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Emerald City Edibles

Forecasting the Important Culinary Trends of 2013

By Ashley English

Photos by Tim Robison

Pantone, the New Jersey-based color company that helps folks find the ideal hue for transforming their interiors and accoutrements, just announced its Color of the Year. The simply named “Emerald will reign supreme in 2013.

When VERVE decided to make its own declaration of fashion — forecasting this year’s hottest food trends — emerald fit right in. After all, Asheville was recently named the world’s first Green Dining Destination by the Green Restaurant Association.

If there’s a culinary wave, we need to be on top of it — and at the most conscious level, to boot.

From acai berries to pomegranates, from home-canned jars of jam to bravely downed jars of bathtub gin, certain foods and food trends find a spotlight cast on them each year. In my edible mind’s eye, I see homemade beverages and artisan snacks gaining more traction.

Not wanting to hazard culinary predictions on my own, however, I sought out feedback from five local ladies immersed in Asheville’s foodie aristocracy. Grab your forks, knives, and an emerald puffy coat, and let’s find out what 2013 promises to deliver to our plates and palates. 

Kimchi and Kohlrabi and Pine Needles: Oh My!

I see ‘unusual’ vegetables and more unfamiliar vegetable varieties gaining a greater following in 2013,” wagers Maggie Cramer, communications manager at Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. “I think it’s already starting to happen with veggies like ramps and kohlrabi. People are talking about them, food bloggers are sharing recipes around them, chefs are using them on their menus, and kids have been trying kohlrabi in farm-to-school programs across the country” including in ASAP’s own Growing Minds Farm to School Program.

Katie Button, executive chef and co-owner of high-end tapas bar Cúrate, similarly notes a shift toward embracing the “use of unconventional natural ingredients” even hay and pine needles. “We’re opening up our vision of what the natural edible world includes,” she says.

According to Short Street Cakes proprietress Jodi Rhoden and freelance food stylist Charlotte Autry, regional specialties are the forthcoming order of the day. “I’ve continued to see increased customer interest in local heirloom varieties of produce that I use, like sweet potatoes, or the local Candy Roaster Squash that our pie lady, Emilou, uses in place of pumpkin in her pies,” explains Rhoden. Autry has noticed the beloved Southern condiment chow-chow “showing up on a lot of menus recently, sometimes in its traditional form, sometimes fancied up.”

Meanwhile, confectioner Jael Rattigan co-owner of French Broad Chocolate Lounge and French Broad Chocolate Factory & Tasting Room maintains that artisan foods of every persuasion are where it’s at, with an increased focus on technique.

“Artisan methods and curation of ingredients have spread from beer and cheese to chocolate and cocktails,” says Rattigan, mentioning locally distilled tonic water along with other boutique foods: pickles, mayonnaise, nut butters. Foodie entrepreneurs should opt for “single-minded business plans and focused execution” in 2013, she advises.

My fellow ladies-in-food are looking at the big picture, too. “ASAP is thrilled that getting kids cooking is really catching on. [It’s] sure to be a big year in this regard,” opines Cramer, while Rhoden sees no end in sight to the nation’s love affair with Southern foods.

“Much of this has been wonderful to see, with chefs all over the country claiming our own food traditions and glorifying them, rather than something having to be based in French cuisine in order to be considered fancy or elegant,” says the baker/author, a Georgia native.

Rattigan predicts a continued crescendo in the arena of raising healthy animals for sustainable meat. And Button likewise senses further momentum at the food source. “The trend is towards reviving specialized trades that had been forgotten in the years of convenience,” she says. (Think artisan cheese-making, the craft-cocktail movement, even hand-carved ice.)

Button mentions Jael and her husband Dan, who “[work] on the entire specialized process of things, roasting their own cocoa beans and making their own chocolate.”

Autry and Rhoden both feel the pulse developing for fermented-food fervor. “I feel like this past year we had a little bit of a pickling movement. Perhaps fermentation is next? Make your own kimchi or kombucha kits?” offers Autry, noting that it’s not necessarily a project for beginners.

Still, “the fermented foods trend is touching every genre from mixed drinks like shrubs, to kimchi, cordito and kraut on sandwiches, to raw cheeses and creams being used in desserts,” confirms Rhoden. She credits the work of fermentation guru Sandor Katz as integral to the movement.

In a word, it’s about innovation. Rattigan hopes for more local artisan-food jobs “borne of passion and creativity,” and Autry can’t wait to imbibe what’s coming out of local distilleries. “Beer can't have all the fun,” she quips.

Rhoden’s richly inventive Piecakes are gaining a cult status, but don’t call them gimmicky. “I tend to avoid trends like Cakepops,” she says, “but baking a pie inside of a cake stands on its own because it’s so ridiculously delicious, and pretty, and fun to do.”

For me, food just tastes better in Asheville. Maybe it’s the microbe-laced soil or the temperate rainforest climate that accounts for the area’s stellar produce, meat, dairy, and other edible offerings.

Or perhaps it’s something less quantifiable and more elusive that makes the vittles produced here taste so darn good, like the mysterious “vortex” often associated with our little Emerald City.

Whatever it is, I’ll take it. And eat it.

Ashley English is a nationally known blogger (“Small Measure”), homesteader, and prolific author based in WNC. Her book A Year of Pies was the top pie-themed book on Amazon.com in December. This year, besides writing her monthly column for VERVE, she’ll appear on the cover of Country Woman magazine (June/July). Ashley is working on various book projects, including Handmade Gatherings, due from Roost Books in 2014.

Posted on Wednesday, January 2, 2013 at 03:57PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References4 References

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