Top Ten Food Trends Time
It's that time of the year again, the time we make lists of the best movies, books, meals of the past twelve months - even though, in this Annus pretty much Horribilis, to quote Queen Elizabeth for pretty much the first time in my life, you might not be so much in the mood for looking back and taking stock (awful word, it occurs to me in this context).
But it's a journalistic imperative, and I enjoy reading lists of any and all kinds (what are menus, after all, but a type of list?) So I fell upon Time magazine's rather extraordinary Top 10 Everything of 2008, 50 count 'em 50 different ones, clicking (of course) first on the Top 10 Food Trends.
If you don't feel like clicking through all of the ten pages Time forces you to (Hey! Extra page views!), here's a rundown:
#1. Recession dining (and who can argue with that?)
#2. Nanny-state food regulations (posting calorie counts and the like)
#3. Salmonella Saintpaul (the one that made us stop buying tomatoes when the real culprit was jalapeño and Serrano peppers)
#4. The war on bottled water (they mention NY restaurants Del Posto and Otto, but here in the Bay Area Incanto and Chez Panisse were ahead of the curve)
#5. The Clover coffee maker (the one that makes one cup at a time, whose company was recently bought by Starbucks - and again, I point out, our local Blue Bottle was a trailblazer)
#6. Caffeinated foods (the zippy drug now showing up in sunflower seeds, potato chips, and candy, oy vey)
#7. Goat (Yippee! It's a wonderful meat, and I wouldn't mind at all if it became the new white meat. Berkeley's Café Rouge is mentioned, as well as N.Y.'s Scarpetta, and I recently had a fabulous dish of grilled goat from Bill Niman's Bolinas ranch at Oakland's Pizzaiolo.)
#8.The backlash against local food (Supposedly because CSA's teensy truck deliveries may not be as carbon-neutral as the big trucks used by even bigger corporations. There are even arcane formulas used to work out whether it's better to buy Trader Joe's Mexican tomatoes and berries or buy the local ones at the farmers markets. Give me a break! Relax and enjoy yourselves. It's food, and it should be pleasurable and relatively blameless. I don't want to have to add both food-shopping and eating to my list of guilty pleasures.)
#9.The year's most celebrated chef (Grant Achatz of Chicago's Alinea, and more because of his survival of Stage IV tongue cancer and its concomitant loss of taste than his mastery of molecular gastronomy, featuring unexpected combinations of ingredients, textures, even smells, often displayed on implements specially designed for his kitchen. The irony of a chef battling a disease stealing away his livelihood was explored in a profile called "A Man of Taste" in The New Yorker, complete with slideshow of photos of his food. Happily he has survived, and regained much of his sense of taste. And he's also written a book.
#10.Mex-Italian (by which Time means not just Italian food cooked by Mexican chefs, a combination found in all kinds of restaurants, not just Italian, but Mexican ingredients and techniques finding their way into Italian dishes, in NY , Seattle, and Minneapolis restaurants. Bruschetta topped with guacamole? Pizza with Oaxaca cheese? It's news to me - but why not?)