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Sep 8, 2008 09:30 AM

trendy ingredient or spice?

What is "in" spice or ingredient nowadays, such as grains of paradise or smoked paprika years ago?

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  1. I keep seeing a lot of recipes calling for fennel pollen and botarga nowadays... I've really been enjoying using fennel pollen with pork and in desserts. It adds such a nice delicate flavor but definitely holds its own.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nicholeati

      wow, fennel pollen seems really interesting. I will check it out. Thank you!

    2. In restaurants it seems like everything either has something to do with chipotle or a balsamic glaze. Can't say I will be sad to see either of them go. Miso also seems to be gaining in popularity.

      6 Replies
      1. re: queencru

        You're right about miso, and I won't be sorry to see it go, although I know I'm in the minority in thinking that miso soup tastes like salty dishwater. As another poster said, specialty salts, especially on sweet dishes are very trendy, as are things like vanilla and mango on otherwise savory dishes (I won't be sorry to see mango go, either). Pork belly has become insanely trendy.

        In the SF Bay area, artisan/housemade charcuterie/salumi are very, very trendy. Now that's a trend I hope sticks around, along with cheese plates, which seem to be de rigeur these days.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Really? I don't think I would ever eat house cured salami... Plus, I've never had house cured meats that really stack up to what a good salumi/salami master can do.

        2. re: queencru

          Chipotle seems to be everywhere you look these days, and seems to be the most popular way to ruin a perfectly good dish. Might as well dump in a bottle of liquid smoke and some cayenne pepper and call it good.

          1. re: Vexorg

            vexorg, i agree completely that chipotle ruins almost everything. the only exception is one tiny bit of the chipotle pepper in my chili. one tiny bit.

            1. re: alkapal

              Old hat around here - chipotle was trendy 20 years ago, now it's about as exotic as ketchup. And I put a LOT in my chili, but I temper it with fresh jalapeños and home-grown cayenne.

          2. re: queencru

            ditto with the chipotle.
            Enough already

          3. It's spice blends from Africa, the Middle East and Latin America that seem most likely to feature as trendy. I see za'atar popping up here and there, for example.

            The general trend in the US appears to favor bold spicing - it makes up for the blandness of the meat (especially poultry favored by so many diners) and also registers on palates coarsened by prolonged exposure to processed foods. It also masks mediocre cuts of meat and mediocre cooking thereof.

            It takes a LOT more skill to season things very subtly, and anytime I see the promotion of bold spicing for its own sake, I wonder if it's being used as a crutch to mask mediocre materials and/or preparation.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Karl S

              Watch some of the current shows on the Food Network and you'll see clear evidence of that. Think of Rachael Ray's love of smoked paprika, grill seasoning and hot sauce, or Sandra Lee and her seasoning packets, bottled dressings, and bottled juices (sometimes all used in teh same dish).

              1. re: Avalondaughter

                I was thinking smoked paprika BECAUSE of Rachael Ray, who goes on and on about it. Actually, smoked paprika is authentic Spanish paprika and it is not new at all. It is just different from the bland red powder we used to find in the supermarket.

                I vote for seasoning blends. Pensey's now has so many that they seem to blur into the same thing. Italian, Tuscan, Sicilian, lots of BBQ seasonings. Victoria's does too. I think the blends are designed for people who have little experience using the individual spices, and they appear to eliminate the guesswork for a lot of cooks. I can't otherwise understand the appeal.

                However, it can backfire. For example, oregano is a somewhat strong spice, and not all Italian sauces have oregano in them. Think pizza versus carbonara. Yet, many "Italian" blends have basil, oregano and garlic powder. You could easily ruin a great dish by using the wrong blend.

                1. re: RGC1982

                  While smoked paprika is an old product, it's relatively new to regular US usage and the way it tends to be used in the US is not subtle, and contributes to the general trend I described earlier.

                  Americans like BIG! BOLD! FLAVORS! It's not necessarily a sign of a broadened palate but of a coarsened one.

                  1. re: Karl S

                    <<Americans like BIG! BOLD! FLAVORS! It's not necessarily a sign of a broadened palate but of a coarsened one.>>

                    Boy, is that ever the truth. It seems that everything our "culture" latches onto gets supersized and intensified with the "more must be better" attitude. In almost every instance, I find the "original" or authentic version of most things far superior to the American makeovers. One of the main reasons I've gotten into making as many things home maid as possible.

                  2. re: RGC1982

                    I agree, I have ruined a couple of dishes by using "Italian Seasoning" that had way too much oregano for my taste. The blend that I used to buy was much more balanced. I now just add what I know that I like, in my proportions.

                    1. re: RGC1982

                      If you don't do high volume cooking or use some spices very infrequently, the spice mixes are nice because you'll finish the bottle or bag before it gets so old that it starts to lose flavor.

                      1. re: RGC1982

                        Smoked paprika is really two levels removed from the old-style bland red powder. First came our introduction to good Hungarian paprika, which is not smoked but has a distinctive flavor and comes in both mild and hot versions. You can find Szeged brand (at least the mild variety) in most supermarkets today, while you still generally need to go to a specialty store for smoked paprika.

                  3. salt, including Hawaiian sea salt, viking smoked sea salt, fleur de sel, etc have been popular for a while now.

                      1. re: alkapal

                        Pomegranate is SOOO last year :)

                        1. re: RGC1982

                          LOL. It seems to have been replaced by acai and/or goji. At least I know what a pomegranate is!

                          Add also: green tea. All you have to do is identify something as being "high in anti-oxidents" and voila, instant trend.

                          1. re: RGC1982

                            you're right, now the hoi polloi have pom products. so the trendy avant-garde has indeed moved on. now acai is the new darling of the food and health cognoscenti. but not for long..... item X is on the way, and trendsetters are foraging for it now. but i can't reveal who, what, when, or where! ( or "why" -- except it will also have anti-oxidant, anti-aging, anti-cancer or anti-antimatter properties.)