Article: On the National Menu -- July 2009
Despite rhubarb’s long history (its use dates back at least to 200 B.C. in China), it had fallen out of favor among American palates, possibly due to its tart taste. Considering the typical American sweet tooth, this is not a shock. Also creating a challenge are rhubarb’s seasonality, and it is difficult to grow.
However, celebrity chefs are using the heirloom plant as part of haute cuisine, and farmers’ markets around the country are finding young consumers are willing takers. As the San Jose Mercury News finds, numerous chefs are putting rhubarb into pies and crisps, often paired with strawberries, preparing it in compotes and sauces, or even featuring it in such dishes as clafouti, the French dish that is part cake, part custard.
Making and Baking
Baking cakes is on its way to a comeback of sorts, at least in Britain, reports the Telegraph. More than a third of consumers under the age of 25 make cakes regularly, with males comprising roughly a half of those bakers. Why is there a sudden interest?
The London newspaper posed the question to “cake queen” Jane Asher, who finds three factors behind the surge: “Firstly, Nigella, who made it look possible to cook and eat cake, and still look clean and glamorous.” She also gives credit to the recession and a consumer refusal to buy something they can make at home. In addition, there is a third factor—the number of successful cake mixes on the market.
For consumers looking to eschew the baking mix, a new kitchen is opening that aims to teach novice bakers how to bake cakes. Just about the only area not seeing consumers taking the spatula into their own hands is in wedding cakes.
Way More than 31
A recent issue of The New York Post took a look at some of the interesting and diverse ice cream flavors to be found in area restaurants and ice cream parlors. Golosi, for instance, includes dozens of flavors of gelato and sorbet, including Coca-Cola, a “riff on Ferrer Rocher candy,” and a pale yellow sorbet comprised almost entirely of Red Bull. The owner plans to experiment with more grown-up flavors, once he garners a liquor license, when he plans to try limoncello, dark chocolate with Grand Marnier and Red Bull with vodka. Cones already has included such flavors, as a recent flavor of the month featured kumquats with Johnny Walker Black Label. Some consumers have likened the Cones experience to that of the “soup Nazi” from Seinfeld fame, and other unusual flavors of gelato include sweet corn topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon and bitter mate.
These two eateries are far from alone in the experimental ice cream flavor arena: Griff’s gelato can be found in strawberries and clotted cream, and tahini-tinged sesame brittle, while creamed corn, taro and black sesame also grace the menu. At Otto, chef Mario Batali has even taken olive oil into frozen desserts, with olive oil gelato, topped with a sprinkle of sea salt.
Fun flavors traditionally associated with confections also can be found in frozen treats. Momofuku’s soft-serve ice cream flavors include Fireballs, Twizzlers and Sour Gummi Bears. Incorporating the flavors into ice cream involves soaking the candies in cold milk to make a base, the pastry chef notes. pf