I remember a time, not all that long ago, when foods such as kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and the like were a hard sell, especially in restaurants. But, just as avocado toast has become a “thing” in the past couple years or so, there are a number of foods that, in the past decade, have gone from unloved to positively trendy. Here are some examples of foods that were once largely abhorred and are now adored.
My wife says that when she was a child, her parents made her eat Brussels sprouts―a vegetable she hated so much that she would swallow them whole rather than have to chew the miniature cabbages. I imagine a lot of you can relate. Well, a few years ago, Brussels sprouts seem to have gotten a makeover and they now appear on all sorts of hip restaurant menus.
At Eva restaurant―which serves what may be the best Brussels sprouts I’ve ever eaten―chef/owner Charlie Perry flash sautes thinly shaved sprouts in butter and tosses them with cider vinegar and toasted hazelnuts. So good. Meanwhile, chef/owner of Park City’s Tupelo, Matt Harris, transforms the humble Brussels sprout into a high-end Asian-style salad combining crispy Brussels sprouts with fermented plum, diakon, fennel, almonds, and savory fish sauce caramel. Over at chef/owner Matthew Lake’s Alamexo, Brussels sprouts are given a south-of-the-border treatment: fried with chile, pecans and lime. And, at White Horse Spirits & Kitchen, chef Matt Crandall fries them until crispy with pork belly lardons, roasted peanuts, and “dynamite” sauce.
The aforementioned pork belly lardons reminds me that there was a time when you couldn’t give pork belly away. But then, starting about 10 years ago, pork belly became as ubiquitous in trendy restaurants as craft-brewed IPAs. At downtown SLC’s Ramen Bar, the tonkotsu ramen comes with a big hunk of pork belly in it. Whisky Street serves pork belly lettuce wraps with braised pork belly, bourbon-soy glaze and peanuts kimchi. At Todd Gardiner’s Taqueria 27, there’s a taco called P.B.L.T.A., which is slow-roasted pork belly, sliced and seared, served with tomato, avocado, lettuce and jalapeño aioli.
Chef Nathan Powers at Bambara offers a dish called “Cheek & Belly,” which is crispy pork cheek, pork belly confit, pepper jack grits, green chili creme fraiche, and pickled veggies. Over at chef/owner Ryan Lowder’s Copper Onion, there’s braised Kurobuta pork belly with pickled carrots, jalapeño, celery, radish, and scallions. In Cedar City, there’s even an outfit so enamored with pork belly that it’s named Porkbelly’s Eatery & Catering Co.
Cauliflower is currently having its moment, as well. I estimate that about one out of every three upscale eateries these days has a cauliflower dish somewhere on its menu. Pallet serves cauliflower with its Wagyu New York Strip steak, while at Log Haven, chef Dave Jones offers a Korean-style cauliflower appetizer with crushed cashews, scallions and sweet & spicy gochujang glaze. Cucina Wine Bar chef Joey Ferran serves an innovative roasted Romanesco cauliflower dish with red mole, blood orange mojo, nopalito pico, fried yucca, and petite verdolagas.
Meanwhile, over at Provisions, chef/owner Tyler Stokes roasts his cauliflower over a wood fire and serves it with nam prik, roasted peanuts, pink peppercorns and mint. Tradition restaurant cooks up cauliflower with a tasty Indian twist: cauliflower korma. And, down in Provo, Communal has country-fried cauliflower with spiced red wine reduction and arugula.
Beets―once loathed, now loved―have been having their moment in the sun lately. The “Beets & Beets & Beets” dish at Bambara is beets with honey-whipped ricotta, watercress, fried brioche, pickled strawberries and toasted pistachios. Eva serves beets that are charred, with whipped goat cheese, mint, pistachio, and citrus oil, while at Nomad, chef/owner Justin Soelberg offers pickled and roasted beets with farmer’s cheese, granola and scarlet frill. Stoneground Italian Kitchen chef Justin Shifflett marinates his beets and serves them with whole grain mustard, wild arugula, pistachio, goat cheese and blackberries. At SLC Eatery, there’s a tasty charred beet and blue cheese tartine on the cart menu.
Deviled eggs―nostalgically kitschy and cool―have made a comeback. They can be found on menus ranging from Bambara and Whiskey Street, to Bourbon House, Handle, Cafe Niche and High West Saloon. I’m particularly enamored of Tupelo’s deviled eggs with creme fraiche and fried country ham.
One recent food trend that I’m somewhat dumbfounded to explain is shishito peppers, which are usually served “blistered.” I have no idea how this trend got started, but I’m glad it did because I’ve come to love burnt, charred, grilled, roasted and blistered shishito peppers. You’ll find them at Oak Wood Fire Kitchen where they’re fire-roasted and tossed with elderflower honey and aleppo pepper; High West Saloon (seared and fried with maple shoyu; Copper Onion (with curry aioli); Bambara (blistered); and HSL (blistered with preserved lemon, sesame and curry puree).
Octopus, which until recently you rarely found outside of Greek restaurants and sushi bars, is showing up more on more on menus. At Current Fish & Oyster, chef Alan Brines’ Spanish octopus comes with white beans, pearl onions, Moroccan olives, eggplant, tomato, brown butter and herbs. Meanwhile, over at Copper Kitchen, octopus is grilled and served with crushed olives, jalapeño, celery and balsamic vinaigrette.
Sister restaurant Copper Onion prepares their braised octopus with fingerling potatoes, espelette aioli, and pickled Fresno pepper vinaigrette. Perhaps the most innovative use of octopus I’ve encountered is at Table X, where it’s used in their pozole with Utah sweet corn, hominy, cabbage, lime and citrus broth.
Hmmm … I wonder which unloved foods I’ll be writing about in the years to come? Please just don’t let it be Aussie Vegemite or Swedish lutefisk.