With the Facebookization of the world, trends flicker in and out on what feels like an hourly basis. While food used to be an arena where chefs created innovative, standalone dishes that would eventually (we’re talking years) trickle down to the ‘burbs, now any would-be blogger with an iPhone can shoot a picture of bacon-topped cupcakes, and, bam, it’s the new global gourmet fad. Here are six new culinary advances about to take the world by storm.
Floating Food Barges
We already mentioned how food trucks are so last year. But could floating food barges be the Next Big Thing? In Miami, where yachting is a way of life, an enterprising group called Bay Sweep Concessionaires spends weekends and holidays at the natural sandbar near Haulover Marina, where at least 50 boats anchor out. Hungry boaters can pull up to the buoyant barge and purchase burgers, smoked fish, hotdogs, drinks, and ice cream. Or one of their employees, who cruise around the sandbar in bright yellow kayaks, will take your order and deliver mid-afternoon munchies. Expect this floating phenomenon to catch on in other boat-friendly locales like San Diego, Austin, and Knoxville.
Puerto Rican Mofongo
While every ethnic delicacy is being rediscovered and appropriated by trend-happy chefs (think banh mi sandwiches from Vietnam and kimchi from Korea), a regional treat from Puerto Rico is starting to appear on menus across the country. Called mofongo, this hearty dish combines mashed fried plantains, broth, garlic, olive oil, pork cracklings, and a protein like chicken or beef. At La Casa Del Mofongo, in Washington Heights, New York, the plantain specialty is served with a dizzying array of options including guacamole, herring, salami, fried eggs, beef, chicken, fried pork, goat, cod fish, spaghetti, shrimp, octopus, lamb, and lobster. Since it is time-consuming to prepare, many restaurants are only making it on the weekends, but with a decidedly gourmet flair. It’s worth the wait.
Forget the farm-to-table trend, which, more often than not, utilizes produce from distant states. How about picking basil from your backyard, rooftop or windowsill while you’re bubbling up a pot of homemade marinara sauce? Urban gardening is about as local as it gets, and the initiative is sweeping the nation. Whether it’s First Lady Michelle Obama planting broccoli and bok choy in her backyard at the White House garden or a New Yorker in a studio apartment with an array of herbs on their fire escape, everyone seems to be touting their green thumbs. It’s about taking ownership of your food cycle, and knowing where your ingredients come from. And it’s as simple as going to a local nursery, or even the plant department of Home Depot. Organic groceries like Fresh Market sell potted herbs, including basil, thyme, and rosemary, which you can then expand into your own plot, whether you’re a condo dweller or reside in a sprawling McMansion.
Coconut Water Cocktails
A-listers including Madonna, Matthew McConaughey, and Demi Moore are hawking the restorative powers of coconut water. Vita Coco was first to market the elixir, and it comes in juice-box-sized packaging. It’s certainly easier than cracking open a coconut the old-school way. Proponents of coconut water claim it can boost your immunity, cure hangovers, and contains more potassium than two bananas. Mixologists are starting in on the trend, too. There’s the Vita Coco Caipirinha, which combines the tangerine-flavored coconut water with cachaca, lime juice, and sugar. And the so-called Common Man’s Passionate Coconut utilizes the passion fruit version of Vita Coco with coconut rum, dark rum, simple syrup, and passion fruit. In the morning, drink it straight and you just might feel better, too.
After the Gulf oil spill, restaurateurs and consumers are taking a serious look at where they get their seafood. (Although an independent study commissioned by The Daily Beast turned up immaculate results for the region’s grouper, shrimp, and crabmeat.) Many are taking a look at farm-raised fish. Initially, this method of production was deemed controversial because of the waste produced from having so many fish in a contained space and its bland flavor (compared to wild fish). Now, it’s been given a second chance. A company out of Baltimore called Maryland Sustainable Mariculture is innovating a technique to recirculate seawater into the tanks of popular fish including sea bass and dorade, and produce fewer byproducts by using microorganisms to clean the water. Look for this aquaculture to catch on as mankind, unfortunately, continues to pollute our waterways.
Chocolate and Salt
There are two kinds of people: those who tilt toward the savory side of the food spectrum, and those who indulge their raging sweet tooth. Now, chefs are pleasing every kind of palate with the strange combination of chocolate and salt. The salt, usually an exotic variety from, say, Hawaii, undercuts the sweetness of the chocolate to produce an addictive tango of dueling flavors. At the James Beard award-winning restaurant Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami, pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith has created a signature dessert: chocolate cremoso with sea salt, olive oil, sourdough crostini, and espresso parfait. Artisanal chocolatier Fran Bigelow sells her intense salted caramels online. Or you can buy chocolate sea salt and enhance your cocktails, salads, and desserts at home. What’s not to love?
Jacquelynn D. Powers is a writer based in Miami Beach. Her work has appeared in the Miami New Times and slashfood.com. Prior to that, she was the Senior Editor of Ocean Drive magazine for over a decade.