September 13, 2010

The Fashion of Food

Sweet Trends

This week is Fashion Week in New York City. And food is like fashion – what we want to eat changes with time. For several years the sweet snack trend in the United States has been adorable, gourmet cupcakes. From Magnolia Cupcakes in New York City to Georgetown Cupcakes in Washington DC and Kara's Cupcakes in San Francisco, shops serving these delectable treats have popped up in cities and towns across America. Now the trend has crossed the US borders and is spreading abroad. In addition to a serious cupcake shop in Berlin, last spring McDonalds began selling fancy cupcakes named after New York City boroughs at its Germany outlets.

More recently the trend has been artisanal ice cream, gelato, and sorbet in creative flavors. I first had the opportunity to taste this type of treat when Bi-Rite Creamery opened in San Francisco. And I think that shop help launch this trend. Near Mission Dolores Park (a large grassy field where San Franciscans of all walks of life enjoy the summer sun) it is perfect location for an ice cream shop. Bi-Rite ice cream is delicious and the flavors are creative, but approachable. (My favorite is salted caramel, but they also serve honey lavender and mexican chocolate.) Soon after it opened there was always a line wrapping around the block on summer weekends and evenings.

Another ice cream shop in San Francisco is Humphrey Slocombes. This curious shop is located in the heart of the Mission District and gets its name from characters on the BBC sitcom “Are You Being Served?” The flavors are unique and delicious, ranging from olive oil (which should not be underestimated) to secret breakfast (a concoction containing cornflakes and bourbon).

In New York City Grom Gelato is serving small – but fabulous – cups of creamy gelato and sorbet.

And here in Washington DC we have a few shops serving frozen treats as well. Dolcezza has a few shops around the city in addition to selling gelato and sorbet at local farmer's markets (including a Saturday market in my neighborhood). They make excellent artisanal gelato and sorbet in innovative flavors. The menu changes based on the seasonal ingredients available, but ranges from classics like chocolate and pistachio to more unique options like black mission fig and cantaloupe tarragon. Another gelato shop here in the district is Pitango Gelato.

Savory Trends

Now onto savory trends. Recently many cities has been witness to the opening of wine bars and small cafes focusing on simple menus featuring artisan ingredients. The menus at many of these cafes feature small plates and encourage diners to linger, share a variety of dishes, and enjoy their evening. This simplistic, relaxing approach to dining is a departure from the stereotypical rushed American way of life.

This is an encouraging trend to see! In my travels to other parts of the globe I have always been envious of the more languid meals enjoyed in countries that are foreign to me. Images of people happy eating their meal at a corner bistrot and then lingering over drinks, dessert, or coffee come in harsh contrast to the rushed dining experiences we have come to accept the homogenous looking American restaurant chains. I wholeheartedly welcome a shift towards artisan and local ingredients served in relaxing establishments in American cities and towns!

What's Next?

If I only had a crystal ball... Several months ago I read an NPR article suggesting that French macaroons would be the dessert trend to sieze America's attention. This summer a small French bakery, cafe, and chocolate shop, Cacao by Jacques Poulain, which sells very good macaroons opened in the Cleveland Park neighborhood. So, maybe that will be the next sweet trend. It is one I would definitely welcome!

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