23 Jan A taste of trending spices to be discovered in local dishes
They say variety is the spice of life, and this may also apply to food trends Humans love. We love to sample new and unusual flavors, and it seems like every few years a new spice trend appears. A couple of years ago, it was cardamom in everything from lattes to French toast. Then chili peppers in chocolate became exciting. This year it seems there isn’t just one up-and-coming flavor profile, but a smattering of dishes that are unique and vibrant in their own way, with powerful combinations of spice, texture and ingredients. Here are five unpredictable combinations to try at some fantastic local restaurants.
“When I think of carrot cake, I think of fall and winter,” says Elise Kukulka, owner and head baker at Fearless Baking. “I tasted Chinese Five Spice and thought, ‘this is the perfect warming, cozy spice for a great carrot cake.’” Chinese Five Spice contains anise, clove, fennel, peppercorn and cassia (Chinese cinnamon). It gives the carrot cake a hearty bite without overwhelming the dessert, and the addition of ginger cream cheese frosting adds another layer of spice. “We’ve converted quite a few ginger haters, and those who are unsure about an unconventional carrot cake,” says Kukulka with a grin. “It’s that good.” This cake is freshly baked comfort food with a “fearless” twist.
Pakistan Rose and Toasted Cinnamon Latte
After years in the restaurant industry, Lauren Blackwelder opened Proust in October 2015, inspired by this quote: “If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs.” Before opening Proust, Blackwelder loved making Spanish coffee as a bartender and wanted to include a similar flavor profile in her coffee shop. Then, while browsing at Savory Spice Shop in Bend, she learned about rose water, a common Middle Eastern drink, and blended the two ideas to create this unique flavor combination. It’s sweet and floral without being overpowering, and the cinnamon is the perfect spicy complement to the soft rose flavor. Proust’s syrups are all made in-house, and the shop is all about the marriage of good coffee, great flavors and unique spices. From the enthusiasm and knowledge demonstrated by her staff, it’s clear that they’ve bought into Blackwelder’s dream as well.
Citrus-seared Scallops with Basil Rice and Shimiji Mushroom Cream
Chef Joe Kim is a James Beard Award semifinalist and a local restaurateur and entrepreneur. While some chefs may simply throw ingredients into dishes to make impressive menu descriptions, Kim truly understands the nuances of spice, flavor and balance. In this dish, he fuses the natural sweetness of the seared scallops, brightness of the citrus, earthiness of the mushrooms and the tang of fresh basil all together in one dish. Kim says he is inspired by his cross-cultural heritage (Korean and Irish) to make unique flavor combinations like these.
Local Arugula & Sprouted Wheat Berry Salad
This salad from one of the newest restaurants in NorthWest Crossing uses the unlikely blend of turmeric and nasturtium, infused in vinegar, as the dressing. Turmeric is related to ginger and is what gives yellow curry its distinctive color; nasturtium is also known as “Japanese watercress.” It’s the edible flower you might see affixed to a wedding cake. The result of the combination is an earthy salad that blends spice, texture and sweet and sour notes. John Gurnee, executive chef, says he is motivated by the uniquely health-conscious and community-minded feel at Washington, which lead him to create this salad packed with anti-oxidants. The salad includes the ingredients turmeric, nasturtium, arugula, wheat berries, grapes, figs and a sprinkle of chopped pistachios on top. Some of which are grown locally. “I love championing local products and local people,” Gurnee says.
Strozzapreti Pasta with Wild Boar Ragù
Traditional ragù sauce starts with a sofrito, a universal base of onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes. What makes the Ranch House sofrito unique are the spices added: Spanish smoked paprika and coriander seed. In Spanish smoked paprika, the peppers are smoked and roasted, giving it a rich, smoky flavor unlike Hungarian paprika, which uses sun-dried peppers. Coriander is the seeds of cilantro (which, incidentally, is often an ingredient in Caribbean sofritos), and has a lemony, citrus flavor. Combining these spices results in a sofrito with a deep, smoky, citrusy flavor that complements the sweet, woodsy nuttiness of the wild boar itself. It’s a powerhouse combination that fits in well at the majestic Ranch House restaurant, which looks out at the buttes and mountains of Central Oregon and hearkens back to a simpler, heartier time. Chef Ryan Sturmer said he loves the expansive property at the 1800-acre Brasada Ranch