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9 (More) Fall Food Trends at the Beard House

Alison Tozzi Liu

November 11, 2015

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Want to know what’s cooking in American restaurants right now? Look no further than the James Beard House kitchen, where dozens of chefs from all over the country come to cook each month. Our last dispatch had the trends of early fall: deli fare, egg yolks, and lardo, to name a few—and as we transition from fall to winter, the cooking is getting heartier, and chefs are reimagining familiar items from ice cream sundaes to bacon. Read on to see what’s popping up on our November and December Beard House menus.

1) Duck, Duck…Duck

“Duck is an elegant and versatile protein,” says Izabela Wojcik, director of James Beard House programming. And as the holidays approach, chefs are getting their duck on. “Not just the expected breast or leg confit,” says Wojcik, “but an exciting and creative range that includes a duck sundae with duck fat caramel and chicken skin brittle!” We've got duck liver mousse canapés on November 3duck breast with apples, root vegetables, and kirsch gastrique on December 1prosciutto-wrapped duck on December 9duck sundae > cane syrup–pecan ice cream with duck caramel sauce, poultry skin brittle, smoked sea salt, and candied shiso on December 12; and smoked duck terrine on December 18.
 

2) Meaty Desserts

And speaking of that duck sundae, there is no shortage of desserts with animal products this month, mostly featuring foie gras (on November 2, November 10, November 20, and December 31), but be sure to check out the apple pie on December 14, which features a bone marrow-infused pâte sucrée crust

3) Tacos 

Tacos may not exactly be a staple in most multicourse tasting menus, but we’re starting to think they should be. We welcome this addition with several different versions, including a chicken wing taco with salsa macha from New York City's taco king, Alex Stupak, along with lamb barbacoa tacos and crispy pig ear tacos.

4) Alternative Bacon 

“The popularity of bacon will never go away,” says Wojcik, “but the idea of curing, smoking, and utilizing other proteins that approximate the richness of classic bacon, and more importantly, use them to enrich a dish is really incredible. It’s inspiring to see how chefs repeatedly take fundamental ingredients and rethink them.” Get a taste of octopus bacon (November 14) and sturgeon bacon (December 10), or keep it (almost) classic with wild boar bacon (November 2).

5) Japanese Vegetables

The Japanese are renowned for their meticulous fish preparations, but chefs also love working with Japanese veggies. Try these at the Beard House: Kuri squash with duck breast on November 3Kabocha squash cake on November 4Tokyo negi purée with chicken and kumquat koshyo on November 6Ohba leaf pesto on November 12; and Tokyo turnips with beef belly and hot sauce on December 10.

6) Cauliflower 

Another ingredient we don’t see everyday at the Beard House: the humble head of cauliflower. “Cauliflower is an unpretentious ingredient that can be dressed up in endless ways,” says Elizabeth Laseter, who assists Wojcik in planning Beard House events. While we most often see cauliflower in fine dining puréed as a soup (as on December 1), Laseter notes that on November and December menus, “we’re also seeing it caramelized and combined with mustards (December 18), enhanced with truffles (November 19), and even as it’s own course (November 21).”

7) Popcorn

Nostalgic and fun to eat, popcorn is a whimsical ingredient, says Laseter, noting that “like cauliflower, popcorn is easily enhanced by spices and other seasonings. It also adds an unexpected texture.” Look for Nixtamalized popcorn (November 18), vanilla popcorn (November 20), Indian popcorn served with venison (November 26), spicy popcorn served with scallops (December 18), and popcorn tossed with green chiles and Parmesan (December 4). 

8) Creative Crisps

One of the many things that differentiates a chefs’ dish (which is to say, a dish that most of us would cook at home) are the creative ways they add a little texture (not to mention intense flavor) to their dishes. We’ve written before about the deliciously crispy bits that often pop up on menus at the Beard House. In November and December, keep an eye out for baccalà crisp (November 21), redfish skin chip with shrimp mousse (December 12), chicken skin with apple chutney and hearts of palm (December 16), and a chicken skin cracker with corned beef tongue (December 17). 

9) And Finally, Octopus 

“Chefs are madly in love with it,” Wojcik says of chefs’ predilection for octopus. Relatively inexpensive but hard to get just right for the novice home cook, octopus is one of those proteins many of us leave to the pros. Get your fix with octopus “a la plancha” with fennel, dried olives, octopus bacon, and smoked mayonnaise on November 14; octopus carpaccio on
December  11grilled octopus with Sicilian olivata, crispy potatoes, and chorizo vinaigrette on December 15: and grilled wild Italian octopus with capers, onions, olives, and cannellini beans on December 22.

Bonus: as expected, chefs are breaking out the luxury ingredients for the holidays. Look for oysters, truffles, caviar, and foie gras on lots of menus. 

Want more trends? Check out our round up of September and October menu trends. 

Are you spotting other menu trends lately? Email us. Check out the full listing of dinners at the James Beard House and around the country here. 

 
Want to see the chefs in action? Follow the JBF Kitchen cam and get an alert when our live feed is on!

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Alison Tozzi Liu is editorial director at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.