All About Food: Mixing and matching in 2014

The term "fusion cuisine" was born in California sometime in the '70s.

Calasian was one of the first experiments in the blending of cuisines, along with Tex Mex and Pacific Rim. French-Chinese appeared in Los Angeles at Chinois, Roy Yamaguchi brought us Hawaiian fusion, and so it went. These were initially premiered in higher-end establishments, but the concept gradually trickled down, for better or worse.

It was only last week that I came upon the term mash-ups. Although musicians have been using it for quite a while, it has now been applied to food. I was thinking about writing a column on the hot trends for the new year, and this led me to some strange places.

I learned, for instance, that Spike TV is planning a new program called "Frankenfood." The concept is "to find food lovers to compete for a cash prize using outrageous and unexpected ingredients for delicious and revolutionary flavors." I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I have discovered some interesting mash-ups that you may — or may not — think sound delicious. The American Cupcake shop in San Francisco is doing fried chicken inside red velvet cake, which is then battered and deep-fried.

Closer to home, Roy Choi of food truck, and now restaurant, fame joined up with Chef Mark Peel to create a pancake pizza. This features sugarless batter, fried and covered with pizza toppings, then drizzled with pizza sauce. Bakeries are going all out with things like Oreos baked inside cookies, or pecan pie baked inside a chocolate cake.

How about a Cheetos macaroon? Cheetos are infused with chocolate ganache between two cookies and dusted with Cheetos crumbs. Doughtnut ice cream sandwiches using a jelly donut with a filling of peanut butter and jelly ice cream may replace last year's big fusion hit, the cronut.

How does nacho lasagne sound? It replaces pasta sheets with nachos. Quite a few burger joints are now making a ramen burger, an idea attributed to Keizo Shimamoto. Cooked and griddled ramen noodles are shaped in round patties to replace buns for burgers and may include fixin's like crispy pigs ears or whipped lardo.

The big chains are getting into the act as well. Taco Bell is doing a folded waffle with scrambled eggs and a sausage patty. Dairy Queen has a peanut butter pretzel Blizzard. Pringles has put out a mint-chocolate-chip potato chip.

Burrissimo is a newish chain mixing Mexican with Italian and coming up with a burrito-like concoction. A flatbread is wrapped around your choice of Italian ingredients. There is one in Costa Mesa.

I look forward to the new inventive dishes that seem to be emerging rapidly now, though some may not become the next big thing.

Alternate proteins are coming to the fore. We are seeing some of them on menus already. Wild boar, elk, bison and ostrich are examples. You can get bison at several local groceries. It is very low in fat. A drive-in on Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach called Husky Boy has been serving ostrich burgers for many years, and they are great.

More and more restaurants are offering vegetarian options. One third of the chain restaurants are doing so, according to the National Restaurant Assn. Locally sourced food is another emerging trend.

With the big push for healthier school lunches, we are seeing some good results, although more still needs to be done.

In keeping with our grab-and-go culture, you can now get blaze-fast-fired pizzas that are ready by the time you pay for your order. Also, ice cream parlors can make instant ice cream while you wait.

2014 has the makings of an interesting culinary year!

TERRY MARKOWITZ was in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. She can be reached for comments or questions at m_markowitz@cox.net.

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