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Cabarrus Magazine

Food Fads 2016: Go Figure

Jun 30, 2016 03:07PM ● By Jason Huddle

Food Fads 2016: Go Figure

Food fads come and go, often making it into mainstream America by way of the media or nutritionists. This year is no different, offering up a varied group of edibles that may or may not have staying power.


Bacon. It’s become an obsession and shows no signs of letting up. According to wikipedia, North Carolinians eat 47 percent above the natural average in bacon. After all, we’re home to a thriving pork industry; it’s the other white meat.

Bacon was a $4-billion business in 2014, even though eating it in large quantities has shown to increase the risk of colorectal cancer, plus it’s high in sodium and saturated fat, and is linked to high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Consumers seem to look past these negatives, however, as they are presented with bacon-scented perfumes, bacon sundae toppings, bacon-distilled vodka and bacon jam. Greg Helmandollar is one person that’s happy about the trend. He is owner of Crispy’s Bar & Grill in Kannapolis, a bacon lover’s dream of a restaurant.

Crispy’s opened in October 2015 under the umbrella of Helmandollar’s mantra: “Stay crispy, my friends.” As chef at Crispy’s, he’s constantly creating new recipes. But, why bacon? “It’s good, he says, simply. “We make quality food with bacon – not just bacon. I’m always experimenting with new recipes. Once you stop, complacency sets in.”

Helmandollar wore a bacon-themed tie as he and his wife, Lisa, accepted their Readers Choice Award for Best Casual Dining at Celebrate Cabarrus in May. He carries a piggy keychain and is amassing a collection of bacon-themed t-shirts. And, according to, he chose a winning cuisine.

“Our obsessive love for bacon shows no sign of letting up, and huge numbers of companies are capitalizing on it,” the site says. “No matter the industry, there’s a way to infuse bacon into it – and people will buy.”

Bacon is also easy and relatively inexpensive. It can be candied with brown sugar, maple, cinnamon, bourbon…”It appeals to any meat eater, no matter the person’s age, background or (non-vegetarian) lifestyle,” Ceci Snyder of the National Pork Board says.

Crispy’s menu items include bacon-wrapped shrimp and grits; bacon crusted chicken; bacon-wrapped lobster rolls; ultimate bacon-crusted fried green tomato BLT; bacon-wrapped cheesecake and pecan pie…the list goes on. And as owner/chef of the Masterbacon food truck, Helmandollar can take his bacon on the road.

Bison. Yes, an image of the stoic beasts grazing on native prairie grasslands may come to mind first, but this lean, tender, flavorful meat is being touted as a more nutritious, less fatty red meat. Even the more timid – like myself – have found bison to be delicious. It can be cooked and stored just like beef, and is becoming an in-demand food trend.

According to, “Meat from bison is a highly nutrient-dense food because of the proportion of protein, fat, minerals and fatty acids to its caloric value. Comparisons to other meat sources have also shown that bison has a greater concentration of iron as well as some of the essential fatty acids necessary for human well being. It tastes similar to fine beef, with just a slightly sweeter and richer flavor.”

Bison meat is making its way into local grocery stores and restaurants, although typically in ground form, like hamburger. It’s more expensive, but, as they say, you get what you pay for. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not allow bison to be given antibiotics, stimulants or growth hormones. And, according to the USDA, 100 grams of raw bison contains 109 calories and 1.8 grams of fat compared to beef, which contains 291 calories and 24 grams of fat.

Now there are bison in North Carolina. Carolina Bison Farm, located near Asheville, is the brainchild of Dr. Frank King, whose mission is to educate the general public in the healthy properties of bison meat. As a bison meat wholesaler, his herds, which roam large pasturelands and breed freely, are supplemented with hay and grain, and are 100 percent USDA inspected.

Carolina Bison and DK Natural Meats brands can be found at our local Harris-Teeter stores as well as at the farm itself, which sells cuts like tenderloin filets, roasts and steaks. Both Ruby Tuesday restaurants in Cabarrus County – on Lyles Lane in Concord and on Wonder Drive in Kannapolis – offer the Bison Burger and Bison Bacon Cheeseburger on their menus.

According to the Department of Agriculture, there are currently about 500,000 bison in the U.S., with some 60,000 processed each year. For that reason, some bison farmers don’t see their meat going mainstream, remaining a specialty meat instead. Time will tell, as other bison ranchers jump on board.

Kale. A member of the cabbage family, it first came onto the trendy scene in 2013-’14 and some wonder if it will remain there. Its saving grace might be that, like so many green, leafy vegetables – it comes in ornamental, dinosaur and curly varieties – it provides a wealth of nutritional value. It also grows well in Cabarrus County.

Steamed kale – in conjunction with its inherent fiber – can reduce cholesterol levels. Its Isothiocyanates (chemicals that counter carcinogens) can lower the risk of bladder, breast, colon, ovary and prostate cancers. And there are more than 45 different flavonoids in kale – like kaempferol and quercetin – that provide both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

“Kale is one of the healthiest veggies you can put on your plate,” according to “One serving, which contains just 30 calories, provides a day’s worth of vitamin C, twice the recommended daily intake of vitamin A and nearly seven times the recommended amount of vitamin K. Add a sizable dose of minerals and healthy fatty acids, and you’ve got yourself a nutrition powerhouse.”

On the down side, kale can be bitter; it also has a tough texture. For these reasons, finding good recipes is key. Kale chips are a tasty alternative, which can be made at home by simply tossing chopped kale in some olive oil and baking it until it’s crispy.

Olive Garden, located on Concord Mills Boulevard in Concord, offers Zuppa Toscana on its menu, an Italian soup made with spicy Italian sausage, fresh kale and russet potatoes in a creamy broth.

Nashville-style Hot Chicken. The name says it all. Hailing from Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville, this trend brings on a runny nose, sweating and a burning mouth. Some say it’s addictive.

The story goes that the first hot chicken was prepared in the 1930s by one of the many women in Thornton Prince’s life. It was meant as a punishment for his wandering ways. Unfortunately, he really liked it.

Since then, true Southerners have used bacon grease and rendered bacon fat with their cayenne pepper. Some might include garlic powder, ground mustard, cumin, paprika and dill pickle juice. While recipes have been tweaked over the decades at the discretion of the cook, one thing always remains consistent: the heat.

It’s a given that frying food – especially in grease or fat – is unhealthy, but there are benefits to consuming cayenne pepper. They include aiding in digestion and weight loss; relieving migraine, joint and nerve pain; and boosting metabolism.

Nashville Hot Chicken has spread worldwide and is offered here in Cabarrus County at Kentucky Fried Chicken locations and at O’Charley’s, on Concord Parkway North. The restaurant is promoting its Nashville Hot Summer with five menu items: Nashville Hot Chicken Tenders, Salad, Sliders, Ribs and Sandwich.

Poke. It’s a Hawaiian dish that’s pronounced POH-kay. “Poke is a mix of raw cubes of seafood (usually ahi tuna or salmon) in a soy sauce-based marinade. It’s often garnished with seaweed, cucumber, avocado or tobiko (flying fish roe), and served over rice or greens,” according to “Ubiquitous in Hawaii – you can pick it up at grocery stores or even gas stations – poke is a deconstructed, flavorful version of sushi. It’s also generally healthy, endlessly customizable and very pretty.”

Other fruits, vegetables and seasonings like sesame oil, dried peppers, garlic, tomato and onions are used, but less frequently.

One serving of poke is typically about four ounces. Only 149 calories, it has less than five grams of fat, 33 milligrams of cholesterol (from the ahi), 240 milligrams of sodium (if using low-sodium soy sauce), 24 grams of protein and about 400 international units of vitamin A.

With the popularity of sushi all over the country – including Cabarrus County – it’s predicted that poke will make a huge splash over the course of this year. Enoodles Asian Bistro on Exchange Street in Concord offers Hawaiian Poke on its menu.

Seaweed. It’s said to be the new kale, replacing “animal-based proteins and high carbohydrate foods,” according to “Sea vegetables are environmentally-friendly, sustainable and plentiful plants that contain an abundance of nutrients like fiber, iodine, vitamin C, iron and B vitamins. In the Specialty Food Association’s 2016 Trend Forecast, seaweed is ‘set to explode, thanks to its sustainability angle and umami (a savory taste) appeal.’ ”

Some of us can’t get past the mental image of the green stuff rolling up on our oceans’ beaches, but out of the thousands of varieties, just 300 to 400 – cultivated or wild and in shades of green, red or brown – are harvested for commercial use, according to the Seaweed Industry Association. Cultivated seaweed now supplies 90 percent of total demand because wild species are becoming scarce.

Edible seaweed is high in nutrition content, containing vitamins A, B, C and E; fiber; essential fatty acids; protein; antioxidants; copper; and iron. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, prevents colon cancers, helps with gastrointestinal inflammation, among other benefits.

Sold fresh, frozen, cooked and as dried flakes or sheets, spirulina and chlorella are popular varieties in North America. Seaweed is typically found in local Asian grocery stores.

“They look slimy; taste salty (red and green type), a bit fishy, chewy in texture and best kept in the fridge for freshness. Dehydrated seaweeds can be found in the dry goods section. Alternatively, try the health food stores or natural grocers,” says. Check out Enoodles; they serve Japanese Seaweed Salad.

So, if you’re game to try something new, Cabarrus County restaurants can provide that first taste. Then the sky’s the limit as to what you can create in your own kitchen. Be an explorer of food!

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