This is the sixteenth installment of "Eat This List" -- a semi-regularly recurring list of things chefs, farmers, writers and other food experts think you ought to know about.
As Eatocracy's editors, we're (that's Kat Kinsman and Sarah LeTrent) lucky enough to get to travel and eat all over the country, both for work and because it's what we love to do. We've seen some trends popping up in restaurants from coast to coast, and in 2014, here are a few we think stand a chance of catching on in more home and restaurant kitchens across the country.
1. Fish collars, heads and trash fish
You can keep your tuna steaks (which actually stand a good chance of being escolar or "Ex-Lax fish" due to rampant seafood fraud) tilapia filets and salmon cutlets. Smart chefs and diners with an eye on sustainability will bring more bony cuts and B-list bycatch into the mainstream.
Heads and collars, which are the section of flesh and pectoral fins behind the gills (pictured at Peche restaurant above), are bubbling up on menus from New Orleans to Nashville to Atlanta and beyond. Once mainly the provenance of sushi chefs, this easily-crisped section of fish is catching on with diners weary of belly and sides. Heads -- especially the sumptuous cheek meat and the full-bodied stock they produce -- are a must in many Hunan dishes, Malaysian curries and traditional Gullah recipes that are in the midst of a much-deserved renaissance.
And you can't catch the big seafood stars (like cod, shrimp and salmon) without snagging some tagalongs with them. Eco- and budget-conscious eaters are discovering the virtues of varieties like triggerfish, porgy, drum, wolf eel and sand dabs, which would previously have been tossed back, discarded, ground into organic soil amendment or turned into fish sauce. Not only does this give overfished breeds a breather, getting diners comfortable with a more diverse range of options helps ensure a tastier tomorrow for everyone.
Gullah fish head and catfish stew at Husk Nashville
2. Heirloom beans, peanuts and field peas
Go ahead, get the elementary school jokes outta your system because more chefs are singing the praises of hearty, healthy, protein-rich legumes. Cranberry, lima and butterbeans, as well as blackeye and crowder peas and un-roasted peanuts are taking a star turn in main dishes and standalone sides, often without a speck of meat in sight. These heirloom varieties are packed with nutty flavor, and adapt well to stews, soups, salads, succotash and spreads, and take well to marinating, baking, mashing and even deep-frying.
And bonus: chefs and home cooks are rapidly discovering that heirloom legumes grow like gangbusters in many different climates and soil types, are GMO-free (a selling point for an increasingly conscientious dining public), dry gorgeously for use throughout the year and are an excellent alternative to pricey and potentially dubiously-raised meat.
Fried blackeye peas at Beasley's Chicken + Honey
3. Haute Jewish deli
Three schmears for the new wave of deli devotees! Many of North America's classic delicatessens have changed ownership or shuttered altogether over the past few years as aging owners bowed out of the business. Luckily for us, the torch has been passed to chefs like Todd Ginsberg of Atlanta's The General Muir and husband and wife team Noah and Rae Bermanoff of New York City's Mile End Deli, so that future generations may know the pleasures of a proper reuben sandwich.
Gone are the kitschy, signed, celebrity photos and overstuffed novelty sandwiches of the old days. Simply-presented, artfully smoked fish, lavishly peppered pastrami, crafty poutine, amped-up chicken liver and deeply deckled corned beef are the focus of this new deli vanguard -- and also popping up on non-deli menus across the country. Perhaps it's the inevitable evolution of the house-made charcuterie frenzy. Maybe it's a collective need for a nostalgic nosh. Whatever the impetus, it sure is appetizing.
Poutine at The General Muir
4. Indie printing
The self-published restaurant review journal is a format with a formidable history, dating back at least as far back as the days of Duncan Hines, carried on by the illustrious likes of Craig Claiborne and Seymour Britchky, and now digitally diffused into a bazillion blogs. Chefs and cookbook authors, however, have traditionally been reliant on the resources of major publishing houses in order to put their thoughts to paper, due to constraints of costs and time. But that page may be turning.
In 2011, former Saveur magazine staffers Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton skirted the system by self-publishing the first volume of their studio's recipes, "Canal House Cooking," to tremendous fanfare (they're now on Volume Eight). In 2013, a small group of food industry veterans began a Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 to produce the "Short Stack Editions" series of single-subject, hand-bound cookbooks with a guaranteed payment for each author. The campaign finished out at $92,672, and a second batch of six is underway.
At the same time, "Brother" launched as a self-printed zine, helmed by Atlanta chef Ryan Smith and cohorts, and born out of a desire to share an unflinching view of where our food comes from -- chicken guts and all. Across town, chef Linton Hopkins and Holeman and Finch bartender/partner, Greg Best, printed two Thomas Payne-meets-punk-rock "Feed Publishing Serial" on the topics "Seven Drinks by a Barkeep" and "Mayonnaise by a Chef."
Best has since left H&F, but the free pamphlets have made it into the hands of an awful lot of chefs, food writers and fans who may just see the writing on the wall. In 2014, the food revolution will not be (totally) digitized.
5. Reconsidered rice
For many of us, growing up, rice was just a bland, grainy bed for the featured dish, or an inexpensive filler for budget-conscious meals. Nowadays a bowl of well-steamed Carolina gold can get a shout-out in the New York Times and Top Chefs are touting the utility and cultural import of rice grits in major magazines. Look for more regionally-specific rice options on menus and in cookbooks as the domestic rice industry re-emerges and revamps its growing practices to adapt to a changing climate.
Pizza oven-roasted cauliflower served with sea salt and whipped goat feta at Domenica
Honorable mentions: Grapes in savory entrees and more muscadine desserts and drinks, exciting cauliflower sides, non-cabbage kimchi, cake slices in restaurants, beer brewed in-house at restaurants, chicken-fried rabbit and whole small birds like quail and squab. And goodness, will I be happy if I never taste stevia again in my lifetime.
1. Raw beef
More and more people are drinking the Kool-Aid...er...collard green juice of the raw food movement. And, chefs around the country are adding a little carnivorous flair to the trend by bringing back the three-martini lunch staple, beef tartare.
The classic version of the bistro mainstay includes finely chopped beef, capers, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce with a raw egg yolk garnish to stir in for creaminess. Spins on the classic sub in rose veal, homemade pickled vegetables and confit duck or quail egg yolks.
Expect restaurants to also beef up their carpaccio fanfare, a dish named after Italian Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio's signature red and white hues reminiscent of marbled meat. Paper-thin beef will become an edible canvas for peppery greens, nutty cheese shavings and more in 2014.
Beef carpaccio with confit egg yolk, chanterelles and Parmesan at Boulud Sud
2. Eating with your hands
Utensils are so last year. It might seem unnatural to throw your childhood table etiquette to the wind, but more and more restaurants (high-end ones at that) are offering a hands-on experience when it comes to savory courses.
The trend is twofold with the emergence of haute finger foods like fried chicken, small fish and burgers. The best part? Servers are often trained to instruct diners to use their hands so they aren't left anxiously waiting to see what their date does first.
Milk-fed lamb at Manresa
3. Housemade hot sauces
Sriracha chili sauce squeezed its way into the November headlines after a Los Angeles County judge ordered the maker, Huy Fong Foods, to halt production because of neighbors' complaints about watery eyes and burning nostrils. Lucky for the "rooster" sauce devotees, in-house condiments are so hot right now. Heat seekers won't be disappointed as chefs ditch the bottles of Chalupa and Tabasco to play with fire -- from one end of the Scoville scale to the other.
Everybody loves parfait. As food lovers delighted in hybrid foods like the Cronut and ramen burger in 2013, next year will be less about cross-breeding and more about layering.
Chefs and pastry chefs alike will embrace the tiered presentation as a way to ensure the perfect spoonful. It’s essentially a way to deconstruct a dish without the molecular fuss, and zero in on complimentary flavors, temperatures, colors and textures.
Parfait: To me, you are perfect.
Whiskey-butterscotch parfait at The Belted Cow Bistro
5. Breakfast for dinner
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day -- and it's so nice, we're gonna eat it twice. This isn't your average two eggs made-to-order with a choice of breakfast meat. It's eggs in every form from nearly every bird -- poached duck eggs, baked quail eggs and oh-so-slow-scrambled chicken eggs -- served with the likes of pork belly, beef tongue hash or seafood sausage. Not to mention, the Goldilocks-approved renaissance of both sweet and savory porridges.
Slow scrambled eggs with pork belly at Seersucker
Honorable mentions: In-house bread and butter programs, rotisserie chickens, self-service kegs while you wait for a table, candied vegetables, country ham. A girl can also dream about the demise of the communal table.