A few seasons back, Mad Men aired a scene of a focus group behind a two-way mirror: Asked to describe their dogs’ temperaments, the participants choose adjectives like “very smart” and “independent.” “My God,” one of the ad men marvels, “they’re describing themselves.”
When food writers are asked to predict the coming year’s culinary trends, they invariably fall into a similar trap, describing their wishes instead of what’s true. Optimistic prognostications aside, there’s very little chance that briny bee larvae, freekah and Midwestern cooking will sweep the nation in 2014 (for the record, I’m pro-all of the above.)
But a few more realistic predictions have surfaced on a number of 2014 trend lists. Fortunately, since Charleston tends to incubate trends instead of respond to them, you can already experience a number of the foods readying for the spotlight. Here, five up-and-comers, and where to find them right now: Continue reading
Considering the persistent popularity of wood-fired cooking, which Nation’s Restaurant News back in 2010 declared a trend, eaters might assume food cooked in ovens fueled by tinder tastes better. Not so, says a spokesperson for one of the nation’s leading manufacturers of wood-fired ovens.
“We’ve done taste tests, and we would say the flavor is the same,” says Tamra Nelson of Wood Stone, which also produces gas-powered ovens. “But it does connect visually with the customer.”
There aren’t any surveys showing exactly how many local restaurants have gone the wood-fired route, but Nelson says there are seven restaurants in and around Charleston using Wood Stone equipment, including Southend Brewery and Monza. According to Nelson, customers’ perceptions of wood-fired ovens’ superiority can overwhelm the reality that quality doesn’t vary with fuel source. Continue reading
The Produce Marketing Association‘s annual Fresh Summit — held this year in New Orleans, one of just seven U.S. cities capable of hosting the massive trade show — is a big deal in the agricultural world because it unites growers, shippers, distributors, retailers and nearly every other industry positioned to profit from the sale of apples, green peppers and pears. But for regular eaters, the event’s fascinating because it offers a glimpse of trends about to overtake the produce departments of their local grocery stores.
Having pounded the floor of the New Orleans Convention Center this past Saturday, I’d advise bracing for the following six healthy food fads:
1. Little is big
If the fruits and vegetables displayed at the show are any indication, plenty of strategy meetings over the past few years ended with produce growers demanding their research teams find ways to make their output smaller. Sunkist touted “kid-sized citrus”, Windset Farms pushed cocktail-sized cucumbers and fingerling potatoes were everywhere. Apparently preying on the average consumer’s fruit ignorance, apple growers even bagged normal-sized apples and labeled them as snack-friendly. But my favorite example of the trend came courtesy of Shanley Farms, which introduced single-serving avocados packed in an egg carton. Continue reading
Dominique Ansel has already moved on to the “magic souffle,” a sturdy, Grand Marnier-filled brioche which sold out within 15 minutes of its debut last Friday, but Charleston’s now catching up with the treat that made the New York City pastry chef a national sensation.
Kaminsky’s Baking Company this week is issuing the city’s first “KronutZ”, a play on the croissant-doughnut cross that briefly sold for upwards of $20 on the NYC black market. To protect his cronut supply, Ansel imposed a two-cronut-a-person limit on rabid fans who started lining up outside his bakery two hours before opening.
Kaminsky’s is borrowing that tactic, meting out its daily supply of 25 KronutZ on a first-come, first-serve basis, limiting customers to a two KronutZ maximum. KronutZ will only be available on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, starting at noon (Ansel’s SoHo unleashes its cronuts at 8 a.m., so late-risers should appreciate the schedule.) Continue reading
It’s a reliably bad idea to go looking for an edible specialty of the last place you lived in your new hometown. Not only are the search results bound to be disheartening, but the whole endeavor’s unfairly dismissive of local culinary culture. At least that was my stance until Saturday, when I really wanted a coconut bubble tea.
Bubble, or boba, tea originated in late-1980s Taiwan, possibly when a teahouse staffer impulsively poured her tapioca pudding into her iced tea. Whether or not the story’s true, flavored tea with chewy tapioca balls is now slurped compulsively across East Asia and in North American cities with significant Asian populations. In Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley, an entire subculture has sprung up around boba shops.
In downtown Charleston, though, there’s only one source for bubble tea: Chopsticks House, a quick-service Chinese restaurant which got into the boba biz about 18 months ago. Continue reading