Friday, December 30, 2011

2012 Food & Dining Trends

In no particular order, here are my predictions with a tiny sprinkling of wishful thinking...

Yes, please!

More transparency and labeling in the food system
Have you been to a supermarket lately? All the seafood is now labeled so you know where it comes from and whether or not it is farmed and if color is added. That is amazing considering that not long ago seafood had barely any labeling at all, but it's just the beginning. I believe consumers will demand labels on produce and meat too. Food contamination and security issues are only a few of the issues driving this trend.

Foraging, hunting and wild food
Wild and foraged ingredients are showing up on more and more menus and there are classes and books to help you learn about this return to a more primal way of eating. The poster boy for this trend is Hank Shaw. The poster Girl? Georgia Pellegrini!

Local culture on the plate
Rene Redzepi the chef at NOMA, (the world's number one restaurant according to one survey) has inspired countless chefs and delighted diners. He uses local ingredients to create a unique cuisine that is a reflection of a singular time and place. This is where high end dining is going. Something that can only be found in one spot is the ultimate in exclusivity.

The world's first sweetener and a product from bees who we are dependent upon for pollination of fruits and vegetables from avocados to watermelon. Bees have already been in the news because of colony collapse but I think their honey will get some more attention soon too, now that the scandal of widespread bogus honey has been revealed. Honey is an unrefined sugar and a true expression of flora. Trying and learning about honey is as exciting and never ending as learning about wine or coffee.

Digital cookbooks
Epicurious is leading the way here with ecookbooks, offering a variety of best selling cookbooks you can now save to your "recipe box." Since we are already using our computers in the kitchen and to look for recipes, this makes a lot of sense. It makes finding, sharing and using recipes much easier.

Lamb, goat, rabbit and bison
I'm sorry to disappoint any vegan activists, but it's just not likely that Americans are going to give up eating meat. However I do believe they are going to think about sustainability and start making more informed choices. Goat is the most popular meat in the world, we already love goat cheese, the meat can't be far behind. Likewise lamb, rabbit and bison represent more sustainable and ecologically friendly choices than industrially raised pork, beef or chicken.

I'm seeing chia everywhere. It's a fascinating seed, considered a superfood by some, loaded with vitamins and minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fiber. It creates an amazing gel like texture but can also be used like a grain in baked goods. I hope chefs are as inspired to play with it as I am.

Chefs doing good
As we get more and more tired of the endless self promotion associated with celebrity chefs (not to mention some food bloggers) I think chef charities will gain in visibility as a way of chefs getting limelight, but for all the right reasons. Great examples include the Mario Batali Foundation, Jamie Oliver Foundation which includes Fifteen and the Ministry of Food, and Rachael Ray's Yum-o!

Handmade sodas
More and more restaurants are offering housemade soda as a non-alcoholic option. Sophisticated and not overly sweet, I expect we will see a lot more of them. Some good local ones try include Jesse Friedman's seasonal offerings from SodaCraft.

Perhaps the David Sax book Save the Deli led to a resurgence in interest in Jewish delicatessen food. While LA style Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen failed to knock my socks off, the excitement over their pop-ups indicates a real desire for it. I do believe good deli is on it's way. Perhaps it's the new charcuterie?

Lower alcohol wines
I think this year in Napa might be the turning point. It was a cooler than normal growing season and vintners found that lower brix in this year's vintage meant an opportunity to craft more elegant and lower alcohol wines. We will see how consumers react. But I hope they can learn to appreciate something beyond the big fruit bombs Napa has become known for producing.

Small plate breakfasts
Ok I admit it, this is wishful thinking. But a girl can dream can't she? After having the most spectacular brunch ever at Michael's Genuine in Miami, I just hope this idea catches on. Imagine instead of a big stack of pancakes, just one. Plus a single egg benedict, and a house made pop tart? Heaven.

The other Mediterranean
Perhaps I am just inspired by my trip to Morocco, but I can't help think that Moroccan, Egyptian, Tunisian, Algerian, Lebanese and Turkish food will be on the rise. They are part of the Mediterranean but often get overlooked in favor of French, Italian and Spanish cuisine. Think of them as the new frontier. At very least, recently released cookbooks by Mourad Lalou and Paula Wolfert will fuel the interest in Moroccan flavors.

No thanks, I've had enough

When bacon made it's way into lip balm, I think it jumped the shark. It's not that bacon will ever go away, but I think we are ready for something else. Kale perhaps?

"Farm-to-table" "natural" and "artisanal"
They have all become virtually meaningless. When is food not farm to table? When it's factory to table? Natural has no legal meaning and once Round Table Pizza used the word artisan to boost sales, we knew it was over.

Celebrity chefs
Perhaps it all started with that iconic Gourmet magazine cover of chefs as rock stars. But enough is enough. The endless self-promotion has gotten tiresome. So have celebrity chef feuds.

Agave syrup
I never really understood the hype. This may be a marginally better type of sugar, but it's still sugar. It lacks the depth of molasses, sorghum or honey. There are some benefits, but they aren't enough to convince me to use it.

Mexican coke
Admit it, hipsters drink it because they think it's cool. Gimme a break. It's not cool. It's sugar water for chrissake. Hopefully this is the year they will stop paying $5 a bottle for it.

So what do you think the trends will be? Share your thoughts in the comments!