LIQUID CULTURE: Pairing Close to Home
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.
Fear of unnamed additives aside, what speaks most to the sommelier’s heart is the rationale behind local, natural wines: not only do unadulterated wines have a more aggressive—read vital—expression of terroir, but pairing logic favors wines and foods produced in the same region. So it’s no surprise that when Saison (SF) Sommelier Mark Bright paired Copain’s 2007 “Tous Ensemble” Syrah (68.7 miles from the restaurant) with Chef Joshua Skenes’ Middle Eastern-Style Whole Roasted Sonoma Lamb, we noted the pairing “a match made in heaven.” Gary Danko’s (SF) Michael Enghelman made a similarly sublime union between Martin Brock’s Braised Lamb Shoulder and a Peay Vineyards Syrah from less than 100 miles away. Of course, it’s a lot easier to pair locally within a decanter’s throw of Napa or the Finger Lakes. But lesser-known wine producing regions are out there, undiscovered gems for the adventurous sommelier. And mature wine-producing regions are increasingly bringing environmental responsibility in-house. So even if stateside wine lists will never evict the Europeans or their New World competition (and we’re thankful), local, sustainable, and natural options are likely to increase.