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Cuisine craze: What's in, What's out


December 2014

Chefs know that foods come and go, although the lines between what’s in and what’s out are always blurry. "Food trends are like any other trend ­— they typically become the norm as restaurants try to keep up with each other. It’s sometimes hard to determine where a trend starts and by who," says chef Brian Moran, culinary arts instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

"We teach the classical foods and techniques, and what was the norm in contemporary food 30 years ago is getting hot again. Also, ‘local, local, local’ will never go away. It’s here to stay and will only get better," Moran asserts. "Cooks and chefs are balancing their menus with fusion cuisines and adding old-school stuff like spaetzles, sausage, pates, local foraging of vegetables, and amazing meats like local lamb and other proteins."

"I think the public is very open to trying new things, and the older crowd is more educated and wants to learn more about the latest trends and foodie topics," adds Moran. "Vegetarian options are really the hottest new trends all over the country. Chefs are just paying attention to the seasonal options and being more creative with grains, root vegetables, herbs and local cheese."

Ed Lump, head of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, claims to eat just about everything, with the exception of insects and cardboard. He agrees that fresh, quality items are all-important "ins" for today’s restaurant kitchens.

Remember, what’s "in" now may be "out" tomorrow as chefs scramble to jump on board the wave. The National Restaurant Association notes slight dips this year in Greek yogurt, sweet potato fries, liquid nitrogen chilling and anything foaming. However, pickling, fermenting, smoking and sous vide are gaining ground.

What's In:

Go global: Restaurants are also reaching out to other cultures. La Merenda serves an Indonesian sambal goreng udang (shrimp sautéed with ginger, tomatoes, coconut milk and sambal over coconut mashed potatoes), and The Cheel, a new award-winning Nepalese restaurant in Thiensville, cooks up a veggie choyla with toasted soy nuts, garlic, ginger, cilantro and flattened rice.

Exotica: Fricasseed monkey brains have yet to find their way onto Milwaukee menus, but try a 7-ounce kangaroo steak at Potawatomi Hotel and Casino’s Dream Dance Steak. Other exotic dishes include the Pacific Northwest barnacles at Hinterland, the cod cheeks at River Lane Inn, and the shrimp goat cheese pasta at Cafe 1501. Rabbit and pigeon are next in line, according to kitchen insiders.

It’s a wrap: Put a little crustacean in your life with designer lobster wraps at Fleming’s, a vegan burrito option at Cafe Corazon or a fabulous sesame chicken pita at Lulu’s.

Here’s to ya: Tired of gin and tonic? Find great innovative libations at the Mason Street Grill ("Blu Berry Martini" with Stoli Blueberi Vodka and Monin Blueberry Syrup), Red Star Cocktail Club ("The Celery" made with Ransom Old Tom Gin, lemon, chamomile syrup, house celery bitters and champagne) and Bryant’s ("Cherry Benjamin," an ice cream drink concocted with snappy ginger, smooth cherry flavors and top-shelf cognac). Microdistilled and barrel-aged beverages are also going gangbusters.

A little bit goes a long way: The French call it a menu dégustation. Basically, a tasting menu covers small portions of several dishes, with several options served as a single meal. Find a brilliant variety at La Merenda, c.1880 and Ardent.


What's Out:

Adios: Aside from notable Hispanic eateries like Poco Loco and Waukesha’s La Estacion, fewer non-Mexican restaurants dabble in South of the Border beans and rice dishes. However, Taco Tuesdays remain relatively popular at taverns.

Wheat-based on the roadside: Non-wheat foods are taking over, with the rise in demand for gluten-free. Noodles these days are being made with rice, buckwheat and quinoa.

Jack Sprat: As costs rise on pork and beef production and decreasing water resources in some parts of the country make it easier to grow lentils than cattle, overloaded menus that try to cater to all tastes are going bye-bye. Chefs subsequently are adapting to more vegetarian and gluten-free options. Half-portions at lower price points are also starting to appear.

Aw, nuts: The duck testicles are off the menu for some time at Hinterland, according to chef and owner Dan Van Rite. But bacon is still in and will be for a long time, asserts James Beard Award winner Adam Siegel of the Bartollota Restaurant Group.

Sweet dreams: Cupcakes are still on the go, but do not have as strong of a presence as in past years. Yet house-made ice creams still have panache.



This story ran in the December 2014 issue of: