10 New Ingredients to Stretch Your Culinary Horizons
Tonka Beans at Plume, Washington, D.C.
The South American legume is beloved by perfumiers for its rich, complex aroma featuring notes of vanilla, almond, clove, and cherry. Chefs are attracted to its luxurious flavor, which is equally enthralling. However, coumarin, the substance responsible for its scent and taste, can be toxic to your liver, and even fatal, if eaten in large quantities. Don’t worry, you have to eat a lot. Here tonka beans are infused in milk chocolate crémeux that tops off the Exotic Chocolate Bar, which also features banana bread, passion fruit-chocolate cream, and coconut sugar. Rum-soaked raisins and coconut sorbet accompany the next-level candy bar.
Rave restaurant review: “The food and service were both out of this world! I highly recommend this restaurant!”
Make a reservation at Plume.
Sea Buckthorn at PRAIRIE, San Francisco, California
The bright orange berry packed with vitamins C and B12 has been dubbed a superfruit due to its range of potential health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and healing wrinkled or sun-damaged skin. Sea buckthorn features in the Becky with the Good Hair cocktail, which the restaurant calls “One part retox, one part detox.” Cocchi Americano, lime, and ginger also appear in the gin-based sipper.
Rave restaurant review: “Had this place on my radar for some time and very happy to report that it did not disappoint. Their food, drinks, and service were great. Before we left, we made another reservation to come back, it is that good.”
Make a reservation at PRAIRIE.
Cousa Summer Squash at High Street on Hudson, New York, New York
Looking like a shorter, more Rubenesque zucchini, cousa (sometimes spelled kousa or kusa) squash is a stalwart in Middle Eastern cuisine, especially in Lebanese food. Slightly sweet with a nutty undertone, it’s served here in a Mexican-influenced preparation. Raw rounds and seared slabs of the squash sit underneath fried squash blossoms stuffed with masa harina, corn, and Oaxcan cheese. Tomatillo salsa and epazote complete the summery starter.
Rave restaurant review: “Every dish was uniquely, expertly, and tastily prepared and presented. Service was professional, attentive, and warm. A totally comfortable and delicious dining experience.”
Make a reservation at High Street on Hudson.
Escamoles at Bakan, Miami, Florida
Ready to step outside your comfort zone? Order escamoles, the eggs and larvae of velvety tree ants, which are considered a delicacy in Mexico. Sautéed in butter with shallots and epazote, they’re served on a freshly made blue corn tortilla and topped with a dollop of guacamole. Possessing the texture of cottage cheese, the eggs add a nutty note and buttery backbone to the boundary-pushing dish.
Rave restaurant review: “Great place. Lots of attention to every detail to ensure a great dining experience. Highly recommended, but make a reservation! Word is out to how good this place is.”
Make a reservation at Bakan.
Chayote at Tsismis, New York, New York
Otherwise known as pear squash and mirlitons, chayote is a tropical fruit native to Mexico, though they’re now grown in warm climates around the world. With a texture that feels like a cross between a cucumber and potato, it possesses a mild flavor, which makes it usually utilized in savory preparations. In this case, it’s a complement to fried milkfish belly and quinoa.
Rave restaurant review: “The food was delicious, perfectly cooked, and nicely presented. Everyone commented on how much they enjoyed each dish and the great choice of restaurant. I will go back again and again.”
Make a reservation at Tsismis.
Fairy Floss at Café Lurcat, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Otherwise known as pashmak, this Persian cotton candy is hand-pulled rather than heated and spun like American cotton candy. Made with corn syrup and sugar, it’s flavored with ground pistachios in this case, though vanilla, chocolate, orange blossom, rosewater, and sesame are also traditionally used. A flurry of the fluffy threads dresses up labneh custard cream.
Rave restaurant review: “Lovely time had by all. The food was outstanding as usual! The service was impeccable. I have NO complaints!”
Make a reservation at Café Lurcat.
Habanada Peppers at a.kitchen, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The habanada has all the fruity, floral flavors of a habanero but none of the fiery heat. Here they’re roasted on the plancha and dressed with fresh lemon and berbere spice. The peppers are a nice accent to the olive oil-poached cod and wilted cherry tomatoes.
Rave restaurant review: “The best food I’ve had in America to date. Period.”
Make a reservation at a.kitchen.
Cloudberries at Aquavit, New York, New York
With a sunny amber hue and a singularly tart kick, cloudberries stand apart from other berries. They grow wild in boggy areas of Arctic and subarctic regions, appearing for just a few weeks in the summertime. They’re most often turned into preserves, sauces, or desserts, though they also infuse liqueurs and flavor beers. In this preparation, a cloudberry jam accompanies white chocolate panna cotta, crème fraîche sorbet, and thyme granita.
Rave restaurant review: “Outstanding fine dining restaurant. Food is delicious and the chef uses high-quality ingredients creatively. Good presentation and service.”
Make a reservation at Aquavit.
Chapulines at Oyamel, Washington, D.C.
Trust José Andrés to come up with a taco that defies stateside convention. He piles a corn tortilla high with chapulines, which sound dainty and delightful when you say it in Spanish. Before you take a bite, let us translate. It means “grasshoppers.” Let us reassure you though, the crunchy insects taste like what they’ve been sautéed with – shallots, chipotle purée, and tequila – more than anything else. Also, if you were in Mexico, downing a few of these tacos would be no big deal, as they’ve been enjoying the little hoppers for centuries.
Rave restaurant review: “Dope portions, very shareable. Flavorful and exquisite.”
Make a reservation at Oyamel.
CBD at Grand Tavern, Saint Louis, Missouri
Everywhere you look, there are CBDs. Short for cannabidiol, they’re a compound in cannabis and hemp. Purported to have myriad health benefits – such as pain relief, inflammation mitigation, anxiety alleviation, and acne reduction – they lack THC’s psychoactive properties (in other words, they won’t get you stoned – sorry). However, there is not a lot of hard data on their effectiveness, and they could have negative side effects – such as depression and dizziness – so consult with your doctor before trying them out. If she gives you the go-ahead, start with these CBD-infused chocolate cheesecake lollipops, which bloom out of a bed of chocolate cookie dirt crumble brightened with edible flowers.
Rave restaurant review: “The food was delicious and the drinks were creative and tasty. What a gem to add to the St. Louis culinary scene!”
Make a reservation at Grand Tavern.