Trend-o-Meter rss

Our favorite products, gadgets, restaurants, bars, wine, beer, and food websites and blogs.

Vadouvan Is In

Vadouvan or "French curry," a sultry blend of Indian spices with shallots and garlic, is showing up on menus everywhere. Jeremy Fox, the executive chef at Ubuntu in Napa, says any dish on his menu that has it sells well. His house-made blend contains "30 toasted spices, lots of shallot and garlic, orange peel, brown butter, and spices. I don't want to give them all away, but there's turmeric and fenugreek."

Spotted at: Ubuntu, with clay-roasted pumpkin, dates, almonds, baby cilantro, and preserved lemon; Providence in Los Angeles, flavoring a dish of turbot, cauliflower, tomato, and marcona almonds; Le Bernardin in New York City, spicing a broth served with crab and zucchini panna cotta; the American Restaurant in Kansas City, with poached walu fish, kabocha squash, Granny Smith apples, and pepita succotash; and Philadelphia's Supper, in deviled eggs (full recipe here).

Try your hand at making it with this recipe from Epicurious, or order Le Sanctuaire's fancy made-to-order mix (pictured).

Beignets Are In!

I guess the maple-bacon doughnut trend was too played out. The latest incarnation of the deep-fried doughball is the frittery, doughnut-y beignet, made famous in New Orleans. Spotted: with bacon as an appetizer at the new Frances restaurant in San Francisco; with maple and bacon at Abattoir in Atlanta; and in pumpkin flavor served with coconut curry ice cream at Boka in Chicago.

Image source: Flickr member clamhead under Creative Commons

Trend-O-Meter Says: Bread & Jam Is In (10/16/09)

Who doesn’t love a good bread-and-jam combo? More restaurants are seeing how, done right, it can be a pretty thing on a menu. It was spotted at Culver City, California’s Akasha, where you can choose among breads, including one made from spelt, served with strawberry jam. And also at Duck Fat in Portland, Maine, as grilled brioche topped with your choice of berry jams and mascarpone cheese, Nutella, or peanut butter. And though not technically jammy, in the spirit of the thing: a dessert being served at NYC’s Prune that’s called “butter and sugar sandwiches with raspberries.”

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Image source: Flickr member moriza under Creative Commons

Trend-O-Meter Says: Landjäger Is In (10/2/09)

Think of them of them as gourmet Slim Jims: Bavarian hunting sausages, a.k.a. landjäger, have been spotted: at Grab specialty market in Park Slope, Brooklyn; on the menu at Prime Meats restaurant in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn; and done Russian style, sold in piles on top of the deli counter at New World Market in San Francisco. Good for skiing or backpacking, they’re handheld, smoky, salty, and dry. Buy them online here.

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Image source: Flickr member acme under Creative Commons

Trend-O-Meter Says: Craft Lager Is In (9/21/09)

Until now, craft brewers were more likely to be producing ales than lagers—the kind of light, golden beer that Coors, Miller, Anheuser-Busch, etc. make. But recently they’ve been playing with more flavorful, playful versions of the style.

Spotted: Shmaltz Brewing’s Freaktoberfest beer, which pours red and may or may not contain zombie blood; Moonlight Brewing’s Death & Taxes, a superdark, chocolaty, coffee-tasting beer that’s light-bodied and lower in alcohol than you might think; Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils, featured as a top pick in CHOW’s Summer Beers with Brains story. We called it “the type of light, crisp pilsner you’re used to from Budweiser and Tecate, but classed up with a malty backbone and low-key spice from the hops.”

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Trend-O-Meter Says: Honey Is In (9/14/09)

It’s hard for New Yorkers to get back to nature, but at least they can do it vicariously through what they put in their stomachs. Honey, that ultimate au naturel product, has been spotted in the truffle-flavored variety, poured over sheep’s milk ricotta at Locanda Verde restaurant in Manhattan, in honeycomb candy from Brooklyn-based Liddabit Sweets, and in Brooklyn Buzz mead, carried at many craft beer bars, including Brooklyn’s Spuyten Duyvil. Local honey from NYC bees? Yes, there’s that too. Brooklyn Honey, harvested from rooftop hives, was on sale over the weekend at the opening day of the Greenpoint Food Market in Brooklyn.

Try CHOW’s recipe for infusing your own Oat and Honey Vodka.

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Image source: Flickr member Don Hankins under Creative Commons

Trend-O-Meter Says: Mexican Corn Is In (8/31/09)

Grilled sweet corn slathered in lime-y mayonnaise (a.k.a. elote) is a Mexican street-food classic that’s creeping northward into the messy, messy hands of insatiable Americans. Various takes on the dish have been spotted at NYC’s three Dos Caminos restaurants, as well as at the Vegas outpost (where the name of the dish is amusingly changed from “Mexico City Street Corn” to “Mexico City Style Corn on the Cob.” Tourists didn’t like the sound of Mexico City’s streets, eh?).

Mexican corn was also drooled over in the August 10-17 issue of New York magazine, with Cabrito chef David Schuttenberg’s version of esquites, elote cut off the cob, spotlighted. But the ultimate mark of stateside acceptance came with the September/October issue of Cook’s Illustrated, in which the magazine, not known for its trendiness, presented a recipe for the dish that features sour cream, Pecorino Romano, and cilantro leaves instead of the traditional pungent epazote.

Our version has Cotija and mayo, as God intended.

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Trend-O-Meter Says: Homemade Soda Is In (8/26/09)

Ever wonder why most soda is obnoxiously sweet when it could just taste like fruit with carbonation? Thanks to the food blog Becks & Posh, we found out about an actually delicious naturally-fermented soda being sold at San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. It’s called Drinkwell, and is made with seasonal fruits, sugar, and whey (yes, the stuff from milk.) It’s pumped from 5-gallon kegs into reusable metal canteens. To get its bubbles, it’s exposed to the air, where naturally occurring yeasts and bacteria ferment the beverage. The day I visited, lemon verbena, cucumber mint, and strawberry flavors were on offer. Lorraine Ottens, the sodamaker, says a sweet potato flavor is in the works for fall.

There are restaurants making seasonal, natural sodas too: Hotlips Pizza, in Portland, OR does blackberry soda on tap, which has real pulp in it; you can also buy it in bottles. Tilth restaurant in Seattle does cranberry mint soda, among others, and Duckfat, in Portland, ME is famous for its sodas, such as strawberry and hyssop.

You can also make your own: CHOW’s rootbeer recipe uses yeast, and our ginger beer recipe relies on yeasts and bacteria in the air.

Or, if you are in the Los Angeles area, stop by this guy’s soda shop to pick up all sorts of small-batch sodas (including bottles of the aforementioned blackberry from Hotlips Pizza):

Photo by Sam Breach, of Becks & Posh.

Trend-O-Meter Says: Grits Are In (8/21/09)

Southern food is in, and grits are everywhere, displacing their fancy Euro-cousin polenta. Spotted: organic, yellow, and infused with goat’s milk whey at Ubuntu in Napa, California; “Garden Grits” at Portland, Oregon’s Screen Door restaurant with spinach, grilled tomatoes, onions, and provolone; made with blue corn at Jax Fish House in Boulder, Colorado, and served with lamb rack, tomato confit, and mint pistou; and pan-fried into a cake and served with root beer-braised short ribs at La Petite Grocery in New Orleans, Lousiana.

Chef tip: “You definitely get a creamier result with the stone-ground grits [than the instant kind], because the long cooking and continuous stirring helps release more starch,” says Justin Devillier, the chef at La Petite Grocery. Falls Mill and Anson Mills are two brands that are popular with chefs.

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Trend-O-Meter Says: Beef Jerky Is In (8/14/09)

Spotted: Sold by the quarter pound, at the Country Cat in Portland, OR; as a snack (along with house-made Slim Jims!) at new Atlanta restaurant Abbatoir; and at Toby’s Public House, in Brooklyn, made by the bartender, Bam.