A new year means all sorts of predictions about what the next 12 months will bring. We may not know about politics, or the weather. But more charcuterie plates? Undoubtedly.
Rachel Hutton, senior editor of Minnesota Monthly magazine, is here to talk about the hottest food trends in the upcoming year and where to taste them around the Twin Cities.
Tom Crann: Between bacon air fresheners, bacon frosting and bacon lip balm, I'm getting a little tired of the whole bacon trend? Is it finally on its way out?
Rachel Hutton: Americans love to eat bacon as much as they like to bring it home. I don't think that bacon eating, or the whole carnivore craze is going away any time soon.
I think there are a few interesting new developments in meat-eating trends. The first is related to dry-aging, which, as any steak lover knows, dry-aging makes flavors more concentrated, complex, and a little funkier.
Tom Crann: What, exactly is dry aging?
Rachel Hutton: The meat is stored in a cooler for several weeks, during which time it loses moisture and enzymes go to work tenderizing the muscles and converting protein into amino acids, including glutamate, which is a part of MSG, known for increasing savoriness. What is interesting to me is that the dry-aging process is being applied to other meats. Compart Family Farms in southern Minnesota dry-ages some of their pork and serves it at a few local restaurants, including Zelo in downtown Minneapolis. Some restaurants do their dry-aging in-house. I've had some terrific aged duck at Tilia in Linden Hills.
Tom Crann: I keep seeing charcuterie, or assorted meat plates, on menus? Is that another carnivore trend that's going to stick around?
Rachel Hutton: I think things like head cheese and pate reminded local diners that some of the least attractive foods can be the best tasting, so I think that charcuterie and offal — organ meats and such — will be explored with more depth. Diners will be eating pig tails — an occasional special at The Left-Handed Cook in the Midtown Global Market, and chicharrones.
Tom Crann: What are chicharrones?
Rachel Hutton: Puffy, crisp pork rinds. Think of them as meat Cheetos. They were a perfect, crunchy garnish for the pork tongue I had at Victory 44 in north Minneapolis. When you think about it, deep-fried pig skin isn't any weirder than deep-fried Twinkie.
Tom Crann: For the herbivores among us, are you seeing any lighter trends on the horizon for 2013?
Rachel Hutton: I've been excited to see more whole grains and seeds on restaurant menus lately. In fact, the new Union in downtown Minneapolis is serving chicken wings with quinoa, which resembles a heartier, nuttier version of couscous. You have this dish that tastes like a fraternity brother joined a commune!
Chefs are putting a lot of attention into salad ingredients, supplementing greens with fruits, nuts, meats, and cheeses. One of my favorite new salads is at the Gray House in Lyn-Lake, which incorporates raw root vegetables, shredded so their texture is like fresh snow.
Tom Crann: I guess if you'd eat a raw carrot, why not a raw parsnip? What about fermented foods? I've heard they're on the rise.
Rachel Hutton: Yes, we're seeing more widespread interest in everything from kombucha, which is a fermented tea, to kimchi, which is a spicy Korean fermented cabbage.
I think Americans are finally starting to warm up to sour flavors. One of my favorite new trends includes using vinegar in cocktails to balance sweetness. Try the Kentucky Pilgrim at the new Cafe Maude on Loring Park for a taste.
Tom Crann: But what about sweets lovers? What can they expect from 2013?
Rachel Hutton: The frozen yogurt mania from a few years back is finally being challenged by artisanal soft-serve. The new World Street Kitchen at Lyn-Lake is making a couple flavors, but my favorite in town is still at Pizzeria Lola. They do a simple vanilla bean that is topped with olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt, so it's a more interesting, sophisticated sweet.