"Fermenting is the new food trend, did you guys know that?" Grant Achatz asked the crowd during a demo a couple of weeks ago at Sur la Table, and I was suddenly all ears. I've never put too much stock into food trends (though burrata and affogatos are freaking delicious), but as soon as chef Achatz said this, my mind kicked into overdrive. I know about kimchi and have even dabbled in kombucha, but what else can one ferment? Turns out, a whole lot of things.
As soon as I started looking for fermented dishes around town, they started jumping off menus at me. Among my favorites so far are Dusek's bavette of beef with fermented brussels sprouts, Boka's seared sturgeon with fermented black beans and The Bristol's duck leg with fermented apples. There are also plenty of dishes that utilize traditionally fermented ingredients, like Mott St. and its "Funky Miso," so called because of its use of fermented soy beans, or TÊTE Charcuterie, which has a fall garden cocotte finished with smen, a Middle Eastern fermented butter.
“I love fermenting because it can be so unpredictable," Paul Virant of Perennial Virant and Vie told me recently. "Even when you've fermented a product countless times, there can be that one batch that surprises you and takes on a whole different flavor and direction." Jake Bickelhaupt of 42 Grams, who features things like shoyu koji, a house fermented soy sauce, on his current menu, agrees: "By fermenting ingredients…[it] allows me to incorporate umami while keeping dishes unexpectedly delicate and light."
The moral of the story: Don’t be afraid of the funk.