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At the start of a new year, food critics far and wide simply cannot resist the urge to forecast our foodie futures. I count myself among the guilty. I’ve been asked to compile my predictions for this year’s top 12 culinary trends for Spice magazine, and I wanted to give you a sneak peek. Though you’ll have to wait for the article to publish before reading every last word, here’s a taste of what I foretell…
1) Going Green: The trend toward greener eating hasn’t died down one bit. In fact, it’s making even more of a splash with a push toward ultra local cuisine that is farmed, fished and foraged for within mere miles of being plated.
2) Comfort Food: Some are calling 2012 the year of the pretzel or meatballs or cake pops or fried chicken or grilled cheese. I’m predicting a year filled with local comfort foods of every stripe, in every corner of the globe.
3) Fast Casual: The economic downturn has begotten a new trend in fast casual dining. In an age when restaurants are struggling to stay afloat, fast food chains boasting big business have lured big names into the trade.
4) Moveable Feasts: A number of popular food trucks plan to open brick-and-mortar restaurants offering the same high-quality, low-cost street food in a dining room setting.
5) Barrel Aged: Have you ever tried brown gin? You very well may in 2012. Barrel-aged bourbon, Old Tom gin, small-batch bitters, entire cocktail concoctions like the negroni, and fortified wines like amaro and vermouth, are just some of the unsuspecting libations being aged in oak barrels for imbibing.
6) French Desserts: Cupcakes are out (finally) and French pastries are in (decidedly).
7) Underground Supper Clubs: Anywhere from $50-$150 a person, underground supper clubs prove there’s nothing sexier than a secret.
8) Size Matters: Portions are shrinking on plates across the country from $4 Happy Meals to $400 dinners. Whether thrift or diet is to blame the belt-tightening results are essentially the same.
9) Healing Potables: Herbal teas, mineral-infused waters, bottled aloe and cucumber drinks, acai protein shakes, pomegranate juices and fermented probiotics like kombucha will be touted as the next surefire superfoods to help control weight gain, fight disease and live longer.
10) Small Plates, Global Cuisines: Tapas bars no longer belong solely to the terrain of the Spanish. These days, restaurants and wine bars specializing in small plates come paired with every cuisine under the sun.
11) Digital Dining: Smart phones and tablets have introduced us to new ways of finding our favorite foods, and their tech-happy momentum shows no signs of slowing down.
12) Buzz Foods: These are the foods everyone’s buzzing about in kitchens across the country: kale, ghost peppers, yuzu, uni, handmade ricotta and burrata cheese, tamarind, new ways of preparing plain-old potatoes and naturally gluten-free coconut oil.