Frequent diners know that ingredients go in and out of favor on restaurant menus (see pigs’ ears, see lamb tongue—all the rage about a year and a half ago). Chefs are as subject to the vagaries of fashion as anyone—not to mention at the mercy of whatever conditions and supply necessitate farmers and fishermen and foragers make available to them.
So what’s hot this second?
Black garlic, for one, which seized my attention during a recent dinner at Eden Hill on top of Queen Anne. On one of my visits, chef and owner Maximillian Petty featured the softened, sweetened, blackened garlic in a soup he made from carrots and nasturtiums and coconut milk; he had blackened it himself in a little oven he fashioned himself out of a dehydrator.
Black garlic’s also shown up at Tray Kitchen and Single Shot, according to my Seattle Times counterpart Providence Cicero, and I’ve run into it recently at Eve Restaurant, flavoring the aioli on the bison burger, and at Mollusk, where it conspires with espresso, salty caramel ganache, and butterscotch to make an espresso-black garlic Ding Dong.
The other ingredient du jour is Saskatoon berries, which grow on trees in various landscapes across Canada and the Northern US and whose midsummer sweetness survives a freezer pretty well. Petty at Eden Hill loves these as well—“like a blueberry but slightly nuttier”—and adds them to a char siu marinade for quail, or makes them into sorbet.
Word is, Eden Hill’s Valentine dinner will include rabbit porchetta in a tawny Port reduction fortified with a puree of Saskatoon berries and preserved lemon.
Where else are Saskatoons showing up? Maria Hines Restaurants sources them from local forager, Foraged and Found; look for them to brighten the porcini-ash crusted venison on Tilth’s Valentine’s Day menu. They're already showing up as a fruity sauce for Golden Beetle’s chocolate torte. And in a cocktail glass at Local 360, along with Bourbon and fig-infused aquavit.
Why are these ingredients new? Neither is. Black garlic has been flavoring Asian foods for years, its recent appropriation into American restaurants owing as much to star turns on Top Chef and Iron Chef as to its adaptability across genres.
As for Saskatoons, they too have been around for years, their recent splash onto the local market due in part to the efforts of Foraged and Found. You may know them as serviceberries.