Topline Trends Tuesday: Arriba!

November 3, 2009


As I mentioned last week in my post about tacos, our perceptions and understanding of Mexican cuisine is morphing. Sometimes it moves into non-authentic directions (like Korean Tacos), and sometimes it eases into more diverse, genuinely Mexican directions.

According to Nation’s Restaurant News, from 2008 to 2009, the following were the fastest growing Mexican flavours on American restaurant menus:

Pico de Gallo 35%
Poblano 21%
Chipotle 15%
Cilantro 11%
Salsa 8%
Guacamole 6%

Here in Canada, we have a smaller Hispanic population to drive this trend; however, most of these are items that I’ve had in my trend tracking notes, too.

Are you familiar with all of these flavours? If so, do you have these items in your pantry or are you just familiar with them from visiting restaurants?

Or, is this list all Spanish to you? If so, here’s a glossary of these flavour terms:

Pico de gallo: the name of this sauce (wackily) translates to “rooster’s beak” but don’t be alarmed. There are no beaks in it. Instead, the Food Lover’s Companion lists the typical ingredients of this relish-textured sauce as jicama, oranges, onions, bell and hot peppers, cucumbers and garlic; however, many of the recipes I’ve seen for it in North America also contain tomatoes.

Poblano: a dark green to reddish-brown chili with a flavour that gets sweeter as the chili gets darker. They are also sometimes called ‘ancho’ (especially when dried) and are used in chilies rellenos.

Chipotle: if you haven’t tasted chipotle you are either a pepper-phobe or living in the arctic. Chipotle peppers are dried, smoked jalapeno peppers that are most often sold in cans in a sauce or as a hot sauce.

Cilantro: this herb ingredient causes confusion on two levels: 1. It’s sold in some Canadian grocery stores as coriander. 2. Many people don’t know if they should use just the leaves, the leaves and stems or the roots. The answer is that the recipe should call for which part of the plant to use (all are edible) and if it doesn’t, assume they mean just leaves.

Salsa: a catchall term for a saucy, chunky, veggie-based condiment that usually contains tomatoes, onions, garlic, raw chili peppers and often cumin and oregano and/or cilantro. It can be cooked or raw.

Guacamole: in its simplest form, guacamole is mashed, seasoned, fresh avocado; however, some recipes include lime juice, cumin, chili powder and other ingredients, too.