Post # 244 Trending Foods pt 2

April 23, 2014 at 1:12 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 244 Trending Foods pt 2

So food trends, right?  Suddenly things that were once lost at the back of the pantry are popular and pricey.

Wood fired cooking once was relegated to camping only.  You started a fire in a fire pit, used a special set of blue-speckled enamel cookware and serving sets (which never ever came clean once used), and learned to cook from fifteen feet away to keep the ashy smoke out of your eyes.  Seasoned, usually older campers taught you tricks for making stick-to-your-ribs delicacies.  Normally, that meant grilling a fish, a side of beef, or a pot of beans.  Over time, though, the selection changed, became more gourmet.  Suddenly, using different techniques, different cookware, you could produce a full course turkey dinner including the pumpkin pie.  Freeze-drying made heating water and adding it to an envelope of plastic a viable way to eat spaghetti and meatballs on the trail.

campfire-cooking

Then wood fired cooking moved indoors.  Restaurants started advertising their wood fired entrees.  Pizza became crispier and tastier when cooked in a wood oven.  Beef, mainly steaks, pork chops, lamb chops, chicken of all kinds started getting the grill marks and becoming tastier in the process.  It led some low-rent restaurants to mimic the process by using stove top pans with diamond patterns to create “grill marks” that weren’t real.  Some higher end home kitchens are now featuring the indoor outdoor cooker.  You can barely turn on HGTV without hearing about the outdoor kitchen area.  We used to just call it the corner where the barbeque grill was.  That’s how you can tell this trend has come to stay.

Along with the wood fire cooking trend came the food smoking trend.  I’ll be honest.  I like smoked meats in moderation.  It has to be done right, in an unhurried fashion or it doesn’t taste good to me.  If it doesn’t have the right flavor of smoke, I don’t want to eat it.  Companies are smoking everything now.  Butter is smoked; cheese is smoked; all kinds of meats and sausages are smoked.  I’m waiting for the time when ice cream is smoked.  (Of course, by smoking, I don’t mean rolled in paper, set on fire, and inhaled.)  Smoking food permeates it with smoke and thereby cooks it on a very low heat for a very long time.  Smoking also preserves the food by driving out the moisture which is what starts the spoiling process.  Smoking has been around for centuries, but with the advent of refrigeration, it got lost by the wayside.  It’s seen a resurgence in the past few years.  In some upscale restaurants, you can get food smoked at the table, although that is primarily for the olfactory satisfaction, not much for the flavor.  It’s even been on The Iron Chef competitions.  You can buy smokers now that are electric, or gas, or charcoal burning.  What happens is the heat element chars some wet or dry wood of your choice causing it to smoke.  The smoke rises and permeates the food which is usually at the top of the smoker.  The key issue is control.  You have to control your fire so it doesn’t cook the food.  In times gone by, smoke houses were completely separate from the fire source and were connected to each other by an underground tunnel.  The smoke from the fire went through the tunnel into the smoke house where the food sat on shelves.  Any day now, I’m anticipating smoked donuts.  Not sure I’ll try those.

smoking food

When I was a teenager, I used to help the older couple down the block each evening by cleaning and straightening their food truck.  It was the old style vehicle with two sides that opened up to show shelves full of sandwiches, burritos, rolled tacos, snack cakes, chips, and the like.  There was a large bin full of ice to keep the milk and water cold.  One side for cold stuff, the other side for hot stuff like coffee, etc.  My job was to wash it down, restock, and make certain everything was ready for the next day.  I hated that job.  The food was okay, but smelly.  Not what I would serve at all.  And that was my impression of a food truck for the longest time.  I’d see the same style truck around town serving faster-than-fast foods at so many pounds per buck.  Quality was not priority one.  Then at some point when I wasn’t paying attention, it changed.  Food trucks suddenly became the go-to places to eat on the go.  They worked hard to change their reputations and it worked.  Eating at a food truck was “in” and not to be sneered at.  Prices went up, but were still manageable by nearly everyone on the street.  And the menus changed dramatically.  Instead of just day old sandwiches and tacos, the cooks made everything to order, and you could order pretty much whatever you wanted.  Trucks specialized.  Some served only hot dogs, but in so many variations, it would take a month to try them all.  Sandwiches still ruled, but you could get Philly Cheesesteak, or Mile High BLT, or Egg and Cress to die for.  Ban Minh became popular, as well as other Asian delights.  Anything you could get at a regular, high-end restaurant found its way to a food truck.  Television shows abounded featuring food trucks, and mainstream competitions grew up.  I was at a Concert in the Park last year and wanted something to munch on.  We found a dessert truck and watched the chef (no longer just “the cook”) use a torch to put a crust on our Crème Brule, which was amazingly tasty.  At a street fair, I got one of the best Indian Tacos (Indian Fry Bread with beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa, and jalapenos) I’ve ever had.

food truck

Something else happened when I wasn’t looking.  Cupcakes became the rage.  And they aren’t going away.  It used to be a cupcake was a small, paper-wrapped morsel with some frosting on top.  When someone wanted cake for a party or celebration, out came a full size layer cake with decorations, or a sheet cake, also appropriately decorated.  Now, you have entire stores dedicated to nothing but cupcakes.  I’ve been to a few.  The cupcakes have a bazillion different flavors, textures, or batters.  Some are filled with jams, candy, creams, more frosting.  Some are cheesecake, or red velvet cake, or pistachio flavored cake.  Frostings can be anything from the traditional butter cream to whipped yogurt or frozen custard.  Decorations are limited only to a person’s imagination.  It makes sense that cupcakes exploded onto the fine dining scene.  They’re small, easy to eat, and relatively guiltless.  Even people on diets can say they didn’t eat a whole piece of cake, just a single cupcake.  It sounds better.

cupcake tree

More on trending later.  All this talk about food and stuff has made me hungry.  I’m going to fix me a big bowl of mac and cheese, and maybe put some chopped bacon and tomato in it.  With a bread crumb topping, it sounds like I just reinvented the BLT!!

Enjoy!

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