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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Trends

TRENDS: Cutting Edge Flavors For 2009


Grains of Paradise: Largely confined to West
Africa, these tiny seeds are related to
cardamom, and resemble the seeds inside
cardamom pods.
Want to know what the cutting edge flavors will be at top restaurants this year?

According to trade weekly Nation’s Restaurant News, they’ll be these rarities:

- Grains of paradise from Africa
- Korean black garlic
- Torch ginger from Singapore
- True red pepper from India
- Unpasteurized barley miso—from Massachusetts

Read more about them, and who’s using them with what kind of dishes.

Two of the obscure ingredients, grains of paradise and true red pepper, are in THE NIBBLE’s Varietal Peppercorn Glossary.

For more flavor fun, see McCormick’s 10 flavor pairings for 2009, with 12 tempting recipes.

Shop igourmet.com

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TRENDS: Flavor Combinations For 2009

Looking for palate excitement this year? McCormick, the world’s largest spice company, has developed cutting-edge flavor combinations that are sure to inspire. International influences and natural foods figure prominently in the company’s Top 10 Flavor Pairings for 2009, allowing for flavorful yet healthy dishes. After reviewing the introductions to each flavor pairing, you can click through to a delicious recipe that expresses those flavors. If you love these innovative pairings as much as we do, you can still enjoy the wonderful recipes from Flavor Trends 2008, as well.

How does a spice company decide what’s hot? McCormick draws on the expertise of sensory analysts, chefs, trend experts and food technologists. Joined by some of today’s most innovative and cutting-edge restaurant chefs, cookbook authors and TV food personalities, this collective culinary vision helps chart a delicious course for the year ahead.


Saké and mixed peppercorns: one pairing to wake
up flavor in 2009.
Influencing the flavors of 2009 are Asian-infused and internationally influenced tastes, a desire for all-natural foods and a craving for favorite ingredients reimagined with contemporary whimsy. McCormick explored these and other trends to develop the top 10 flavor pairings for 2009. See which one of the following you’d like to try first:

-Pairing 1: Cayenne & Tart Cherry
-Pairing 2: Chinese Five Spice & Artisan-Cured Pork
-Pairing 3: Dill & Avocado Oil
-Pairing 4: Garam Masala & Pepitas
-Pairing 5: Mint & Quinoa
-Pairing 6: Peppercorn Mélange & Saké
-Pairing 7: Rosemary & Fruit Preserves
-Pairing 8: Smoked Paprika & Agave Nectar
-Pairing 9: Tarragon & Beetroot
-Pairing 10: Toasted Sesame & Root Beer

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TRENDS: Top Chefs Go For Burgers


Read our Tips For A Better Burger article to learn
how to cook perfect burgers at home.
Following our posting of the CBS report on the Heart Attack Grill in Chandler, Arizona (or perhaps despite it), burgers are big in 2009. As reported recently in the trade magazine Restaurant Hospitality, top chefs are in the game. Bobby Flay launched Bobby’s Burger Palace, Laurent Tourondel has BLT Burger, Marcus Samuelsson started Marc Burger. Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack in New York is about to have an Upper West Side sibling, Hubert Keller is expanding his kingdom of Burger Bars and Govind Armstrong turned his L.A. Eatery, Table 8, into 8 Oz. Burger Bar. And everyone is awaiting the opening of Thomas Keller’s Burgers and Half-Bottles in Yountville, California and Las Vegas.

You can get in the game buy buying a franchise of Virginia-based Elevation Burger, which serves organic, grass-fed, free-range beef with fries cooked in hearth-healthy olive oil…in LEED-certified green buildings. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, you could own your local franchise of the Heart Attack Grill, the “Taste Worth Dying For.” We’d opt for the former.

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TRENDS: 2009 Restaurant Directions

In a down economy, discretionary restaurant meals are one of the first things to get cut by conservative consumers. Food industry consulting and research firm Technomic sees five trends looming large in 2009, as restaurants try to coax customers to come out and spend:

1. Experimentation and innovation—with new menu items, delivery services and price/bundling schemes.

2. Continuation of ethnic flavors, with a highlight of regional cuisines such as regional Italian and Jalisco-style Mexican fare.

3. “Local” food sourcing and a menu emphasis on the foods of the region.

4. Goldilocks serving sizes: big, little and just right. More small-plate, prix-fixe and bar menus, in addition to more family-style entrées that can feed two or more.

5. Up-scaled and expanded kids’ menus, beyond standard kids’ menu items to items that reflect the restaurant, for instance, a crab cake at a seafood restaurant—along with more specialty beverages and smoothies. (Editor’s Note: Makes good sense to help develop the foodies of tomorrow.)

Hmmm…interesting, but we’re not certain that a kid’s crab cake or delivery service is the hot button when money is one’s chief concern. “Price/bundling schemes,” whatever they are, sound promising. What would make us spend money at restaurants when we think we should exercise restraint are financial incentives. Our suggestions include:

1. The “new menu items” should include more affordable dishes across categories (appetizers, entrees, desserts). There should be some comparatively inexpensive choices in each group. If your goal is to fill seats, this can be done—at least on certain nights of the week.

2. Offer more affordable wines, meaning, more reasonable markups. We’d show up to eat more often and buy wine if we could pay $20 for a $10 retail bottle instead of $35. Paying $12 or $15 for one glass of average wine is like pouring money down the drain.

3. Allow a BYO for a corkage fee on slow nights.
We understand that much of a restaurant’s profit has come from those $12 wines-by-the-glass and the bottle markups; but when people can buy the entire bottle for $12, they’re staying home and grilling or ordering a designer pizza in these penny-pinching times. We’d like to suggest that restaurants find other ways to improve their margins, including:

1. Charging for the bread basket. How many people really want that bread, and how much of it gets wasted (or how many of us fill up on it before the food arrives)? No one needs those carbs (or the fat from the butter). Few of us serve a bread basket at home; at the restaurant, it’s a bad-food temptation we don’t need put in front of us. Charging for it is a way for restaurants to save (and earn) money.

2. Serve smaller portions of dessert. Most of those who want a little something sweet at the end of the meal could do with half the calories, carbs and fat of what we’re typically served—that’s why “sharing a dessert” is a standard calorie-cutting recommendation. In addition to earning higher margins from smaller portions, there’s probably a market for a selection of mini-desserts sold to people who would normally decline dessert (similar to selling an “appetizer portion” of a main course).

It’s food for thought!

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TRENDS: Per Capita Beer Consumption Increases


Gordon Biersch Märzen. Read our full review of
this American craft brew.
  After declining annually since 2002, per capita beer consumption in the U.S. rose slightly last year. In 2007, total beer volume in the U.S. increased by 1.4%, returning to 2002 levels, according to recent research. We’re talking about domestic mass-marketed beers, the Buds, Coors and Millers—not the craft beers, which continue to grow each year (but represent a much smaller percentage of sales).

“Beer in the U.S.,” a report from Beverage Marketing Corporation, an industry research company, noted that per-capita consumption of beer in the country in 2007 hit 22 gallons (and if you don’t drink beer, think of how much the other guy is drinking). “While the decreases in the early years of the 21st century were in the order of one or two tenths of a gallon from one year to the next, they became a steadily recurring phenomenon,” the company said in the report.
While imports, which had been one of the most vibrant segments of the U.S. beer market, slowed considerably in 2003 and performed weakly in 2004, imports revived in 2005, but not enough to counterbalance the contraction in domestic sales. The result is that sales in the beer market were essentially flat. Imports played a crucial role in volume growth in 2006, increasing by double-digits. The largest U.S. brewer, Anheuser-Busch, had a sizeable increase in shipments of domestic brands in 2006 but stalled in 2007. However, the next two largest brewers, Miller Brewing Company and Coors Brewing Company, enjoyed solid growth, which contributed to another year of overall beer volume growth.

Find some of our favorite craft beers in THE NIBBLE’s Beer Section.
Learn more about beer in our Glossary of Beer Terms.
Learn the best Beer & Cheese Pairings.
See a six-course Beer & Food Pairing Dinner menu with recipes.
Check out these Tips for Serving Beer.

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TRENDS: Hot Flavors For 2009

Each year, industry experts predict the hot flavors of the following year. With the first predictions for 2009, international research firm Mintel forecasts that manufacturers and restaurateurs will reach for the following exotic fruits and flavors to tempt jaded palates (astute eyes will notice that some of these have been on annual lists for several years running, and have yet to hit the mainstream, as have past hits like chipotle, pomegranate and wasabi):

-Persimmon. Our grandmother loved persimmon, but this lovely fruit hasn’t made it out of specialty markets. According to Mintel, it is poised to “make a major splash in food and beverage.” Mintel expects companies to blend it with more common fruits, as seen in a new Japanese yogurt that contains white peaches, persimmon and apricots.

Persimmon will make a major splash in food and
beverage in 2009.
-Starfruit. Many of us have been cutting this exotic fruit into fruit salads and using it as a plate garnish for decades. Found in other countries in jams and chutneys, Mintel predicts that star fruit “will become a major global player in 2009.”
-Lavender. Is mainstream America ready for lavender? We don’t know. It’s one of our favorite flavors and it’s been “out there” in gourmet circles for years–Mintel expects lavender to move beyond the home and personal care categories and into food and beverage next year. Already seen in products such as Lindt Chocolat Provence’s Lemon-Lavender Dream chocolate (Germany), lavender can be paired with more familiar ingredients to bring a naturally soothing, aromatic quality to food and drink.
-Cactus. Cactus is already a popular food flavor in Latin America, seen in products like Nopalia Cactus Toasts (Mexico), which contain both cactus and corn. Next year, look for manufacturers to incorporate this regional taste into new food products around the world.
-Chimichurri. A classic from Latin America, chimichurri is a “salsa” from Argentina containing garlic, parsley and olive oil, and used as a sauce for grilled meats. Will American carnivores convert from sweet-and-spicy steak sauces to chimichurri? Old habits die hard. IOHO, it would take a push from the large steak chains.
-Peri-Peri. This one has our vote. A hot and spicy chile-based sauce from Africa, peri-peri can sneak in where chile-based salsas have achieved success.
-Masala. With the growth in popularity of Indian flavors, masala may follow curry. But we don’t see a flood of it happening in 2009 in the U.S. Masala, or garam masala (translated as “hot spice”) is a blend of ground spices in Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani cuisines, used alone or with other seasonings. Blends vary, and can include cardamom, cinnamon, clove, mace, nutmeg and peppercorns.

Mintel predicts that nature-inspired aromas will also hit; however, it seems to us that their predictions have been around in household and personal fragrances for some time:

-Spicy + Woody. Perhaps we shop off the main path, but we already own these.
-Food Flavors. Can one look in any direction these days and not find products that are lemon, pomegranate and vanilla scents?
-Savory. Though “meaty” and “salty” aren’t words that spring to mind when thinking of fragrance, Mintel says these scents are an area of opportunity in 2009, as they evoke the comforts of festive meals and salty snacking. Hmm…though we’ll wait to see what gets produced along these lines, we’re not sure that we want to be cleaning the kitchen and polishing the furniture with “meaty” and “salty” scents. There’s a reason that citrus and other clean, refreshing aromas are so popular.

Stay tuned.

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NEW PRODUCT: We’re Juiced For Organic Biotta Juices


A glass of Biotta’s Beetroot Juice is pure
beet heaven.
One of our favorite finds at Expo East, the huge natural and organic products trade show that was held last weekend in Boston, was the beautiful line of juices from Biotta, an organic beverage company founded in 1931 in Switzerland (the company was a pioneer in the production of 100% all natural, organic juices). You can find seven varieties of Biotta at natural foods stores. But in 2009—three months from now—ten new fresh, delicious vegetable juice and fruit juice varieties will be added to the line. We tasted a dozen of the juices at Expo East, and fell in love. In addition to the current 16.9 fl oz (500ml) size, 2009 will bring a new single-serving 8.4 fl oz (250ml) size.

Each of the juices has a homeopathic focus, but we like them because of the amazing taste (they are also great ingredients for soups, sorbets, ice cream, cocktails, marinades and a long list of others). At present, you can find Beetroot Juice (to boost the immune system), Wild Bilberry Juice (builds strong blood vessels and improved circulation), Breuss® Vegetable Juice (pronounced “broyce,” a combination of beetroots, carrots, celeriac, radish and potatoes, which is a formula developed by the Austrian naturopathic Dr. Rudolf Breuss for purification and cleansing), Carrot Juice (for vision), Celery Root Juice (regulates pH), Sauerkraut Juice (aids digestion) and Vegetable Juice Cocktail (helps the immune system). Among the new flavors we look forward to is a dynamite Potato Juice—made of raw potato, but tasting like a potato-lover’s dream (it is intended to help the stomach, but we think all of these juices are gourmet food finds).

We can’t stop dreaming of the high quality of these juices. Like a fine wine, you know from the first sip that you’re at a different level of appreciation. Retailers of America: stock your shelves! See more of our favorite juices in THE NIBBLE online magazine.
 

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TRENDS: Eat Well For Less


You don’t need to buy a “top cut” to
have a great steak experience.
  In these belt-tightening times, how can you eat like a king on a knight’s salary? Justin Marx, CEO of gourmet food purveyor MarxFoods.com, offers three tips on how to eat well in a down economy:

1) Dried mushrooms are a bargain compared to fresh mushrooms. It takes approximately 8-10 pounds of fresh mushrooms to yield 1 pound of dried. A half pound of dried shitake mushrooms costs only $29 with shipping, but is equivalent to 4-5 pounds of fresh shitakes, which would cost at least $40 at a retail store. Dried mushrooms can be stored in your pantry for a long time, can be substituted for fresh in just about any recipe and are easy to reconstitute. See THE NIBBLE’s Mushroom Glossary for more about gourmet mushrooms.

2) Enjoy truffle flavor via truffle oil. At $2,000 a pound or so, even the wealthy will be holding back on fresh truffles this year. But you can enjoy the flavor of truffles with truffle oil. There must be at least a hundred servings in each bottle of truffle oil; a little goes a long way.

At $35 per bottle with shipping, that means that you can delight in the truffle’s aroma and flavor for only 35 cents per portion. Imagine your next bowl of pasta embellished with truffle oil, for pocket change. Add some affordable dried mushrooms, reconstituted into a mushroom ragout. But don’t forget that the most important thing with using truffle oil is to put it on your food after it is cooked, because heat can destroy the flavor and aroma. To learn more about truffles, read THE NIBBLE’s overview and Truffle Glossary.

3) Braising meats makes affordable, delicious winter dishes. Usually, the meats that are perfect for slow-cooked winter dishes are far more affordable. Try wild boar shoulder, venison stew meat and bison skirt steaks. If you want to eat the finest quality meats and game and exotic meats, buy meats in bulk and split orders with friends and family to save, or buy a quarter grass-fed beef to really save. Also check out less expensive cuts of beef in THE NIBBLE’s popular article on Best Value Steak Cuts.

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VIEWPOINT: Organic Prices Rice—So What!

USDA Certified Organic Logo
Buy organic and save the planet.
  Yesterday, a New York Times headline blared, “Sticker Shock in the Organic Aisles” (Section C, page 1). The newspaper questioned if the cost of organic food—which can be 20% to 100% higher than conventionally-produced food—is “prompting some consumers to question their devotion to food produced without pesticides, chemical fertilizers or antibiotics.” Obviously, those with budgetary constraints need to shepherd their dollars, but organics rarely end up in the shopping carts of such shoppers, much as they might like them. The article emphasizes the high cost of organics by citing $4.55 (on the high end) for a loaf of organic bread versus $3.79 for conventional bread, $4.99 versus $2.99 for a half gallon of milk and $6.39 versus $3.59 for a dozen eggs. This may be more of a rise than regular groceries are experiencing; but with the truly shocking rises in gasoline and real estate, to name just two items, is the increase in organic food a “shock?”
Even if your household consumes twice the amounts of the staples cited by the Times each week, the difference is $11—a blip for many of us who pay $4.50 for a daily cappuccino, have cocktails after work and/or buy imported water. In a country where many people spend so much money on recreational trips to the mall to buy extraneous apparel, beauty products and home accoutrements, it’s not a hardship to divert $50 a week to organic food. In fact, it’s an ethical choice. If each American ate 10% organic food, it would curtail greenhouse gas emissions that are the equivalent of taking two million cars off the roads each year. It would have been informative for the Times to offset quotes such as “The prices have gotten ridiculous” and “Man, $6.99 for a gallon of milk is pushing it,” with a couple of sentences explaining that many people who choose organic products do so to help save the environment. On Earth Day, April 22nd our Viewpoint will address this subject in depth. Here’s the New York Times article. Read more about organic issues and trends in the NutriNibbles section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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NEWS: Ice Cream Heaven

As part of a recent 2008 Flavor Trends luncheon, McComick & Company allowed us to taste the most menu, including frozen desserts prepared by artisan gelateria Il Laboratorio del Gelato. Rose Poppyseed Gelato was a revelation, making us wonder why no one has thought to do poppyseed ice cream before—don’t we all enjoy a good slice of lemon poppyseed cake? Here, the flavor of rose tasted almost peachlike, making us count the days to peach season so we can make Peach Poppyseed as well. Lychee Lemongrass Sorbetto was so exquisite, our tongue froze eating too much of it. Chile Chocolate Gelato, made with ancho chile, should take off big-time at better Mexican restaurants and homemade ice cream shops. We actually wrote this post a month ago, but haven’t had the heart to publish it because we are so tortured because there’s NO MORE GELATO. Thai Chile Chocolate is available from the store and website, but much as we love the spicy chocolate, we’ve been obsessing about the other two. Jon Snyder, when will you end our misery by putting them on the menu?   Rose Poppy Gelato
Rose and Poppyseed Gelato from Il Laboratorio del Gelato, inspired by McCormick’s 2008 flavor trends.
Read more about our favorite ice creams in the Desserts Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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