As much as we bristle at comparisons to New York City, Philly is always a little behind when it comes to trends — especially food trends. So that molecular gastronomy cooking you heard so much about two or three years ago? It’s now popular here. Ditto on the sous vide, the liquid nitrogen and the meat glue.
“Philadelphia is catching up,” says Leo Forneas, head chef at The Twisted Tail (509 S. 2nd St.).
Forneas is in a good spot to compare. He’s worked in both cities, at our Asian fusion spot Sampan, and in New York at Silk Rd Tavern and Aquavit, among others.
Now he’s back, seeing revered chefs use techniques like meat glue, a powder used to “glue” together a protein — say, salmon — and create a different shape, which affects how it cooks.
But at the same time, the comfort food trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, Forneas predicts: “At the end of the day, people still want their steak and potatoes.”
Paul Rodriguez of High Street on Market (308 Market St.), the more casual sister spot to Fork, says it’s part of a “back-to-basics mentality”— which is pretty much as far away from liquid nitrogen as you can get.
Back to basics
Diners want to see simpler, classic, “Old World ways” being incorporated into kitchens, Rodriguez says.
“Craftsmanship is now being talking about a lot in the culinary world,” he explains. “People like well-crafted food with a story. They want to see where it comes from, from beginning to end, with less pretense around it.“
Enter “foraging.” “There are people that all they do is forage for herbs and different greens,” Rodriguez says,” things growing around us that we’ve overlooked. ‘Edibles,’ they call them.” (And here we thought we were dropping the pretense.)
On the grill
Also trendy is relying on the original cooking technique — open flame — for a lot more than burgers. “Restaurants are focusing on the grill, on the elements of charcoal and smoke,” he says. “It’s not just grilling a piece of meat but, for example, using the flavor profile of a grilled carrot and incorporating it into another dish.”
Of course, just because the grill is hot in Philly doesn’t mean we were firing it up first. “There are restaurants in New York City almost entirely built around the grill,” Rodriguez says. “You always see trends in New York City happening before other areas.”