My Sensory Journey To Baltimore, MD

Welcome to Baltimore (photo by Jimmy Emerson)
Welcome to Baltimore (photo by Jimmy Emerson)

When I was planning my family weekend trip to Baltimore from New York City to attend the Digital Family Summit (an interactive conference for young digital media creators and their parents) in early October, I was asked if I’d like to test drive a Chevrolet Equinox.  I’m a big fan of experiences and trying something new.  I would not describe myself as a car person, but thought, sure why not?

My business’ tagline is “Inspiration For Creation” and the core values are to capture inspiration from unexpected places and enjoy the creative process.  To facilitate creativity, I often tell my clients that you need to be in tune with your senses at all times. My most acute sense is smell, which is fueled by my work in the fragrance and flavor industry for the last 20 years. Fragrance is such an integral part of my daily experiences, but I think for many its overlooked or an afterthought.  Everything I do is a sensory journey, whether it’s a trip to the grocery store or weekend getaway.  I approached my Baltimore visit as a fragrant sensory experience, while I assume many of techies and professional bloggers who attended the conference had an analytical and logical perspective.

I was excited and curious to explore the Chevrolet Equinox car that was dropped off on Friday morning before we headed to Baltimore.  The first thing I did was open the car door and was delighted to get a whiff of the “new car” smell, which had a masculine, leather like scent. I expected it and would have been disappointed had the smell not been there.  For those marketers and brands out there, don’t underestimate the power of scent. After I futzed with the navigation system and pressed some buttons, I was done exploring. The car would meet my immediate needs for the weekend.

Sporty Equinox Car
Sporty Equinox Car

In our typical fashion we hit the road an hour and a half later than planned and spent five hours in traffic driving to Baltimore.  The weather was chilly, foggy, humid and misty that evening – it rained on and off.  While driving with the windows rolled down after it had rained, the air smelled a bit dirty, it was wet with damp, earthy nuances.  My daughter liked the scent and thought it was reminiscent of East Hampton after it rains, where we spend our summers.

Being a native New Yorker, without fail whenever I drive on the New Jersey turnpike by exit 13, this industrial, putrid metallic smell of factory waste permeates the car.  Visually the landscape of the factories spewing dark clouds of waste looks like a page right out of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax book best described by my late father as “robot vomit.”  The rest of the ride was scentless except for a quick stop for gas (I happen to like the smell of gasoline).

We finally arrived at the Hilton Baltimore at 10:30pm.  My kids were particularly fascinated with the large and wide revolving door, which they circled multiple times.  Besides, observing a few guests clumsily bump into the glass revolving door because it was awkwardly designed and not intuitive, I was intrigued by the scent of the lobby.  At first, it smelled citrusy and reminded me of bug spray, which lead me to think it was a hotel guest wearing Jessica McClintock perfume.  However, it was an ambient scent that lingered.  There’s a trend for public spaces such as hotels, casinos and retailers to scent the air to create positive experiences for their guests.  In hindsight, I realized that the Hilton is known for its “olfactive branding” program and I’m guessing the fragrance I smelled, which was fresh, citrus and green tea-like was the “Eau de Hilton.”

Knowing we had a busy day ahead we went to bed.  Although exhausted on Saturday morning, I felt compelled to wake up motivated by the loud and cheerful applause I heard outside.  Blurry eyed and a bit confused, I looked down from 16 floors.  To my delight I saw a sea of brightly colored fluorescent shirts, which belonged to the marathon runners gearing up for the Baltimore marathon. Go runners!  I wondered if the air smelled like sweat yet and giggled to myself remembering the scene in The Lonely Guy movie when Steve Martin jogs into a dinner party wearing fake spray-on sweat to pretend he had just worked out.

Baltimore Marathon 10-12-13
Baltimore Marathon 10-12-13

Slowly making my way to the bathroom, my senses were enlivened by the diffusive scent of Peter Thomas Roth’s Mega-Rich Shampoo (exclusive to Hilton Hotels) that my daughter was lathering in her hair.  The aroma was also fresh, citrusy and green.  Keeping up with the citrus theme, I showered and then spritzed myself with my new favorite fragrance Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine, which is a bright and juicy scent. It smells just like a fresh-squeezed orange – pithy and rindy.

We made our way to the 2nd floor to attend the Digital Family Summit.  I joined my eight year old daughter for a Food Blogging, Styling & Photography workshop with Laura (Lolli) Franklin of Better in Bulk and Robin Zachary of Prop Closet.  This class was as aesthetically appealing as it was sensorially stimulating.

Fresh-baked unfrosted chocolate and vanilla cupcakes were the foundation for our hands-on session. I expected the room to smell like the cupcakes had just come out of the oven, like the vanilla-like baking scent that is pumped into NYC’s Crumbs bakeries, but because we were in a hotel conference room and not a kitchen, they had been prepared earlier and the room was missing the aroma.  However, the brown and yellow cupcakes were neatly placed on a tray in rows by flavor waiting to be iced, decorated, photographed and eaten. Single colored sprinkles of red, pink, orange, green, blue, yellow and white were individually cupped and lined up monochromatically next to the unfrosted cupcakes. After a brief lesson about the do’s and don’ts of food blogging, styling and photography we broke up into small groups.  Using a simple recipe, each group got to craft their own colored frosting using food dye.  My daughter’s group created a muted lavender colored icing while other groups created slate blue, Kelly green, turquoise and hot pink colors.  The smell of the freshly whipped icing was palpable. It tasted even sweeter than it smelled – sugary sweet, cavity inducing sweet. The kids unleashed their inner designers and decorated their cupcakes with sprinkles, flags, confetti, and polka dotted candles.  Using props such as solid-colored napkins, cupcake stands, baking utensils and backdrops cleverly made of patterned wrapping paper glued to foam core boards, they styled their cupcake creations for a fabulous, fashionable and flavorful photo shoot.  Practically salivating, the kids could finally reap the rewards of their hard work and taste the long anticipated, tantalizing and tempting results of their masterpieces.  Proud, ecstatic and sugar-buzzed, the creative kids and parents left the session on a super, satisfying sugar high.

Masterpiece from my daughter's group
Masterpiece from my daughter’s group

On Sunday we had a little downtime and opted for a little R&R by visiting the hotel pool. The minute I stepped off of the elevator my nostrils tingled from the pool smell.  As I approached the entrance to the pool area, the smell intensified and my nose was assaulted by the overpowering Chlorine odor.  I wonder if a fragrance house can create an odor neutralizer to combat Chlorine or fragrance it to create a better scent. My acute reaction to the scent didn’t stop me or my family from enjoying splashing and playing in the pool.

I typically like to visit off the beaten path restaurants and sites when traveling in another city. But when attending a conference, it doesn’t matter where you visit; you rarely get to experience anything but the inside of the hotel.  I knew that my family would spend most of our time at the Hilton Baltimore.  However, before we left I wanted at least one meal that was representative of Baltimore.  Baltimore is known for crabs, which I enjoy eating, but rarely order because they require too much work and the payoff isn’t worth it. Mo’s Crab & Pasta Factory in Little Italy was close by and recommended. As a grand finale to our trip ten of us went there for dinner.  We feasted on Crab Cakes, Crab Imperial and Crab Dip in addition to other local dishes.  The two things that struck me when we entered the restaurant were the old fashioned cigarette machine with the pull handles and the alluring and distinct aroma of fresh crabs seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning.  Since savory scents are kitsch and on trend such as Pizza Hut’s “Eau de Pizza,” White Castle’s Original Slider scented candle and most recently Yankee Candle’s Turkey and Stuffing candle, Old Bay Seasoning should consider creating a signature scent.

We had a great, educational and interactive experience in Baltimore during the Digital Family Summit.  Luckily our drive home was smooth and only took three hours with no rain and no traffic.  Our visit to Baltimore was brief, but intense.  I definitely would like to go back to explore the local flavor and discover unique restaurants and shops adding new scented, colorful and flavorful memories to my sensory journey.

What We’ll Be Eating in 2014…

(photo by Dinner Series)
A place setting (photo by Dinner Series)

Thanksgiving is around the corner with Christmas on its heels and soon it will be a new year.  Here is a list I compiled of some interesting predictions for what food & beverages we’ll be eating in 2014…

Innova reports Top food and beverage trends of 2014

The Flavor of ’14 from the Sterling-Rice Group (SRG)

Technomic’s Take: 10 Trends for 2014

Andrew Freeman & Co. predicts Hot restaurant menu trends for 2014

Top 12 hottest food and beverage trends for 2014 from Baum & Whiteman

London Bar + Drink Trends 2014 from Lost in Catering London

Chefs Convene to Discuss Food Trends from FSR magazine

DNA Response, Inc. Released The Top 8 Food Trends for 2014 From Celebrity Chef and eatcleaner.com Founder, Mareya Ibrahim, “The Fit Foodie” from PRWEB

Jim Meehan: five leading trends driving the New York bar scene from www.diffordsguide.com

A Touch Of Earl Grey

Earl Grey Tea (photo by Sebastian Stabinger)
Earl Grey Tea (photo by Sebastian Stabinger)

I recently had a cup of cold brewed Earl Grey iced tea from Kee’s Chocolates. Besides the fact that I am caffeine sensitive and was up all night, it inspired me to think about how many recent products are using Earl Grey as a flavor. Infused ice cream and desserts seem to be the most popular applications.

Bergamot is a main component of Earl Grey and it is also often used in fine fragrances.  I happen to like it as a flavor and fragrance ingredient, but for those that don’t, it’s because Bergamot is often described as “perfumey.”

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream offers Earl Grey Tea Ice Cream while Handsome Dan’s hand crafts Earl Grey Snowcones. Little Baby’s Ice Cream, which sources its dairy products from Trickling Springs Creamery, mixes the flavor up and features an Earl Grey Sriracha ice cream.

TC Paris Bakery bakes Milk Chocolate & Earl Grey Tea French Macarons and Brooklyn’s Dough is known to feature a seasonal Earl Grey Chocolate Doughnut. Chocolate Earl Grey cupcakes are one of Seattle’s The Yellow Leaf Cupcake Co. 200+ flavors and similarly Decadent Desserts & Confections in British Columbia makes Chocolate Cupcakes with Earl Grey Buttercream.

Earl Grey is trickling into spirits, lollipops and even pancakes. EG – Windsor is a spirit that “captures the tart and tangy caffeinated notes of the bergamot and orange that have been masterfully coaxed from organic, aged Earl Grey black tea blended with freshly harvested organic California sage.” Pandora’s Pop has a Fifty Shades of Earl Grey (black tea and bergamot) lollipop under its Aphrodisiac Lollipops range, which the company claims is made to “Spice Up Your Love Life!” LA’s JiST Café offers Earl Grey Crème Pancakes.

What unique Earl Grey flavor combinations have you seen lately?

Flash In A Bottle

Fragrance Flash
Fragrance Flash

In May 2013 I presented Olfactive Trends Quick Peek at Sniffapalooza’s Spring Fling and mentioned “Flash” as the newest naming convention in fine fragrance.  September is quickly approaching and you can now get your hands on many of the recent launches inspired by the word.

Olfactive Studio’s Flash Back scent is described as “a memory in motion and in action” while Cacharel’s Amor Amor In A Flash is “the feeling of love at first sight: magnetic, addictive, electric… a moment of never-ending intensity.” Jimmy Choo’s second scent Flash, is the newest player and is a “solar” floral that is “about the thrill of the red carpet, the fun of the nightclub, the glamour of dressing up.”

In flavors, the closest interpretation is Oddka Vodka’s Electricity flavor, which Pernod Ricard states is “a tongue-tickling blend that tastes of fire bolt.”  Inspired by the Flash scent, Belvedere Vodka and Jimmy Choo partnered to create a Kuala Lumpur cocktail-fragrance crawl with fun cocktail names such as “Parading on a catwalk” and “Jimmy’s shoe.” The most far fetched recent introduction is Cornetto’s fluorescent ice cream across the pond.

Keep your eyes peeled for more “flash” inspired consumer packaged goods launches. I wonder what will ignite the next catalyst for inspiration.  Any thoughts?

Sensory Gems in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

A Day in Williamsburg Scent by Takasago
A Day in Williamsburg Scent by Takasago (photo by Dan D’Errico)

As a board member of Women in Flavor & Fragrance Commerce (WFFC), I recently organized our sixth annual sensory trend excursion with my colleague Jeanine Pedersen of Takasago. We chose Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In my industry career, this by far was the most challenging tour to design. The biggest obstacle was finding local retailers to participate. For more details, read my recent Fuhgeddaboudit! post.

However, the five retailers that did participate are gems! Without a doubt, add them to your must do list when visiting Williamsburg.

Fabiane's Homemade Yucca Cake & Iced Tea (photo by Dan D'Errico)
Fabiane’s Homemade Yucca Cake & Iced Tea (photo by Dan D’Errico)

For our first stop, 29 attendees gathered outside Fabiane’s Cafe & Pastry. Fabiane greeted us as we delighted in an iced coffee or tea and homemade Yucca cake, a gluten free pastry made with Yucca, coconut milk, milk, sugar, eggs, and coconut flakes. Fabiane addressed each guest and discussed her Brazilian background with her French culinary training and gave a little background about her cafe. Additionally she surprised us with a bag of granola as a parting gift, which took her 10 years to perfect the recipe.

Juice Press Samples - Almond Butter Cup Smoothie, Watermelon Super Cleanser, and Mother Earth (photo by Dan D'Errico)
Juice Press Samples – Almond Butter Cup Smoothie, Watermelon Super Cleanser, and Mother Earth (photo by Dan D’Errico)

We mosied on over to Juice Press, a growing chain of cold-pressed juice bars; this location was brand spanking new, it opened in May. Liz shared the company’s history and explained the cold-pressed process. Then we sampled the Watermelon Super Cleanser, Mother Earth, Dr. Green, and Almond Butter Cup Smoothie, all which only contain “organic calories.” The Watermelon was the group’s darling and my personal favorite. It tasted just like you placed a straw in a fresh watermelon. The Almond Butter Cup Smoothie was tasty with a creamy, nutty banana flavor and hint of cinnamon, but some couldn’t get past the gritty texture. The two green drinks were more of an acquired taste, a bit bitter and astringent, but nonetheless fresh, flavorful and healthful.

Exploring Woodley & Bunny (photo by Dan D'Errico)
Exploring Woodley & Bunny (photo by Dan D’Errico)

Moving to the fragrance side, our third destination was Woodley & Bunny. If you like niche, hard to find beauty products, look no further. Devon, Zeek, and Summer graciously hosted us as we explored, smelled and tried a variety of fragrances, skin care, bath and body care, and hair care products as well as candles. An aside, I often read and write about indie brands, but because of limited distribution I don’t always get to experience them. I’ve never seen so many products that I’ve read about or written about in one place. It was like a curated, indie beauty emporium.

WFFCAllswell Menu
WFFC Allswell Menu (photo by Dan D’Errico)
Flatbread with kale fried egg
House-made Sourdough Flatbread with Ricotta, Kale & Fried Egg (photo by Dan D’Errico)

By now our group had worked up an appetite, so we headed to Allswell restaurant. Based on the farm to table concept, the menu changes daily and is dependent on what’s in season and locally available. If you’re looking for a quaint, comfortable and warm restaurant with fresh food you’ve come to the right place. We started with a Ginless Wonder mocktail crafted with fresh squeezed lime, honey syrup, ginger syrup, club soda, cucumber, fresh strawberries and Oro Blanco. I learned that Oro Blanco (white gold) is a type of grapefruit. Let’s see if this becomes a trend. For a starter, we feasted on homemade olive bread with house-made Ricotta cheese and a crisp, hearty beet salad. For lunch I had their signature crispy chicken sandwich. Others enjoyed their proprietary burger made with Vermont Quality Meat or their homemade sourdough flatbread with Ricotta, kale, and fried egg. As if we weren’t full enough, we concluded our meal with a strawberry rhubarb slab pie with fresh whipped cream. Delicious!

Mast Brothers Chocolate (photo by Dan D'Errico)
Mast Brothers Chocolate (photo by Dan D’Errico)

The perfect finish to our sensory excursion was a final stop at Mast Brothers Chocolate. The overwhelming, raw smell of chocolate wafts through your nostrils as you approach and enter the artisan shop. Meghan explained that the shop only uses two ingredients – cocoa and cane sugar; hence the wide array of dark chocolates. We sampled the limited edition Vanilla Smoke and Maple Cream bars as well as other flavors such as Olive & Sinclair Sea Salt, Stumptown Coffee and Chile Pepper. I’m a sweet, cheap chocolate fan (Oh Henry candy bars are my favorite) and my palette is not sophisticated enough to get past the bitterness of the dark chocolate to taste and appreciate the subtle sweetness nor the smoke of the vanilla and maple flavors. My personal favorite was the sea salt. That combination worked for me because the salt alleviated some of the bitter flavor. Regardless of my preferences, for chocolate fans, this shop is a no-brainer.

Our WFFC guests experienced a truly unique sensory trend excursion in North Williamsburg where their senses were engaged and tickled as they left full and satiated.

A very big thank you to all of the retailers who participated! I look forward to returning; I know I’ll be back and I’m pretty sure others will too.

Summer Bearing Fruit – Trend Alert

Fresh fruit is popular during the spring and summer months and is inspiring new fragrance and flavor introductions. Cherry and watermelon are the in vogue fruits of the season.

Cherries
Summer Cherries (photo by Paolo Neo)

In fine fragrance, as a spring limited edition, Escada launched Cherry in the Air and is described as “an initial burst of cherry and raspberry is tempered by hints of marshmallow, coconut orchid, and sandalwood — moving from fruity to sweet to warm.”  British perfume house Floris released Cherry Blossom made with bergamot, orange, pink pepper, cherry blossom, osmanthus, rose, peony, juicy cherry, sandalwood and musk.

The flavored vodka craze continues. Grey Goose introduced Cherry Noir, which is crafted with “100% natural essence of the finest ripe black cherries” and Absolut launched Craft Bitter Cherry, which is described as “a subtle hint of sweetness and bright, authentic cherry flavor [that] is countered by notes of bitter, dark chocolate.” It is one of three flavors, which are sold exclusively to bartenders in limited quantities. Cherry has even tapped beer. Old Dominion released Cherry Blossom Lager as its spring seasonal brew available in March and according to the company “is conditioned on a bed of 300 pounds of Michigan cherries for 48 hours.”

Summer Watermelon (photo by Renee Comet)
Summer Watermelon (photo by Renee Comet)

Watermelon is popping up in men’s fine fragrances. Lacoste’s latest addition Eau de Lacoste L.12.12 Noir highlights a “living watermelon” accord while Tommy Bahama for Him opens with “a revitalizing burst of juicy watermelon.” Limited edition Annayake Love for Him uses bergamot, grapefruit, bitter orange and watermelon top notes while Calvin Klein’s CK One Summer 2013 limited edition features citrus, waterfall, watermelon, cucumber, water lily, musk and moss accords.

Pucker Vodka unveiled Watermelon Wow as the newest flavor and “combines the luscious flavor of watermelon with the invigorating aroma of candied fruit and melon for a unique sensory experience” while Salty Watermelon joins the UV Vodka range. Watermelon is even trickling down into non-alcoholic beverages, specifically water.  Fruitwater offers Watermelon Punch and Fruit2O offers Natural Watermelon.

Watch as these juicy fruits continue to inspire new summer products and emerge in consumer packaged goods.

 

Fuhgeddaboudit!

Fuhgeddaboudit
Brooklyn

I am organizing a sensory trend excursion in Williamsburg for a large group of people and I recently called a few independent coffee roasters with retail shops and bakeries to arrange a store visit.  I wanted to purchase an iced drink and a pastry for 25 people and have the owner speak about the history of the shop and what makes it unique.  One would think this is a great business opportunity; a shop owner could introduce interesting products to potential new customers.

To my surprise, apparently I was wrong. Not 1 but 7, independent retailers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn turned me down. I’m still shaking my head in disbelief that they walked away from guaranteed business.Their reasons were:

  • “We can’t accommodate you since we cater to our local customers and it would be disruptive to our shop.”
  • “We can’t accommodate you; it just doesn’t work.  Our local customers get upset if we reserve tables.”
  • “We can’t accommodate you. It will interfere with our business flow and we are not staffed for that many customers, but you can come in and order independently.”
  • “We are too small and we can’t fit you.”
  • “We always keep the focus on our loyal clients and maintaining their shopping experience and don’t want to detract them.”
  • “We work very hard to accommodate and please our neighbors and it is not in our capacity to be able to please the market.”

I thought for sure in this economy and competitive business environment, finding an independent retail store to accommodate us would be an easy task.  I’m not sure what the store owners’ long term business growth strategies are, but from a business perspective, I think these store owners are shortsighted for multiple reasons:

  • I am guaranteeing the shop business for 25 people without the business owner having to chase business or market their company; I came to them.
  • The shop has a captive audience of 25 people for twenty to thirty minutes.  The business owner has the opportunity to talk about their business and show their products.
  • Their business is being exposed to people who have no idea their business exists.
  • Business 101 – we all know word of mouth travels, good and bad.
  • Although it may inconvenience the store’s local customers and be a little more disruptive than normal for thirty minutes, it’s a short finite period of time during a week day. In the big picture it’s thirty minutes out of a full day and will not negatively impact their business.
  • Additionally, one would think that local customers would be happy and supportive to see the store is doing well and attracting business.
  • If locals pass the shop and see a large group of people, their curiosity might be piqued and they might want to stop by to see what’s going on. Bonus, more customers.
  • I understand these indie shops aren’t designed to fit a large group of people at one time, but work with me.  I suggested taking shifts and having half the group go in and the other half wait outside and then switch.

I believe these stores have missed an opportunity and are thinking small.  Think small and be small. Although I am intrigued by their store concepts and executions, I’m disappointed in their customer service.  I’m not inclined to rush back to support their local businesses nor recommend them. I think I’ll fuhgeddaboudit!

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