Emma Cullen lists some of the food trends to watch out for in the coming year – and the ones to avoid…
Hot: Cold Brew Coffee
Not to be confused with iced coffee, cold brew coffee has set Londoners buzzing – quite literally. Cold brew is an established trend in the US and coffee connoisseurs here in Blighty have been whispering tales of cold brew amongst themselves; slipping out to bars like TAP in Soho to sup on the carefully reduced nectar. Cold brew is a created through an exacting process whereby coffee beans are steeped in room-temperature water for up to 24 hours to distil a concentrated essence. This is then served with ice cold water, sometimes even nitro-cold. The secret is well and truly out, with high-end stockists now supplying bottles of Sandows’ bottled cold brew – think Selfridges, Fortnum and Mason, Harrods and Harvey Nichols. You can even get on draught at their Shoreditch bar. That’s right coffee on draught – there’s a trend right there!
Interesting fact: Cold brew is actually sweeter than your traditional coffee, due to the steeping process. The coffee extraction takes longer and tends to leave behind the bitter compounds that you can get in your usual cup of Joe.
Be seen with it: Sandows, London
Not: Bulletproof Coffee
Was this a trend? A fleeting one perhaps, as it is intended as a meal replacement. What makes a coffee bulletproof I hear you ask? Well, oil and butter apparently. This is effectively a kind of breakfast-coffee smoothie that is rich in protein. In fact it’s part of a transitional process to help your metabolism use more protein and oil, and it’s a fairly serious way of doing it. Creator, Dave Asprey, claims that this concoction will aid concentration as well as help you to lose weight, and there are those who have tried the method that reportedly didn’t feel hungry until 2pm! If you’re a diet hopper or coffee connoisseur it’s probably already been ticked off your list. Otherwise, I would say give this expiring trend a miss.
Hot: Just Desserts
Old fashioned puddings are back. Take back your fancy desserts and forget those swirls, the British public want sponge, crumble and custard – good old-fashioned stodge in other words.
Just uttering the word ‘pudding’ conjures dreamy scenarios of apple crumble with creamy custard, and probably places you in your nan’s front room. A pudding is more than a sweet treat at the end of a meal; it’s a warm, comfortable hug. That last spoonful of apple pie provides invisible armour against a drizzly winter night. The key to seeking out good pudding purveyors can be as simple as a glance at the menu. Separate list for desserts? Good start. If it’s entitled ‘puddings’ rather than ‘desserts’, you’re onto a winner.
Interesting fact: Custard is a non-Newtonian fluid; there’s something to ponder while you tuck into your jam roly-poly.
Where to get it: Hawksmoor, London. With numerous venues dotted around London, Hawksmoor’s dedicated pudding list drips with the likes of sherry trifle, sticky toffee pudding, apple and blackberry pie and baked Alaska.
Not: Slates Instead of Plates
Slates are for tiling roofs or fireplaces; they are not for serving food on. I’m sure you’ve all witnessed the scenario: elegantly presented food; contrasting colours shown to their optimum potential against a dark grey slate-plate. But as soon as you dig in there’s food everywhere – on the table, sliding into your lap – and let’s not go into what happens with a juicy piece of steak. Slate is simply not a practical substance on which to serve food.
Hot: Raw Cake
We’re not talking lick-the-bowl cake mix, but cakes made from raw ingredients. Vegan and vegetarian diets are among the norm now, and the next step up is raw vegan. It’s here that these cakes sit rather snugly with their cashew-cream smiles. Raw vegans do not eat any dairy, meat, fish or eggs (the same as vegans) but nor do they eat anything cooked or heated above 40oC. This includes foodstuffs that we might eat cold but have been heated in their production process, like bread and cakes. Raw vegan cakes are a godsend to those who struggle with baking, as it’s more a case of preparing and putting together ingredients, and removes the watching-the-oven anxiety that consumes so many of the contestants on The Great British Bake Off. Fruits, veg, nuts and chocolate feature high of the ingredients list and you’d be surprised how awesome and utterly beautiful an uncooked cake can be.
Interesting fact: While the raw ingredients often consist of nuts, vegetables and fruit, these desserts can be laden with sugar.
Be seen with it: InSpiral Lounge, London.
Not: Red Velvet Cake
There was once a time when hundreds of students and yummy mummies would stampede The Hummingbird Bakery for their red velvet cupcakes, sparking a spike in red velvet cake desirability. This was the cake to eat and be seen eating. While we have nothing negative to say about the bakery (who could, it’s divine), red velvet cake no longer appears to be the hottest cake on the scene. The very fact that it’s everywhere you look suggests that we have over gorged on this rich, ruby red cake. It’s a classic descent from fame; the kind that an overplayed song suffers. No matter how beautiful the tune, you just need a break from it. We’re going to have to wait a few years before our next slice.
It’s probably something that you remember lurking at the back of your parents’ drinks cabinet – the bottle sat in the dark and never touched – but vermouth has quietly stepped out of the shadows and is being appreciated by more than just mixologists. Winemakers across the country are making small batches of vermouth to make the most of the trend, as many choose to savour this tipple on its own, rather than in a cocktail (which, let’s face it, is where vermouth has been hiding all these years). Drinkers are increasingly looking to consume less but higher-quality alcohol and the still-soaring trend for anything vintage-style has laid down a soft rug for vermouth to make its entrance. It’s the Spanish who have been paving the way, with a myriad of dedicated vermouth bars trending in Barcelona; New York hasn’t been far behind and we Brits are catching up.
Interesting fact: The name vermouth originates from the German word for its key ingredient, wormwood: wermut.
Be seen with it: Mele e Pere Vermouth Bar in London.
Hot: The Pickleback
The Pickleback is the new hot shot at the bar. It’ll cleanse the palate, cure your next-day hangover and is fast becoming a must-have on a night out. It’s actually a two-part shot: a slug of pickle juice piggy backing the first gulp of whiskey. Did the Pickleback originate in a bar in Brooklyn, NY? There are numerous stories surrounding its origins. Some say that it started life as the ‘bartender’s handshake’, a drink that only staff would drink and soon spread to the masses. Some claim that the marriage of two such unlikely liquids came from a chance request from a punter who glanced up a bottle of the bar’s homemade pickles. The only thing that we know for sure is that no-one really knows for sure where it came from, and the bevy of myths surrounding the Pickleback only adds to its charm. What is apparent is that this shady shot has clasped London’s hipsters firmly by the lapels.
How to drink a Pickleback:
The key to this double act is the balance of the salty, savoury pickle juice with the harsh burn of the whiskey, which makes for a surprisingly refreshing shot. The first part is traditionally a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey, although some have been known to substitute it for vodka and other varieties of whiskey. Swig this first, hand on hip, and wait for the burn. The juice shot is poured from the brine from a jar of pickles. Again, there are various alternatives out there to the traditional pickle brine, but, be warned, we’ve heard that beetroot brine is a no-go. Down this straight after the whiskey and you’ll find it neutralises the taste of the whiskey and the burning sensation, leaving you with a rather satisfied smile on your face.
Not: Cocktails in Jam Jars
We’re over this trend and are looking to fill our jam jars with something different – buttons or chutney, for example. With classics like vermouth back on the menu, we need something a little classier to clasp at cocktail parties and sip from at the bar. Teacups, for example, allow us to indulge in our love of vintage chic, and still allow us to pose beautifully with a Martini. Failing that we’re really quite happy with cocktail glasses; they are timelessly elegant and were made for the purpose.
Hot: Hirata Buns
If you’re not sure what a hirata bun is, they are they are the ones you’ve seen around that look like Pac-Man; folded steamed gua bao buns. Hirata buns are Taiwan’s equivalent to a burger bun and have hit the street food scene over here, appealing to our love for Asian street foods. Traditionally filled with pork belly and preserved mustard greens, along with sugar and peanuts, these buns have been Westernised to a certain degree by filling them with almost anything.
At London’s Flesh & Buns you can enjoy your bun freshly steamed and stuff it with a number of different fillings brought to the table, from sirloin steak with barbecue sauce to miso grilled aubergines with pickled carrot. We may have altered the fillings but the bun essentially remains authentic and, as the recipe is free from additives and preservatives and is usually vegan friendly, hirata buns appeal to a wide demographic of health and diet-conscious folk as well as those who just love the sweet doughy taste.
Not: Pulled Meat
The craze for pulled pork got as creative as pulled chicken or pulled beef, proving there’s only so far this trend can go. It’s a wonder we haven’t seen pulled carrots! A classic pulled pork roll should be obtained from your nearest street vendor, eaten in the balmy sunshine of a summer’s day, barbecue sauce running down your chin. When you can buy it from the supermarkets for a fiver, it loses its charm somehow. So, while our sumptuous shredded meats saw us through the summer festivals, barbecues and Grillstocks, that’s where we’re leaving it – until next summer.
We are undergoing a sausage renaissance here in Britain as bangers are back on the menu. After a summer of festivals dedicated to the beloved British banger it seems we’ve rekindled our love for this classic, meal-time staple. From haute dogs to vegetarian and gluten-free sausages, the choices have well and truly exceeded the old beef-or-pork days. Our keen sense for product procurement means that there is increasing emphasis on the quality of meat going into our sausages, as well as on new and exciting flavour combinations. Watch this space for premier porkers on the horizon.
Hot: Cheese and Pineapple Hedgehogs
A foil emblazoned hedgehog, offering forth his cocktail stick spines of cheese and pineapple was a dinner party staple in the 1960s. Cheese and pineapple is a flavour combination that will never go out of fashion. The beauty of the cheese and pineapple hedgehog is that you can serve him old-fashioned style or dress him up a little more glamourously with combos like mozzarella and prosciutto, thinly sliced pear with wedges of Brie, or fig and Stilton.
Step by step guide to a classic cheese and pineapple hedgehog:
Cover half a melon (or pineapple) in foil.
Cube your cheese of choice and apply to numerous cocktail sticks.
Top these sticks with cubes of pineapple and insert into the melon.
Add cherries for eyes.