Hot Ingredient: Chicory
Last month, Bon Appetit named chicory the 2017 Vegetable of the Year in its America's Best New Restaurants issue. “Chefs everywhere are falling hard for these of-the-moment veggies,” wrote Assistant Editor Amiel Stanek, who noted that chefs across the country were predominately using the hardy, slightly bitter family of lettuces in salads. (The one below is the radicchio and citrus salad with burrata from Seattle's L'Oursin.)
Chefs are currently favoring the lettuces because they hold their own with big flavors. "They’re sturdy—they taste sturdy, they feel sturdy, meaning you can treat them aggressively," says Chef Jake Nemmers of Flora Bar in NYC. "They want lots of salt and acid and fat." Chicories are also beloved by chefs because they beautiful and come in a variety of shades of purple, white and green.
But the plant is also beloved for its roots, which can be baked, ground and used as a coffee substitute. (If you’ve had the amazing French-inspired coffee in New Orleans, you’ve tried chicory.)
This got us wondering: How are chefs in Austin using chicory?
It's prevalent in local coffeeshops, including at The Factory, where chicory is used in the cold brew. (Try the 15 Minutes of Fame, a blend of roasted chicory, whole milk and cane sugar—yum!) And Seventh Flag Coffee serves a seasonal Lazuli coffee drink, made of espresso, ginger syrup, orange juice, chicory-pecan bitters shaken and a candied ginger garnish.
Salads and main dishes are another place that chicories are being used in town: Geraldine's showcased a warm chicory salad last fall, and Epicure has featured chicory greens in a mushroom pappardelle with oyster mushrooms and fiore sardo cheese.
But perhaps the most surprising place you'll find chicory is in the gorgeous Café Mille Feuille dessert (pictured above) at Bonhomie. Featuring Meyer lemon curd, basil blossom and chicory cream, the dessert plays on the restaurant's French bistro–inspired American diner theme.