“Granola has traded in the bulky sweater for a little black dress,” writes Jeff Gordinier in The New York Times (2/19/13). Granola has been around since the late 19th century, and of course had a heyday in the hippie 1960s, but today it is being re-imagined “in variations that are lavish, whimsical and sometimes unapologetically fattening.” For example, Roy Choi of Sunny Spot, “a Caribbean-island-spirited restaurant in Southern California … serves a granola dish that might have been dreamed up in a collaboration between Bob Marley and Andy Warhol.”
Roy’s granola is “not sepia-toned. It’s green and orange and yellow and blue” and features “pickled mango, green papaya or compressed pineapple” as well as “fresh leaves of sorrel and mint” and even Fruity Pebbles (image). “I wanted it to be this bowl of twists and turns, instead of just one scoop after another,” says Roy. “I don’t understand the process of eating things just to submit yourself to boredom.” Other chefs are creating sweet, savory or spicy granola that “bring extra layers of texture and flavor to appetizer and main courses.” At the legendary Four Seasons in New York City, “a root-vegetable salad with granola is part of the winter menu.”
Julian Niccolini of Four Seasons says he likes the countercultural connotation. “I want people to know that the Four Seasons is actually serving hippie food,” he says. “The ’60s were good times.” Granola’s appeal is indeed partly rooted in youthful memories, as well as its hearty image. “There’s a healthy glow around granola,” says Louise Kramer of the Winter Fancy Food Show. “People don’t seem to be counting calories as much as they used to. They’re looking for a nutritious punch.” Many of the granola brands now populating national retail shelves have suitably rootsy origins. Nekisia Davis says the recipe for her Early Bird brand of granola is pretty much the same as the very first granola she made at home. Today, she markets 100,000 pounds a year.