Saturday, December 25, 2010
Pie Is the New Cupcake: Pie has been sitting back, gaining momentum for a while, waiting for cupcakes to get over themselves. We saw pie all over menus this year, well before Thanksgivingtime. Sweet and savory; minis and normal-sized; graham cracker, pretzel, butter and leaf lard crusts; in a milkshake or on a stick. At Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls, Texas, they have an afternoon pie happy hour where you can score a slice and a drink for $3. Hill Country Chicken, which opened this year in Manhattan, does it too. Over in Brooklyn, the pie shop Four and Twenty Blackbirds makes a double-crusted strawberry balsamic pie and grapefruit custard ones. Whether they're age-old recipes or newfangled ones, pie is always a happy-maker. Step off, cupcakes.
New Food TV Shows: Food Network launched a second cable channel in May called Cooking Channel that aimed to be the newer, edgier baby. The programs targeted a hipper crowd interested in the grassroots of food culture. Paula Deen, for one, does not have a time slot on the channel. But three young guys from Canada who build taco vending machines do (they're on a show called Food Jammers). We also tuned in to watch some of the many new shows: Indian Food Made Easy, Rachel Allen Bake!, and The Great Food Truck Race. We were also very fascinated by Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution miniseries this spring. He not only exposed the unhealthy state of West Virginia's school lunch program, but also dressed as a peapod.
Korean Tacos: Since the Kogi truck started roaming the streets of Los Angeles in early 2009, it has inspired a cult following. Many trucks across the country have adopted the Kogi model, including Marination Mobile in Seattle and KOi in Portland. The idea of Korean tacos isn't technically new—Koreans have been wrapping kalbi in lettuce leaves, in a taco-like fashion, for a while. But now people are actually calling them Korean tacos. Pork bulgogi and short rib topped with shredded cabbage and cilantro...they're popping up on menus all over, including non-trucks, like the brick-and-mortar Seoul Station in NYC.
Coffee Toys and Cuppings: Mr. Coffee and even his friend the French Press are getting pushed aside for brewing gadgets like the Aeropress (a pressurized space-age-looking tube), Clever Dripper (cone dripper that uses a gravity valve) and Chemex (stylish blown glass that uses the pourover method). We even hipped up and got a Chemex for the office! The coffee culture is expanding, looking more and more like that of wine. It's no longer just a caffeine delivery system, but something to savor and sip. Ooh, notes of cranberries and dank moss! (There are no wrong answers, right?) Coffee growers, traders, and roasters taste varieties side-by-side in a ritual known as cuppings, which even lay drinkers are getting into now and attending like wine tastings.
Miss Parloa's New Cook Book
Salt Swooning: Using salt is nothing new, of course. But using non-table-salts and showing them off as ingredients—salted caramel gelato, smoked salt on sardines, and just recently Wendy's introduced natural-cut fries with sea salt. This year, selmelier (pretty cool title, right?) Mark Bitterman came out with a book called Salted, a salt encyclopedia on its origins, customs, and recipes. Bitterman runs a shop with his wife in Portland, Oregon, called The Meadow that sells a library of finishing salts, and they just opened a sister shop in Manhattan. Are we turning into salt snobs? Or is it about time we started paying more attention to the pantry staple? And does pepper have a PR rep yet?
GIY: Grow it Yourself: Buying your tomatoes from a farm just 40 miles away, sure that's nice and all, but very 2009 of you. Grow them yourself! This year was marked by a GIY attitude. Being able to grow your own herbs and produce became trendy. It's good to see more people getting dirt under their fingernails and feeling closer to their food. It's as local as it gets.
Designer Ice Cubes: This trend is cool, literally. Sure it's just frozen water, but serious bartenders are hand-chipping ice to order with shiny chisels. It's becoming part of the behind-the-bar craftsmanship, right up there with the alcohol itself. Thad Vogler, the owner of Bar Agricole in the Bay Area, spent about $4,500 on a Kold-Draft machine, which makes about 650 pounds of one-inch cubes a day. The Kold-Draft forms bigger-than-normal cubes so the drink chills faster and dilutes less quickly. Vogler also purchased the Norlake ice crusher for about $2,000 to make those smaller pellets. Or you can just spend $13.95 on this bullet-shaped ice cube tray.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
The holidays are upon us and that means multi-course, epic meals and countless opportunities to flex your beer and food pairing muscles. Ten years ago, hardly anyone was talking about how well the wide array of beers now available compliment different foods but the craft brewing renaissance has changed all of that. Foodies now know that craft beer has all of the distinction, diversity and food compatibility of wine and it has finally made it as an adult this holiday season. Light lager is refreshing and ubiquitous but rarely a great partner for flavor-forward foods. Craft beers have a lot more flavor and diversity. Yup, they will usually have a little higher calorie count then their light lager cousins but holidays are the time to relax and reward yourself. Suck it up and go for a jog or bike ride the next day but life's too short to resist treating yourself when so many great beer options are now available coast to coast.
First off, everyone's palate is different, that's why there are so many different kinds of beers and these suggestions should be taken as just that: suggestions, not mandates. The most sweeping wine analogy I can offer when considering beers to pair with food is this: ales tend to be more fruity and robust, like red wines, so they generally pair with foods in a similar way (e.g., steak, spaghetti & meatballs); lagers are similar to white wines, refined and mellow, so they pair better with more delicate foods (e.g., grilled fish, sushi).
So here are some suggestions for pairing beers with some common holiday food groups that your are bound to run into or are planning to cook up for guests yourself this season.
This is the de facto way into many a holiday meal and, while wines may go pretty well with some cheeses, the carbonation and diversity in beer make it a better partner. The bubbles in beer exfoliate the tongue of the fatty weight of the cheese to prepare you for the next bite. Some great combinations:
•Fresh mozzarella and a nice bready, spicy white beer like Avery White Rascal or Allagash White.
•Sharp aged cheddar with a hoppy beer like Russian River's Pliney the Elder or Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA.
•Roquefort or a big stinky bleu with a beer with some serious body and darker roasty grains, like Thomas Hardy's Ale or Deschutes Abyss.
•Sirloin steak is usually paired with dry, tannic red wines; however, this classic dish is a great partner for spicy beers like Saison du Pont or Chimay Red.
•A pork chop's lighter meat has more subtle flavors so you don't want to overpower it with too big of a bee so opt for a German bock, like Schneider Aventinus or an Amber Ale like New Belgium Fat Tire.
•Glazed ham is both sweet and salty, so it needs an earthy and fruity beer as a partner, like Theakston Old Peculiar Ale or Brooklyn Brown Ale.
•New England clam chowder is a thick, rich soup that has a lot of tongue-coating cream and a salty flavor, but it can be overwhelmed by too strong a beer. Opt for a stout, like Murphy's or Guinness.
•Lobster is a dish that goes really well with traditional lager, like Heineken or Yuengling Lager.
•Grilled tuna (assuming it is lightly seasoned and unadorned with a heavy cream sauce) goes well with a mid-body lager, like Troeg's Troegenator or Sam Adams' Double Bock.
•Fried fish and chips needs a beer that is dry and bubbly enough to cut through the palate-coating batter. I recommend Bink Blonde Hoppy Golden Ale or Birra del Borgo ReAle.
•Whether it is pure chocolate bars and candy or rich chocolate cakes, I think the ultimate beer and food pairing is any type of chocolate and dark roasty imperial stout. Try Ten FIDY from Oskar Blues or Chicory Stout from Dogfish Head.