The unfrosted cakes you’ve been seeing this wedding season aren’t rushed jobs. It’s a food trend, and trends like this seem to appear out of nowhere before, with the help of food-porn Instagram accounts, taking over. Durango is insulated from some foodie fads that flood metropolitan areas (someone airdrop us mountain folk some lumpia), but some still find a way to landlocked high altitudes, even if only on a small scale.
Poké poking up Take, for instance, poké, the Hawaiian raw-fish bowl that is traditionally made with cubed ahi tuna, salmon or both, topped with soy sauce, rice vinegar and oil, greens, rice, veggies and fruit such as avocado, green onion, mango or whatever else the heart and taste buds desire.
The poké invasion may have something to do with Hawaiian cuisine’s growing popularity on the mainland in places like California and Nevada. This year, controversy in the poké biz brought additional attention to the dish that already had plenty of inertia. The trademarked Aloha Poke Co. sent cease-and-desist letters to Hawaiian-owned companies with similar names, sparking a backlash from the Hawaiian community.
But before the drama, Nguyen said the poké trend (and sushiritto craze) started as a result of the customizable convenience of fast-casual concepts that exploded with restaurants such as Chipotle. The price is right, too.
“Poké is aimed at lunch people (or) college students who can’t afford to eat sushi,” Nguyen said.
A filling poké bowl costs around $10 to $20, where one roll of specialty sushi generally costs $15 and up.
Durango pays more for poké because access to fresh fish is limited and there is no poké restaurant in town. Rice Monkey offers poké only as a special on occasion, and there is only one poké item on the menu at Pop Sushi, which costs $18. On the plus side, both are made-to-order. The same goes for Manny’s Fresh Co. food truck at 11th Street Station, which offers a salad or rice bowl version or a non-traditional spicy apple bowl made with tempura shrimp, crab, sweet corn, unagi and firecracker sauce.
Nguyen adds that non-traditional versions like this have become the standard in poké restaurants.
“Now there are so many types,” he said.
Fermentation floodDurango health nuts may be more familiar with fermented foods than poké.
“Fermented foods, for overall trends, are very hip and very popular,” said Nicole Tribble, co-owner of The Living Tree salad bar. The restaurant specializes in organic, cultured live foods.
The trend is multiplying like lactobacillus for two reasons. Fermentation is not only a sustainable method of food storage (fermented foods can last four to 18 months if kept in a cool place) , the glut of research promoting gut health, which fermented foods assist in, means more and more people are disregarding the potent smell of kimchi (spicy pickled or fermented cabbage) and enjoying its delicious flavor.
Fermentation is the process by which bacteria or yeast feed on starches and sugar, creating lactic acid or alcohol that prolongs storability. Fermented foods contain omega-3s, probiotics, vitamin B and other nutrients.
Living Tree offers a variety of rotating fermented foods, with pineapple kimchi fixed on the menu.
Tribble said fermentation can be confused with pickling, which uses vinegar, not a brine. And depending on what’s being fermented, there are differences in the brine ratio, fermentation length and how long an item can be stored.
“There is a science and learning curve behind it, but it’s something you can do at home,” Tribble said.
Many may have tried making kombucha at home. But for convenience’s sake, and not having to come into personal contact with the 1960s creature feature that is a kombucha culture, the draft system at Living Tree is currently pouring a sweet chile peach flavor.
Off the shelvesAccording to Nature’s Oasis manager Libby Storc, kombuchas and other ready-to-drink beverages have been widely popular in the store over the last year.
Storc said brands like Lifeaid make blended beverages with B vitamins and herbs to help cure hangovers, increase focus, promote recovery and encourage other superhero-esque qualities.
“People want a quick-fix. They want to feel better right now,” Storc said. “I don’t know how well it actually works, but people think it does.”
Storc said these drinks are a reflection of the overall trend of healthy, ready-to-go items.
Storc said the keto and paleo diet fads are still going strong, too. This may be because food producers have finally invented a gluten-free wrap that doesn’t have the dried acrylic paint texture of paleo-”friendly” tortillas of old.
The Real Coconut Co. makes a coconut flour tortilla with the same soft, bendy texture of traditional wraps, Storc said. The cheapest wrap option, though, is still the romaine lettuce leaf.
For produce, Storc said one brassica has stolen the spotlight. Cauliflower no longer lives in broccoli’s shadow.
“Cauliflower is the big buzz that is being added to everything,” Storc said.
The versatile veggie can imitate many things, including mashed potatoes, pizza crust and chicken wings.