By Siobhan Gunner
Fast-casual eateries – of a different kind
While fast-casual eateries aren’t particularly new, this style of dining is dictating New York’s food scene in an entirely different way. Restaurateurs and chefs behind the world’s top fine dining destinations delve into the fast-casual scene, making their upscale dishes slightly more accessible and affordable. Take Made Nice, a fast-casual concept by the Eleven Madison Park team (named best restaurant in the world in 2017), which serves the same quality food in a more informal setting. Instead of paying $295 for a fine dining dinner, you can enjoy pomegranate tabbouleh for a fraction of the price.
Fast-casual eateries are becoming decidedly healthier too, focusing on traditional Mediterranean cooking, Middle Eastern flavours and Indian spices. New York’s most popular fast-casual eateries (CAVA, Inday) take pride in using nothing but top-quality locally sourced ingredients (and supporting the local community!), guaranteeing a meal that is both fast and guilt-free. Fast-casual dining is no longer seen as lazy or a second-best alternative, but a consciously driven option, which is arguably more attractive than a long multi-course dinner – especially in fast-paced cities.
Now that By Chloe has made its way to the UK, London will only be seeing more fast-casual eateries with healthy, vegetable-focused dishes.
Middle Eastern & Mediterranean cuisine
Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking is hotter than ever before. New York’s neighbourhoods are filled with standout Middle Eastern destinations, from eateries focusing on one particular dish (think falafel or couscous) to restaurants offering a full-blown feast with mezze and warm pita bread. Some dishes are especially noteworthy, including Tel Aviv’s famous whole-roasted cauliflower “steak” (now available in Europe and NYC too), oval-shaped Jerusalem-style bagels with za’ater spices and lime bean messhaba, and yuzu buttermilk foam topped with tuna ceviche.
And, fast-casual eateries are following the Middle Eastern trend too. Traditional Israeli falafel sandwiches have become a city staple, and newcomer Dez is already hugely popular thanks to its Instagrammable dishes such as shawarma burgers with crispy eggplant and halva toast with sumac-roasted strawberry jam.
The latest health trend taking LA by storm is cannabidiol, a non-pyschoactive compound found in the cannabis plant. What makes this compound so appealing – besides the fact it’s legal – is its benefits on the mind and body, from reducing anxiety, inflammation and pain, to increasing productivity and sexual pleasure. In LA, and more recently New York, chefs are catching up with the trend and adding CBD-infused items to their menus. While CBD is mostly mixed into drinks such as lattes and cocktails, The Spring in LA is known for its CBD power lunch, while New York hotspots like By Chloe and Van Leeuwen have launched CBD-infused desserts too. Keep your eyes peeled London…
London is no longer a stranger to pastry hybrids (think croissant-donuts and croissant-muffins), but we’re seeing a rise of baked goods with oh-so fancy fillings and decadent toppings. In New York, Supermoon Bakehouse (the sister of San Francisco’s popular Mr. Holmes Bakehouse) takes every layer in a pastry seriously, offering flavour-packed donuts, cruffins croissants. Their blue bi-coloured croissant is a great example, filled with rosemary crème pâtissière with a blueberry jam folded through, and topped with a blueberry white chocolate curled shard and a sprig of rosemary.
While pastry chef Ry Stephen changes the flavours weekly, the bakery’s best seller has been on the menu since day one: a banana split twice-baked croissant. It’s made with a filling of whole caramelised sous vide banana, chocolate almond crème, banana caramel sauce and vanilla crème pâtissière. On top, you’ll find dehydrated banana slices, whipped cream bulbs and a gold leaf.
But we’re not finished. Supermoon Bakehouse recently launched a new dessert hybrid… behold the croissant butter soft serve. Made with their croissant butter, the soft serve is sweet, salty, and buttery – a contrasting line-up of flavours that work surprisingly well. It’s then topped with a slice of croissant and crunchy croissant crumbs, which are given an extra dose of salt and sugar, and served in a cup that changes with heat and cold. There’s a reason why they call this place a world of pure imagination.
We can’t wait for London’s bakeries to step up their game.
Featured image: Miznon