I often travel for work both around Italy and abroad, and this gives me the chance to eat out and thus be among the first to appreciate new food trends. A delightful and interesting way of keeping up, discovering the latest developments and finding new inspiration. Contemporary cuisine is all abuzz; never before has it enjoyed such a large and enthusiastic audience: on one hand, we are rediscovering traditional flavors and techniques, keeping one eye firmly on the past, while on the other hand globalization and the associated ease of tracking down exotic raw materials has given chefs new impetus and creativity.
Here are 3 food trends I’ve selected for your enjoyment – I have no doubt you will love them.
Forgotten fruits and vegetables: from the past with love
It is an established fact that people are eating less meat nowadays, and so fruit and vegetables are more and more central to our diets. As consumers, we are increasingly careful to choose seasonal products and pay attention to where they come from. For several years now antique grains have been making a comeback, and now this enthusiasm for protecting biodiversity has also brought previously forgotten fruits and vegetables back into farmers’ fields and onto our dinner tables: varieties that had been gradually abandoned over the last 30-40 years (usually neglected in favor of more “easily” grown produce) but are now making their way back into the kitchen, thanks in part to their nutritional properties and the creativity of certain chefs. Chokecherries, cornelian cherries, rowan berries, pomegranates, haw fruits and many others have reappeared in my native region of Romagna, and in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines there is a festival dedicated to them every year in the little village of Casola Valsenio. And not only fruit, but vegetables too, like the recently resurfaced heirloom tomatoes, which look a little different than the tomatoes we are used to but taste much better and come in a wide variety of different sizes, shapes and colors: green, red, yellow, black, white, orange, deep purple and striped. One of the most popular heirloom tomatoes is the Brandywine, which has been grown for over a century. This variety has fed the creativity of countless chefs in Italy, such as Viriana Varese at the restaurant Alice in Milan who uses a yellow variety for her amatriciana sauce, or Davide Bisetto, the executive chef at Venice’s Belmond Hotel Cipriani who for some time has offered a menu option called Mr. Pomodoro featuring 8 tomatoes that change with the seasons depending on which varieties are fresh at the moment: a dish that evolves from year to year.
Keeping an eye on fitness: the healthier, the better
It’s not news that the worlds of food and wellness have been merging lately. This means more recipes designed for people with food intolerances and allergies as well as dishes for people who eat vegan or raw. The idea is to detox with delicious soups and cut back on our consumption of sugar by finding the best possible substitutes. One of the trends to watch for in 2017 are bowls, serving dishes designed to regulate the size of the portions we cook and serve that were highly popular in 2016 as well. This kind of bowl really does lend itself to individually tailored dishes and makes it easy to mix multiple different flavors. One of the fruits of this trend with an Asian flair that will surely make headlines in 2017 is the Acai bowl (a fruit salad featuring fresh fruit, nuts, cereals and pureed Acai berries). This new arrival was developed in New York and is making its way into Italy as well. Acai berries have gained fame for being a “superfood” brimming with health benefits: they are rich in fiber and minerals and full of Vitamin C and anthocyanins, antioxidants found in dark purple foods. Supplemented with cereals, fresh fruit and nuts, this fresh puree of Acai berries is perfect for a healthy, delicious and nutritious breakfast. If you want to try it, here’s the recipe: http://www.aiafood.com/it/le-idee-di-aia/viver-sano/acai-bowl-tutti-gli-ingredienti. The pacific coast with its Asian influences gives us the poke´, a Hawaiian-style variation on sushi featuring boneless fish (traditionally tuna or octopus) cut into cubes, as the name suggests, that is making strides in the world of haute cuisine. In keeping with these international influences, young New York-based chef Charlie Pearce at Tom has given the poke´ an Italian flair with his invention the Ahi Poke: a tartar of tuna with sesame oil and seeds, toasted hazelnuts from Italy, an avocado cream with Mexican spices and the Asian touch of fried wonton. If you want to experiment with this dish, check out the recipe: http://www.vanityfair.it/vanityfood/piatti-d’autore/16/07/31/poke-hawaii-ricetta. Speaking of healthy we can’t forget Kale, the superfood so famous in the US there’s even a day dedicated to it. Full of nutritionally essential vitamins, this imported vegetable goes by the name cavolo riccio in Italy and is used as a base for fresh juices and smoothies as well as an addition to enhance tasty low-calorie salads.
Asian flavors: fusion cuisine
Traveling is definitely one of the most interesting experiences in life, and often our memories of a trip are dominated by a certain aroma or flavor that takes us right back to that far-away place. Today it’s easier than ever to get your hands on ingredients from other countries. Some, like soy sauce, tahini and quinoa, can be found at the local supermarket, allowing us to recreate recipes sampled while traveling or change and mix up our local traditions with traditions from abroad to produce something totally unique. What is more, if you cannot find what you are looking for at the supermarket you can often find it in one of the shops serving the immigrant communities living in Italy. For example, middle eastern shops feature a wide range of spices, while Russian food stores give you the chance to buy a delicious sour cream, called smetana, perfect for a variety of dishes. The growing popularity of fusion cuisine is unquestionably one of the trends to watch for in 2017, weaving together new flavors from the various culinary traditions around the globe and shaping our tastes. Maybe it will be a while before we are ready to combine Chinese and Spanish ingredients in the same dish, but there is no doubt we will be seeing more and more appetizer corners and finger food that let us experience new culinary intersections between our own cuisine and food from afar.
And what do you think of these new trends?