Assuming all goes well this Friday, 2013 is upon us. So after extensive research (eating!) this year, here is a list of the three food trends I see coming, and three others I wouldn’t mind seeing fade away.
Animals, fat and all.
Chefs will continue to frown upon commodity meats as we begin to understand how little we know about the large-scale production of meat. Chefs will continue to work with local farmers and buy more whole animals. As a result, they will push the charcuterie and sausage menu sections further into animal cookery, using more of the unmentionables. Look for fats, like lard and schmaltz—chicken fat, and offal, like tripe, hearts, gizzards, and brains—to take a spot on the menu. No surprise to places like Butcher and the Boar and Saffron, who already offer hearts and lamb brains to their customers.
The rise of the flexitarian.
As meat continues its ascendency, vegetables, contradictorily, will move from after-thought to the center of the plate. The vegetarian—food as medicine, health fanatic, socially conscious, or devoid of pleasure diner—will make room for the more pliant “flexitarian.” Flexitarians love their veggies, kale, and whole grains, but also like a little meat. Chefs will use meat as condiment, a way to add flavor and make a meal more satisfying. They will push vegetables as a main course with animal products like stock, and bits of fatty meat like bacon as accents.
Asian food—edgy, hip, and chefy.
Asian food, while not a newcomer to the restaurant scene, will make a bigger impact as chefs with big reputations take on Asian concepts and themes. I ate at Mission Chinese Food this year, a restaurant from Chef Danny Bowien. He and chefs like David Chang and Andy Ricker of Momofuku and Pok Pok have created dining concepts which would have been considered “ethnic” or not review worthy. Now, these are the hottest restaurants in the country with wait times as long as two hours. Look for small restaurants with loud music, hip vibes, and spicy, authentic-ish food and chefy twists—like barbeque pigtails and kung-pao pastrami, both on the menu at Mission. Locally we have vets like “Asan” Yamamoto from Masu and newbies to town like Thomas Kim and his raved about Left Handed Cook.
You like bacon? Cool, me too!
We all love bacon, but can we just keep it away from the ice cream? Bacon’s too easy—a chef’s crutch. Just because it tastes great doesn’t mean we want to eat it all the time. In good news, bacon will continue its beautiful marriage with eggs, BLTs, and the like.
Poutine jumped the shark.
The problem with poutine—french fries with gravy and cheese curds—rests in the execution. Making great fries takes some work. First cut the spuds, then soak them, blanch them, fry them, and get them to the customer within seconds of coming out of the fryer. Making good gravy is not easy either. It starts with roasting bones and ends with classic sauce-making technique. Too many batches of poutine arrive with limp fries drowning in an unfortunate sauce. Like many things, it’s good when it’s good, but if not, it’s pretty bad.
Drinks taking longer to make than drink.
What’s more fun than hanging a 20 over the bar, trying to get the “mixologists” (snear) attention, only to be told you have bad taste because you’d like a vodka drink? Customers will continue to demand high-end cocktails, but in a timely and less intimidating fashion. Local bar legend Johnny Michaels already has big plans to introduce some of his more popular cocktails poured straight from the gun—a device usually reserved for soft drinks. He told me at this year’s Union opening that he had hoped to get the program started on the rooftop, but some kinks got in the way, so it will have to wait until next time.
Well that ends our crystal ball session. Check in next year to see how I did and maybe you have a few predictions of your own? Let me know below.