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Food trends

Food trends

COMFORT FOOD

28/10/2019

 

So many people speak of food that makes you happy, lifts the spirits, and blows negative thoughts away. But just how can a simple dish alleviate pain and restore harmony? What is the secret behind these formulas for happiness and what lies beneath the concept of comfort food?

Origins and a dash of history
The Oxford English Dictionary claims that the term ‘comfort food’ was first used in 1977, when a Washington Post article used it to describe a traditional South American dish: prawns with corn porridge. Historian Lynne Oliver, on the other hand, is sure that the expression was used even before, and more specifically in 1965, also in the United States.
Regardless of the specific date and occasion on which the expression was coined, the word has – ever since its origins – a quite subjective value, and always related to an individual’s spiritual sphere. Comfort food is linked to happy or nostalgic memories: there is only a handful of other things able to project us in the lives of others, through private accounts related to childhood or our loved ones. This is why the choice of food varies completely from person to person, region to region, country to country. Whichever our personal history is, our food of happiness conceals an intimate selection, based upon many different, and at times surprising, motivations and reasonings.

10 comfort foods from around the world

France: onion soup
Japan: ramen
Great Britain: fish & chips
Italy: lasagne
Germany: bratwurst
Morocco: shakshuka
Hungary: goulash
Ukraine: borscht
Greece: moussaka
Cuba: picadillo

Food trends

ROWING DOWN THE ITALIAN RIVER OF ROSÉ

12/08/2019

 

There are a number of myths to debunk concerning rosé wine. First of all, you must know it is not a mix of white and red grapes, but can only be produced through soft pressing of red grapes with an immediate separation of the pomace, or through a short maceration process lasting a few minutes up to 24 hours. Consumption in Italy is still low – although the trend is on the rise – but the amount exported is very high. We shall now present to you a selection of the best Italian rosés, spanning the peninsula from North to South.

North

Our journey down the Boot starts in the North. The most suitable areas are ones with a cool weather and a morainic soil. Wines made here are sapid, fresh, have a high minerality and a good acidity. Examples are the Chiaretto di Bardolino – produced in the Lake Garda area – and the Lagrein, produced in South Tyrol. Halfway, in the province of Treviso, a rare, very aromatic wine obtained by processing native pink-skinned grapes is produced: the Manzoni Rosa.

Centre

In Central Italy, climate conditions and soil quality change: wines are more full-bodied. The dominating vines of the area are the Sangiovese – giving life to a number of Tuscan rosés – and the Montepulciano – the basis of the Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, an excellent rosé with good body, tannin content, and acidity.

South

The journey through Italian rosés ends with the warmth of the South and its full-bodied, rich wines, often made in volcanic areas. These include the great rosés of the Apulia region, the Cirò of Calabria, and the Etna Rosato, made from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio grapes. Fun fact: the firstever Italian rosé was bottled in Salice Salentino (Lecce, Apulia) in 1943, for the Allied Forces. This was how the Five Roses, produced by winemaker Leone De Castris, was born, by anglicizing the name ‘Cinque Rose’ and using recycled beer bottles. Today, the Five Roses – whose English name was maintained – is still one of the top Italian rosés.

Food trends

THE FOOD AND WINE MARKET BOOM

28/06/2019

 

It is well-known that tourists have always been in love with Italian food and wine, but the fact that the latter are fundamental elements in planning a trip to Italy is a phenomenon that we have only began to observe in the past few years.

According to the “First Report on Italian Food and Wine Tourism” – drafted by Roberta Garibaldi under the scientific supervision of the World Food Travel Association and the University of Bergamo – Italy offers 825 Protected Geographical Indication products, 5056 traditional agri-food products, close to 335 thousand food service businesses, over 23 thousand farm stays, 114 themebased museums related to food, and 173 “strade del vino e dei sapori” (roads of wine and tastes) to tourists from all around the world. As well as enjoying typical products, most popular activities include market exploration (82%), the search for historic cafés and restaurants (72%), as well as visits to farms (62%) and wine cellars (56%).

Tourists seek to find local products, listen to the stories behind them, meet their producers, and of course taste them. Markets are excellent places to get to know a city and area: they narrate their most authentic soul through the colours, scents, crowds, and of course the products.
Some have preserved their historic structure, like the Pignasecca in Naples, the Ballarò in Palermo, or the Rialto in Venice. Others have evolved through new features, including cooking lessons, new dishes, events and tastings, and even cutting-edge architectures. In 2014, in a historic building made of clad iron and glass designed by Giuseppe Mengoni, the Mercato Centrale (central market) opened in Florence. At the ground floor, it features the traditional butcheries, fish stores, fruit and vegetable stands, and little shops selling local specialties. The top floor has instead been completely renewed and re-opened with a designer’s touch, boasting 500 seats and a host of opportunities, including 12 shops, a space dedicated to the Chianti Classico consortium, a restaurant, a pizzeria, a pub, a café, a cooking school, a wine-tasting school, and a bookshop. Given its great success, the Florence format has been duplicated at the Central Market in Termini train station, Rome, in 2016, and at Porta Palazzo, Turin, in 2019, with the Milan central station venue soon following.
The MOG (Genoa oriental market) also opened in 2019. It includes 11 street food stands focused on local tradition, as well as a café, a wine shop, a cooking school, and a bread-making school at the top floor (about 2,000 m2 – over 21,500 ft2 in total), with the traditional market stands remaining at the ground floor.

Food trends

WHAT IS BOTTARGA?

15/06/2019

 

There are only few ingredients able to give dishes flavour and personality so intensely. Let us introduce you to bottarga, the Mediterranean caviar.

Origins

Its origins are incredibly ancient: in fact, it was the Phoenicians who – almost 3 thousand years ago – first brought this precious and rare specialty to the Mediterranean Sea. The translation of batārikh, the Arab name for bottarga, is literally ‘dried fish eggs’. Indeed, bottarga is made by drying, then salting, mullet or tuna roe.

Tuna and mullet: differences

From a tuna, you may obtain a 1 kg-plus (2.2 lbs.-plus) egg sac, whilst as for mullet, the sac may weigh between 200 and 500 grams (0.4-1.1 lbs.).

The two specialties are processed in different ways. The mullet egg sac is stored in a dry and ventilated area, where it is sprinkled with medium/fine grain sea salt; the product is laid on a horizontal plane and turned periodically, repeating the salting process for a number of days. The duration of such phase varies depending on the sac weight, and is necessary to eliminate the liquid component within the sac. For tuna bottarga, instead, the first phase after washing is pressing by means of weights, in order to eliminate the liquid content of the sac; this process lasts 2 to 4 days, and is followed by salting, then a second 8-10 day pressing phase, once again with a constant replacement of the salt. The final processing phase is drying. The bottarga is hung and left to dry and age: 30-40 days for tuna bottarga, and 45-90 days for mullet bottarga, although the time may vary depending on the humidity and temperature conditions of the processing laboratory.

Where is bottarga made?

Although similar preparations exist in Spain, Greece, France, and the Middle East, the most important areas for bottarga production are the two main Italian islands: Sardinia and Sicily.

Food trends

VERMOUTH, AN ITALIAN STORY

29/05/2019

 

Loved all around the world, and an irreplaceable element in numerous well-know cocktails – Manhattan and Negroni above all – vermouth, with its 100% Italian origins, is living a second youth. Paired or unpaired, straight or mixed, and even used in cooking, the liquor – with the mysterious attraction of its history – is touching the hearts of young drinkers.

What is vermouth

Vermouth is an aromatised wine with an alcohol content between 16 and 22%. It must contain at least 75% aromatised and sweetened white wine. The mix of herbs used to flavour it must include wormwood, which is its distinguishing element. Other main herbs it contains are mint, marjoram, chamomile, thyme, coriander, blessed thistle, sage, hyssop, lemon balm, anise, and dittany.

History

In Grande libro del Vermouth e dei liquori italiani (big book of vermouth and Italian liquors) by Giustino Ballato, the origin of vermouth is attributed to distiller Antonio Benedetto Carpano, who drafted the first-ever recipe in 1786 in his small cellar facing Palazzo Reale (the royal palace) in Turin. Carpano chose this name because wermuth is the German term for Artemisia absinthium (wormwood). The correct term in Italian – according to Ballato – is vérmut, but the elegant French word vermouth was preferred, even though – he adds – flipping through historical texts and ancient labels one can bump into the Piedmontese term vèrmot or the Tuscan term vermutte, or even vermuth, warmouth, and wermut.

Vermouth today

Vermouth has undergone a successful relaunch operation. The trend is not restricted to Italy, but it involves the global market too, with a 3% annual growth expected until 2021. In 2018 the Istituto del Vermouth (vermouth institute) was born in Turin, with the aim to safeguard the drink’s history and PGI recognition. But the Italian liqueur is not only Made in Piedmont: there are excellent producers in the Emilia-Romagna, Apulia, and Sicily regions as well.

Food trends

PROSCIUTTO COTTO, WHAT ITALIANS LOVE MOST

10/05/2019

Obtained by cooking pork leg, prosciutto cotto (“cooked ham”) is the cold cut Italians love most: according to data collected by Assica (Italian association of meat and cold cut processors), in 2017 a total of 270 metric tonnes have been consumed, namely 4.5 kg (9.9 lbs.) per capita. There are 3 factors determining this: children have a sweet tooth for it, it has an accessible cost and – compared to other cold cuts – it is perceived as healthy.

Production
After the slaughtering phase, the pork legs are deboned and defatted. Successively, brine made of water, salt, and flavourings is injected into the meat. The leg is then ‘massaged’ to make the penetration of the brine as homogenous as possible. At this point the ham undergoes the cooking phase – the process that affects the flavour and shelf life of the final product.

Categories
There are different categories of prosciutto cotto. Its quality indicator is the percentage of humidity, which depends on the quantity of water added to the brine along with the massaging method and cooking system. In ‘simple’ prosciutto cotto, the rate of humidity will be less than or equal to 82%; in scelto (‘choice’) prosciutto cotto, the maximum humidity is 79.5%; and in the alta qualità (‘high quality’) version, the humidity can be no greater than 76.5%.

Homemade prosciutto cotto
Considered the little brother of the better-known prosciutto crudo (“raw ham”), the prosciutto cotto – when of a high quality and processed by hand using selected and accurately cured pork legs – reaches incredibly high quality levels and holds its own against Parma or San Daniele ham.

Food trends

MEAT: DRY AGING TAKES THE STAGE

26/02/2019

 

The meat of a newly butchered animal is usually hard and not very tasty. Aging is that variable period during which meat is left to rest at the suitable temperature and humidity conditions to gain softness and develop flavours and aroma. A chicken or a very young animal only requires a few days, but for larger animals it all depends on race, age, and meat storage temperature. A regular steak preserved in a cold store – that maintains the right temperature and humidity – takes 10 to 20 days to reach the supermarket shelves.

The new trend in meat aging has a name: dry-aging. It is an innovative technique that has spread in no time from the United States to the rest of the world. It is complex and costly, but quite appreciated by gourmands. It is essentially a form of bone-in aging and subsequent seasoning in cold store at a controlled temperature. The process triggers natural meat drying cycles, allowing it to lose about 20% water, with a related increase in salt concentration. Such method causes physical-chemical changes in the meat, first of all the oxidation of fatty acids and enzymatic lysis that releases aromatic amino acids. The meat thus acquires excellent sensory properties, is more flavoured, soft, and with a beautiful marbled look. Its cut colour is dark red, and it has a compact texture. Once cooked, it exudes incredible perfumes: experts suggest to prepare it on a grill, lightly seared.

The so-called wet-aging technique is also used worldwide, with small pieces of meat left to age in their own juices, vacuumpacked. The third method, experimented for the first time ever in Italy by Eataly’s Consorzio La Granda, is high-humidity aging, in cold stores kept at a constant temperature of 0-1°C (32-33.8°F).

Food trends

2019 FOOD TRENDS

07/02/2019

 

From an intersection of opinions from analysts, trade magazines, research institutes and catering service companies such as Doxa, Waitrose, Gambero Rosso, Whole Foods, Deliveroo, TheFork, Kroger and Kind, here are the eating trends expected for 2019:

1- Delivery only restaurants
Not just pizza and sushi but a whole new way of eating at home and, above all, a whole new form of catering: an increasing number of laboratories are dedicated to preparing dishes aimed solely for home delivery, as well as specialized chefs and refined conservation techniques. Because those customers who can afford it – a group that is growing clearly – demand restaurant-quality food in the comfort of their own homes.

2- African cuisine
After the boom of Peru’s Nikkei specialties, the spicy tastes of the Middle East and Korea’s fermentations, our world tour leads us to western Africa, to the decisive flavours and exotic fascination of Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and Mali.

3- Healthy eating app
A balanced, personalised diet at the touch of an App allowing you to follow a healthy, varied eating regime despite today’s frenetic lifestyle. The way is paved for start-ups proposing practical, intelligent solutions.

4- Fake meat
The fashion for healthy living is on an exponential up: the dish of the year is “fake meat”, becoming extremely popular in the United States. It looks, feels and tastes just like real meat, though it contains no animal derivatives at all; in fact, it is completely vegetable-based.

5- Dragonfruit
The so-called functional ingredients – highly beneficial for our organisms – have been introduced to the menus in many restaurants. 2019 will be the year of the dragonfruit (otherwise known as the pitaya): a tropical fruit with low-calorie flesh but rich in vitamins and hempseed.

Food trends

TURMERIC: 5 SUPERFOOD BENEFITS

09/01/2019

 

Turmeric is the superfood of the moment: just think that in the past 5 years, Google searches concerning the Indian root have grown by 75%. It is mainly its therapeutic properties that make it so popular: turmeric is in fact antioxidant and anti-inflammatory; it strengthens the immune system, facilitates digestion and – according to research by the University of California published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry in 2018 – it also may prevent memory loss.

We do not always know how to use it as a cooking ingredient though. Is it better to use fresh turmeric or dried turmeric powder? In tea or chopped and eaten? “It is important to know the related chemistry and the cooking techniques to benefit of its truly useful nutritional strengths”, explains Fern Green, a food-stylist and chef, author of Curcuma. La Bibbia (Turmeric: the bible), a book including 65 creative recipes involving the Indian root. Green states that turmeric is perfect when paired with foods rich in quercetin (peppers, onions, and capers), a substance that boosts its beneficial effects. She also recommends: add a half-teaspoon of the root in its powder version when sautéing. Or try it with golden milks – the drinks used in Ayurveda treatments, based on oils and butters (cocoa, cashews, oat or almond milk) – flavouring them using turmeric powder. Use it fresh in hot water, instead, when preparing detox tea. Keep an eye on time though: do not soak it for over 15 minutes, as the heat may subsequently spoil the root. Want a last word of advice? In savoury recipes, always add a pinch of black pepper: it will facilitate the body’s absorption of the turmeric.

Food trends

SOCIAL KITCHEN, A SHARED PLEASURE

27/12/2018

 

According to Francesco Morace, social scientist at Future Concept Lab, the kitchen is where the unexpected encounter between digital exposure and conviviality, customization and participation occurs. In fact, the burners are where an extension of the concept of recognition – that the new generations consider the fulcrum of their personal and social identity – comes into existence.

According to the sociologist, in the future the idea of domestic space will transform: kitchens will dominate and extend to the living room, finding new expression on specific “island” tables made for in-house cooking demos. The kitchen-living room will thus become the true center of the home.

This type of kitchen will be one of the new frontiers in the concept of family and home experimentation, which must be closely followed in the coming years. A multi-tech, user-friendly experience lived in the place where meals are prepared and enjoyed, just as if on a stage or a film set.

Morace states that all this will add to a renewed and enjoyable interaction with the domestic dimension – also in terms of retail – which may become the ideal location to freely express kinship and use cooking with an expansive philosophy, free of space or time boundaries. This special sensitivity will create a unique bond, distinguished by curiosity and communication: feelings of closeness and precise rituals, which will be shared online without interruption. “We need to believe in the future”, concludes Francesco Morace, “An increased awareness of the high-tech will continue to emerge, also in the high-touch form – the more haptic and human dimension. A binomial made of innovation and tradition that will find its limelight and its language in the food context”.

Food trends

ITALY’S FOOD TRUCK BOOM

27/08/2018

 

Italy is on the way to becoming the Food Truck capital. According to data analysed by Unioncamere on new registered businesses, every two days throughout the nation a new travelling catering firm is set up. On 31st March 2018 there were 2,729 such businesses: on the road you can encounter a prosperous universe linked to the preparation of street food with a particular presence of under-35s and foreign entrepreneurs. Six hundred businesses have been set up by young entrepreneurs born after 1983, representing 22% of the total. And 327 businesses are run by foreigners.

But what today are Food Trucks in Italy?

They are forms of transport (mainly Ape vehicles, but also caravans and vintage vans) equipped with full kitchens, refined and furnished with care, customised in shape and colour with one eye focussing on gourmet food and the other on design and communication – especially via social media.

What’s on offer?

Just a few years ago, the list of dishes on offer on the street in Italy was made up of the typical traditional foods of each local area; today Food Trucks have vastly expanded the variety of the dishes on offer. As well as revisitations of tradition street foods, they also propose street versions of traditional restaurant cuisine (from pret-a-porter Milanese risotto to cupcake-shaped lasagne and fried tortellini on a stick) and original and surprising gourmet innovations.

In which Italian region can we find the most Food Trucks?

By region, Lombardy ranks first with 389 businesses, followed by Puglia with 295 and Lazio with 271.

Food trends

PANETTONE CONQUERS THE STATES

02/08/2018

 

In the New York Times, Teja Rao wrote that panettone – Italy’s traditional Christmas cake – has become “An obsession for American pastry chefs”. The food writer interviewed some of the US’s best pastry chefs and bakers, and came to the conclusion that “bakers say they have become obsessed by this high-maintenance dough: no other breadstuff is harder to make, but no other breadstuff gives you such satisfaction when you are finally successful”.
Demonstrating the typically American genuine fascination for things that are made well and taking time, the article focusses on the difficulty and care and attention required in every phase of the making of this cake, from the choice of ingredients to the control of the temperature of the dough. The NYT interviewed the following pastry chefs: Rick Easton, whose baker’s is located in Pennsylvania but who, during the summer of 2017, organised an event dedicated to the panettone in New York; the local New Yorker, Jim Lahey; the Californian Avery Ruzicka and Roy Shvartzapel from San Francisco, who learnt from the star of Italian pastry chefs, Iginio Massari. “Baking is always a mystic and wonderful thing”, Ruzicka says, “but when baking panettone it is even more so”.

What is panettone?

With its characteristic dome shape, panettone is Milan’s typical Christmas cake made from a dough of water, flour, butter and egg to which is added candied fruit, equal measures of orange and citron zest and raisins.
The origins of the panettone are linked to some Milanese-based legends from the late 15th century. The most famous tells of the chefs of the court of Duke Ludovico Sforza who, in order to properly celebrate Christmas, prepared a bread in the shape of a cupola containing grapes. Toni at the ovens, distracted, left the cake to burn leaving a thick burnt crust. The cake was so enjoyed by the Sforza court that they called it the “pan del Toni” (Toni’s bread) in recognition of its uniqueness.

Market

598.3 million euro. This is the exports value of ‘high quality Italian cakes and pastries’ according to a report by Confartigianato. And if the panettone is the true leader of the pack, other cakes, holiday pastries, bread with raisins, croissants, biscuits and pastry goods fair pretty well too. A real sales boom, which led to an increase of 5.8% during the September 2016-August 2017 period compared to the previous year. And of this amount, almost 600 million – 31.6% – is represented by exports to the United States which increased in the same period by 31.4%.

Diet and nutrition

FAKE NEWS IN A DISH

23/05/2018

 

They are known as Fake News: pieces of news, sometimes even published in or referenced from respectable news sources, which quickly go viral after having been shared on social media. They are considered one of the worst pandemics of modern day, due to the power they have to create new visions and change the public opinion and behaviour. Fake News mainly concerns the political and economics fields, but it also exists in the world of food.

Marcello Ticca, a doctor, adjunct professor, and Nutritional Science specialist, has recorded the most incredible Fake News pertaining to the food and beverage world in his book Miraggi alimentari – 99 idee sbagliate su cosa e come mangiamo (food mirages – 99 wrong ideas about what and how we eat, Laterza ed.). The text certainly debunks a few legends concerning what we eat, including the ones outlined as follows:

1- Never eat pasta in the evening.
As long as the sauce is not too heavy-duty, the body digests pasta far better than meat at night.

2- Fish is good for your memory.
Fish is no higher in phosphorous than other foods: it contains between 130 and 260 mg per 100 g, while meat contains 150/230 per 100 g, and legumes and dried fruit contain much more. Most of all, there is simply no proven correlation between the ingestion of the mineral and an increase in mnemonic ability!

3- Butter is fattier than oil.
Quite the opposite. Butter contains 17% water and thus 100 g of butter have a calorie content of 760. Instead, oil – of any type – contains 900 kcal. Of course, oil has other nutritional advantages over its white cousin…

4- Extracts and cold-pressed juices are like fruit.
Nothing but an illusion. In fact, juice extractors or cold press juicers make fruit lose most of its fibres, which are both useful in facilitating digestion in the intestine and in giving you a sense of fullness, which helps to eat less.

5- Eggs are hard to digest.
Eggs are unjustly among most demonized foods. They are digested much quicker than numerous other foods, and are not harmful for the liver. If they are eaten in the recommended weekly amount (4 times at most) they also help those with liver disorders.

6- Do not drink water over meals.
Many believe water dilutes gastric acids in the stomach lining, thus slowing down digestion. Au contraire, it favours digestion by improving the compactness of ingested foods. It also increases the feeling of fullness (thus making us eat less).

7- Do not eat between meals.
By now it is a proven fact that increasing the frequency of meals – eating food in the same quantity and with the same quality – positively affects a series of variables that contribute to staying healthy and avoiding the accumulation of adipose tissue.

8- Frozen foods are less nutritious.
Freezing is the best preservation method possible, of course when it is initiated swiftly and when the cold chain is never interrupted. In fact, defrosted foods remain untarnished, and certain vitamins and minerals even have a higher bioavailability than usual!

Diet and nutrition

THE BENEFICIAL PROPERTIES OF TOMATO

30/04/2018

 

The tomato is one of the symbols of the Mediterranean diet, even though it comes from a very long way away. Considered to be the most Italian of all vegetables, it actually arrived here from the Americas in the middle of the 16th century. Thanks to its countless qualities, it is now considered to be the emblem of a healthy diet. “The high water-content helps keep the body hydrated and reduces the overall calorie intake” explains nutritionist Elena Dogliotti, who adds, “It also contains very little sugar and a good dose of vitamin C, which has a strong antioxidant effect, and lots of potassium, which helps keep the blood pressure within the limits and is important for muscle function and cellular exchange. Thanks to fibre, it is an excellent pre-biotic, properly nourishing the “good” bacteria present in the gut and promoting a correct intestinal balance”. This balance, as we know, is essential to keep us healthy and to avoid the development of allergies, autoimmune diseases and obesity. The tomato also has lots of bioactive molecules, like antioxidant polyphenols, which have valuable anti-ageing properties, and is well-known for the presence of lycopene, a carotenoid which gives it its red colour as well as promoting the function of the immune system and helping to prevent cancer. “Vitamin C is absorbed better when tomatoes are eaten raw, while lycopene absorption is better when they are cooked: higher temperatures break the cell walls, increasing its availability” says Elena Dogliotti. “The best thing is to serve cooked tomato with a drizzle of raw olive oil, to maintain all the properties of the condiment intact too”. Tomato sauce, a typical Italian condiment for pasta and pizza, is a healthy food which is also ideal for children and teenagers.

The origins
The tomato originated in Mexico and Peru, where it was greatly appreciated and was known by the Incas and Aztecs as xitomatl (hence the English name, tomato), meaning “plant with juicy flesh and lots of seeds”. It was eaten every day, also as a sauce. The tomato arrived in Europe in 1540, when the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés took some back home to Spain. The fruit of the first plants arrived in Europe and wascultivated mainly in France, in a cold climate, remaining small and yellowish, often twisted and not particularly appealing.
The tomato made its appearance in Italy in 1596 as an ornamental plant in Northern Italian homes. Twenty years later it moved south, where the favourable climate produced bigger orangey-red fruit. Southern Italian farmers began eating it raw and cooked almost a century before other Europeans and today the tomato is one of the most widely used foods in Italian cuisine.