Have been scanning the “Top 10 food trends for 2014” from publications as disparate as Global News, Canadian Living, Huffington Post and others, while flipping through our Go Cooking year’s events. I am properly chuffed to proclaim that Go Cooking has been right on the button. Here is a very condensed overview, a sort of compilation of some of the lists:
1) The popularity of locally sourced food remains a top priority.
Well, this is not exactly “stop the presses” news. I would say that almost all of our chefs have listed locally sourced foods in their menus, perhaps, most notably Chef Ken LeFebour (Nellie James Gourmet to Go). In a celebration of locally sourced food from ManoRun Farms in Copetown, LeFebour cooked a sort of moveable feast of gourmet delights one evening last summer. And the ever changing menus from his Dundas catering service are absolutely centered around what’s seasonal, what’s local.
2) We all continued to love leafy greens.
Chef Shawn Rocchi (Ronald McDonald House) stepped up to the bat with a kale salad last April, I see. You know how I feel about kale, but this salad was embellished with cured and smoked porchetta, shaved pecorino cheese and sweet and spicy croutons, then dressed with a lemony toasted garlic dressing and topped with “a devilish egg.” Okay, I could manage that. We also served up lots of spinach in various tempting guises and micro-greens from Chef Steve Rydtschenko (The Test Kitchen).
3) We all agreed that “Food Trucks are fun and fabulous.”
Hamilton must be the urban hub for innovative food truck cookery, so we really had to pick and choose when we decided to try out a couple for our fine dining venue. We made up our mind that Jonny Blonde (Jonny Blonde Food Truck) and Salar and Jeannie Madadi of MeatVentures Meat Wagon would fill the bill and you obviously agreed with us since both evenings sold out.
Smoked and cured meats and all sorts of charcuterie seem to be enjoying a foodie renaissance. Salar Madadi (MeatVentures Meat Wagon) is the king of smoked bacon but Chef Lindsay Vandekamp of “This is the ChIT” hot sauce fame also served up some mighty good smoked sticky back ribs. And our other hot sauce hero, Chef Nathan Gard, creator of Uncle Nathan’s Hot Sauce, combined his slow smoked beef brisket with double stuffed garlic and chive potato. And pancetta, a cured, but not smoked type of Italian bacon featured in many of our chefs’ menus.
5) We craved sweet, salty and/or savoury desserts.
For instance, Chef Nick Bhalesar’s (India Village) unique mushroom pakora served with jaggery (a sort of Asian or African cane sugar) tamarind sauce; or, perhaps, a very sophisticated meal, ending with rhubarb panna cotta complimented with weissbier sorbet, by Chef Fraser Macfarlane (Quatrefoil); or, I can attest to the deliciousness of Salar Madadi’s (MeatVentures Meat Wagon) candied bacon crème brulée with a layer of cherry bacon jam.
Other 2014 trends which seemed to appear on many lists included the ever-present quinoa, heirloom fruits and vegetables and artisanal, craft or specialty beers. (See our up-coming session with Chef Fraser Macfarlane of Brux House.) And I am bemused somewhat by the fact that “gluten free” remains high on all lists. I have a feeling that this long standing trend could be attributed to the “wheat belly” diet of Dr. William Davis, more than to gluten sensitivity — but there are now lots of gluten free choices out there and wider choices are always a good thing.
Anyway, looking forward, I then took a quick Internet stroll through the predictions for 2015, and here are a few of the suggestions that constantly re-occurred:
A new interest in fermented foods will be evidenced, most notably for their probiotic qualities and for how they benefit our digestive systems. Look for vegetables such as sauerkraut or pickled cauliflower, or kim chi or pickles, but also yogurt, miso, kefir.
According to The Guardian’s food writer, now that we’ve all learned to pronounce quinoa, a new super grain has appeared on the horizon. Called kaniwa (pronounced ka-nyi-wa), it is from South America and is both high in protein and gluten free.
Watch for seaweed, used not only in sushi, but moving over onto dinner plates, in salads, sauces and seasonings.
Smoking foods will become even more universal — it will become a process used not only in meats, but in cheeses and even in desserts.
Small plates and casual dining will continue to dominate restaurant trends.
And be prepared for something called “souping.” “Souping” sounds both soulful and soothing, messy, but delicious. Essentially, it means replacing a traditional three course meal, with a very highly nutritious broth or soup.
I love to slurp soup and, as a happy new year gift, here is my very favorite chicken soup recipe.
Chicken Noodle Soup with Dill
from Alice Water’s “The Art of Simple Food”
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 small celery stalk, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 leek, white part only, diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced (optional)
4 cups of good chicken stock
1 chicken breast, skin removed
4 oz dried fettucine
2 tbsp chopped dill
1 squeeze of lemon juice
1) Heat a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and add a few tablespoons of olive oil.
2) Add the vegetables, season with salt and cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes.
3) Add the stock and bring to a simmer.
4) Poach the chicken breast in the soup for 10 to 15 minutes until just cooked through. Remove chicken, let cool, then shred into bite-sized pieces.
5) Break the fettuccine 2 or 3 times into shorter lengths and cook in a separate pot of boiling salted water until tender. Drain and add to the soup just before serving along with the chicken and dill. Taste for seasoning and add lemon juice to brighten the flavour.
Makes four servings, I usually double it and freeze half. You really should use homemade chicken stock for this recipe but I have made it with chicken cubes and it’s still good. (shhhh …don’t tell anyone!)