Fanning the Flavor
The sweet, yet spicy, combination of red chili sauce and mango is just one of the flavor pairings Americans might be layering on the grill this season, according to the McCormick® Flavor Forecast Trend Report: Grilling Edition. This first-ever grilling focus from the consumer seasoning products company identifies top sizzling flavor partners and summer flavor trends. 

Expect to see backyard chefs experimenting with flavor layering, using high-impact combinations of rubs, marinades and glazes, all to boost flavor-before, during and after grilling. The top five trends turning up the heat this year begin with “Backyard Bistro”--the surging popularity of at-home entertaining continues, as grillers try to recreate the foods and flavors of their favorite eateries.

“Layering It On” merges marinades, rubs, brines, mops and sauces; “Fired Up Fruit” makes use of grilled fruits--skewered alongside meats, pureed to make marinades and chopped up for salsas and relishes.

Nearly every cuisine around the globe claims a place on the grill, making “Ethnic Sizzle” a popular way to innovate. Especially current flavors include Caribbean, Latin, Thai, Vietnamese and Indian influences. “Shaken, Stirred & Grilled” flavors include the use of spirits in place of vinegars or other liquids--think mojito marinades and bourbon-spiked pork tenderloin.

Experts at McCormick have also identified seven flavor pairings that combine everything from sweet and spicy to warm and smoky. They include: applewood and plum; cilantro and lime; rosemary and fig; chipotle and maple; brown sugar and bourbon; cinnamon and coffee; and red chili sauce and mango.

Racking it Up
One of the new, but old, dishes popping up on U.S. menus is lamb--and not just lamb chops and stew. According to an Associated Press story (April 21, 2010), as chefs experiment with American lamb, the focus is on shaking off lamb’s old-fashioned, fussy image. From lamb bacon to “lamb jams,” where local chefs grill lamb for competition, the meat is on-trend to become more approachable to a new generation.

One of the reasons for lamb in-the-now is the wave of people wanting to “eat local.”  Says New Hampshire sheep farmer Jeff Conrad, “People want to know where their food’s coming from.” Conrad, who with his wife, Liz, runs Riverslea Farm near Epping, has noticed an increase in people buying lamb cuts for everyday meals, as opposed to previous years, when he sold mainly whole animals to families looking to have a party. “Ground lamb? We can’t even keep that around,” he claims.

Cooking with lamb is something different for chefs, giving them a chance to be creative. The lesser-known cuts, such as the neck and belly, can also be good for the budget, says Matt Accarrino, executive chef at SPQR in San Francisco, and he would rather work with lamb belly than a lamb rack. “Braised and glazed, long and slow-cooked, it’s a very versatile cut.”

Across the country, Mike Price, chef/owner of Market Table in New York City, has been selling more lamb and fewer steaks, “which I think is a good thing. I’m a big fan of lamb.”pf