Food’s Finishing Touch

22 Apr

Any foodie will know the difference between haute cuisine and your standard pub grub lies in the finishing touches that a chef gives to a dish to pull the ingredients together to go from being something good, to something extraordinary. It’s a subtle and delicate magic that chefs use which can sometime balance on the line of ultimate cool to just a bit bizarre, but when used properly, can really create food that is unforgettable.

With the ease of social media, there have never been so many food critics whose write ups can have instant gratifying or devastating effect. Because of such, more restaurants are pulling out all the stops to make their food stand out from the crowd, making the fine dining experience far more accessible than ever before.

Try smoking! No, not puffing on those little tobacco filled sticks, but the kind where flavoured smoke is encouraged to seep and saturate a food type. Our chefs have been providing earl grey smoked lamb for a couple of years now and the idea is catching. You’ll find restaurants searching for natural products to smoke (from apple to lavender) to provide a much deeper flavour to your initial ingredient. Of course, this can be used on meat and cheese but what about giving the same treatment to fruit and then turning this into a jam? Or condensing the smoke into a liquid form and adding to ice-cream? You may find the process a little time consuming to do yourself so do keep your eye out for menus that provide smoked foods.

Pickles and jams are having a make-over – think less afternoon tea accompaniment and more fantastic dinner garnish, although with the sumptuous varieties available you could jazz up your cream tea a little in the process as well. This year, look out for restaurants using jams and pickles as an ingredient to bring out the taste and accompany meaty, savoury flavours. It’s also one of the trends you can try yourself and make at home. Impress friends over dinner by serving seasoned pork medallions with pickled red chicory. If you need to brush up on your pickling and jam making skills, this is also the year to do so.

Breads are also being knocked into shape this year, rising to become the next best thing since, well sliced bread! In the past few years, you’ll have noticed that more varieties are being offered with your dinner than just the usual white and brown rolls, but chefs are also thinking of how else breads can be flavoured. You might see bacon flavoured bread where bacon fat rather than oil has been used to add depth to the taste. Or sourdoughs fried in flavoured oil and then cut up as a variation of chips. Gluten free bread is also taking a turn with restaurants realising that the demand for gluten free options has risen and so are providing better choices than the cardboard previously offered. Different breads are also being used as pizza bases – try the delicious sour dough pizza at Franco Manca for the best pizza you’ll ever have.

The next one might not fall under ‘finishing touches’ but the type of meat being used in dishes is also changing. No, we’re not referring to horse but with the recent meat scandal, restaurants and pubs are becoming more adventurous and looking at less well known meats to base their dishes around. You’ll see alligator, venison and bison becoming more readily available this year, but for those of you like us who want to try something sustainable and a little more closer to home, why not try wild boar. Get it from the Forest of Dean, where the boar is currently running amok, from places such as The Real Boar company or Natural Game.

For all you veggies shouting ‘what about us?’ you’ll be pleased to know that the vegetarian main course has never been as sexy. You’ll find many places in New York currently offering Meatless Monday’s to keep up with the demand of vegetarian clients so expect to see this trend becoming popular over in England this year as well.

As you might have guessed from all the above, this year is about experimentation; whether it be with unusual ingredients or just trying a dish you’d normally avoid, you’ll find food offered this year is very adventurous! Where will the taste journey take you?