We're continuing our exploration of the latest and greatest in global cuisine with Elly Truesdell, the local forager for Whole Foods Market in the northeast and our go-to source for the artisanal food scene everywhere. She spends her time scouting for the best small-batch products from independent makers, farmers, and purveyors. As we gear up for a full calendar of fall travel, we asked her for the food trends we'll be seeing (and eating!) next.
1. WOOD FIRE
Fire — sorry, I have to say it — is hot. I'm seeing a lot of flatbreads, pizzas, bagels, and breads that are amazingly delicious, blackened, and crisp, entirely due to the heat and flavor that comes from wood-fire ovens. Most ubiquitous are pizzas, but in restaurants and bakeries, like Nolita's Black Seed Bagels and San Francisco's The Mill, the high heat of wood fire is working wonders.
2. VEGGIE OFFAL
The term "offal" typically refers to the parts of an animal that you wouldn't ordinarily expect to eat, like tripe, sweetbreads, and the discards. For the last few years, offal has been popping up on restaurant menus all over the country. But what's new — and perhaps more interesting — is the trend of utilizing the parts of vegetables usually destined for the trash or compost. That means vegetable terrine and sausages made from the tough stalks of broccoli and cauliflower and veggie burgers made with everything but the kitchen sink, like Dan Barber's "Trash Burger," a featured dish at wastED, his two-week pop-up restaurant in NYC. These dishes are packed with flavor and texture — and, as a bonus, reduce waste.
3. DRINKING VINEGARS
I'm a cocktail fiend, but am always disappointed by those of the super sweet variety. These days, I love the drinking vinegars and shrubs showing up at the city's best bars and restaurants, as well as the products available for the home mixologist. Shrubs are made with overripe fruits that have been mashed and macerated with sugar, with vinegar added to balance the flavors. It's a surprising and welcome acidity in any cocktail, like at Cosme in NYC, with El Ninja, a drink incorporating shiso shrub.
4. FUNCTIONAL FOODS
While eating for health is nothing new, consumers are realizing more than ever that wellness can come from dietary adjustments that don't require pills or supplements. Functional foods and ingredients — like turmeric, maca, moringa, and mushrooms — are assuming center stage at many smoothie shops, in countless energy bars, and in ready-to-drink beverages like Temple Tumeric's super blends.
Chickpeas, no longer limited to the hummus plate, have found their way onto multiple menus through an array of preparations. Most interesting is when they're used in flour form to make flatbreads and pancakes, often accompanied by outstanding dips and sides. Like in a vegetarian socca dish at Chilmark Tavern on Martha's Vineyard or at Santina in New York, where there's no better way to start a meal than with cecina, a chickpea pancake that arrives as a centerpiece with four accompaniments and is best eaten by hand.
Chefs have always taken butter very seriously and should be happy that home cooks have embraced it of late. Cultured butter, like Dan Richer's at Razza, shows off its freshness and amazing milk source, changing color and flavor a bit with each season. Farmstead butters, made from a single-herd and part of the farm's production, are pretty unbeatable. Kriemhild Dairy Farms produces one of my favorites, a meadow butter great for any dinner party with radish and sea salt or a loaf of crusty bread.
7. HIGH PROTEIN, LOW SUGAR
I'll try my best not to use the term "paleo" in highlighting one of the biggest trends in health for 2015. In an evolution of the aforementioned dietary lifestyle, high-protein and low-sugar eating is huge these days. While fast-casual restaurants have caught on a bit, it's most apparent in convenience foods and products available to eat at home. The number of meat bars and jerkys on the market has grown insanely, as evidenced by the popularity of Wild Snacks of Boulder and EPIC Bar of Austin.
8. HERITAGE GRAINS
Many of the country's best bakers are turning to growers of grain, asking for non-commodity, identity-preserved, and heirloom varieties to incorporate into their loaves and pastries. The team at Bien Cuit in Brooklyn is setting an example on the East Coast, incororating unique flours milled in Quebec into many of their stunning confections and breads. On the West Coast, the young entrepreneurs at Back to the Roots launched the United States' first identity-preserved whole grain cereals, noting the California farm on which the wheat is grown.
9. SMALL BRANDS, WILL TRAVEL
If you've traveled recently, you'll notice that food options in airports, and even at rest stops, have seriously improved. Many of New York's smallest and most exciting producers are getting exposure in such venues. You'll find the artisanal candy bars made by Brooklyn-based confectionary team Liddabit Sweets at NYC area airports. Red Hook duo Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito of BAKED have a deal with Shake Shack, who serve their granola bar-to-go exclusively in its restaurants around the country.
10. DIGITALLY CURATED GOODS
With so much great production on the rise, online outlets, gift subscription services, and markets naturally follow. Beyond traditional online retail and gift box providers, we're seeing some of our best blog and digital resources now offering the goods. Sites like Food52 have developed an exceptional collection of home goods and kitchenware, complete with a wedding registry. And daily enews provider Tasting Table recently announced their Open Marketplace, an online mercantile of kitchen and pantry essentials. These influencers are no longer just suggesting/hinting at what's cool, but are giving their readers the option to purchase their recommendations.