SMOKE AND ROT: Playing with Smoke
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.
Health regulations be damned! From Chi-town to Down Under, we’ve seen chefs, pastry chefs, and even mixologists smoking in the restaurant. At Vue de Monde, Shannon Bennett uses a glass dome to contain the dried coconut husk smoking his raw Ocean Trout with Wasabi and Baby Beetroot, Smoked at the Table. At Blackbird, Patrick Fahy infused cream with charred 16-year-old whisky barrel chips for a panna cotta; char and whisky were evident flavors, tempered, but not muffled, by the rich cream. At Boka, Pastry Chef Katy Yon hickory smokes her chocolate gelato in a darkly rich ode to single origin Venezuelan chocolate. Smoking at bars may be an old (and expired) past time, but mixologists are reviving the trend with creative cocktails. A giant smoked-water ice cube engulfs most of the glass in Mixologist Benjamin Schiller’s Scorched Earth tequila-mezcal cocktail at Boka. As the ice melts, it increases the natural smokiness of the drink’s mezcal and mingles with the bitterness of Amaro. And in a Second City ode to a classic, Bristol Mixologist Debbie Peek smokes Maker’s Mark with cherry wood for her broad-shouldered Smoked Sicilian Manhattan.