Great Ingredients from Family Farms
The easiest way to get excellent ingredients, as more chefs are discovering, is to have a farmer in the family. Ben Hasty at the Dunaway Restaurant at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, buys pork and veal from his parents’ farm in Maine.
Chefs are finding genius in young ingredients: at San Francisco’s Dining Room, Ron Siegel uses basil seeds; Peter Hoffman serves green wheat at NYC’s Back Forty; Brian Hill at Francine in Camden, Maine, loves spruce shoots.
If 2007 was the year of the meatball, 2008 is the year of the chicken liver. It’s served as "faux gras" at Central Michel Richard in Washington, DC; chicken-fried at Portland, Oregon’s Clyde Common; and chopped at San Francisco’s Presidio Social Club.
The once-unpopular fish is gaining traction in unexpected ways. For instance, Dante de Magistris at Dante, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, creates a tartare served on basil with mustard-spiked tomato water.
Microgreens at Home
Microgreens were once chef-only ingredients, but Farming Turtles now grows pots of super-peppery arugula and fiery red amaranth sprouts and intense mini herbs for home cooks. Toss the baby leaves in salad or set out the plants as centerpieces, so guests can clip their own garnishes (from $4; farmingturtles.com).
The Ubiquitous Pistachio
It’s moved out of the nut bowl into puddings, crusts and even pestos, like the version at NYC’s Centro Vinoteca, where Anne Burrell uses pistachios in lieu of pignoli.
The Potato’s Big Promise
The United Nations has declared 2008 the Year of the Potato and is promoting the tuber as an antidote to global malnutrition. To show your solidarity, try Peruvian papas amarillos. They have an especially meaty, butter-yellow flesh.
Yukon River Salmon
Until recently, this ultrafatty Alaskan fish—which bulks up for its 2,000-mile spawning trip—was a rare sight in U.S. restaurants. Now, chefs like Rick Moonen love it for its richly flavored, omega-3-loaded flesh.
New Exotic Herbs
Chefs like Eric Ripert are using tongue-numbing Sechuan Button flower buds, earthy Himalayan Tahoon Cress and other rare edible plants, which are now available for home cooks from Koppert Cress at Dean & Deluca (from $3; deananddeluca.com).
More and more chefs are gleefully cooking with offal–especially sweetbreads. Fabio Trabocchi at Fiamma in NYC sears them with fennel pollen; Nate Appleman grinds them for a ragù at A16 in San Francisco; and Randy Zweiban serves a sweetbread taco at Chicago’s Nacional 27.