Mr Porter Eats
The Next Six Big Food Trends
Want to impress your foodier-than-thou friends? Start talking about how seaweed is the new burger
Head chef Mr James Lowe in the kitchen of Lyle’s, east London Per-Anders Jorgensen
While meals were once, for most, the simple product of what was available around you to provide sustenance and satisfaction, today food has become a definition of conscious choice – where we eat and what we eat is a direct reflection of who we are, where we’re going and how we want to live. It’s easy to scoff at the idea of food being at an intersection with style, but it’s been this way for a while now. We’ve had the nationwide “dirty burger” phenomena, which turned us into endlessly queuing, meat-lusty lemmings for a while there, and lord only knows how much of an appetite we’ll still have for pulled pork by the end of 2015, but it’s no sillier than people waiting in line at the crack of dawn to buy a new iPhone or limited-edition Nike sneakers.
Of course, food trends are fluid, and we should not see “trend” as a bad word in that sense, as many earnest chefs and foodies do. Because while every few years something might really get its claws in – the vegetables-as-main-courses thing spearheaded by Noma and its green, verdant, land-loving New Nordic ways has stayed the course – there are definitely styles and ways with produce that come into favour before seeming to peter out again. The reality is that chefs – like artists – are continually being inspired by one another’s work and taking what they’ve seen, tasted and smelled away with them to interpret in their own way. In short, whatever you might be eating now, there’s always something new on the culinary horizon.
So, for all those keen for a glimpse of your dinner’s future, read on. Boning up on and investigating the following six food trends, very much in the ascendant this year, should keep you immune to gastronomic FOMO. If not from indigestion. Sorry.
Trend #1: BREAD AND BUTTER
Typing Room in the Town Hall Hotel
A classic reinvented: bread with whipped Marmite butter
Long gone are the days of a little basket stuffed with a chalky baguette and a dish of yellowing butter to set off a meal in style. Now, in any new restaurant worth its salt, bread and butter is taken as seriously as the main event – in fact, it’s now considered a course on its own.
This is a trend that seems somewhat inevitable. In most new restaurants these days, much is made of the fact that breads are baked in-house, invariably so fermented with their homemade sourdough starters they ought to be able to get up and shake your hand. Butter, meanwhile, is undergoing a reassessment in light of the fact that “fat” is no longer a dirty word. In San Francisco’s Bay Area, as Ms Alissa Merksamer noted last year in the SF Gate, restaurants are offering their bread with “cultured”, “compound”, “whipped” and “European-style” butter, variously enriched with salts, cheese and other complementary (and fatty) ingredients such as dashi and bone marrow. On the opposite coast, we have Mr Dan Richer of Jersey City’s Razza Pizza Artigianale saying, in a much reblogged video, that he aspires to be the “Jiro Dreams of Sushi of bread and butter”.
In London it’s taking off too, and the critics are on board. In his Times review of Hackney’s hip and ferment-friendly Raw Duck (an east London sibling to Soho’s Ducksoup) Mr Giles Coren made a serious point over several lines about how lovely the bread and butter was. When Typing Room filled the space where Viajante once was in Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel, the social media food elite went wild for head chef Mr Lee Westcott’s whipped Marmite butter. Likewise, when restaurant-of-the-moment Kitty Fisher’s opened in Mayfair recently, it was the grilled bread and burnt onion butter that had everyone talking. “The butter is whipped – de rigueur these days and suitably racy here – dusted with onion ash and served with pieces of crusty loaf anointed with oil and burnished,” wrote Ms Fay Maschler in her glowing Evening Standard review. So, yes. Accept nothing less than luxury when it comes to pre-dinner carbs and dairy.
Trend #2: CHARCUTERIE
The Clove Club’s home-cured meats Per-Anders Jorgensen
Charcuterie at The Clove Club Jason Lowe
Not content with charring, water-bathing and slow-cooking meat for our gustatory pleasure, many intrepid chefs are trying their hand at curing and preserving methods with great hunks of fine meat. Traditionally this has been an old-European pursuit, but the craze for curing seems to be picking up in other territories too. The cover story of this May’s Bon Appétit magazine, focusing on an altitudinous traditional charcuterie restaurant in the Swiss Alps, is written by “salumist” Mr Elias Cairo, owner of Portland’s Olympia Provisions (formerly Olympic Provisions), an award-winning restaurant and purveyor of American-made charcuterie. He’s got a book coming out in the autumn. Pipping him to the post is River Cottage’s Mr Steven Lamb, whose Curing & Smoking Handbook came out last month. In Paris, where you’d imagine they’d have seen and done it all as far as charcuterie is concerned, waves are being made by Australian chef Mr James Henry, who offers a selection of house-made charcuterie at his much-buzzed restaurant Bones in the 11th arrondissement.
“We have cured, on average, a whole pig once a month since we opened two years ago,” says Mr Isaac McHale, co-owner of London Michelin-starred restaurant The Clove Club. “It started out because I love learning. I relish the unknown, and this was a whole new discipline for us to explore and learn. We have smoked, salted, cured, emulsified and aged a fair few bits and bobs now, have learnt a lot about it and are still fascinated by it.” There is something about the “simplicity and the patience” required to make a great piece of salumi that is, he says, “enchanting”.
Trend #3: CAULIFLOWER
Typing Room’s yeasted cauliflower, raisins, capers and mint
The humble magnolia brassica has had its own mini renaissance over the past couple of years. Mr René Redzepi’s famous Noma dish of a whole pot-roasted cauliflower served with pine and yoghurt whey was no doubt a key inspiration for any chef that passed through the kitchens there, and most chefs now like vegetables to be the focal point of dishes in the same way that meat once was. Cauliflower, in particular, seems to be in favour – whether it’s puréed, barbecued or pickled, chefs love to show off with it. At Blue Hill in New York, Mr Dan Barber serves up a “cauliflower steak”. At Miznon in Paris’ Le Marais district, whole chargrilled cauliflowers are served in greaseproof paper as a side dish, drizzled with grassy olive oil and seasoned with rock salt before they’re handed to the heaving, young and trendy crowds. But one of the most photogenic cauliflower dishes of the current crop, if Instagram is anything to go by, is Mr Lee Westcott’s signature yeasted cauliflower dish at Typing Room in London, built around using the entire cauliflower, serving it in a variety of different textures along with raisins, capers and mint. “The ethos behind the dish is using different techniques and textures of cauliflower to create something special that stands out on our menu, where nothing is wasted,” says Mr Westcott, a protégé of Michelin-starred chef Mr Jason Atherton. “This dish has been on the menu since day one and won’t be going anywhere for a while – it gets incredible feedback and I think people are surprised that cauliflower can be elevated into a dish on its own.”
Trend #4: ZERO-WASTAGE
Brighton’s Silo restaurant operates a zero-waste policy
A sustainably produced dish at Silo
Not the sexiest term, that, but proper eco credentials and zero-waste ethics are being seen in restaurants everywhere nowadays, particularly with future-conscious young chefs. Because however glitzy and well PR-ed a new opening is, chefs still have to make a profit on what they’re serving people – if you’re an independent business, in today’s climate waste means money down the drain. This means we’re seeing lots of house-made cheeses, yoghurts and crème fraîche alongside the usual offal and irregular cuts of meat that come with buying and butchering down meat carcasses yourself. Raw Duck has become renowned for its pickled cauliflower “ribs” (the big green spiky bits), served alongside other thrifty pickled bits in little ceramic dishes for a couple of quid. “It just makes perfect sense to make the most out of every single thing you’re spending money on,” says co-owner Ms Clare Lattin. Across the pond, eateries such as Sandwich Me In in Chicago have been militantly committed to zero-wastage, but in the UK the eco forerunner is Mr Douglas McMaster and his recently opened Brighton restaurant, Silo, designed “back to front” and “with the bin in mind”. Creating everything on-site from its “wholest form”, the production of waste has been eliminated by trading directly with farmers and using local ingredients that generate no waste. The place even has its own compost machine, which “turns all of our scraps and trimmings directly into a compost used to produce more food… closing the loop”. But while the mission might feel unusual, the food isn’t – it’s delicious. From pastries made with home-milled flour, house-cultured butter (see?) and raw sugar, to dishes made from house-grown mushrooms or cuts from meats such as venison butchered on site from the whole, still pelted beast, the food is smart, modern and tasty. Even with terminology such as “activated grains”, it’d be foolish to laugh at the Silo model – if waste from the food industry continues to cost £5bn a year, we are looking at how it’ll need to be done in the not-too-distant future.
Trend #5: PAYING FOR YOUR DINNER BEFORE YOU’VE EATEN IT
A dazzling creation from Chicago’s Alinea where the Tock ticketing system was launched Christian Seel
The food industry is currently rife with whispers about whether a US-style restaurant ticketing system might make proper inroads worldwide. As Ms Marina O’Loughlin, the Guardian’s food critic and one of the most respected voices on food in Britain, wrote, Tock – the ticketing system that launched in the US last year – is crossing the Atlantic next month. The system protects restaurants from no-shows, which can cost chefs and owners serious money, but will people really want to pay up front for a meal as they would a play or gig? The creation of Mr Nick Kokonas, co-owner of Chicago’s mega-bucks tasting menu restaurant Alinea, Tock has been adopted first by Mr McHale and The Clove Club clan for its £65 and £95 tasting menus. “It’s going to ruffle a few feathers,” said Mr McHale, “but everyone has a problem with no-shows.” It’s true. Not showing up for a booked meal was once a punter’s guilty secret and a chef’s private nightmare – empty tables means lost income and now, it seems, the restaurant industry might be hitting back. Remember that next time you forget to cancel a table somewhere.
Seaweed and mussels Naomi Knill @GingerGourmand
Yes, the very stuff that gets caught around your legs and makes you scream when you wade out into the sea. Although most of us will have eaten it in sushi – the common maki roll is, of course, made with big sheets of dried nori – or found it in a good miso soup, there are, in fact, 650 varieties of edible seaweed growing along the UK’s coastline alone, and it hasn’t really been living up to its potential like its Scandi cousins. Copenhagen’s Relae – the restaurant of ex-Noma chef Mr Christian Puglisi – was renowned for its marabel potato, seaweed and pecorino dish for some time. Mr David Chang’s Momofuku chains across the US, Australia and Canada have used seaweed in their dishes for years, too, in pureés, powders and in its raw form.
Finally, it seems, British chefs are turning to seaweed as a star ingredient. Mr Ollie Dabbous, of the critically acclaimed Dabbous, is a big fan of wakame and the velvety-textured kelp. Mr James Lowe, previously of St John and now head chef and co-owner of Lyle’s in east London – a culinary destination for serious foodies and Michelin-starred chefs the world over when they’re in the capital – is a big fan of “many types of seaweed”, and says he uses dulse, sea lettuce, bladderwrack, sea spaghetti and Neptune’s belt in his cooking. “All are different and are better for various things,” he says. “It’s a very nutritious resource that we don’t use enough of in cooking. I love pickled dulse and we’ve used it in dishes with raw and cooked fish. The vinegar from pickling seaweed is also incredibly tasty. The seaweed rounds out the vinegar and it picks up a strong umami character. It makes an excellent dressing when mixed with beef fat for grilled flank steak or rib, and we’ve even used the pickled seaweed with grilled cabbage and wild duck in the winter.” Right now, Mr Lowe is using sea lettuce with alexanders (a seashore plant that’s also in season at the same time) in a delicious dish of steamed mussels. “I cook the mussels with cider and add the seaweed and alexanders 30 seconds before the end,” he says. “The difference they make to the stock is enormous. It’s something that can’t be recreated with any other ingredients.”
FIVE FOOD TRENDS THAT HAVE GONE OFF
The latest buzzword being peddled by earnest foodies everywhere, evangelising the liquid that results from the long stewing of beef bones, vegetables and aromatics as some kind of cure-all elixir. Here’s the thing, though, pal: it’s just stock. People have been making it for hundreds of years. Stop.
Food on anything other than plates
Please, no more E.coli-riddled wooden boards. No more puddings served on roof tiles. No more diddy, “cute” (insufferable) deep-fat fryer baskets of chips. Regard We Want Plates. Please.
Does anyone, anywhere, other than bio-hackers and ultramarathon runners, actually drink coffee mixed with butter? Highly doubt it. Stop trying to make it a “thing”.
The holy status still being given to “gourmet burgers” is wearing very, very thin. Just how good can a burger be?
The Instagram hashtag trend that is in danger of causing internet hard drives to burst into flames, it’s used so much. Word to the wise – it’s breakfast or brunch. Since when did avocado become a badge of honour?