AndyTalk: The Nordic Cuisine Trend Isn't Likely to Make It to Arizona
For the next couple of weeks I'm going to focus on food trends. The trend that most intrigues me is the ascendance of Nordic food to the top of the list. Variations on the precise term for the cuisine du jour range from Scandinavian food to Nouvelle Nordic to Viking Vittles.
The buzz centers on a chef from Copenhagen who has garnered his restaurant the honor of best restaurant in the world two years running. Rene Redzepi (even his name is steeped with coolness) can walk through the Danish woods and forage a meal that receives 24,000 reservation requests for a 150-Euro lunch and 200-Euro dinner.
The more I read about Redzepi and Nordic cuisine the more I am convinced that the Valkyries will not invade Arizona - because Nordic is actually not a trend in food. There will be chefs who pepper their 2012 menus with a dash of Viking flair, but unless these chefs live in a Scandinavian country they will fall short.
Redzepi is a master at using local and sustainable ingredients; if he lived in Arizona I think he would be making Nouvelle Southwest food. I don't expect I'd have much luck finding wild crocus shoots, edible pine bark that I can grind into flour, or any of the other ingredients he uses with a Zen-Nordic simplicity that passes for extravagance.
The lesson in Nouvelle Nordic has little to do with pickled fish and pine needles; it's a lesson about making the best (in the world) with the freshest ingredients at hand. Redzepi felt that it was selling out to make Crème Brûlée at Noma - even with Danish cream. It would be as strange to see elk tongue or sea buckthorn juice on a menu in Phoenix as it would to see chilies rellenos in Copenhagen.
"Local and sustainable" has been a food trend for a few years. It's a good trend - both for the planet and the palate. But the cognoscenti don't want to repeat last year's trend, even if it's still this year's trend.
In reality, the trend is chefs (and home cooks) who, in increasing numbers, are inspired to use the best, freshest, most interesting ingredients at hand. The strength of that trend may be the best food trend in years, even if it's more fun to write about Vikings.
Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.
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