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As promised, I plan to share with you the articles I’ve begun publishing in foodie mags and rags all over the world. This first piece was written for Spice magazine, published in India, and is “coloured” for a Mumbai audience with all the flourishes of British English. As part of their New Year’s issue, I took a stab at predicting the top food trends we can expect to devour in 2012. You can read the online edition here, take a peak at the magazine’s current issue here, or subscribe to receive their gorgeous glossy editions here. Namaste and Eat it Up!
Year of the Gourmand
In rolling out predictions for this year’s top 12 culinary trends, I’m actually rounding up the hottest fashions in food from 2011 and predicting which fads will endure and which will fade into food oblivion. My list stems from popular flavour profiles, products, services and dining discoveries that have taken root in New York City. As ol’ blue eyes once sang, “If (they) can make it there, (they)’ll make it anywhere.” Spice readers can expect many of these dining trends to arrive at a table near them in the coming year. And while traveling, be certain to keep your eyes peeled and taste buds unfurled for encounters with these eating experiences. From food trucks permanently parked at brick-and-mortar restaurants to digital dining apps that can deliver the cuisines we crave with the swipe of a fingertip, 2012 promises to inspire, innovate and reshape what’s on the menu.
Going green: The trend toward greener eating hasn’t died down even a little. In fact, it’s making even more of a splash with a push toward ultra-local cuisine that is farmed, fished and foraged, in a radius just mere miles from where it’s plated. From Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York to Barndiva in California, and the New-Nordic cuisine coming out of the kitchen at Noma all the way across the Atlantic in Denmark, this trend toward eco-conscious consumption might mark the most prominent movement in food this entire decade, let alone this year. People all over continue to frequent greenmarkets and dine on farm-to-table fare, enjoying seasonal foods that offer equal parts sustainability and savourability.
Comfort food: With the worldwide recession still surging, a turn toward comforting recipes helps usher in cosiness in hard times. 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. Comfort foods remain popular because they take us back to memories we remember and cherish, and recipes for simpler times. Couple that with a celebrated chef’s pitch-perfect technique alongside high-quality ingredients, and any one of our childhood mealtime favourites might become the “it dish” of the year.
Moveable feasts: Food trucks have been a hipster trend quickly gaining speed for awhile now. These moveable feasts offer everything from fair-trade coffee to gourmet waffles and chili-rubbed tacos and are poised to kick it into high gear this year, when a number of popular trucks plan to open brick-and-mortar restaurants offering the same high-quality, low-cost street food in a dining room.
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. Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack has become a phenomenon in NYC and has prompted many more celebrity chefs like Daniel Boulud, Mario Batali and Thomas Keller to open fast casual cafes and markets serving gourmet takeaway. Look for Japanese ramen noodles and Vietnamese benh mi sandwiches to be among the biggest menu trends to go fast casual in 2012.
Barrel aged: Have you ever tried brown gin? You very well may in 2012. Barrel-aged Old Tom gin, small-batch bitters, entire cocktail con coctions like the negroni, and fortified wines like amaro and vermouth, are just some of the unexpected libations being aged in oak barrels for imbibing. The art of barrelling spirits in French and American oak has stepped out from behind the vineyard to take centre stage in bar rooms across the country.
Underground supper clubs: With their speakeasy-chic vibe, secret address, and the drama of a oncein-a-lifetime theatrical event, these subversive (often illegal) dinner parties continue to populate the cityscape at hidden locales. Anywhere from US $50-$150 a person, these underground supper clubs have pioneered alternative dining to the degree that they’ve set a precedent for black market foodie finds so extreme, that New York City now boasts undercover lobster pounds, unpasteurised milk stands and covert grilled cheese operations. Once again proving, there’s nothing sexier and spicier than a secret.
French desserts: Cupcakes are out (finally) and French pastries are in (decidedly). The trendiest patisserie this season is sure to be the pastel-hued macaroon sandwich cookie filled with exotically flavoured jam, ganache or buttercream. Close behind are caneles-the custard confection with a crepelike outer shell from Bordeaux. With the Madison Avenue launch of Paris’ famed Laduree macaroon house, and the opening of the Dominique Ansel Bakery in downtown Manhattan, French desserts have won the crown where once cupcakes reined king.
Healing potables: The healing powers of potables were heavily marketed in 2011 and should continue their accession into the mainstream as herbal teas, mineral-infused waters, bottled aloe and cucumber drinks, acai protein shakes, pomegranate juices and fermented probiotics like kombucha are touted as the next surefire superfoods to help control weight, fight disease and live longer.
Size matters: American chefs have earned a reputation for Texas-sized steaks and super-sized fries. Not anymore. Portions are shrinking on plates across the country from US $4 Happy Meals to $400 dinners. Whether thrift or diet is to blame the belt-tightening results are essentially the same. Less may well be more.
Small plates, global cuisines: Tapas bars no longer belong solely to the Spanish. These days, restaurants and wine bars specialising in small plates come paired with every cuisine under the sun. The lower price point per plate makes sense in a recession, and the grazing mentality is a sign of a foodie culture that has come to respect eating as more than just nourishment or status or even taste. Small plates are the perfect size to share that experience.
Digital dining: Smart phones and tablets have introduced us to new ways of finding our favourite foods, and their tech-happy momentum shows no signs of slowing down. With apps like Urbanspoon, you can search by location, cuisine or price to find your next meal from the US to the UK. OpenTable not only uses GPS to uncover your next dining experience, it also lets you know if there’s a table available. Newcomer to the GPS dining trail, LocalEats promises to locate locally owned dining establishments, while VegOut helps vegans and vegetarians source diet-appropriate meals internationally.
Buzz foods:These are the foods everyone is talking about in kitchens across the country. In 2012, you can expect to see these ingredients pop up on menus from Minnesota to Mumbai, always with a locale-specific twist: kale, ghost peppers, yuzu, uni, handmade ricotta and burrata cheese, tamarind, new ways of preparing plain-old potatoes and naturally gluten-free coconut oil.