The Flavor Pairings Of 2008

March 12, 2008
McCormick’s annual Flavor Forecast this year looks at the flavor pairings that will influence what we eat.

America’s escalating interest in health and wellness, our boundless passion for discovering authentic ingredients and cooking techniques from around the globe and the increased desire for local and artisan food are all driving forces in evolving our collective palate in 2008.

That’s the projection from McCormick & Co. Inc., Hunt Valley, Md., which joins each year with trendsetting chefs, cookbook authors, TV personalities, food technologists, sensory analysts and researchers to explore the world of sweet, spicy, floral, earthy, bitter, sour and everything in between. McCormick used this expertise to develop the McCormick Flavor Forecast 2008, which includes 10 flavor pairings that will influence what we eat this year.

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We report each year on McCormick’s Flavor Forecast. Last year’s came at the end of our general Flavor Trends 2007 story.

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“The spice aisle is much more diverse than ever before, making it easy to go beyond salt, pepper and a little garlic to spice up comfort food favorites,” says Laurie Harrsen, director of consumer communications. “Now it’s chipotle chile peppers, Mexican oregano and red curry powder – turning cooking into an adventure of mixing and matching flavors with familiar ingredients to create fresh, new taste experiences.”

Chef experts, who contributed to the report, include: John Besh, chef/owner of several New Orleans restaurants, who recently competed in the Food Network's "Next Iron Chef" series; David Elliott Bowles, chef de cuisine of Avenues at the Peninsula Hotel, Chicago; David Chang, who scored a James Beard Rising Chef Award last year with his red-hot New York eatery Momofuku Noodle Bar; Gale Gand, pastry chef at Chicago’s Tru; Chef/owner Jose Garces, Philadelphia's Tinto and Amada restaurants; Andy Husbands, chef/owner of Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel in Boston; Johnny Luzzini, executive pastry chef, Jean Georges, New York City; Chef/owner Christopher Lee, Gilt, New York City; Chef Dave Lieberman, host of Food Network’s “Good Deal with Dave Lieberman;” Michel Richard, chef/owner, Michel Richard Citronelle, Washington; Sarah Schafer, executive chef, Frisson, San Francisco;  Michael Schulson, chef and host of  Style Network’s “Pantry Raid;” Bradford Thompson, James Beard award-winning chef; and Kevan Vetter, executive chef at McCormick.

Top 10 flavor pairings include:

  1. Oregano and heirloom beans: The intersection of functional food and fantastic flavor, this coupling is an antioxidant powerhouse.
  2. Vanilla bean and cardamom: A flavor match made in heaven taps into America's growing passion for indulgent, yet approachable luxury.
  3. Chile and cocoa: Old world authenticity in a modern context -- the  result is complex heat, depth, dimension and richness.
  4. Coriander and coconut water: The essence of the tropics coaxes nuances of a chameleon-like spice bringing forth light, clean flavors.
  5. Lemon grass and lychee: Exotic fruits from far away and the ever-growing popularity of Asian cuisines pave the way for this refreshing match.
  6. Red curry and masa: This duo brings together Latin and Asian influences to create a unique flavor experience
  7. Orange peel and natural wood: A new taste sensation is born when the      smokiness of wood is matched with tangy orange peel.
  8. Allspice and exotic meats: This adventurous combination represents America's pursuit of experimentation.
  9. Poppy seed and rose: An elegant and sensuous pair that captures the pursuit of cuisines from North Africa and the Middle East.
  10. Rubbed sage and rye whiskey: A powerful, all-American team -- sage is a  wonderful complement to the dry, gutsy nature of rye whiskey, a historic brew poised for a great renaissance.

"Our team of chefs is constantly exploring new ways to experience flavor -- it is the heart of what we do," says McCormick’s Vetter. "When we see a new spirit of adventure with ingredients like lemon grass and lychee or red curry and masa, we know it's an exciting time for food and flavor."

As for the next big trend, Chef Lee of Gilt in New York, says it is the mixing of Asian and Latin American flavors. “These cuisines share similar styles and techniques, such as tacos and moo shu, egg rolls and taquitos, spicy foods paired with sweet food, ceviche and sashimi,” he says.

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