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Soup to Nuts, Restaurants Smoke It All


So you thought smoking in restaurants was out. Well, you are right, of course. Smoking cigarettes in restaurants and bars is definitely taboo, but another kind of smoking is pretty popular in the culinary scene these days. WEEKEND EDITION food commentator Bonny Wolf tells us more.

BONNY WOLF, BYLINE: You can buy smoked water. I kid you not. There's a company in England that sells water that's been smoked over oak. Don't worry. They ship worldwide - $6.50 for five ounces. Add to soups and stocks or freeze into ice cubes. Cocktails are smoke central. At his Dallas restaurant, Smoke, Tim Byres, author of the book "Smoke", offers a Woodshed Margarita with cedar wood-infused tequila. Other drinks use maple wood-infused whiskey. Smoked beer is gaining ground, too - made with peat-smoked malt.

You can also get honey, hot sauce and chocolate that's been smoked. You can go to a restaurant and have a slice of smoked baguette spread with smoked butter, dipped into smoked olive oil or sprinkled with smoked salt. Move onto salad with smoked vinaigrette, grilled meat with smoked prunes, dessert - smoked ice cream. Smoking food, of course, is nothing new. Since man discovered fire, smoking has been used to cook and preserve meat and fish. But smoking is no longer just a cooking method - it's a flavor. It figures - we're barbecue and bacon fanatics and what do they have in common? Smoke.

But we're supposed to cut back on meat. Not so bad if you can eat yogurt with the smoky flavor of brisket barbecue. There are a lot of decisions - hot smoke, which cooks and flavors, or cold smoke, which just flavors. Which wood - mesquite, cherry, oak, hickory, apple or pecan? You can also smoke over grapevines or kelp. If you can't decide whether to use the grill, the campfire or the oven, how about the smoking gun? You load the gun chamber with wood chips, tea, herbs, spices, dried flowers, hay, aim at your cocktail or stick of butter and fire.

And if there's a flare-up, you can put it out with that smoke-flavored water.

MARTIN: Bonny Wolf is managing editor of AmericanFoodGroups.com. This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bonnie Wolf