Not So Krazy for Kale

Fresh Kale

Kale, the new superfood darling, is a cruciferous vegetable member of the cabbage family.  I remember when it was that green, curly vegetable that restaurants used as a garnish to decorate the plate.  I’m not a big fan and haven’t been converted yet.

According to Starchefs.com “chefs take note of kale for its bold appearance and complex flavor.” It’s so popular it’s being eaten raw, juiced, sauteed, baked, blanched, steamed, fried etc. High in fiber and nutrients, kale is reported to have anti-cancer health benefits. Raw foodists have been juicing and eating it for years, but it’s now going mainstream.

Get juiced…

Organic Avenue recognized the benefits of kale early and offers a variety of kale products including the Green Monkey Smoothie crafted with banana and kale and Green LOVE* super juice features pear, lemon, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, parsley, collard greens and romaine. Swiss chard, Tuscan kale, spinach, cucumber, ginger, Kohlrabi, and fresh herbs are all in Good Means Go juice from newcomer Creative Juice. Kale Me Crazy will join the juice bar trend and launch in March in Atlanta. For those who prefer an alcoholic drink, there’s the Garden Variety Margarita with Blue agave blanco tequila, ginger & kale juice, lime juice, agave nectar and smoked sea salt from The Wayland.

Eat it raw…

Pure Food and Wine serves a Tuscan Kale with Shaved Fennel and Orange salad with orange blossom scented honey, fennel pollen, and candied almond crumbs while Fatty ‘Cue offers a Kale & Chicory salad with cincalok and green peppercorn dressing. Just Salad offers Winter Crunch Superfood made with Iceberg-Kale-Red cabbage, multigrain croutons, apples, wheatberries, broccoli, and shaved Parmesan. You know kale has hit critical mass when restaurant’s like Cheesecake Factory add it to their menu and serve Fresh Kale Salad.  Watch out, because according to The Globe and Mail, the French are beginning to embrace it.

Some like it hot…

Red Medicine serves a Young Turnips with roasted banana, banana vinegar, fermented black bean, creme fraiche, and kale while Scampo offers Norwegian salt cod ravioli with roasted pork belly and Tuscan kale.

Snack attack…

Brad’s Raw Food sells a variety of kale chips such as Vampire Killer-Leafy Kale and Nasty Hot-Leafy Kale and Earth Chips has Cheezy Kale and Chocolate Kale flavors.

The future…

The Chicago Tribune’s Food trends for 2013: What’s the next kale? article suggests that “vegetables will continue to move to the center of the plate” with kale being the current superstar. QSR supports this trend and sees ‘More fruits and vegetables’ as 10 Trends for 2013, and foresees kale “becoming more popular as a healthful option at some fast-casual restaurants and on college campuses.”

Is kale a fad or is it going to be part of our diet for good?

P.S. Watch as this leafy green trickles into beauty care products like Dr. Alkaitis’ Universal Organic Mask and Mor’s Emporium Black Collection Kale & Watercress.

Sunchoke What?

Jerusalem Artichokes tubers by Christian Guthier
Jerusalem Artichokes Tubers (photo by Christian Guthier)

What exactly is a sunchoke? A sunchoke is most popularly known as a Jerusalem artichoke and is a tuber vegetable.  It’s not from Jerusalem, it’s native to North America and it’s rich in inulin. As part of the Sunflower family, it derives its name from sun(flower) + (arti)choke. According to Food Network, the sunchoke is described as “nutty, sweet and crunchy” and looks like a ginger root.

Sunchoke is the ‘it’ vegetable emerging on restaurant menus.  However, it is not a new ingredient.  Over the last few years it comes and goes in and out of favor during the fall and winter months. I can’t remember the last time I’ve eaten a sunchoke or for that matter if I’ve ever eaten one. Regardless, here are a few places sunchoke has been seen…

Christopher Kostow of The Restaurant at Meadowood prepared a Sunchoke “granola” for Bon Appetit’s Do Your Part Dinners event on December 6, 2012. Lil Mikey from Chowhound enjoyed Ari Taymor of Alma’s “earthy sunchoke purée over a perfect egg yolk, and a salad of artichoke, grapefruit slivers, and baked wheat berries.” Gwynnett St. features Sunchokes with hazelnuts and Alpine cheese. ISA in Brooklyn, has been known to use it in dishes like Tartare – Sunchoke, Flax, Creme Fraiche and Sunchoke Cream with Espresso and Dust. StarChefs.com chose the Sunchoke Soup, Potato, Shrimp, and Truffle Essence dish from Chef Chris Nugent of Goosefoot in Chicago, as one of the Top U.S. Dishes of 2012. Julia Moskin of The New York Times predicts that ‘Sunflower Power,’ which includes sunchoke, as one of the 10 Trends for 2013. Let’s see if sunchoke catches on this time.

Have you eaten any unique sunchoke dishes or prepared any unusual sunchoke recipes?

What’s Ahead? 2013 Culinary Trends To Watch For…

Out with the old, in with the new. It’s a new year and here is a list I compiled of some interesting predictions for what food & beverage trends are ahead in 2013. Let’s see how accurate they are…

Technomic’s Take: What’s Ahead in 2013?

National Restaurant Association Food – What’s Hot Food 2013 Chef Survey? and What’s Hot Alcohol 2013 Bartender Survey?

Sterling-Rice Group Cutting-Edge Dining Trends of 2013

McCormick® Flavor Forecast® 2013

Nestlé Highlights Top Food & Beverage Trends to Watch in 2013

Eater Trendwatch 2013: Food Media Predicts the Future

The 2012 StarChefs.com Trends Report

Time Top 10 Food Trends of 2012 and more

 

Kneading A Massage

I recently had my year-end, long overdue massage at East Side Massage. I know some individuals who don’t like massages because they feel uncomfortable and don’t like to be touched. However, for me, if done right they are fabulous.

When trying to relax with my eyes closed, I find my mind racing with random thoughts. One reoccurring thought I have each time I get a massage is “Do massage therapists make good bakers?” I feel like a piece of dough being kneaded and think if they can knead my skin that well, then they surely can knead dough.

When the tension releases from my neck, shoulders and upper back and the knots pop, I feel like I’m having an out of body experience. It’s as if a ghost of tension is rising out of my body like smoke rising into the air. My back muscles are so tense, they are like a taut guitar string being plucked by the massage therapist’s strong hands.  I am surprised how precise she is and how deep she can get into my muscles essentially bypassing everything in between. My mind visualizes the musculoskeletal system model from science class. Breathing through the pain, I unwind and ease into relaxation.

In almost a twilight like state I feel relaxed and then I find myself trying to identify which body part the massage therapist is using. Is it her elbow or her arm between her wrist and her elbow that is rolling down my back like a rolling pin?  I briefly giggle to myself remembering the Friends episode where Ross gives Phoebe’s client, an older man, a massage using wooden spoons and Tonka trucks. It really doesn’t matter what body part is being used because my stress is successfully being released.

By the end of the massage I’m so relaxed that my mind has stopped racing. My body feels like a mound of jello and I ask the massage therapist if I can stay there all day.  Politely, she thanks me and lets me know the hour is up. As I leave the massage table disoriented and sleepy with hair that my husband refers to as Nick Nolte like, I am in a zen like state and wonder how long the feeling will last. I’m not sure going to Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained movie right after is the best choice. I look forward to my next massage, which I hope will be sooner then December.

Who Dat? New Orleans Style

I was invited to a high school friend’s wedding in the French Quarter, New Orleans last weekend.  When my husband agreed to watch the kids for the weekend I booked my ticket before he could change his mind. Who can pass on a girls weekend away in an eating capitol?

I often tell my clients to find inspiration and to facilitate creativity you need to be in tune with your senses at all times. When traveling, one must absorb the culture, observe the different behaviors and taste the local ingredients.  Well I proudly followed my own advice and ate, drank and danced my way through New Orleans.

I love oysters – raw, cooked, fried, you name it. My trip began with a visit to Drago’s known for their Charbroiled Oysters.  Like no other oyster I’ve had, these were succulent, salty, buttery, garlicky, cheesy, and delicious.  It was the perfect combination of textures and tastes. As if that wasn’t enough, we ordered a dozen raw oysters to follow and they were fresh, cold, crisp, and briny.

After dinner, the festivities began and we met the bride and groom to be and our high school friends by the Riverwalk and Spanish Plaza. We worked our way to The French Quarter and had cocktails at French 75 Bar (attached to Arnaud’s). It had an old school atmosphere with the bartenders in tuxedos, funky monkey lights with crystal tassels and a variety of specialty drinks.  I settled on the Caibiscus crafted with Cachaca, Falernum, Hibiscus tea, Grenadine and Lime Juice.  Our evening continued with a few cheesy bar stops along Bourbon Street – I had to pass on dancing at The Beach and drinking Tropical Isle’s Hand Grenade cocktail.  However, a visit to Bourbon street wouldn’t be complete without a final stop at Pat O’Brien’s. I don’t particularly like the Hurricane cocktail, but the saying goes “when in Rome do as the Roman’s do,” so I tasted it. I was craving dessert and ordered a White Russian or two instead.

French 75
French 75

Another must do, was Cafe Du Monde, which was our final destination at 1:00 am.  The beignets were fabulous…not too hot, not too cold, not to fluffy and not too dense, all just right, drowning in confectioners sugar. I’m still raving about them to the point where my second grade daughter told me “Mom, why don’t you just write a small moment about them.”  There is a reason Cafe Du Monde is an institution and open 24/7.  Even though they sell their signature beignet mix, I’m convinced you can’t recreate the same experience at home. Whenever you try something for the first time and really enjoy your experience, the next time you try it you’re chasing the high. There’s got to be a science to it…the difference in water, frying oil (assume it’s been used multiple times), the actual shape & size and the heavy handed use of powdered sugar. That’s just the physical aspect of the beignets, but the waiters and waitresses with their white paper soda jerk hats and black bow ties hustling about, all create a memorable experience. I have the same theory for NY bagels and Philly pretzels.  BTW – my black dress didn’t stand a chance, I was covered in powdered sugar, but it was worth it!

Cafe Du Monde Beignets
Cafe Du Monde Beignets

Saturday morning began with a quick jaunt to the the Audubon Aquarium. Had time permitted, I would have liked to visit the Insectarium – oh well next time.  Eating was essential and we had to grab a quick bite before the wedding so we met our friends at Killer Poboys in the back of the Erin Rose bar.  They only offer a selection of five poboys that are all “internationally inspired and chef crafted.”  Although I’m not a big fan of cilantro or coriander, the Coriander Lime Gulf Shrimp (with marinated Daikon and carrot, cucumbers, herbs and the house special aioli) piqued my interest.  It was delicious!  The coriander was perfectly balanced and not overpowering, the shrimp were plump and fresh and I loved the doughiness of the bread with a hint of crisp, flakiness.

Clownfish & coral
Clownfish & Coral

Our adventure continued as we headed to the French Quarter Wedding Chapel, which on their website states “Please do not come more than 15 minutes before scheduled wedding time it could cost the couple.”  Keeping this in mind, it was no surprise that when we arrived I felt like I was in a Quentin Tarantino movie…dollar bills hanging from the chapel ceiling, Tiffany lamps haphazardly arranged, an old boom box, a few pews, a couch, four living room chairs, folding chairs and wedding knick-knacks randomly placed. Elvis’ appearance was an added touch, but I had a hunch he’d be there. When I first received the wedding e-vite to attend a “chapel” wedding, I mistakenly thought it was going to be held in Las Vegas and expected Elvis. The bride in jeans, with a white blouse and flip flops and an unshaven groom in jeans – both holding Styrofoam cups filled with a cocktail, seemed perfectly suited for the setting. Vows were exchanged with Elvis singing/asking the groom if “he would take the bride to be his hunka-hunka burning love?” As we toasted the newlyweds with champagne, we were beaded and given white handkerchiefs.

Ceiling of French Quarter Chapel
Ceiling of French Quarter Chapel
Dragonfly Tiffany Lamp
Dragonfly Tiffany Lamp

For a real New Orleans experience, we gathered outside the chapel and to our surprise there was a 2nd line brass band. With a police escort, 35+ guests practiced their “woos” and waved their handkerchiefs high in the air as we paraded and danced through the French QuarterTourists and on lookers watched as we threw beads at the crowd and drank from our red solo cups, which the reverend allowed guests to generously fill as he drove his electric wheel chair with a cooler attached alongside the parade. We paraded for a mile and ended at Mojito for cocktails and appetizers. We sipped on housemade mojitos, snacked on crab cakes, listened to the band, and enjoyed the wedding celebration.

2nd Line
Wedding 2nd Line
Traveling bar
Traveling bar

At 6:00 pm it was time to eat again and we needed our grand finale, hurrah meal. The night before I had asked the local Pat O’Brien’s bartender to recommend her favorite restaurant and off we went to Jacques Imo’s in Uptown. This restaurant did not disappoint… I was fond of the watermelon mojito. As they say the rest is history.

It was a whirlwind two day weekend, but the most unique, non-traditional and memorable wedding I’ve ever attended. I truly appreciated being a part of the moment.

Opulent Saffron Making A Comeback

With the growth of the beauty industry in the Middle East there have been a slew of spicy, oriental and woody fragrance directions emerging, some of which are specially developed for this market. Estee Lauder’s Aramis Perfume Calligraphy and Estee Lauder Wood Mystique are two current examples.

Perfumers and marketers continually look for inspiration and new ingredients. Following the trend to spicy and woody scents, saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, is making a comeback, particularly in fine fragrance.  There have been quite a few new launches that highlight the luxury ingredient such as Byredo Black Saffron, which I mentioned in my Black is Still Black post, and Byredo Bullion.

Rose an already popular flower in fragrance, seems to be the trendy combination of choice. The Fragrance Kitchen introduced fifteen exclusive fragrances, two of which feature saffron – War of the Roses and Scent In A Bottle. Grossmith London recently launched the Black Label Collection and Saffron Rose is one of four scents, which is described as a “wonderfully rich and opulent scent.”

Although not in the fragrance name, saffron is also appearing as notes in fragrance creations such as Bond No. 9 Manhattan, which uses “worldly saffron” and  Viktor & Rolf Spice Bomb is made with “incandescent spices.”

In flavors, saffron has long been used in cooking and gives food the golden yellow-orange hue.  Lior Lev Sercarz of La Boite Biscuits & Spices uses saffron in six of his forty-one different blends – N.19 Salvador, N.20 Dali, N.21 Moruno, N.25 EscabecheN.30 Mousa and N.33 Mishmish.  Cat Cora’s Kitchen by Gaea is a new line of five Greek, saffron-based herbal teas.  The flavors are Greek Herbal Tea with thyme, rosemary and saffron; Greek Green Tea with ginger, licorice and saffron; Greek Herbal Tea with honey, orange and saffron; Greek Herbal Tea with mint, lemongrass and saffron; and Greek Herbal Tea with cinnamon, cloves and saffron. Saffron has even trickled into vodka. Saffron Vodka by Sub Rosa Spirits is distilled with eight spices – “toasted cumin, lemony coriander, a hint of ginger, and just a touch of heat and the aromatics of saffron.”

Keep your eyes peeled as saffron emerges in new flavor and fragrance products.  Have you noticed any new products with saffron? Tried any new dishes from chefs using saffron in unexpected places?

The Scent of a Memory

L-R: Amy and Gaby

I orginally submitted this article for Vol iii: The Social Olfactory, The State, but it didn’t make the cut.  I thought this would be an appropriate place to post it.

I’ve been in the fragrance and flavor industry for twenty years, the last seven years as the founder of Trendincite LLC, and I’ve yet to write about my own personal experiences with scent and scent memories. Whether I write for Tidbits, Trendincite’s bimonthly newsletter, or for Forward Thinking, my column in Perfumer & Flavorist magazine, the material focuses on the parallel relationship between fragrances and flavors. Like several colleagues, I fell into the industry and once here, I stayed. I have a keen sense of smell, which was always there from childhood, but was refined by working in the industry with experts.

When I think back to childhood, there are several familiar scents that take me to a certain place and time.  In elementary school, I distinctly remember the scent of vomit. I had a visceral reaction…when a kid in school vomited, the smell alone created a knee jerk reaction and often caused me to gag and then puke. I have a seven year old daughter and four year old son and to this day if they throw up, I gag and it takes every ounce of me to hold back my smell instincts. I feel similarly about the smell of garbage, particularly on a hot summer’s day in New York City – I flash back to the foul smell of rotting fish and spoiled food in Chinatown or urine soaked New York City subways.  In East Hampton when the wind blows in the wrong direction, the smell of dank, wet salty and dirty seaweed wafts into my nostrils. As you drive along a country road, the quick, passing whiff of a skunk is unforgettable.  And I’d be remiss if I left out the smell of mulch – manure combined with a sweaty, salty body odor note, most unpleasant.

In contrast, I absolutely love the scent of fresh baked bread – a little sweet, salty and yeasty. I’ve been trying, as I’m sure others have been, to have a perfumer create a fresh baked bread fragrance that accurately captures the yeast accord. I can’t wait until a perfumer nails this scent. Mark my words – it will be an instant success.  There’s also nothing like the smell of fresh cut grass even if there is cis-3-Hexen-1-ol. Or the smell of potato fields – dry, starchy and a bit earthy. And the sweet, honey hay-like scent that I smell while passing open fields.

These are just a few examples of my scent recollections. My personal scent memories and specific scent associations help me recognize certain fragrances or ingredients based solely on what they remind me of.  When I smell a grapey note like the one used in Giorgio perfume, it takes me back to Dimetapp, the cough medicine I took as a child, and I recognize Methyl anthranilate.  I disliked Dimetapp as a child and therefore I do not like the cloying scent of Giorgio now. Anything with orange flower strikes a chord and brings me back to Bain De Soleil Orange Gelee sun tanning lotion; some feel this way about Coppertone. It’s the signature smell of summer, which I loved as a child and am still fond of today.  In the 80’s when I was a teenager, my peers wore Tea Rose perfume, an aldehydic rose floral, which I thought smelled like old ladies. Today when I analyze fragrance market research data, respondents frequently describe aldehydic floral notes as “old lady” and “grandma like.” This reaffirms my teenage evaluation of Tea Rose perfume before I even had “aldehydic” in my vocabulary.

In hindsight, who knew that my childhood scent experiences would be the stepping stones that launched my career in fragrance?  Unbeknownst to me, all of these childhood scent memories have directly impacted my sensibilities. I now recognize that creating signature scents and worthy scent memoires for consumers is a tall order to fill. I appreciate a scent that is polarizing and recognizable, often a blockbuster signature like Angel, because whether you love it or hate it, you remember it. I applaud perfumers who are able to create these signature scents that stand out from the crowd. Knowing that fragrances can create such an emotive response intrigues me and makes the fragrance and flavor industry exciting and ever changing.

From my twenty years of industry experience, I am hypersensitive to smell – both good and bad.  I’m grateful for this ability and find myself at any given time instinctively and habitually smelling products, foods or beverages prior to buying, ingesting or using.  Today my children mimic me and smell everything from fresh flowers to public restroom soap. They’re so scent aware that they can both recognize cherry almond because more than half of New York public restrooms, particularly restaurants use it.  And when they don’t recognize the smell of the soap, in surprise they ask, “Mommy what does this smell like?”  By this process, they are creating their own scent memories.

Smell is such an integral aspect of our being, but we often take it for granted.  The odd thing is that I have an identical twin sister who is anosmic and lost her sense of smell due to a childhood accident. We are similar in so many ways, but one defining difference is that I have an acute sense of smell and she has none.  I can’t imagine life without smell nor working in any other industry.