigs, the Washington state-based company that first imported the breed to the U.S.

Caesar Salads Are Out, Grilled Lettuce Salads Are In

Caesar salads are reappearing on menus, but in cooked form. You don't usually think of grilling or pan-frying lettuce, but doing so magically changes it into something more umami and exciting. Spotted: at Farm 255 in Athens, Georgia, with fried capers and an anchovy vinaigrette; at Savannah's Cha-Bella with seared shrimp and scallops; and at FIG in Santa Monica, where little gem lettuce (rather than romaine) is charred on the stovetop, then dressed with lemon and anchovy juice (you can substitute a bit of fish sauce if you are experimenting at home).

"We make it to order," says FIG chef Ray Garcia. "A big part of the salad is to have contrast of textures and temperatures."

Try making your own by throwing romaine in a hot, hot oiled pan (preferably a cast iron skillet) until it blisters, then dressing it with CHOW's Caesar Dressing, croutons, and shaved Parmesan cheese. CHOW's Grilled Greek Salad recipe is another fun hot lettuce number.

Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding Is In

No longer just a way for restaurants to use up stale rolls, bread pudding is appearing on dessert menus with a lot more creative love. Essentially just bread soaked in milk and eggs then baked so it turns into custard, it's easy to embellish and riff on depending on the type of bread you use (croissants, baguettes, stale cake, etc.) and the mix-ins you add.

Chocolate chip banana bread pudding with whiskey gelato is on the menu at Chicago's Uncommon Ground, and in Brooklyn, Buttermilk Channel is serving roast apple bread pudding, with warm butterscotch sauce and whipped cream. You'll find it on almost every menu in New Orleans, but arguably the most rad is the Krispy Kreme bread pudding at Boucherie.

Boucherie's chef Nathanial Zimet hails from North Carolina where the doughnut company is based. In his New Orleans restaurant, he combines 24 doughnuts, 3 pounds of pound cake, 1 1/2 quarts of cream, and 9 eggs, soaks it all for about 20 minutes, then bakes it. "It's, like, disgustingly awesome," he says. "We make pans of it, and the staff eats the little edges. One of the servers, she's really skinny, calls them her 'hips.' She eats them and says 'I'm just trying to get my hips!’”

Make one of's bread puddings:
Croissant and Armangac Bread Pudding
Bread Pudding with Orange Caramel Sauce

Mostarda Is In

[caption id="attachment_36103" align="alignright" width="290" caption="The mixed-fruit mostarda di Cremona is one of the most well-known versions of the relish."]Mostarda di Cremona is one of the most well-known versions of the relish.[/caption]

Mostarda, an Italian relish of fruit preserved in mustard syrup is passing up aioli as the trendy condiment of the moment. "I think it's popular right now because it can be made with all kinds of seasonal fruit--cherries in the spring, stonefruit in the summer, pears and apples in the winter," says chef Lauren Kiino, a partner at Il Cane Rosso in San Francisco, which often serves a seasonal mostarda on its porchetta sandwich. "It is a really versatile way to dress meat: pork, game, and duck especially."

Also spotted at: Le Cirque in New York city, made with quince and served with suckling pig; Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles, made with pears, and served with crispy duck al mattone and Brussels sprouts; and Momofuku Ssäm Bar, also made with pears and served with pig's head and sauerkraut.

Image source: Flickr member Sifalcia under Creative Commons