Food ó What Was Hot And Haute In 2004
By Amy Diaz
...any given year.
The book is extremely comprehensive ó giving a good number of Asian and Asian-ish recipes for noodle dishes along with an as-good-as-it gets description of the various kinds of Asian noodles.
In every category, recipes range from the simple to the, well, slightly less simple but no dish no matter how exotic sounding (tuna empanadas, lamb kofte with garlic yogurt sauce, almond flan with summer fruit) is all that complicated to make. Each one comes with a helpful break-down of how long it will take to make (both in terms of active time and time from start to finish) as well as a brief description of the food youíre about to make. The recipes come from a wide variety of international culinary traditions, but the book isnít divided into sections by these categories nor does it pretend to be authentic. These are good tastes made accessible for American kitchens and timetables (plenty of dishes take about half an hour or less to make). An excellent reference for any cook and a good starting point for anyone looking to broaden their repertoire beyond a handful of favorites, The Gourmet Cookbook is perhaps the most important foodie book released last year.
Plus, two pretty yellow ribbons to keep those pages marked.
Hereís an example from Gourmetís hors díoeuvres section.
Onion Parmesan Toasts
3/4 cup chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup mayonnaise
14 slices party rye or pumpernickel bread
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigianao-Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat boiler. Stir together onion and mayonnaise in a small bowl.
Arrange bread in one layer on a baking sheet and broil 6 inches from heat, turning once, until lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes per side (watch carefully). Remove from oven and turn toasts over. Spread evenly with onion mixture and sprinkle with cheese and pepper to taste. Broil until topping is bubbling and lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve warm.
Grilled cheese, apple pie, fried chicken ó these are just some of the foods that got their very own cookbooks in 2004.
Other books focus on singular ingredients, such as pomegranates or figs. Sure, $20 a pop is an expensive way to learn about food but these books offer a laser-like focus that stands opposite to the all-inclusiveness of the Gourmet and other everything cookbooks. Want to host an Iron Chef -like dinner, where all the items have a common ingredient? These books are the place to turn. They also offer you a good way to study one preparation method (wok and deep-frying cookbooks can help you get a handle on the technique) or to learn about one kind of food (a $20 bread cookbook showed me a world of bread possibilities even if it took me many failed loafs before getting something resembling bread).
Maybe these books wonít be the go-to resource for everyday cooking, but itís nice to know that if you want to wow your guests with a gouda and prosciutto grilled, someone is around to tell you how.
Limited edition candy
I honestly canít remember which came first ó the white-chocolate Twix or the inside-out Reeseís Peanut Butter Cup.
Whichever hit first, the other quickly followed, opening up a deluge that eventually came to include that M&Mazing candy bar that combines sugar-delivery devices to produce, essentially, a chocolate chip chocolate bar.
In a world where even the sweets are required to be healthy ó see that new low-carb berry-flavored 7-Up ó itís nice to see that innovation continues in the world of pure, unapologetic junkfood.
Like the new television season, the roll out began this fall.
The Yard, UnWined, Cotton, Starfish, Taste of Europe, Bernardoís Italian Restaurant ó all have or soon will revamp their menus. Some did it as part of a seasonal effort to keep up with the produce available during the colder months. Some did it to correspond with new help in the kitchen. Whatever the reason, the result is new adventures in dining for area restaurant goers.
Pomegranates are the new mango.
Their deep garnet-colored seeds are found in everything from salads to desserts to drinks (check out the pomegranate martini at Fodeeís in Nashua). But the true sign of success is the once rare but now everywhere pomegranate juice called simply Pom. Its promises of health benefits are of the anti-oxidant variety (can you feel when youíve had enough?) and its price tag can be hefty (breaking the $3 mark for a 15.5 ounce bottle). But the bubbly shape and fun flavors (including pomegranate juice with mango, in a nod to last yearís favorite fruit) can make you overlook the price for something that tastes very similar to tarted-up cranberry juice and join in the everything-ancient-is-hip-again trend.
Pumpkin is this yearís sweet potato.
Or maybe itís the new arugula. Whatever hip vegetable it most resembles, pumpkin (the heartier complement to the more showy pomegranate fad) appeared as more than just an October decoration but as a frequent ingredient on restaurant menus. All over Manchester, pumpkin appears in soups and pastas as well as the usual breads and desserts.
Shoppers can also find pumpkin raviolis, gnocchi, soups, sauces and other items to dress up winter dinners.
A sweet and colorful alternative to squash, the spreading use of pumpkin helps to add flare to winter cuisine ó a welcome addition to foodies mourning the seasonal loss of fresh peppers, tomatoes and assorted greens.
Staying open past 9 p.m. isnít just for the Red Arrow anymore.
OK, maybe thatís an exaggeration. On any given Friday night, plenty of Manchester restaurants are happy to serve full menus. But show up a few hours later or get the stomach grumbles at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday and your choices limit considerably.
One problem is that there just arenít always enough people looking to eat dinner at 10 or 11 p.m. on a regular weekday. Itís costly for restaurants to staff a kitchen and dining room full of employees if only a handful of patrons show up.
But a few downtown restaurants gave late nights the college try anyway this year. Taste of Europe kicked off its opening by advertising a 1 a.m. closing time. Theyíve since cut back their hours for the winter but plan to try it again in warmer months.
And, for those looking for a caffeine jolt in the evening, Gala Cafť is open until midnight on Friday and Saturday.
On behalf of everyone who has ever felt hunger pains later than the standard dinner hour, thanks to the restaurants that make the attempt.
Sheís plucky, thrifty, cute and everywhere.
Rachael Ray is this yearís (less irritating) Emeril Lagasse.
Building a following on the Food Network with her $40 a Day and 30 Minute Meals shows, Ray added another one this year, Inside Dish with Rachael Ray. Here, the ever-enthusiastic Ray gets kitchen tours and recipes from an assortment of celebrities.
Couple this with new book releases this year (Rachael Rayís 30 Minute Meals for Kids: Cooking Rocks; Rachael Rayís 30 Minute Meals: Cooking ĎRound the Clock and $40 a Day: Best Eats in Town) and Ray is has solidified her place as the latest foodie star.
In 2005, look for more of the same, including the new book Rachael Rayís Get Real Meals for the Carb Frustrated.
Sometimes itís Indian, sometimes itís Italian.
Caribbean food will get the nod from time to time. Asian food never really leaves the limelight though sometimes Thai takes front stage and sometimes youíll hear all about the cuisine of one Chinese province.
In 2004, Spain got a lot of press.
Perhaps it was the tapas. In New Hampshire, it might have had something to do with the sudden availability of good (not too expensive) Spanish wines. Whatever caused Spainís recent spurge in culinary popularity, most of the major food magazines (Bon Appetite, Savor, Gourmet) came out with stories about the food of Spain.
Spanish cuisine, of all possible It foods, is a good choice. It mixes some of the spicier elements of north African cooking with some of the less fussy European styles and adds in a good dose of New World ingredients. Also, it includes plenty of delicious cheeses, olives and savory-style desserts to round out the meal.
This was a bad year for tomatoes.
Leftover effects from hurricanes in Florida melded with the usual break in the harvesting season (after tomatoes can be picked fresh in the northern US and before they can be picked fresh elsewhere) to create about a month or so when tomatoes, bad tomatoes, were worth their weight in gold.
The down side was that many a restaurant had to eat the exorbitantly high cost of tomatoes and many shoppers had to eat some pretty sad tomato castoffs.
The silver lining is that the tomato turmoil convinced many restaurants to think seasonally (and locally) when preparing their vegetable dishes. In addition to all that jazz about a sustainable economy (local veggies from local farmers mean local agriculture and local jobs that help bolster the local economy), eating fresh local foods is also healthier and much more flavorful. And, ultimately, a heck of a lot cheaper than $5 per pound tomatoes.
Wine and cheese
Big cheeses are not uncommon at the Center of New Hampshire ó presidential candidates, big name news anchors, the occasional activist celebrity, this cityís seen it all.
But for one weekend this year, the big cheeses at the Center were brie, camembert and a wealth of cheddars. Hannaford supermarkets held their first ever (letís hope first annual) Wine and Cheese Festival at the Radisson. The event showed off wines and cheeses sold at their stores as well as breads, soups and desserts.
Now, sure, the evening was a big living advertisement for the supermarket, but it was also a cool way to get acquainted with unusual cheeses and new wines and it helped to foster interest in foods outside the mainstream. For those who fell in love with wines at that event, check out the monthly events sponsored by The Wine Society of Nashua, 883-4114, or get yourself on the list for a liquor commission-sponsored wine tasting on Thursday, Jan. 27, at the Center of New Hampshire.
Or, take a gander at local menus. Several Manchester restaurants have added new wines to their list, The Yard and the Bedford Village Inn still boast some of the most extensive lists in the city, Unwined has a wide variety of wines available by the glass and specialty shops (such as Angelaís Pasta and Cheese and the Van Otis on South Willow) offer bottles you canít get else where.
- Amy Diaz
2004 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH