May 21st, 2018

Loro Restaurant Review

Posted in Celebrity Chefs, Restaurants, Reviews, Trends

Loro Debuts in South Austin

Loro Restaurant Review

If you live in Austin, and have not been hiding under a rock for the past 6 months, you’ve probably heard that Chef Tyson Cole (Uchi/Uchiko) and Aaron Franklin (Franklin BBQ) have teamed up to open Loro, an Asian smokehouse, in South Austin. If you don’t live in Austin, you probably should. Or at least come visit us for the food. It’s worth it.

Situated on South Lamar Blvd, across from the local favorite Black Sheep Lodge, Loro is presented as a rustic/chic Minka with layers of exposed wood, grand windows and skylights providing ample sunshine, and sprawling tables and counters promoting community dining and interactivity.

Austin Dining

Wisely, Loro has minimized staff and wait times by employing batch cocktails and fast-casual style counter ordering complete with GPS-based table trackers, allowing the food runners to find you anywhere in the restaurant. Say goodbye to table tents and card holders! And since we’re talking about cocktails, don’t sleep on the Gin and Tonic Boozy Slushie, it’s perfect on a summer day in Texas.

Loro Restaurant Austin

The menu is a unique hybrid of BBQ (smoked brisket) and Asian flavors (papaya salad, Chili aioli, Thai herbs), which merry in a surprisingly delicate way. This is where I feel Loro makes it’s name. When I first read of the Loro concept, I admit I was hesitant. Aside from the powerhouse names involved, it seemed like a riff off the already popularized Kemuri Tatsu-Ya (a personal favorite of mine). However, while Kemuri lives in a land of deep, bold flavors, Loro exists on a plane of subtle, complex flavors interspersed with dramatic, smoky low tones, for a completely different dining experience.

Loro Reviews

There were some clear standouts the menu, including the sweet/savory Kettle Corn (with burnt ends and togarashi), the beautifully displayed Char Siew Pork Shoulder Bowl, and the unforgettable Malaysian Chicken Bo Ssam. Seriously, the Bo Ssam. Get the Bo Ssam. Did you catch that? Bo Ssam! You won’t regret it. Just thinking about that juicy meat and the yellow curry-yuzu vinaigrette makes my mouth water, it’s Pavlovian really… But I digress.

Austin Restaurant Reviews

My two knocks on the menu would be the Texas sweet corn, which was underwhelming in flavor and seasoning, and the Chicken Karaage, which looked beautiful, but was missing the defining crunch that makes Karaage more than just fried chicken.

Restaurants Austin

Overall, the quality, flavor, and creativity of the menu shines through and makes Loro an excellent addition to the unique culinary landscape that defines Austin. With reasonable menu prices (the most expensive items on the menu sit at $18, while the average cost of a plate is $10.18) and an ultra-casual dining style, Loro also bucks the elitist dining trend, instead choosing to embrace curious eaters from all walks of life. I’ll raise my Apple Scotch Sour to that!

Loro Restaurant Review

Be sure to chime in on the comments section with your thought’s on Loro. Until next time…

Cheers!

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May 7th, 2018

Worlds of Flavor 2018: A Review

Posted in Culinary Conferences, Food Trends

So Much to Learn, So Much to Eat

Worlds of Flavor

Worlds of Flavor 2018 is over. Done. Gone. Fin. You know what that means? It means I must wait a YEAR before I get to spend another 4 days in Napa eating amazing food, drinking terrific wine, and learning everything I possibly can from one of the most unique, talented, and diverse group of chefs and culinary presenters from the world over. This is my sad face.

However, I’ve never been one to sulk. So, what better way to cheer myself up than to share some of the great information and amazing revelations that came from the Culinary Institute of America’s 2018 Worlds of Flavor conference.

The Immigrant Kitchen

Food Trends

First, let’s discuss this year’s main topic: Immigrant Kitchens. As Krishnendu Ray summarized, “American” cuisine, at its essence, truly is immigrant cuisine. The food in America is a hodgepodge, or perhaps a better metaphor would be, a delicious soup of ingredients, culinary methods, and recipes from all over the world. Even the food we often consider decidedly American (hamburgers, hot dogs, apple pie) is adopted from early European settlers. And since colonialists did everything they could to wipe out Native American crops and traditions, it certainly received very little influence from their culture.

Yet here we are hundreds of years later and nothing, yet everything, has changed. Immigrants still account for the clear majority of those employed in restaurants (about 14 million nationwide according to Ray). Of the over one million restaurants in the United States, more than fifty percent (according to Ray) define themselves as a category other than “American.”

A big difference is that now, Asian cuisine (esp. Japanese and Korean) has become exceptionally popular even though it tends to be, on average, more expensive than European cuisine. So, what does this tell us?

It tells us that Americans are becoming interested in complex, unfamiliar flavors. It tells us diners are looking for experiences and adventure when they are dining out, not only food. And it tells us it’s time to start thinking about how we can start introducing some of these more uncommon flavors and ingredients into mainstream foods in subtle, safe, and easily approachable ways (just not crickets, at least not yet).

Observations

Now that we’ve had our lesson for the day, let’s jump into the fun part: Food trends, observations, and direct applications.

Asian Flavors

Culinary institute of America

I know we touched on this above, but it cannot be overstated. Asian flavors (Japanese, Thai, Korean, Filipino, etc.) have cemented themselves into American cuisine and they will only continue to grow in experimentation and popularity.

Miso is a ubiquitous broth, but now I’ve seen it flavored with different ingredients like koji and mustard. Fish sauce is becoming less polarizing. In fact, a study has shown that you can replace 25% of the sodium in a sauce or chicken stock with fish sauce with no discernible difference in taste.

Thai cuisine’s high usage of coconut and aromatics plays well with the nutrition focused crowds, while the craveable fermented flavors of Korean and Filipino foods are drawing praise nationwide.

Next Level Sauces

Worlds of Flavor

Sauces are food art. A combination of liquids, solids, spices, and seasonings come together to form a homogeneous solution of deliciousness (at least when done properly). They also conveniently add flavor to items that may otherwise be bland.

Lucky for us, there were plenty of new and delicious sauces and no bland food.

Of note was the movement back toward complex chile-based sauces. Rather than simply a cascabel sauce, we saw how a mix of chiles like smoky cascabel, arbol, pasilla, and aji amarillo can create balanced and new flavor profiles. It was nice to see multiple moles in use as well, including a yellow mole made with lemon, aji, and cashew.

Thai citrus sauces are evolving using local produce and artisan fish sauces. Modern American cuisine is utilizing aromatic broths made from the liquid of pickled and fermented vegetables served with creamy cheese-filled pasta.

Africa is also coming into focus with its pepper-based sauces, including a Trinidadian green sauce made with green chiles, cilantro, lemon, ginger, and onion. While we know in commercialization we can see losses in volatile flavors like cilantro, this can act as a peep hole into the possibility of crossover sauces good for Asian, Mexican, or African applications.

Added Nutrition

New Flavors 2018

Making foods more healthful is a trend that’s here for the long haul (thank goodness). But diners are interested in more than just low sugar and fat these days.

Fermented foods are growing in popularity due to their umami deliciousness, yes, but also their noted assistance in healthy digestion. High fiber foods have shown to assist in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and the reduction of colorectal cancer.

Within this trend, however, diners still want to enjoy a satisfying meal and be entertained. This balance is helping drive the movement of plant-centric plates, meaning the vegetable is the star of the plate, but it doesn’t have to be vegetarian.

Au Revoir Worlds of Flavor

This only scratches the surface of the information gained from the 2018 CIA Worlds of Flavor conference. I didn’t even get into the resurgence of tamales, the reinvigoration of fine Mexican cuisine, or the endlessly fascinating fonio grain. But, I can’t expect you to read forever. Honestly, I’m surprised you made it this far.

I hope you gained something valuable from this post, and I implore you to leave a comment, question, or share an observation below. Let’s start a conversation about the future of food.

Culinary Trends 2018

Cheers!

 

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