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Spuds in the spotlight

 | May 16, 2012

Potatoes outline the food trends of 2012.

NO thanks to new age diets like the Atkins and low-carb pushers, the potato has been banished into the realm of stereotypical bad food. Well, not anymore. The potato is making a comeback, and in a big way.

Restaurants are plating potatoes in all manners and forms as fast as they can peel them. Plus, it doesn’t matter whether you say “po-ta-to” or “poh-tay-toe” so long as you’re willing to surrender to the salacious world of the spud.

From being mashed to roasted and fried, the new potatoes have taken on a sexy transformation. So if you’re expecting the typical fare of French fries and ketchup, you’d be disappointed. That’s not to say the French fry is off the menu. On the contrary, the side dish (are they really that?) is jazzed up with delicious dipping sauces such as malt vinegar, wasabi aioli, and roasted garlic.

At Robert et Louise in Paris, tallow spuds are the house specialty. These are potatoes roasted in duck fat. The name itself is enough to put any dieter into cardiac arrest, but delicious they certainly are, equally so when fried in beef (New South Wales’ The Bistro Restaurant) or goose fat (Glasgow’s Black Sheep Bistro).

The days of potatoes mashed only with butter and milk are also numbered. Food bloggers have long dabbled with all kinds of pipings with their mash, from cheddar cheese to liver and saffron, making mash mix-ins the next big thing. At the critically-acclaimed St Anselm steakhouse in Brooklyn, fans rave as much about the steaks as they do the golden-crusted, pan-fried mashed potatoes made with a touch of truffle oil. Gremolata, a chopped herb condiment typically made of lemon zest, garlic, and parsley, is also a big trend with mashed potatoes, giving the ole dish a nice Italian spin.

Look out too for bespoke potato dishes. At Marche Movenpick in Petaling Jaya, the potatoes pay homage to their Swiss ancestors. Choice Idaho potatoes are cooked, then cooled before being grated and fried in a skillet to make the famous rosti. You can eat them plain or make them your own with paired toppings such as sausages, cheese, mushrooms or vegetables. Similarly, many restaurants in the States have introduced baked potatoes with custom-built toppings.

But perhaps nothing signals the spuds’ coming of age better than the birth of a new social trend: Mashed potato bars. Whether it’s at weddings, parties or housewarmings, mashtinis, mashed potatoes served in martini glasses with build-your-own-toppings, are the coolest things to serve in today’s soirees.

Who needs caviar?


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