A crop of new ready-to-drink bottled beverages boasting drinking vinegar and notably apple cider drinking vinegar as the starring ingredient made a splash at the Fancy Food show. Apple cider vinegar has been a popular edible remedy in natural food circles for years, but over the past few years it’s been getting greater play in mixology. Pok Pok, Portland discovered such renown for their drinking vinegars that they now sell bottles of it, labeled as Som in flavors like turmeric or celery, and also tamarind or ginger to retailers as well as mixing and selling it as bottled sodas outside of their restaurant operations (they also have been sampling their soms and sodas at Fancy Food for the past few years). One way that drinking vinegars make the rounds in restaurants is as fruit-fermented vinegars, or shrubs. Philadelphia eatery, Vedge, features pineapple-chile shrub with tequila, and aperol in the Tulum or Not cocktail. Cross-town in Philadelphia, at Abe Fisher, they stir together a cucumber-dill shrub with sparkling water to pair with their Jewish diaspora style cuisine. Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore mixes a mocktail of apple-sage shrub with soda. DOSA in San Francisco’s Icon cocktail mixes together apple-ginger shrub, bourbon, elderflower liqueur, spiced agave, and lemon. Russ & Sons in New York serves a cherry shrub, created with cherries, white balsamic vinegar, Szechuan pepper, and lime. Shrubs can be made easily in-house using fruit that’s just past its peak and offer opportunities for drink menu expansion. This simple concoction can swing toward cocktails or boost a restaurant’s non-alcoholic offerings.
A notable selection that didn’t make it into the mix above includes black garlic, which one food purveyor blends into a hummus flavor that debuted at the Fancy Food show. Vedge includes it in their side dish of campfire potatoes with za’atar. Another trend to watch is bold flavored spiced salts like salty and spicy sriracha roasted hemp seeds, a crunchy and addictive topping or snack that premiered at the Fancy Food show, along with another purveyor who launched a line of peanuts in interesting flavors (with no powder residue clinging to fingers using a proprietary cooking method that includes high heat), available in flavors like bay spice, buffalo, and taco. Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore offers this idea in an appetizer of fish pepper salt sprinkled over popcorn. Whereas, Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica includes an appetizer of lavender almonds and AL’s Place in San Francisco serves up vadouvan almonds. Using flavored salts gives an upselling opportunity especially in bar snacks like nuts and popcorn.