Bad pun notwithstanding, my usage of the word “mash-up” doesn’t refer to comestibles pressed and pounded into paste-like submission. The following list discusses four of the most imaginative methods I’ve come across of combining the flavors and properties of two or more food and drink items to create something special. Note that even though my omission of fusion cuisine among the following is deliberate, in no way do I discount the deliciousness of blending food cultures. Many of the best foods I’ve ever tasted find their roots in the mixing of ethnic and geographical influences. The items listed below, however, were selected in terms of technical ingenuity rather than multiple points of origin.
1. Savory Cupcakes
Not that they’ve lost all their sweetness, just that savory elements are finding their way into more and more recipes. Sometimes, as it the case of the Grill-Roasted Bacon and Scallion Corn muffin recipe presented by Food & Wine‘s Nick Fauchald, these tastes co-exist alongside the sugary, their culinary chimera a joy to behold (not to mention being a joy to hold. As in, to one’s mouth. Just before taking a big, satisfying bite). In other instances, the savory notes don’t delight us in addition to, but in place of, sweeter ingredients. The BLT Cupcake served up at Chicago’s More (with bacon, tomato and an onion-garlic cream cheese frosting) and Republic of Cake‘s Veggie Curry Cupcake are two good examples of what happens when cupcakes stop being sweet and get real.
2. Dessert Pasta
Replace your Parmesan with mascarpone, your grated Romano with shaved chocolate or cinnamon, your arrabiata sauce with raspberry puree or molten chocolate and your meatballs with your choice of berries or sliced bananas, and the concept of having pasta for afters starts to sound less crazy, doesn’t it? Any world in which intrepid palates can feast on the likes of chocolate pasta (fettuccine, spaghetti and other varieties, all of them infused with cocoa and sugar) in the form of dark chocolate linguine, and recipes like this dessert lasagna get recognized with prizes by the National Pasta Association and the Culinary Institute of America is a world in which I am honored to eat.
3. Carnivore Cocktails
If I love anything more than good libations and well-prepared meat, it’s finding the two combined in a single menu offering. Meat-based cocktails typically involve liquors infused with bacon, pancetta or other items more often found at your local delicatessen than at your neighborhood watering hole. They boast names like The Spicy Meatball (flavored with sausage-infused whiskey) and The Cheeseburger Cocktail (counting beef stock reduction, iceberg lettuce water and muddled Roma tomatoes among its ingredients.) While these and other meat mixology creations could be considered, to put it mildly, acquired tastes, their growing popularity suggests that it’s a good time to be a carnivore who tipples.
4. Dessert Soups
Luscious brews like these save the best for last. Generally served chilled, dessert soups make a refreshing end to any meal. Fruits and berries tend to play a large role in their creation. Given the wide variety of produce available from season to season, the flavor combinations are virtually endless. Recipes for soups like Triple Orange Dessert Soup, Banana Coconut Tapioca Soup and Chilled Pear Soup with Soup are just the tip of the iceberg.