When a Fad is born
Written by: Stephanie Johnstone on
Ah, we all love a good food fad. They keep dining light-hearted and hair-brained chefs in a job. Sometimes, a fad will turn into a trend, which then becomes a way of life. But most times, fads die a slow death (unicorn latte, anyone?) after a brief moment in the sun.
So, are you the kind of diner who jumps on the nearest bandwagon, or do you prefer to march to the beat of your own drum(stick)?
A decade ago, the only place you’d find kale was in the scrap bucket as a discarded piece of garnish. But, oh how the tables have turned for this leafy green once referred to as ‘Scottish peasant food’. Whether it’s been good PR, or genuine superfood prowess, kale has made a meteoric rise. These days, you can’t go anywhere without a kale smoothie or a kale chip being thrust in your face. As an indication of just how mainstream this once left-field food fad has gone, today you will find kale as one of the star ingredients in a McDonald’s Ranch Salad.
Whether its new trends in dining styles, faddish ingredients or avant-garde restaurant design, dining trends often originate in high-end dining establishments. These are the kind of well-resourced places that can afford to court cutting-edge designers to create jaw-droppingly gorgeous spaces or employ ridiculously clever chefs to push the boundaries of style and flavour. The kind of genius culinary minds who have given us mushroom foam and smoky bacon desserts.
Once a food trend takes off, it quickly becomes a bandwagon for others to jump on. In New Zealand, we have seen the ‘gourmet fast food’ trend go from quirky to mainstream in less than a decade. The likes of Tuk Tuk Thai in Christchurch and Blue Kanu in Queenstown are doing great things in the Asian street food genre. As are the wickedly creative Flying Burrito Brothers team. And don’t get us started on the gourmet burger joints. These days, you can’t swing a cat in any major New Zealand town without hitting another burger joint (but seriously, we’re not complaining about that one).
Then comes acceptance
Some food trends become so widely accepted that they become the accepted norm. The sushi bar was once cutting-edge, now it’s a once a week kind of meal. Thanks to fads that became trends that became the standard, we now expect our olive oil to be extra-virgin and our salt to be Himalayan. You’re just as likely to find a turmeric latte as you are a flat white. And the humble mashed potato has fallen foul of cauliflower puree. But not all trends will trickle down to the masses. Yes, sous-vide creates a deliciously moist morsel, but the cost and difficulty level preclude many eateries from following the trend.
By far one of the biggest food trends currently shaping our eating is healthy and sustainable dining. We are all embracing with gusto coconut oil, chia seeds, gluten-free, acai berry and of course, butter over margarine. Most of us expect to know not only where our meat was raised but what it grazed on.
Whether you love a new fad or you fear change, we reckon eating should be a joy, not a challenge. That’s why we love restaurants that do their own thing. Here are two of our favourite restaurants in Auckland at the moment that are bucking the trend.
In a sea of industrial chic, Moxie is a glory of pastel pink. With great style, Moxie has pulled off a colour tone that many would associate with a 5-year-old's birthday party. This Birkenhead establishment does elegant, casual and pastel pink in one effortless masterstroke. Moxie breaks the mould because it isn’t trying to break any moulds. There is no gimmick; this is straight-up good food without the fuss or nonsense.
It's incredibly refreshing to go to a restaurant where there is no explanation of 'how to order' or how 'we do things differently here'. Since bursting onto the scene earlier this year, Moxie has been praised for its excellent three-course dining and great service without pretence.
Located in the building that was once home to The Auckland Laboratory, The Lab, is deliciously unique. There is a serious scientific theme happening here, but the joy of The Lab is that it never takes itself too seriously.
Located in Takapuna, The Lab Eatery serves up phenomenal European food with a Mediterranean flavour and a scientific twist. Expect your drinks to come in beakers, mixing jugs and test tubes. Experimentation is the name of the game. Just take a look at the Wine Popsicle Love Affair, a housemade peach and vodka popsicle submerged in bubbly champagne.
If you love to experiment, then don't miss the chef’s ‘experiments’ which are a complete food adventure for the palate. Otherwise, enjoy the extensive tapas style menu and plenty of laughs.