Specialty Food Magazine

Summer 2018

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Influences in Specialty Foods This year, Whole Foods called out Middle Eastern culinary influ- ences as a top trend, citing that customers are ready to explore classic ingredients like harissa, cardamom, za'atar, and dishes like shakshuka, grilled halloumi, lamb, pomegranate, tahini, tomato jam, and dried fruits. Regional Middle Eastern cuisine also made the SFA Trendspotters' 2018 list. Lebanese inf luences continue to rise to the top, according to Christine Sahadi Whelan, vice president of Sahadi's, a specialty grocer and third-generation family business based in Brooklyn, New York. "Many of our customers know and ask for za'atar these days," she says. Interest is also high in Moroccan-style harissa and zhug hot sauces. "They are the perfect table condiment for grilled protein or vegetables, adding a f lavorful, exotic taste," she says. Hummus sea- soned with ras el hanout and preserved lemon has become a customer favorite, and there's interest in smoky Aleppo and urfa peppers. "Interest in more regional cuisines is going to expand down the road," she says. "A few miles geographically can historically have a big difference on f lavor profiles." Emerging specialty food makers like mother-son duo Lorraine and Alexander Harik of Brooklyn-based Zesty Z: The Za'atar Co., makers of a za'atar condiment for retail and foodservice, are excited to share their regional family recipes with a U.S. market brim- ming with possibility. "One of our missions is to educate," explains Alexander Harik. Za'atar is the national condiment of Lebanon, says Harik, stipulating that the herb and spice blend is usually served as a "wet" condiment in Lebanon, mixed with extra virgin olive oil in comparison to the dry spice mix version found in other regions. "It's a convenient and healthy way to add f lavor," he says. It's up to chefs, he adds, to get as creative as they want with traditional Middle Eastern ingredients like these.—A.K. Shaya in New Orleans, Nur in New York City, Ema in Chicago, and Butcher & Bee in Charleston. Which other Middle Eastern regions does Solomonov think are rising to the top? "All of them. Right now," he says. While many regions with Arab inf luences are indeed having a moment, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Mediterranean and North African countries including Turkey and Morocco are certainly sharing the spotlight with Israeli food. Notable chefs like Ana Sortun of Oleana in Boston have expanded with new locations including Sofra Bakery & Café and Sarma, her restaurant-bar modeled after Turkish meyhanes. The trend is taking fast-casual menus by storm as well, with reimagined falafel shops opening to much foodie fanfare. The Zahav team recently opened Goldie, where they serve refined falafel balls fried to order, alongside Shawarma-spiced fries and tahini- spiked milkshakes. On the west coast, chefs Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer helm Madcapra, an untraditional falafel shop in Los Angeles serving innovative beverages like iced cardamom coffee and sumac-beet soda. The Ottolenghi Effect Today many are appreciating the diversity of the Middle East, but it was London chef and author Yotam Ottolenghi who sparked a global movement of modern Middle Eastern cuisine with the publication of his cookbooks Plenty and Jerusalem. In fact, customers' newfound love for all things Middle Eastern—from tagines to labne to kofta—is often referred to as " The Ottolenghi Effect." "Ottolenghi in London and Oleana in Boston were some of my inspirations," says Alex Sarkissian, owner of Momed restaurant in Los Angeles. When Momed's first location opened in 2010 in Beverly Hills, most food in this genre was cooked by people of Middle Eastern descent, Sarkissian explains. "The cuisine had been very 'mom and pop,' very insular within its community," he says. "I felt there was a real opportunity to bring the f lavors and recipes to a wider audience." He's witnessed a dramatic change, with an array of ingredients and dishes now crossing over into fine dining restaurants. "Now you're getting a lot of chefs who have never been near the eastern Mediterranean but are using a multitude of ingredients and recipes from there." As a proponent of an inventive menu with Middle Eastern inf luences, he loves all the integration but insists chefs must preserve the inherent DNA of where the food is from. "This food is very emotional," he says. "[Middle Easterners] take it to heart if you mess with what is most dear to them." "The food is very emotional. Middle Easterners take it to heart if you mess with what is most dear to them." "Interest in more regional cuisines is going to expand down the road. A few miles geographically can historically have a big difference on flavor profiles." Stephanie Cain, Mark Hamstra and Anna Klainbaum are freelance writers specializing in food & beverages. SUMMER 2018 131

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