Jay Ducote, a Louisiana-based food writer and radio host who runs the Web site Bite and Booze, is skeptical that we'll see tree bark pop up on menus with any regularity.
"I think it would be rather odd if it really caught on," Ducote says. "The rough exterior bark really isn't pleasant or nutritious, and neither is the actual trunk of a tree. The only part with nutritional value and possibly some flavor worth cooking with is the inner bark, the area right underneath the outside layer of bark where the tree actually has living cells and is growing. I think the bitters resurgence is probably the closest you'll get to tree bark as a trendy ingredient. You have to take that inner bark and boil it down and then you'd be wise to add some other flavorings to make it palatable."
"As for drying it out and turning it into specialty flours, etc., I don't really see it catching on either," he adds. "Native Americans and others may have done that 200 years ago, but I don't see it catching on again in the food world. Tree bark is quite different than nuts like almonds that actually make a pretty decent flour. Perhaps there is some room for bark in the cocktail world, but that's about as far as I really see it catching on."
Ducote's skepticism isn't shared by Leith Steel of Andrew Freeman & Co.
, firm that specializes in hospitality and restaurant marketing and, each year, issues an influential report on restaurant trends.
"We haven't seen much use, or any use, of tree bark flour yet, but if that is used in Scandinavia, it would not be abnormal to see it used in a few of the most avant-garde restaurants here," Steel says.
"We are seeing the use of different treelike flavors -- pine, fir, etc. -- in more restaurants. In San Francisco, Chef Daniel Patterson of Coi began championing pine tips over the past couple of years and Chef Corey Lee uses acorn flour to make a special dish at Benu in San Francisco."
"We predicted Scandinavian ingredients would take off in 2011, and some of the forest-flavored infusions that we are predicting for this year are definitely an outgrowth from that trend," Steel says. "When Noma Chef Rene Redzepi's two-star Michelin restaurant in Denmark became the hottest restaurant in the world, chefs from all over took note."