EAT YOUR ART OUT: FOOD AND BEVERAGE TRENDS IN 2017 (PART TWO)

© Salvador Dalí. Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Figueres, 2016

Having traversed the globe with nomadic chefs hellbent on bettering themselves through collaboration; dipped into the effects that the shareconomy is having on our culinary habits; found that very big reputations can hail from very small dining rooms; and reiterated that we won’t be putting a stop to comfort eating in public any time soon, part one in our dissection of F&B’s multiple directions for 2017 ended on a note of shameless positivity — the general attitude towards doing good playing out across a broad line-up of gastronomic disciplines. Let’s continue our soak in the cheery waters of optimism …

Everybody knows that veggies are good news, and they’ll continue to make headlines in the food and drink scene this year; farm-to-table set to become a term you’ll find impossible to escape. One ambitious San Francisco restaurant, though, is on a mission to change forever what we associate as ‘being good’ in the world of dining out. Claiming that ‘agriculture has the potential to reverse climate change’, San Francisco’s The Perennial is an eco-minded restaurant and bar on a relentless quest to be as good as they possibly can be; to reimagine the restaurant industry. Their drive to make positive change will make you feel bad about yourself, their food won’t. Combining sustainability with incredible cuisine and beautiful interiors, The Perennial’s commitment to doing the right thing is remarkable. I won’t go into detail (it would be an extensive essay in its own right), but Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz have left practically no stone unturned.

The Perennial, San Francisco © Helynn Ospina
The Perennial, San Francisco © Helynn Ospina

An offsite ‘aquaponic greenhouse’ is the heart of the operation (a closed-loop system that takes waste from kitchen to compost and back to plate again) with plants and fish grown and fed on what other establishments would consign to bin-bags; but all aspects from interior design to collaborations with carbon farmers and experiments with everlasting grains has been meticulously considered.

Scratch Brewing Company
Scratch Brewing Company

One man’s trash …

Waste is a hot topic way beyond San Francisco, with countless operations realising the need to take sustainability to new heights. Revered New York chef Dan Barber transformed his West Village restaurant Blue Hill into pop-up wastED in 2015 — each dish made from ingredients most people would consider fit for rats — whilst British chef Douglas McMaster and Dutch artist Joost Bakker’s Silo concept (a zero-waste restaurant that began life in Melbourne and can now be found in Brighton) makes similarly profound commitments; an ‘aerobic digester’ that can generate up to 60kg of compost per day (spare capacity offered as a service to neighbours and local residents), onsite pre-industrial flour mill, plates made from plastic bags … it goes on. A side project is Old Tree, a brewery that creates fermented drinks (kombucha, lemonade, ancient mead, ciders and beers) from foraged and intercepted plants, herbs, vegetables and fruits.

Indeed, foraging has been the buzzword since Noma was first acclaimed world’s best in 2010, expect it to extend beyond the kitchen this year; everything from dandelion, burdock, maple sap, mushrooms, and horehound being put to use by innovative brewers like Chicago’s Forbidden Root and Scratch Brewing Company downstate in Southern Illinois as the craft beer scene’s appetite for locality, imagination and quality drives a trend for foraged beer.

Band of Bohemia
Band of Bohemia

Craft beer beyond the beard.

Craft beer has, of course, been big news for some years, but 2017 might see it finally make its move out of heavily bearded shadows; with beer bars going high-end, and top chefs favouring hops over grapes. November saw Chicago’s Band of Bohemia become the first United States brewpub to earn a Michelin star, Brooklyn’s Nordic-inspired restaurant Luksus — co-founded by Evil Twin Brewing’s Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø — achieving the same honour in the previous year’s guide; Jarnit-Bjergsø also having recently worked as a consultant for restaurants like Noma and Momofuku, and created a line of beers for two Michelin-starred Mathias Dahlgren (the only Swede to have won the prestigious Bocuse d’Or), a self-confessed beer geek keen to promote beer and food pairings at his restaurants.

Spontan
Spontan

Indeed, beer in fine dining restaurants is on the rise — brews outweigh wines on the drinks pairing menu at the Adrià brothers’ experimental Barcelona ode to Japanese and Peruvian fusion, Pakta, and even fussy old school dining rooms like London’s Le Gavroche now have a dedicated beer menu. Conversely, hip breweries like Copenhagen’s To Øl and Mikkeller are opening restaurants of their own (Spontan and Øl & Brød respectively) that look way beyond pizzas and pulled pork.

Evidence suggests that our fixation with beer dates back as long as 7,000 years, chemical tests of ancient pottery found in what is now Iran supporting that notion, so it might seem a little perplexing to be talking about it as a trend, but just imagine how Hawaiians are feeling right now; their humble ‘poke’ a veritable social media sensation. A staple of islanders’ diets since the 1950s, the fresh fish salad bowl is what they call ‘so hot right now’, and poke restaurants and take-aways are opening up from New York to London, Paris to Barcelona and beyond, but are not the only bowl-related craze worth taking note of.

Pokeworks, London
Pokeworks, London

Different bowl game.

The Korean bibimbap is a rice dish also attaining some level of global ubiquity, whilst London restaurant Shuang Shuang was the first of its kind to arrive on British shores last year, Fah Sundravorakul introducing his beloved Chinese hot pot (a simmering communal bowl in which to boil all manner of diverse ingredients) to a whole new audience in quirky surrounds; the Vietnamese pho, too, continued its international ascendancy. Talking of Southeast Asia, you might think the region’s various cuisines had been plundered by the west for all they had. You were wrong. Renowned Manila eatery, Romulo Café, opened its doors in Kensington last year, and the tiny space of Washington, D.C.’s Bad Saint offered up similar delights to its diners. Bringing together culinary inspirations as wide-ranging as Malaysian, Chinese and Spanish, Filipino food is en vogue and, as anyone who’s had the pleasure to eat it will attest, this is a good thing.

Bad Saint, Washington, D.C.
Bad Saint, Washington, D.C.

Retro Hawaiian lunchtime snacks and fine dining crafted from rubbish, the continuing explosion of craft beer and restaurants with a devout ambition to reverse climate change. I opened part one of this digest of where food and drink finds itself at the beginning of 2017 by suggesting that the internet had turned the trend machine into an inescapable whirlpool where almost nobody can stay afloat in the quest to keep up; F&B trends in 2017 are somewhat of a Chinese hot pot of their own, ingredients wide and varied sizzling at boiling point. It is nigh on impossible to pinpoint trends or to coin movements, and isn’t that a great place to be?

The freneticism of food and drink tight now means that countless boggling things are happening, online and offline, and in every corner of the world. Le Turtle, a hip New York restaurant that sounds like an elaborate joke from Nathan Barley, is gaining accolades and causing profound confusion in equal measures; there is a deconstructed whisky tart which involves washing your hands in whisky and sniffing them as you eat on the menu at Disfrutar, the lauded Barcelona restaurant founded by three former elBulli chefs; the rising star chef at Hong Kong’s Belon has had to cap orders of his £30-$45 chicken wing to ten per service (‘it’s not fair to the team to have to cook the same thing all night’); Heston Blumenthal has announced he is collaborating with experiential art/design studio Marshmallow Laser Feast on a virtual reality project (of course he has); and artist Georgia-Rose Fairman beguiles her Instagram followers with hyper-realistic cakes that resemble everything from a dead body to a live trout. Keeping up?

Heston Blumenthal x Marshmallow Laser Feast
Heston Blumenthal x Marshmallow Laser Feast

Eat your art out.

If there was one unified motion that could be gleaned from the dizzying flow of eccentricity that inhabits kitchens and dining rooms the world over, it is that food and art are better friends than ever before. Dalí’s bonkers amalgam of surrealism, gastronomy and erotica — Les diners de Gala — was reprinted last year by Taschen, no doubt inspired by the countless creative publications that have been launched in recent years; independent magazines like The Gourmand, Fuet, Put A Egg On It, Sabor, Cured, and Brutal aligning culture and cuisine closer and closer. Think of it as the Instagram food revolution cranked up to 11; where piñata birthday cakes are replaced by fashion shoots with legs of jamón ibérico wearing Louboutins.

Cured MagazineSure, from The Last Supper to Warhol’s Campbell’s cans, food has forever been tied to the art world, but with plates at the world’s most awarded restaurants increasingly resembling the frenzied expressionism of Jackson Pollock, the divide between the two worlds is a line steadily more blurred.

Between 7 July and 2 September last year, Los Angeles gallery M+B hosted PLEASE HAVE ENOUGH ACID IN THE DISH!, a bona fide art exhibition curated by Vinny Dotolo, a James Beard Award-winning chef. Works from names like noted pop artist Ed Ruscha and emerging stars Jonas Wood and Eric Yahnker; Big Macs in plexi boxes; a redhead bombshell with chilli fries in place of her face; in 2017 it’s difficult to tell whether it’s the artists inspiring the chefs or vice versa — from Mark Hix’s notable obsession with the YBAs to René Redzepi creating edible conceptual art with his ant-studded shrimp with a pulse. Let the real creatives reclaim culinary aesthetic from the iPhone-conjoined hands of the influencer elite.

So there you have it. Trends? Pigeonholes there to be gleefully obliterated. You can take my observations and find a way to work them into whatever it is you are doing, or you can watch some punk gigs on YouTube, dive into William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, or just spend the day playing video games. Just please remember: gastronomy is an art form, and in art, there are no rules.

PLEASE HAVE ENOUGH ACID IN THE DISH! at M+B Gallery, Los Angeles
PLEASE HAVE ENOUGH ACID IN THE DISH! at M+B Gallery, Los Angeles
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James Davidson
James Davidson is a contributing writer for THE SHIFT and editor-in-chief of We Heart, an online design and lifestyle magazine that he founded in 2009 as a personal blog and now receives over half a million monthly views.