Recently, an InStyle.com article about the trendiest foods for 2017 featured the emergence of sauerkraut (which isn’t a big surprise to us because the Culinary Vegetable Institute at The Chef's Garden recently put on a fermented foods workshop!). Fermented foods, the InStyle article shares, “are having a serious moment. This sour topping adds a much-needed hit of flavor to soup, sandwiches, and salads. Plus, it’s good for your gut.”
This article about trending foods also points out the popularity of sour beer, with “sour cherry, raspberry, and apricot variations” the favorites of the writer. Meanwhile, FineDiningLovers.com sees the following sour foods as big news in 2017: sour cherry, lime, meyer lemon, bitter orange, grapefruit (especially pink) and rhubarb.
At The Chef’s Garden, what we’re noticing is a soaring interest in all sour flavors, particularly in our sorrel plants including red ribbon sorrel and lucky sorrel. These leaves offer a sweet intro but have quite a tart finish. We have seen the sales of these varieties double in the past year: ultra lucky sorrel, Mr. Frye’s rhubarb, demi red ribbon sorrel, mashua leaves, and amethyst sorrel. We’ve also seen substantial increase in kinome leaves and citrus begonia.
Moreover, this sour food trend appears to still be gaining momentum. As evidence of that, here is what four chefs have to say.
Executive Chef Zane Holmquist from Stein Eriksen Lodge uses citrus begonia and multiple varieties of sorrel in his menus, including lucky sorrel, plum sorrel, rainbow sorrel, petite sorrel, red ribbon sorrel and rhubarb. “The varieties in size is fantastic, and the varieties in color are fun. It’s an interesting plant with equally interesting flavors.”
Zane varies his menus by the season and, over this past winter, he created a dish that used lucky sorrel as an accent flavor to seared scallop with pork belly, parsnip puree and black garlic. “The sorrel fit in really well, helping to create layers of flavor that are dynamic on the palate.”
He notes an ongoing challenge of a chef: how to decide primary flavors, secondary flavors and so on, as perceived on the palate. Sour flavors, he says, are fantastic in the “second or third seat,” such as when rhubarb is used in a chicken dish. He has noticed the growing popularity of sour beers and that of pickling, fermenting, brining and curing, and adds that pairing sourness with heat in a dish is quite fun.
Zane appreciates the wide variety of sorrels available at The Chef’s Garden. “I also appreciate,” he adds, “the magic of access. I can ask for a product, including cutting-edge products, and then it’s pulled out of the field when I need it, which is great from a chef’s standpoint. The Chef’s Garden grows a great product and they always make time for me. I can sense their passion for what they do and their commitment to doing it well. They never just shrug their shoulders and say, ‘oh, well!’ They have purpose and are serious about what they do – and are also willing to have a lot of fun.”
Executive Sous Chef Sean Tener from Masseria uses citrus begonia plus multiple types of sorrel to add brightness to his dishes and to balance out other flavors. “The citrus begonia flower,” he says, “is pleasing to the eye, so delicate. We mostly use this in desserts. We use sorrel to add another layer of delicious flavoring to dishes – perhaps a fish dish or a vegetable one – in a way that is visually appealing, and we also use sorrel as a garnish.”
Overall, he says that, yes. There may be an increase in the use of sour flavors, but adds that incorporating tart foods isn’t new to him. “We appreciate the superior quality of the products,” he adds, “that we get from The Chef’s Garden.”
Executive Chef Andrea Accordi from the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong remembers being surprised the first time he saw rhubarb used in something other than a pie but now appreciates the versatility of sorrel. “Sorrel is showing up everywhere now,” he says, “as a foil for something rich. It has such a beautiful leaf structure and I love the veined look of red ribbon sorrel. This plant can be used in foie gras, with scallops, lobsters and more.”
Finally, Chef Matt Ward from the Culinary Vegetable Institute likes to use sorrel in his dishes and to explore its multiple textures. “It’s not sour like an apple can be sour,” he explains, “and it plays really well in desserts. You can use it in savory applications but also in sweet desserts that need just a little sourness and brightness.” Red ribbon sorrel and lucky sorrel are his personal favorites, and he appreciates the opportunity to cut through the richness of ice cream, cakes and custards with them.
Additional restaurants that are using sorrel as one of the tart foods in their 2017 menu include Blue by Eric Ripert at Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman; Charleston Grill in Charleston, South Carolina; El Ideas in Chicago; Circadia in Seattle; Le Bernardin in NYC; French Laundry in Yountville, California; L'Atelier at the MGM in Las Vegas; and Modern in NYC.
If you’re interested in trying sorrel in your own dishes, consider trying our sour blends small bites, a sour sampling that includes flaming lucky sorrel, plum lucky sorrel, red ribbon sorrel, lucky sorrel and Peruvian clover. And whether you are a professional chef or a home cook, you can contact us with questions online. Finally, watch our blog for even more delicious news about current food trends!