The kitchen at James Beard’s historic townhouse in New York City is host to dozens of chefs from all over the country each month, making it one of the best places to experience a snapshot of what’s happening right now in American restaurants. Here are a few noteworthy trends we’ve spotted popping up on menus for our September and October dinners.
1. Deli Fare
In 2014, the New York Times declared that we're living in the Golden Age of Jewish–American deli food. More recently, you may have noticed ambitious chefs around the country drawing from their ancestral roots to cater to modern tastes. In addition to Todd Ginsberg’s inventively appetizing menu on September 26, we’re noticing traditional deli tastes integrated into modern and classic menus of all cuisines. Look for Wagyu brisket on September 18, elk pastrami and miniature Reubens on rye on September 30, shaved beef tongue with braised mustard seeds and rye on October 16, and corned lamb’s tongue on October 22, just to name a few.
2. Egg Yolks
Yes, we’ve covered eggs in the past, but now we’re seeing a lot of the yolks themselves as a star ingredient. Yolks up the richness in a dish, and, as Izabela Wojcik, our director of Beard House programming, points out, “There's a big trend in yolk techniques right now. For example, you’ll see chefs salt-curing, shaving, and slow-cooking their yolks.” Keep an eye out for cured duck yolks with braised pork belly on September 15; octopus-ink ravioli stuffed with chicken, white truffles, ricotta, and liquid egg yolk on October 2; and slow-cooked egg yolks with smoked dates, alliums, and malt on October 8.
3. Raw (and Live!) Scallops
First there was tuna tartare, then fluke crudo, and these days, a simple raw scallop is de rigueur as a first course at the Beard House. “Fish crudo continues to be a popular preparation, especially for a multi-course tasting menu,” says Wojcik. “It’s light, and there’s an element of elegance and clean flavors to the preparations.” We're looking forward to live scallops with cold soba noodles and shiro dashi on September 18; and then with cauliflower, harissa, preserved lime, and lovage oil on October 10; and more scallops—raw, smoked, or otherwise—on menus throughout the season.
4. Handmade Pasta
The gluten-free diet has passed us by here at the Beard House. This autumn we’re seeing lots and lots of fresh pasta, from rye cavatelli with kohlrabi purée, escargot, chanterelles, and anchovy butter on September 16 to veal casoncelli with proscuitto, brown butter, and red wine jus on September 25 to ricotta–spinach malfatti with wild mushrooms and grilled baby squash on September 30. The following month brings us everything from maple-roasted pig's head agnolotti on October 5 to corn and mascarpone–stuffed caramelle with porcini mushrooms and crispy pork belly on October 10 to housemade pasta with lobster and uni butter on October 14 to cavatappi with with roasted bone marrow and bread crumbs on October 22. This is just a short sampling, so pasta freaks: book your seats!
You’ve heard it before: fat equals flavor. Italian chefs have long been curing and seasoning pork fat into lardo, which is then thinly sliced and draped over pizza, salad, or whatever could use a touch of melt-in-your-mouth ribbon of porky goodness (and really, what couldn’t?). We're seeing lardo whipped with pork rillettes and crispy pigs' ears on September 11, aged for 14 months with seasonal fruit and goosebery mostarda on September 15, spread on toast with peaches on September 24, and served up with roasted garden vegetables and fried rosemary on October 22.
6. Zero-Waste Cooking
Chefs have always been a frugal bunch, but these days we’re seeing them use their scraps in a lot more than just stock—and being loud and proud about it (frequent readers of the JBF blog know that this is one of our favorite trends!). You’re increasingly likely to see menus featuring not only nose-to-tail cooking (lamb's hearts on September 10 and lamb's neck on October 23) but keep an eye out for carrot tops on September 15 and lemon peel–marinated prawns on September 19, as well as preserved/pickled ingredients galore. We predict that you'll be seeing a lot more of this!
7. Fresh Ricotta
This über creamy cheese has long since come out of hiding from between layers of Italian–American specialties (although we still love it there too!), but this fall we’re noticing a lotta ricotta on menus. Coincidence? Look out for delicious dollops on the following menus: baby artichokes with coriander ricotta on September 12, ricotta tartines on September 24, ricotta with stone fruit and pistachios on September 25, and ricotta cavatelli with rabbit ragù on September 29.
8. Savory Chocolate
If you don’t want to wait until dessert to get your chocolate or cocoa fix, check out the menus for these fall dinners: smoked short ribs with cocoa demi-glace on September 29, foie gras with chocolate AND honey-lacquered duck with chocolate on October 3, venison loin with cocoa and whipped sorghum on October 16, and chicken liver cannoli with cocoa nibs and pickled cherries on October 22.