Remember a few years ago, when everybody was eating membrillo, manchego and marconas? (That's quince paste, cheese and Spanish almonds.) A new food fad had hit our shores, but nobody wanted to say "Guess what I discovered!" Instead, it was talked about in language that implied one had always known about such delicacies; what, are you only just now learning how to eat?
Then there was Maldon salt. I've never tried it, and I'll concede that there may be something going for it (this coming from one who has a dedicated salt shelf in her kitchen with I-don't-know-how-many varieties). But it was on everyone's (heh) lips all of a sudden. (I blame a mention in Saveur.)
OK, then, cupcakes. I still can't figure out the appeal of this current craze (but see, every day in grade school I found a cellophane-wrapped chocolate Hostess cupcake in my lunchbox, and I continue to detest the little bugs and everything that resembles them; don't even get me started on my playmates' birthday party fare).
Obviously this is home eating; I'm not talking about foams and vapors and trick food, all of which are also trends. Pork belly, too.
Me, resistant to trends? Not at all. I joyfully made my own quince paste from fruit growing on the supposedly ornamental tree in front of my house. And yes, consumed it with marconas and manchego.
I'll probably get a box of Maldon salt, if I ever make it through the five-pound sack of so-called Sonoma sea salt.
And now I've jumped onto another food trend, the salted fried-peppers tapa called pimientos de Padrón. Not a super-new trend, by any stretch (I am so not cutting-edge), but just on the culty side of popular. As of this past summer, they seem to have positively spread like contagion in the food blog world (and restaurant world, too).
Unavailable in the U.S. until eight or nine years ago, they are now grown by David Winsberg of Happy Quail Farms in East Palo Alto. When Calvin Trillin wrote about them in the November 1999 Gourmet, I guess their fate was sealed. I know there must be untold numbers of travelers who have adored fried pimientos de Padrón with their tapas 'n' drinks in Spain, and were thrilled to find a source of supply at the Ferry Plaza farmers' market. Me, I've never even been to Spain. I've just heard about pimientos de Padrón.
So I grabbed a sack of Happy Quail pimientos at the Marin Civic Center market recently, and fried them up and salted 'em to see what the buzz was all about.
Verdict: Yummy; very green-tasting and not too spicy (though there's the occasional ringer — whoo, fun). But way expensive. Six dollars for a bag of about 50 little green balls. (That's the entire amount in the photo up there.)
Still, it made for a fantastic meal (I wish I could show you, but no photo), including pan-toasted (domestic) almonds, slices of (domestic) dry Jack cheese, marinated (domestic) olives, and glasses of cheap-o real Spanish sherry from Trader Joe's.
So, now I can say I've tried them.