City Bites

IN DIGESTION: Top food trends spotted at Gold Medal Plates 2011

The Castegarth team assembled a miniature "forest floor" on which to set a succulent venison rib

For the record, the Gold Medal Plates winners were: Marc Lepine, Atelier (gold);  Caroline Iishi, Zen Kitchen (silver); and Charles Part, Les Fougères (bronze).

Now, before we get to the trends, City Bites has a few observations from Monday night’s sold-out Gold Medal Plates soiree:

Observation #1: Crowd-pleasing music never gets tired. I guess organizers must have had trouble booking Arcade Fire because, once again, Jim Cuddy and Kathleen Edwards provided the entertainment.

Observation # 2: Politics is a hungry sport. Food people were outnumbered by speed skaters and political players—more than 80 MPs were there mugging for the cameras with their favourite athletes for that quintessential “O Canada” moment.

Observation #3: It is easier to judge the judges than to be a judge. Personally I thought the dish from Castlegarth was a standout. On the plate, there were acorns, black walnuts, hawthorn berries, Jerusalem artichokes, wild apples, and wild ginger. “Everything but the venison was foraged by Matthew,” explained Castlegarth co-owner Jennifer Brearley. “The plate is meant to look like the forest floor. These are all the things that the venison would eat.” Brilliant, I say, and delicious. And after being served meats in various geometric forms, it was delightful to see an actual rib as a reminder that this delicious protein comes from an animal rather than a Ziploc bag.

Observation #4: Judging food is always a subjective thing. For example, I happened to be standing next to another food editor at the station of Prince Edward County chef Lili Sullivan. He muttered something about the fact that her fried ravioli was impossible to bite. I found the crispy texture delightful; not everything has to have the texture of applesauce. A good reminder that two people may be eating the same thing, but have very different interpretations.

Observation #5: Food is political. Even as we “celebrate excellence” we want everyone to feel included or, at least, represented. In this light, Gold Medal Plates is the ultimate Canadian event. Look at the winners: one locavore dish from an established Quebec chef, one alternative diet courtesy of a female chef, and one avant-garde dish from an ambitious young chef — the culinary equivalent of the House of Commons?

And now to the top 10 trends:

1. Ingredient-X served two ways (or three ways)

2. Crispy, crunchy bits; dehydrated, fried, pulverized

3. Cauliflower

4. Brisket

5. Micro vegetables (tiny turnips!) and herbs

6. Capital “L” Luxury goods: truffles, lobster, caviar, uni, foie gras

7. Kimchi

8. Local/foraged ingredients

9. Fennel

10. Tacos

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