Taste: The Top 10 Ingredients of 2007

Philadelphia chefs are finding gourmet in the everyday

This year, often under-appreciated products — items as basic as milk, eggs and cheese — are getting the kitchen attention recently reserved for the more exotic. This is the year that lowly cured meats take center stage — $99.98 a pound for, well, ham? Actually, yes, if it's lomo iberico.

The ingredients:


This year, often under-appreciated products — items as basic as milk, eggs and cheese — are getting the kitchen attention recently reserved for the more exotic. This is the year that lowly cured meats take center stage — $99.98 a pound for, well, ham? Actually, yes, if it's lomo iberico.

The ingredients:

LOMO IBERICO
This cured meat from the loins of acorn-fed Iberian pigs has had foodies salivating since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lifted a ban on its import earlier this year. Find the meltingly soft, sweet meat, sliced tissue-paper-thin, on the charcuterie plate at Amada (217 Chestnut Street, 215-625-2450; amadarestaurant.com), or serve it at your own dinner party. (Available at Di Bruno Bros., 1730 Chestnut Street, 215-665-9220; dibruno.com.)

CACAO NIBS
Versatile cacao nibs, made from peeled, fermented cocoa beans, add a hint of chocolate to dishes like the Ritz-Carlton's savory foie gras crème brûlée (Grill at the Ritz-Carlton, 10 South Broad Street; 215-523-8211), and offer an assertive edge to sweeter stuff, like Painted Truffle's Ecuadoran chocolates (thepaintedtruffle.com). Incorporate the crunch of Scharffen Berger nibs into your own cooking. (Available at Viking Culinary Arts Center, 1 Town Place, Bryn Mawr; 610-526-9020.)

FLAVORED VINEGARS
Flavored olive oils have given way to flavored vinegars, best used to finish a dish or for dipping. Taste a rich-sharp vanilla variety in the pear compote that accompanies Mandoline's veal breast (213 Chestnut Street, 215-238-9403; mandolineoldcity.com), or shop for sweet-tart flavors like Cuisine Perel's blood orange and d'Anjou pear (available at Gourmet of Olde City, 26 North 3rd Street, 215-627-8890; gourmetofoldecity.com) and LuLu fig balsamic (available at Williams-Sonoma; williams-sonoma.com).

AGED GOUDA
Update your parmesan. Newly popular aged gouda-from two-year-old prima donna to an aged-eight-years version-feeds the same salty, crunchy craving, but boasts a sophisticated butterscotch sweetness. Far bolder than young, creamy goudas, this deep orange beauty is a perfect cheese-tray match for candied nuts. (Available at Downtown Cheese, Reading Terminal Market, 12th and Arch streets, 215-351-7412, and 120 Coulter Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8449.)

DUCK EGGS
Slightly larger than your everyday oeuf, hard-to-find-in-markets duck eggs (try the Asian superstores on East Washington Avenue) are a chef's darling. With larger, brighter yolks and more protein than the chicken version, they add unexpected richness and body to dishes like Ansill's scrambled duck egg with smoked trout (627 South 3rd Street, 215-627-2485; ansillfoodandwine.com).

LEMON VERBENA
You'll have to wait until the summer months for lemon verbena, a grass-green herb with the brightness of citrus that grows abundantly in local kitchen gardens. As soon as the warm weather comes, look for the herb's complex lemon flavor in entrées at Susanna Foo and desserts at Nectar (Susanna Foo, 1512 Walnut Street, 215-545-2666, susannafoo.com; Nectar, 1091 Lancaster Avenue, 610-725-9000, taste–nectar.com).

ROSÉ
The baby-girl-color wine is growing up. Long regulated to the picnic-wine category, where it's lavished with such backhanded compliments as “easy to drink” and “unpretentious,” rosé is finally getting some serious attention from producers like Bindi Wine Growers in Australia. Sample the surprising depth of Bindi's pinot noir rosé at Queen Village's Ansill (627 South 3rd Street, 215-627-2485; ansillfoodandwine.com).

BUFFALO MILK
Philly knows buffalo milk. What did you think the Italian Market's buffalo mozzarellas are made from? In India, the -nutrient-rich milk of the water buffalo is a diet staple, but the tangy, creamy stuff hasn't made it onto local breakfast tables-yet. Look for it in yogurt from Vermont producer Woodstock Water Buffalo. (Available at Whole Foods Market, wholefoodsmarket.com, and Wegman's, wegmans.com.)

LIVER
Even as foie gras's place on the fine-dining table is endangered by consciences and City Council, less-luxe livers gain in popularity. Grilled calves' liver is an entrée fave at Jake's (4365 Main Street, Manayunk, 215-483-0444; jakesrestaurant.com), and D'Artagnan's pork liver pâté (below) is a gourmet-store standard. (Available at Swarthmore Co-op, 341 Dartmouth Avenue, Swarthmore, 610-543-9805; swarthmore.coop.)

SALT
Even salt-of-the-earth gets into the act, with Artisan Salt Co.'s minerally red Alaea, smoky black Salish, and mild, peach-colored Murray River. (Available at Grocery, 13th and Chestnut streets; 215-922-5252.)

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