Whether you remember the mustard-ketchup-relish era with love or loathing, there is no doubt that the reigning days of tri-colour simplicity are over, giving way to an explosion of sauces, spreads and other condiments to enhance everything and anything you might choose to put on your grill.
Spicy stuff is definitely hot, as evidenced by the planet's irrepressible love affair with sriracha. This summer, be on the lookout for gochujang. "This is the next big hot sauce from Korea, and Koreans love to grill," says Dana McCauley, host of Food Trends TV. "I think you're going see it popping up on restaurant burgers as chefs experiment with making their own."
For Bar Raval chef Grant van Gameren in Toronto, this summer is all about experimenting with dried pepper marinades from South America. "There are so many varieties with unique flavours and heat levels," he says, but the technique is always the same. "Basically, fry peppers in oil to release the aroma, then pour hot water over them to soften. Purée with garlic, oil, spices and herbs of your choice, then slather on any of your favourite meats or vegetables before grilling. I'm particularly fond of the pasilla pepper right now, as it delivers full flavour without killing you in the heat department."
Meanwhile, steaks cry out for their own special treatment. "We're seeing more chimichurri and romesco sauce variations, more of the herb-based and slightly vinegary condiments," McCauley says. Mark Filatow, chef and co-owner of Waterfront Wines in Kelowna, B.C., and creator of a seriously beautiful burger agrees. "Salsa verde made with charcoal-roasted tomatillos is great on anything cooked on a grill," he says.
When fish is on the backyard menu, Chris Kobayashi, owner-chef of Artisan in Paso Robles, Ca., likes mustard crème fraîche, while Filatow likes to top his with fermented fennel. "Done just like sauerkraut, it's fantastic with seafood and poultry," he says.
One thing everyone can agree on is that new pickles are all the rage. "We've gone way beyond dills," McCauley says. "We're seeing fermented pickles, pickled slaws, fermented condiments like kimchi, Thai-style pickles. You're going to see very little green relish." Filatow concurs. In addition to his beloved fermented fennel, the B.C. chef favours cumin-pickled carrots with anything that has a strong rub such as Moroccan or Indian spiced meats.