2010 – A Year in Food & Food Trends for 2011

What are your favourite food-related items of 2010?

As I realized my blog is just over a year old (December 23, 2009 was my first post), I decided to jump on the bandwagon with my own year-in-review.  This post is on 2010’s top posts, photos, and favourites, plus trends for 2011.

IslandEAT‘s Most-read Posts

According to site stats, my most popular posts are unexpected – at least, by me.

5.  My adaptation of Peter Reinhart’s Multi-grain Bread.

4. No-bake Whipped Cream Mocha Ice-box Zebra “Pie”

3.  Thick and Chewy Brown-Sugar-Beurre-Noisette Cookies

2.  Thick Chewy Chocolate-Chip Cookies

For my most popular post in 2010, Five Food Trends, and Top Food Pictures…

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The Original Chicago-style Deep-Dish Pizza: Have Yourself a Merry Little Pizza Slice

Have you ever tried authentic Chicago pizza?  There are three varieties, in case you were wondering.  I spent my first three decades living within minutes (no more than a half-hour) of the very best pizza parlours in the Greater Metropolitan Chicagoland Area.  I sampled all the top-rated pizza places.  So I feel qualified to “splain” it all to you.

Chicago Pizza Categories

The first is a thin-crust pizza, which is often more chewy and thicker than the New York version (much more crisp and almost cracker-like in consistency); it is most similar to the original Neapolitan pizza crust but is really an American interpretation.  In my youth, I do not remember any authentic wood-burning oven pizzas, comparable to their ancestors in Naples, but today there are many restaurants offering this kind of “real” pizza.

The second is the stuffed pizza.  It has two crusts, akin to a double-crust pie, with all the filling in between. A thin layer of tomato sauce, however, usually adorns the top crust.  This pizza is less common than the one for which Chicago is best known, the deep-dish.  The stuffed pizza can be a delicacy, often made with spinach and mushrooms, or it can be leaden and off-putting disappointment, depending on its maker

I believe the stuffed pizza became popular in the 1970s, a decade not known for its restraint.  After all, wretched excess was in vogue.  Think disco! Think glittery body-clinging polyester fashion!  Think ultra-rich high-fat desserts! It was the era of chocolate decadence cake and appetizer buffets showcasing nothing but cream-cheese dips.  I remember sampling all the varieties at Arnie’s Restaurant in Chicago – chocolate-chip, cinnamon-raisin, honey-walnut, and some savoury counterparts – all cream-cheese extravaganzas.  I assure you I am not hallucinating, due to other 1970s excesses.

In Chicago, the deep-dish pizza is a World-War-II-era invention of Ike Sewell.  Mr. Sewell started Pizzeria Uno around 1943 at Rush and Ohio Streets, on the city’s near north side.  The pizza was an immediate hit.  He opened a second location, named strangely enough, Pizzeria Due, just a block away in 1955.   Both are still vibrant pizzerias.  (Mr. Sewell also introduced upscale Tex-Mex cuisine to the Midwest of the US, where it had been unknown, through his restaurant Su Casa in 1963).

For the deep-dish pizza profile and the recipe

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Friday Food Fun and Facts, Third Edition

Pizza Party!

I will be posting the outstanding America’s Test Kitchen recipe for Chicago-style pizza (above), which I recently made – very authentic and worth the extra time to prepare the buttery crust. The recipe features an authentic tomato sauce and makes two pizzas. My versions were a hot-hot-hot chorizo (above) and a pizza with caramelized onions.

While I was in Chicago three times this year, this is the first time in my life in which nobody in my immediate family is living in the Greater Chicagoland Metropolitan Area (TV slang for the vast reaches of the city into suburbia and beyond).  My mother is now in an assisted living facility near my brother in Connecticut.  So maybe this is why I have been craving Chicago specialties, including the famed Italian beef sandwich, which I shall make in my slow-cooker this weekend.

The deep-dish buttery-crusted pizza and the Italian beef sandwich are perhaps the two finest exemplary Chicagoland dishes, originating in the city yet gaining renown elsewhere.  Stay tuned for Chicago specialties….

Upcoming Food Holidays, December 18 – 25

In case you had no other meal plans, tomorrow is another odd day for you to celebrate in the Wacky World o’ Food Holidays. Roast suckling pig, anyone?

The holidays on the 23 and 24 make more sense than Xmas itself, as I associate pumpkin pie with Thanksgiving, but who knows who is responsible for anything on the list, to begin with?

December 18 – National Roast Suckling Pig Day
December 21 – National French Fried Shrimp Day
December 23 – National Pfeffernusse Day
December 24 – National Egg Nog Day
December 25 – National Pumpkin Pie Day

For a holiday brown betty recipe and 2010’s best world cookbooks,

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Chocolate-Pecan “Turtles” and Salted Caramels: National Chocolate Covered Anything Day

Today we celebrate National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day.  Did you know about this holiday?  I find it a bit odd – chocolate-covered ANYTHING? – really??It is worthy of celebrating, nonetheless.

Just in time for the bigger “holiday season”, the recipe I have chosen to honour this day is home-made “turtles” or chocolate-covered salted caramels with pecans (caramels au fleur de sel aux pecanes et chocolat, if you want to sound fancy in some non-Francophone milieu – and, if you are unfamiliar with the term, I do not mean someone named Frank on the phone but speakers of French).

I noticed on a trip to France a few years ago that caramels with fleur de sel had become very popular.  It must be the combination of contrasts, between the caramel’s rich sweetness with the fleur de sel‘s saltiness (mais, oui!) as well as the caramel’s thick-creaminess with a bit of crunch from the salt. The fleur de sel makes me think of crack cocaine, which I believe looks like white crystalline chunks – not entirely unlike clumps of the French sea salt – and fleur de sel makes the caramels absolutely addictive.

Thus, when I found a recipe for soft salted caramels from the fine Canadian food writer Lucy Waverman a few months later, I needed to try it.  Lucy had adapted a recipe from the great Jacques Pepin.  It is easy enough to make if one has a candy thermometer and can follow directions precisely.  I had never made caramels before but found the recipe straight-forward, simple, and fun, though requiring a bit of time and one’s attention.  But it is worth the effort.

For the inspiration – and the recipe, keep reading.

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Friday Food Facts and Fun, Second Edition


Did you celebrate National Chocolate Brownie Day earlier this week?

I am still in a reflective brownie mode, hence, the photo above of my double-chocolate double-malt frosted brownies.  It is the brownie I crave the most.  This year, I have tried at least four new chocolate brownie recipes and have posted three on IslandEAT. Holidays are about celebration and reflection…

Upcoming National Food Holidays

As this the “holiday season” is upon us, here are the food holidays for next week:

December 11 – National Noodle-Ring Day
December 12 – National Ambrosia Day
December 13 – National Cocoa Day
December 14 – National Bouillabaisse Day
December 15 – National Lemon Cupcake Day
December 16 – National Chocolate Covered Anything Day

If anyone knows what a “noodle-ring” is, or why it should be fêted, please let me know immediately.  I am most excited by the events celebrating cocoa and “chocolate-covered anything”.  Just where exactly does the chocolate-covering stop, in matters of good taste?

For questions, a retro video, and blogging resources….

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1897 Brownies: The Original Recipe to Honour National Chocolate Brownie Day

Did you know that today is National Chocolate Brownie Day? While I have no idea who proclaims such things, it is still cause for celebration.

To mark this momentous occasion, I finally tried a recipe I have wanted to make for some time – one which is purported to be the very first. The earliest published brownie recipe was in the 1897 Sears, Roebuck catalog, and its name, for that reason, is simply “1897 Brownies”.  I came across this in Food:  True Stories of Life on the Road, edited by Richard Sterling.  This is a wonderful collection of short essays on food experiences and explorations around the world.

The recipe followed a charming story of a young American woman who started a covert brownie business in Glasgow, Scotland in the 1970s.  I read it before our recent trip there, and I thought I might stumble upon a Scottish brownie somewhere.   While I did discover millionaire’s shortbread, there were no brownies to be had in Scotland (“nae brunies”…).

This recipe is fascinating – not only because it could be the original brownie – but it also has no butter.  (There is an alternative to using unsweetened chocolate, which includes cocoa and a modest amount of butter).  Thus, it is a lighter, lower-fat brownie. In fact, as National Brownie Day coincides this year with the last night of Chanukkah, it could be a good follow-up to the oil-laden or dairy-rich foods of the holiday.  The 1897 Brownie could be a good holiday treat for Xmas or New Year’s, as well.

For the review – and the recipe

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Friday Food Facts and Fun: A New Feature

What is Friday Food Fun and Facts?  It is a new interactive weekly feature of articles, videos, events, tips, gadgets, questions, and other items from the wide world o’ food on IslandEAT.

I continually discover bits and pieces of food lore and news, which somehow do not make their way into my posts.  My friend, former colleague, and subscriber, Michele, also suggested I offer a food question-and-answer segment, so I thought I could answer –  or attempt to answer – your burning food questions, from time to time.   Thanks, Michele, for that suggestion!

Yesterday, I was able to “Experience the Difference” on BC Ferries through an extended 10-hour trip from Vancouver to my island.   The trip involved three ferries/two transfers and should have taken less than one hour, nonstop, on one ferry.  Because of a “mechanical problem” requiring an “inspector”,  I had plenty of time to read and surf online, however.  One “upside” of the adventure was that I finally took the mammoth Coastal Celebration from Vancouver to Victoria, which I can see from our house (pictured in my post here).  A few major  routes now have WiFi – another very good thing, to borrow from Martha S.

Cookery Video

Still thinking about all things British after our recent trip, I came across an unintentionally hilarious instructional film,  from England, circa 1937:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgQkMGgHxr0&feature=related

“The broiler-griller is indeed the housewife’s friend…it may be well the husband’s companion, too”, according to this film.  Really? Rather.

News Flash:  The Pavlova Prize goes to…New Zealand!

The Vancouver Sun had a small item yesterday on a stunning development in the culinary world.  The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has awarded the Kiwis the ultimate dessert prize.  The OED has determined that New Zealand can claim creation of the meringue, whipped cream, and fruit dessert known as the “Pavlova”.

For years, Australia and New Zealand have battled over bragging rights for the invention of this famous dish.  The OED settled the dispute, as they found earlier references to the Pavlova in a New Zealand cookbook  in 1927, Davis Dainty Dishes – well before any mention in the land of Oz. (I would love to get my hands on a cookbook with a title like that….)

The dessert was named in honour of the Russian prima ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who had a grand tour of NZ and Oz in the 1920s.  Congratulations, Kiwis!   You now have beaten Australia in one of the most hotly-debated food arguments of all time.

For views of New Zealand and food photography hints, keep reading.

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