Trendspotting: Granola Goes Upscale

September 2013

On last week's episode of “Top Chef Masters,” Denver's own Jennifer Jasinski (chef and co-owner of RiojaBistro Vendôme, and Euclid Hall) made rack of lamb with creamy grains, pear, fennel, and red-wine reduction for the elimination challenge. The porridge beneath the lamb nabbed Jasinski a spot in the finale, but what caught my attention was the granola on top.

You see, granola is having a moment. Not only are there dozens of variations on supermarket shelves, there are loads more available at farmers' markets (Bulumu is just one). Long a breakfast staple, the crunchy, oat-y combination is moving beyond the a.m. hours into dinner and dessert. At Rioja, a different version—pan-roasted venison, instead of lamb—of Jasinski's dish appears on the menu. (Note: Jasinski is reluctant to call the mixture of shallots, cracked juniper, and brown butter-toasted oats a granola). At last night’s EatDenver Harvest Week dinner, a spiced nut and seed mix accompanied the salad course. This summer, Fuel Cafe’s gnocchi came with a roasted and dried quinoa that took on a granola-like crunch. On Twelve's July menu, chef-owner Jeff Osaka finished vanilla panna cotta with a few pinches of caramelized grains. (This month, toasted oats and seed granola show up on Twelve's cow's milk crémeux.) And at the Squeaky Bean (before executive chef Max MacKissock departed), the pig face entrée was topped with a granola lookalike.

Clearly, the amalgamation’s distinctly sweet and savory notes make it a versatile accompaniment any hour of the day. Try mixing it up yourself with this recipe from blogger Jacqueline Pham, who swaps savory granola for calorie-dense croutons.

Tonight: Watch the finale of Top Chef Masters at 8 p.m. on Bravo.

Follow food editor Amanda M. Faison on Twitter (@5280Eats), on Facebook, and on Pinterest.

—Photo courtesy of Bravo