Got my goat

Goat: the other red meat (photo by Alison Ashton)

Here’s my trend prediction: Goat meat is ready to go mainstream. I’m not the first to make this forecast, but I hope it’s true this time.

Of course, goat already is mainstream in  much of the world, from Latin America and the Caribbean to the Mediterranean and Middle East to India and Pakistan. I’m sure I’m overlooking a few more goat-eating regions. But for most Americans, goat cheese is our goat product of choice, though you might occasionally sample the meat at an ethnic food fair or restaurant. You’re certainly not going to find it next the beef ribeye at the local supermarket.

In my sheltered little life, despite extensive travels and an eagerness to try anything, I’d never been presented a plate of goat before–until a recent trip to Northern California’s Wine Country, where I enjoyed goat twice in three days. The first time was braised goat served over polenta at Osteria Stellina in Pt. Reyes Station. I urged the diner next to me to order it so I could sample it, and probably ended up eating half her dinner.

“Oh, man, I have to find goat meat at home,” I said, tucking into another bite. She was nice about it. The second time, it was goat poached in whey at the two-Michelin-starred Restaurant at Meadowood resort in Napa Valley.

In both cases, I found the meat tender, yet lean, and satisfying. It’s flavor was deep and a tad gamy, reminiscent of of lamb. Henry Alford has described it as “jungle lamb.”

Good point: If you like lamb, you’ll probably love goat. If you’re one of those people who hates lamb because it’s so lamb-y, goat isn’t for you. And I’ll bet the people who dislike goat cheese (I’ve observed that many folks detest both lamb and goat cheese) won’t like the meat any better.

But I love lamb and goat cheese, and happily embraced goat meat. I went home determined to track the stuff down.

I’m fortunate to live near Culver City, Calif., which is chockablock with Latin grocery stores, carnicerias, and bakeries, and dotted with more than a few halal butchers. A quick consultation with Yelp! (hey, “the people” have helped me find an awesome vet and a great hairdresser, so I trust ‘em) led me to Sanchez Meat Co., a dinky Latin grocery/meat market with a crew of friendly butchers who actually do butcher meat. Try finding that at the local Albertson’s.

There wasn’t any goat nestled among the gorgeous cuts of flank steak, ribeye, and pork chops in the display case, but the butcher looked in his freezer and pulled out two whole bone-in kid shoulders. (When it comes to goat meat, you want a young ‘un, usually labeled “kid” or “cabrito.” Like lamb, goat gets tough as it grows up.) I didn’t have a plan for the meat yet, so he offered to cut a shoulder down into 3-inch chunks. Perfect. I took my find home, where I later turned into a ragu.

So why goat, why now? The tender texture and rich flavor, of course, but there are some health advantages, too. Goat is lower in calories and leaner than, say, beef, weighing in at just 122 calories and 3 grams of fat (1 gram saturated fat) for 4 ounces. Yet it has 23 grams of protein. That alone should earn it place next to the ribeye at the supermarket.

Saving money tops food trends for 2009

In 2009, chefs and home cooks alike will turn to cheaper cuts of meat to save pennies.

It’s that time, when “experts” and the rest of us look ahead to what’s in store for the new year. And it would appear that my friends are bona fide trendsetters. Months ago, they started cooking up cheapo recession fare, and now they’ve challenged each other other to whip up dinner for less than $3 per serving (or is it $3 for both of them? Whatever, they’re doing it, albeit with mixed results).

People around the world are feeling insecure and are already looking to re-establish a sense of stability in their lives. A good home-cooked meal can do that. 

They’re not the only ones coping with rising food costs and smaller budgets. Many food trends for 2009, not surprisingly, are driven by the current dour economy, which makes value-oriented items more appealing than ever. “People around the world are feeling insecure and are already looking to re-establish a sense of stability in their lives,” says Joan Holleran, director of research at the global trends research firm Mintel. One way to accomplish that is with the food you eat, and consumers will be more selective than ever about how they spend their money. James Oliver Cury of Epicurious predicts “value” will eclipse “sustainable” as the foodie buzzword of 2009.  These are just a few ways the cheap-and-cheerful trend will manifest itself.

Comfort food still reigns supreme. You might think this has peaked, but consumers will crave familiar ingredients and dishes more than ever. Bon Appetit put peanut butter at the top of its list for 2009, along with eggs in any form. Both are inexpensive sources of protein. The magazine also predicts more restaurants will serve breakfast all day–always an affordable, filling, and comforting option. Overall, restaurant diners will favor bistro-type eateries serving familiar, high-quality, well-priced food. Expect spaghetti and meatballs to “make a roaring comeback,” according to restaurant consultants Baum & Whiteman.

Goat meat may go mainstream in 2009.

Beware, billy: Food watchers say goat meat may go mainstream in 2009.

Cooks will use cheaper cuts of meat. The National Restaurants Consultants forecasts the price of beef will skyrocket, making less-expensive cuts–short ribs, hanger steaks, brisket, chuck roasts, and the like–a better buy. These cuts typically are tougher, but long, slow cooking techniques like braising, stewing, or pot roasting yield tender, hearty results.  Other types of meat will go mainstream, too. Among them: goat, according to “trendologists” at the Center for Culinary Development. George Wilson, of the Australian Wildlife Services, has proposed promoting kangaroo as an environmentally friendly alternative to beef cattle; unlike cattle, kangaroos don’t produce methane and they have high levels of healthy fats.

Tip: When shopping for meat, remember anything with “loin” in the name = tender = more expensive. “Chuck” or “shoulder” = tougher = cheaper. 

Look for offal recipes. Other cultures, especially those in Asia, have a long tradition of using all of the animal, because meat is considered too precious a resource to waste. American cooks are expected to adopt a similar “nose-to-tail” approach, making use of everything from cheeks and tongue to tripe and trotters.

Indulgences won’t go away, but they will shrink. The expense of food may help all of us with portion control. If a beef is expensive, for example, we may opt for the occasional 4-ounce serving of  pricey tenderloin. The high cost of ingredients is driving more restaurants to add small-plate options to their menus. 

Type in your ZIP code at Ueatcheap.com to map out meals under $10.

Type in your ZIP code at Ueatcheap.com to map out meals under $10.

We’ll share information to find affordable meals. Call it Eating 2.0, but diners will continue to flock to the Web in search of the good, cheap eats.  Sites like Slashfood, Serious Eats, and Eater LA (and its sisters Eater NY and Eater SF)  specialize in content by and for avid foodies while users rate restaurants on Yelp and Ueatcheap.com

People will stay home. Although restaurateurs will do their best to lure customers with bargains, most of us are likely to dine out less and eat in more in 2009. Analysts at Mintel forecast more entertaining at home while the folks at UK-based thefoodpeople predict we’ll whip up cocktails at home rather than hit the bars.