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Published December 31, 2012, 11:35 PM

Flavor forecast: We take a look at what’s on tap for 2013

The parties are over and the new year is here, but what does that mean? If you’re in the restaurant or bar industry, it could mean a variety of different flavors, ingredients and techniques.

By: John Lamb, INFORUM

The parties are over and the new year is here, but what does that mean?

If you’re in the restaurant or bar industry, it could mean a variety of different flavors, ingredients and techniques.

We asked local eateries and watering holes what new trends could find their way to area tables.

Pork

Chefs are still high on the hog, and many see pork bellies as a popular dish going forward.

“Keep it classical, nothing too far out of the box,” says Michael Wald, executive chef at WF Maxwell’s. “People are comfortable with food terms they recognize. But maybe not the way their grandmothers made it.”

Part of the appeal is the winter season.

“Braising and long-cooked meats I really crave this time of year,” says Andrea Baumgardner, co-owner and chef at Green Market Kitchen.

In addition to comforting tastes, pork is also easier on the pocketbook, says Christian D’Agostino, executive chef and co-owner of Monte’s, where he serves D’Agostino Sausages, combing the meat with rigatoni, grilled fennel, oven-dried tomato and basil sauce.

Garam masala

Eric Watson, chef and co-owner of Mezzaluna predicts one of the hot rubs for pork and other meats this year will be garam masala, the ground spice blend popular in northern Indian foods.

“It’s so unique to this area, it will be fun to put on the menu,” says Watson, who describes the characteristics as “numbing” and “super aromatic.”

He says the rub would pair well not only with pork and poultry but also vegetables like a roasted winter squash.

Charred fruit

Searing has long been a technique to lock in and enhance flavor in meat, but Nick Weinhandl, co-chef at the Hotel Donaldson, says fruit is now facing the fire. He likes a quick char on oranges, then squeezing the juice over a dish to add to the taste.

“That’s starting to be a catchy trend,” Weinhandl says.

Sous vide cooking

It may have not been under his tree on Christmas morning, but Watson is also looking forward to playing with sous vide cooking. The technique seals food in plastic bags, submerging them in hot water to cook the item thoroughly and evenly without overcooking one side.

Yogurt

Baumgardner’s new favorite cookbook is “Jerusalem” by Yotam Ottolenghi, and it has spiked her interest in Greek yogurt.

“I’m obsessed with cooking with Greek yogurt,” she says. “I don’t know if it’s a trend for anyone but me.”

Also on her list is labneh, a soft cream cheese made from strained yogurt or “any tangy dairy products that aren’t sour cream.”

She likes mixing the yogurt with lemon juice and dill to spark a dish.

“It’s a really great counterpoint to rich foods, a piece of fish or just great for a veggie dip,” she says. She also uses the versatile side mixed with powdered sugar and heavy cream as a dessert topping.

The labneh she often uses as a garnish before serving soups, either on top or with a quick swirl.

Basil drinks

Already known as a verdant flavor in foods, basil is making a splash in drinks.

“It’s more of an accent,” says Ian Dickmeyer, general manager at Rhombus Guys, who serves up the XD6 (Experimental Drink 6), which features muddled basil.

“Basil is coming around,” says Jason Laub, manager at the Hotel Donaldson. They serve up a Twister, a mix of vodka, blueberries, raw sugar, basil, fresh lemon juice and soda.

“Drinks are getting a lot more fun,” he says. “It’s getting to be a lot more like food.”

Ginger beer

Not an alchoholic beverage but stronger than a standard ginger ale, this bottle is finding its way into more bartenders’ mixes.

“The spice will almost light your nose up,” says Aaron Duma, bar manager at Usher’s House in Moorhead, describing the brew’s potency.

He likes using it in a local variation of the classic Moscow Mule, which he calls a Moorhead Mule – a mix of mint, lime, simple syrup and vodka. The ginger beer actually cuts the alcohol, Duma says.

Ginger beers also mix well with dark rum for a Dark & Stormy, the bartender adds.

Duma also notes that more flavored bitters will continue to creep into mixologists’ menus and that RumChata, a creamy rum liqueur, is increasingly popular in cocktails.

Sour beers

The next big trend is sour beers,” proclaims Andrea Williams, general manager at the original JL Beers on First Ave., N., in Fargo.

She sites New Belgium’s La Folie as a good starting point for those who want to tap this trend.

“We put that on this summer and it was really popular,” she says.

Ciders

“Cider beers have really hit it hard with the amount you can do with them,” says Marc Hedlund, bar manager at Sidestreet Grill and Pub in Fargo.

In particular the Sidestreet like mixing the apple drink with 50/50 with a darker beer like a stout or a porter. A twist on a Snakebite, the two beers remain separate with the darker hanging above the cider like a Black and Tan.

Another mix is a Johnny Jump-Up, dropping a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey into the cider.

“The Jameson really mellows out the sweetness of the Cider,” he says.

Some recent trends that are sticking around

• Comfort food with a gourmet twist

“Everyone has a lobster mac & cheese or some gourmet mac & cheese,” Duma says.

“Older classic, home-style foods are being re-invented a little bit,” says Dickmeyer.

• Locally grown and sustainable food, particularly micro greens.

• India Pale Ales: “The hoppier, the better,” Williams says.

Dickmeyer says IPAs are starting to morph a bit, with Deschutes Chain Breaker White IPAs gaining popularity just as black IPAs have taken on coffee, porter and stout characteristics.

• Cucumber in drinks: “Cucumber is still rocking strong,” says Jason Laub, manager at the Hotel Donaldson. The HoDo has at least three drinks with cucumber, pairing the vegetable with vodka, gin and spiced rum.


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533

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