Chefs love them not just for their subtle aromatic flavor. They can soak up liquids and other flavors, and they're also gorgeous (Gavin Kaysen likes the way they're translucent with a dark speck in the middle). Marco Moreira at Toqueville in New York City accents his spring vegetable salad with both basil seeds and basil oil (photo).
Whey, the rich-flavored byproduct of cheesemaking, is showing up on restaurant menus for distinctly different reasons. Andrea Reusing at Lantern in Chapel Hill, North Carolina loves the taste of whey-fed pigs; Matt Lightner at Castagna in Portland uses it to poach halibut; and Terrence Brennan at Picholine in New York City floats a whey "cloud" on top of an asparagus soup (photo).
Prized by chefs for its incredible herbaceousness and ability to trap heat during cooking, hay has made its way into more and more restaurant kitchens, from Alinea in Chicago to Coi in San Francisco. At La Fonda del Sol in New York City, chef Josh DeChellis cooks lamb chops on a bed of hay (photo, left) with spring onions, chives, ramps, and young garlic sealed in a dough-crusted pot.