I keep a running list of ingredients and dishes I see throughout the year. Some observations come from my travels, some from reading various food publications and some from from talking with other food writers.
I’ve whittled down a very long list to just 16.
Are these sweet 16 trends or fads? Or just temporary blips on the vast food radar screen?
Only time will tell. A fad is a fleeting thing. Trends last longer, and some eventually land in the mainstream (hello chipotle, I’m looking at you).
Without further ado, here are the things that made my Sweet 16:
1. Coconut water — It’s the new “in” drink. It has more potassium than a banana, and all the cool people are sipping it, including food writer Amanda Hesser, who once tweeted that she was sipping coconut water and eating chocolate. And coconut water is showing up as a beverage choice on menus from Portland to Austin.
2. Padron peppers — from pizzas in wine country, to canning jars in Seattle, this Spanish pepper is enticing new fans with its sweet — sometimes hot, sometimes not — flavor.
3. Crispy poached egg — It started in Europe and landed in San Francisco a few years ago. It made it to Phoenix as a signature dish at one of the best restaurants in town, noca.
4. Salted caramel — from candies to cakes to grown-up milkshakes spiked with Bourbon, we love our caramel and if it has a sprinkling of sea salt, all the better.
5. Butter lettuce — Move over Iceberg wedge, butter lettuce is the new darling. Not only are restaurants creating butter lettuce-only salads, but farmers are giving us new varieties, including red leaf butter lettuce.
6. Hibiscus — this flower has moved beyond the herbal tea category and is flavoring other drinks (like agua frescas in noted Mexican restaurants) and desserts (like panna cotta and gelatos and sorbets in non-Mexican venues).
7. Chamomile tea syrup — another flower breaking out of the tea category and moving into dessert sauces and sorbets.
8. Foie gras desserts — I’m hoping this is a fad, not a trend. This year, I saw a foie gras float (foie gras ice cream paired with root beer) and foie gras creme brulee. Ick.
9. Amarena cherries — these expensive Italian dark cherries are popping up in desserts in fancy restaurants as well as modest pizza parlors and cafes.
10. Donuts — gourmet and otherwise, the fried balls of dough are making a comeback, leaving police officers across the country scratching their heads as to why.
11. Marshmallows — who knew they were so easy to make? Not only are restaurants making their own flavors of marshmallows, but home cooks are making them, too, and food bloggers are writing about them.
12. Shiso — the Japanese herb was once relegated to just a garnish for sushi, but now it’s showing up as a garnish for salads, like the heirloom tomato salad at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco.
13. Cardamom — Long used in Indian, Scandinavian and Middle Eastern cooking, cardamom jumped the shark into chewing gum this year in Eclipse Breeze “Extotic Mint.”
15. Staub serving ware — restaurants from high-end steak houses to cozy French Bistros moved the cast iron cooking ware from the kitchen to the table. Speaking of French Bistros…
16. French Bistros — if you don’t count the new restaurants opening under the “local, seasonal, farm-fresh” category, French Bistros would have been the number one new restaurant theme.
Now, you may be wondering why bacon isn’t on the list.
Well, that horse left the barn in 2008, and in 2009, bacon-mania hit mainstream in a big way (remember baconnaise?)
I’m sure I left out some things (this is only 16 out of a possible gazillion).
Does anything on the list surprise you? What else would you add?