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Food Trends of 2015

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Forget kale and quinoa…

Flavors/Ingredients

smoked, bitter, sour + salt, harissa, peri peri, za’atar, sumac, hot honey (habanero, jalapeño, chili honey), matcha (green tea powder), ahi, gochujang, togarashi (Japanese 7 Spice), marash pepper, Aleppo pepper, smoked spices, savory jams, real maple syrup, flavored salts, coconut sugar, hemp seeds, jalapeno, culinary cannabis

Food Preparations/Techniques

fermentation, smoking, flavor without fat (rotisserie, slow roasting), DIY food bars (crostini stations, s’mores bars), spiralizing vegetables

Cuisines

Spain, Middle Eastern, Japan, Vietnam, New Age Asian, Korea, Filipino, farm-to-table kosher

Food Issues/Marketing

food waste, sustainable packaging, restaurant tipping, advanced tickets for restaurants, healthier kids’ meals, nutrition labels no longer just on packaged foods (apps, bar codes), supermarkets convert into socializing spaces, grocery shopping goes 24/7 online, fresh food delivery, GMO-free, artificial colors/flavors, gluten-free, return of fats

Vegetables

ugly root vegetables (celery root, parsnips, kohlrabi), cauliflower (in all its forms, including cauliflower “steaks,” “rice” and pizza crusts), seaweed beyond sushi, radishes, hybrid vegetables such as kalette (kale + Brussels sprouts), broccoflower (broccoli + cauliflower, broccolini (broccoli + Chinese broccoli), rainbow carrots, purple vegetables, spiralized vegetables (veggie noodles like zoodles made from zucchini), kimchi in new places, legumes

How to make a martini

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While variations of martinis have moved well beyond the traditional mixture of gin and vermouth, you can’t beat the original. With just a few ingredients and simple steps, you can readily enjoy this classic cocktail at home, but remember: The key to making the perfect martini is to think perfectly chilled.

Step 1: Ice Is Nice

To start, grab a cocktail shaker and fill it with ice cubes. Fill the shaker all the way to the brim, as this is key to chilling the martini while still allowing the ingredients to melt just a tiny bit of the ice into the drink.

Step 2: Add the Ingredients

Add 3 1/2 ounces of your chosen high-quality vodka or gin, and a tiny splash of dry vermouth, to the ice. Then start shaking. Shaking for a full 30 seconds to 1 minute achieves the coveted perfect martini chill we’re after, so be sure to keep that shaker going.

Step 3: Pour It Out

Pour your cocktail into a well-chilled martini glass. Place glasses in the freezer for 15 minutes before preparing your martinis, to get that perfect martini chill.

Step 4:Garnish & Enjoy

Finally, garnish your drink as you’d like. Want to be traditional? Use olives or lemon peel twists. Want to shake tradition up a bit? Garnish with caper berries, cherry tomatoes, cocktail onions or even baby dill pickles.

 

Explore flavors of the world with spices

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At Spice Ace, a San Francisco shop that sells over 350 spices, blends, herbs, salts, peppers and sugars, the best-selling spice is vadouvan.

Some spices are trendy today. “Right now, sea salts are really, really big,” says Ronit Madmone, co-owner of Whole Spice, a spice shop in downtown Napa’s Oxbow Public Market selling over 1,000 spices, blends (from Afghan ribs to zahtar), herbs and salts. Tastes in cinnamon have also changed. “A few years ago, they’d grab a cinnamon off the shelf. But now there’s knowledge about it – they realize it isn’t just one type, it comes from different parts of the world and tastes different.”

Though Mourad Lahlou, chef-owner of Aziza restaurant in San Francisco, who buys spices from Whole Spice, hails from Morocco – whose signature spice is ras el hanout, a blend of anywhere from 12 to 100 spices, including cinnamon, allspice, ginger, black pepper and coriander – he says less is more.

“Spices to me are simply flavor colors — there are basic spices that can be mixed in so many different ways to create a new shade,” says Lahlou, the cookbook author of Mourad: The New Moroccan. “Just like paint colors, ratios are critical. I think people tend to get carried away with the number of spices used, and muddy it with unnecessary additions.”

At Spice Ace, a San Francisco shop that sells over 350 spices, blends, herbs, salts, peppers and sugars, the best-selling spice is vadouvan. “It’s a delicious, savory, aromatic blend, sometimes called ‘French Masala Curry.’ You can use it on everything from chicken, squash to cauliflower,” says co-owner Olivia Dillan, who also sells blends like coffee-chile meat rub and bourbon-smoked cane sugar. Tasting before buying is allowed at her shop, and packaging is in half- or quarter-ounce glass jars.

The chef of Troya, a nearby Turkish restaurant on Pacific Heights’ Fillmore Street, a shop- and restaurant-lined retail strip, buys urfa biber flakes, a smoky, raisin-smelling, not-overly-hot Turkish chile pepper, at Spice Ace. Chris Borcich uses it in his roasted cauliflower and lamb meatballs, balanced with an equal amount of baharat, a Middle Eastern blend of mint, cinnamon, oregano and nutmeg, among others, which he serves with yogurt and paprika sauce.

A legend that sells over 4,000 international products, Kalustyan’s in New York City is a favorite of Lahlou, Martha Stewart (who filmed a TV segment here), and Emeril Lagasse. Besides over 500 spices and blends, the bazaar-like emporium in Murray Hill – nicknamed “Curry Hill” for its many Indian eateries and groceries – sells Middle Eastern and Indian prepared foods, over 100 herbs, 180 teas, 50 coffees, over 50 beans, 30 chile peppers, dried and canned fruits, nuts, bulk chocolates, sauces, grains, oils, syrups and its own chutney line. A counter upstairs serves lunch.

Srijith Gopinathan, executive chef at Taj Campton Place, a gourmet Indian restaurant in San Francisco, buys from Le Sanctuaire, a San Francisco shop that once sold to restaurant clients from Napa’s The French Laundry to Spain’s El Bulli only, but whose online store now sells to the public. The best way to implement powdered spices: cook the spices first, in a fat medium to release their flavor before adding the food, the Kerala-born chef says.

For his Spice Pot dish, he sautes onions, ginger and garlic in ghee (clarified butter), and adds fennel seeds, cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Then, he adds powdered Deghi chile, turmeric, fennel, coriander and chile, and cooks for a few minutes, finally adding potatoes — which he blanched in water with turmeric – and cooking for under five minutes. Last, he adjusts the taste with lemon juice, sugar and salt.

Fond of cardamom for sweet-and-sour preparations, from game and poultry to desserts and sauce, or with stone fruits in compotes — “I call it the feminine spice, extremely soft, sweet and pleasant” – Gopinathan says cardamom, mango and coconut are “the best combination ever.” You’ll find it in his mango cremeux, wrapped in a coconut tuile, served with tamarind gel and cardamom-scented candied rice puffs.

In Montreal, Olives & Epices sells boxed sets of six spice blends, packaged with the owners’ recipe book/travelogue, Spice Hunters: Asian Family Cooking, which showcases their suppliers from Sri Lanka – producer of the world’s best cinnamon, they say – Kerala and China’s Yunnan province. Other spice kits: BBQs of the world, curries/masalas from the world’s islands, seafood and game spices. Besides their shop is in the Jean-Talon Market, a huge farmers’ market, their online store lets you spice-hunt by cuisine – from West Indies to Southeast Asia or Mexico – or by spice, from Aleppo seven-spice to Zapotecan mole negro blends.

Written by: Sharon McDonell of USA Today.

The Art Of Plating.

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Food presentation is just as essential to the success of a dish as its taste and flavour.  The way the food looks on the plate is what tempts our eyes and makes you want to taste it. Imagine how your room looks when it’s messy and how it looks when you clean it up, the same ingredients, different results. It is just as true with food presentation and how the elements are arranged on the plate.

So yes, food presentation is important. It can make or break a restaurant and it can turn a dinner party into a great success if done right. What are the components of good food presentation? How do you know what to pay attention to when presenting food to your guests?

    • No matter how delicious a dish may be, if it is served on a dirty plate, you will definitely not be tempted to taste it. Make sure all plates are sparkling clean.

 

    • Adapt your plate presentation to the occasion. If you are preparing a kids party, choose fun food presentations that will make them want to eat. They prefer “fun” designs rather than serious and traditional presentations.

 

    • Food presentation is all about timing. There is no point in offering your guests a fancy dish if it is served cold, when it was supposed to be served hot. So spend just enough time plating your dish.

 

    • Another important rule of food presentation is balancing variety and contrast. It is good to have a variety of textures on the plate, but how these textures are combined is just as important.

 

    • Garnish or no garnish? That is a crucial question when it comes to food presentation. There are foods that would look uninteresting without garnish.
    • Matching portion size with plate size is another important aspect of food presentation. A plate that is too small for the food portion it offers will look messy and overcrowded. On the other hand, a small portion on too large a plate will look sparse.
  • Never serve hot foods on cold plates and the other way around. This is another essential rule of food presentation.

 

La Crema: Pinot You Can Rely On

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If you had to pick one California Pinot Noir label that year in and year out produces consistently fine Pinot Noir from multiple appellations at reasonable prices, La Crema would certainly come to mind. When neighbors, friends, and young people ask me what Pinot Noir to buy to take to a dinner, I often tell them La Crema. they usually thank me afterward, but La Crema is an easy recommendation to make. The wines are widely distributed (the winery website, www.lacrema.com, will help you find the wines close to home), with prominent placement on the top shelves of supermarket wine displays.

La Crema Winery is a family owned estate in the Russian River Valley that specializes in handcrafted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from cool climate vineyards in Sonoma, Mendocino and Monterey counties. Established in 1979, the winery has never allowed visitors (except for special events such as Winter Wineland), but the label quickly gained a reputation for quality. The owners are Laura Jackson-Giron and her sister Jennifer Jackson (family members belonging to the Jess Jackson clan).

Several winemakers developed the La Crema Winery style through the years, including Dan Goldfield (Dutton- Goldfield) and Jeff Stewart (Buena Vista). In 2004, La Crema hired Melissa Stackhouse to oversee all aspects of winemaking, and the wines reached a remarkable high level of quality despite the relatively large production and value pricing. The popularity of the label has never been higher and La Crema is consistently one of the top selling restaurant labels.

Stackhouse first joined La Crema in 2000 as an assistant winemaker. Before La Crema, her winemaking experience including stints at Peter Michael Winery, Hardy’s Tintara Winery in McLaren Vale, South Australia, Robert Mondavi, Sterling and Joseph Phelps Vineyards. She holds a degree in viticulture and enology from University of California at Davis. Recently, Stackhouse was promoted to Pinot Noir winemaster for all Jackson Family Wines, but will continue to be a part of the blending panel for La Crema. Elizabeth Grant-Douglas, who has been the assistant winemaker since 2004, will become winemaker at La Crema. Assistant winemaker Eric Johannsen is to take on the associate winemaker position at La Crema.

Winemaking includes careful sorting, de-stemming, 5 to 8 day cold soak, aging for 7-8 months in about 25% to 30% new tight-grain, medium toast French oak barrels, and minimal fining and filtering.

La Crema has supported sustainable farming since 1999, when they were among the first wineries to become a certified Sonoma County “green business.” 75% of La Crema’s vineyards are farmed using “non-tillage” practices to reduce carbon dioxide output. In all the estate vineyards, composted grape pomace and chipped vegetation are added to replenish organic matter. Habitat boxes in the vineyards for owls, bluebirds and falcons help to naturally control vineyard pests. Riparian areas that border vineyards are planted and maintained. Beneficial insects are introduced to eliminate the need for pesticides.

I last tasted through the La Crema lineup of Pinot Noirs in the 2005 vintage when the wines showed beautiful balance and attractive textures but were more similar than different. With the 2009 vintage wines reviewed below, I discovered more appellation-specific character. All the wines can be recommended for early drinking. Prices vary widely depending on the retail source. Appellation-specific coastal region wines are produced from the Russian River Valley AVA, Sonoma Coast AVA, Los Carneros AVA, Anderson Valley AVA and Monterey AVA. La Crema also produces an age worthy reserve small production (200 cases) expensive bottling labeled Nine-Barrel Pinot Noir which has received many accolades from the wine press.