HYPER LOCAVORE: Terroir
Many of last year’s major culinary trends were responses to the big bad economic wolf. It was a year of comfort food; DIY; mobile restaurant concepts (how better to flee angry investors?); tech-savvy, in-house PR; and marquee star mixology programs—the profit margin lifesaver of struggling operations. And we’ve seen growth within those trends. Social media outlets continue to diversify communication between chef, purveyor, and diner; the Asian concept restaurants of 2009 are evolving, with hopeful franchises like Sensebowl and concept-driven spots like Bill Kim’s communal urbanbelly; and house-made, hands-on, bare-knuckle prep (e.g., 2009’s ubiquitous canning and pickling) has transitioned from the professional kitchen to consumer shelves, courtesy of gourmet retail.
Strong as those veins of ingenuity are, this year in food was not a reaction to the recession. The culinary trends of 2010 illustrate what the industry learned about itself through the lens of necessity—from ingredients and service to the fundamentals and fantastical. We’ve seen locavore and DIY values progress toward high-concept naturalism, with a strong emphasis on terroir. We’ve watched as comfort food, culinary darling of the recession, morphed into a more distinctive, ambitious expression of soul and local character. We’ve seen mixologists marry doggedly authentic cocktail puritanism with sleek, next generation technologies, shedding the skins (and costumes) of hospitality-historicism for a more idiosyncratic bar menu. And we’ve witnessed the sphere of industry influence expand, from the cuisine on the plate to the welfare of a school, an environment, and even a nation.
2010 was a year of rededicated focus and renewed freedoms. And it wasn’t because of any magically resuscitated financial health. It was because the industry learned to trust itself, its strengths, and its special influence in the (ever-so-slightly tattered) fabric of modern culture. Here’s a recap of the outstanding culinary trends of 2010.
Click here to view a printable version ot the 2010 Culinary Trends Report.
With so much emphasis on local flavors, be they hunted, plucked, or picked, we’ve seen the development of a kind of terroir-circularity within a dish (a culinary revision of “the cat ate the mouse, the mouse ate the cheese,” only here they’re all served on the same plate.) “The important thing is that [the dish] exhibits a sense of place,” says David Kinch. And his local Monterey Bay Abalone is accordingly served with the same kind of seaweed consumed by the abalone on the plate. For Coi’s Winter, Pastoral: Young Carrots Roasted in Hay, Radish Powder, Shaved Pecorino, the pecorino comes from sheep who grazed on the charred hay which gives the sweet carrots their smoky undertone. Back at flour + water, McNaughton serves wild boar with the same herbs it grazed on in its lifetime, the very same herbs the chef crouched in during the hunt. Macabre? Maybe. But it’s also an intimate expression of place and time, a snapshot of nature translated through the lens of reverent, sophisticated cuisine.