First there was Basil, then came Lemongrass. Now we're getting Wild Ginger. It seems you can't open a restaurant these days without naming it for a zingy, herbaceous flavor. There's also Jasmine, Kalamata's, Agave, Acorn, the bygone Grape, the long-awaited Allium and the redundant Tomato, Tomato in Murfreesboro, not to mention anagrams Lime and Miel—though the latter, which is French and Spanish for “honey,” isn't a plant but is the byproduct of one.
Given the long-overdue pendulum swing toward fresh ingredients and healthy foods, it's no wonder that restaurants are getting away from names that include manufacturing references, such as Factory, Company or Kitchen, instead branding themselves with simple, earthy raw materials. Hell, botanical nomenclature appears to have worked for Chile's and Chipotle. It makes you wonder what spicy names will come next.
The McCormick Flavor Forecast 2008, a gorgeous piece of trend-spotting propaganda from the Maryland-based spice powerhouse, lists 10 au courant flavor pairings that could give some insight into trendy names of the future. According to McCormick, the chic flavor duos of 2008 are:
Oregano and heirloom beans
Vanilla bean and cardamom
Chile and cocoa
Coriander and coconut water
Lemongrass and lychee
Red curry and masa
Orange peel and natural wood
Allspice and exotic meats
Poppy seed and rose
Rubbed sage and rye whiskey
As far as possible restaurant names, Lemongrass and Chile are already spoken for locally, and chef Mark Miller claimed Sage in 1992 when he launched the now-shuttered Red Sage in Washington, D.C.
Whiskey sounds like a bar, Cocoa a dessert shop, and Rose a florist. Poppy Seed and Vanilla Bean could be baby boutiques. Coconut Water and Orange Peel would make good spas.
Cardamom? No. Masa? Maybe. Anyone for dinner at Heirloom Beans? No thanks. (Grandma, that was disgusting.)
Exotic Meats and Natural Wood have branding potential—but not for restaurants.
Which leaves Oregano, Coriander, Lychee, Red Curry and Allspice, none of which is all that enticing.
So perhaps we should seek some trendy foodstuffs as yet unclaimed by McCormick's. I'm holding out for chic new eateries Arugula, Yuzu and Cilantro—which, for some reason, sounds better than its British equivalent, Coriander. And maybe a tip of the farmer's cap to our own native flora. Join me, anyone, at Ramp, Dandelion or Poke Salad?