2012 Food & Drink Predictions: The Masses
A new year is always filled with so much potential, isn’t it? So much excitement to see what is about to unfold, so many meals as yet uneaten and wines uncorked! If you`re like me, you`re practically vibrating from all the opportunity! However, if you`re like me, you also just can`t help throwing a hat in the ring of the annual Predictetron.
I am that person sitting behind you at the movie theatre; the one who talks incessantly throughout the entire film and spills the beans about five minutes before someone gets stabbed in the shower. I am the person who knows that you`re working late, and calls your cell to share the score of the game you are taping at home on the PVR. To put it succinctly, as Food Blogger, spoilers are both my butter and my daily bread, so this is the time of year when I just can`t help speculating publicly about the future of gochujang, or weighing in about whether Branzino is the next Chilean Sea Bass.
It has been a while since we last peered into the crystal (goblet). Back in 2010, we called the ball on what we were expecting to see the culinary world dish up and what we were ready to see sent back to the kitchen. Looking back, feel free to pass judgement in the comments on how well we fared and where we wavered.
This time, as we dive into our food and drink predictions for 2012, we couldn`t help but notice that more than ever, it is the passionate foodies that are driving our culinary progression and canny restauranteurs are doing their best to adapt quickly and bring these trends to the masses. The divide between those who eat to live and those who live to eat continues to grow, and it did not make sense to ask them both to play by the same rules. Our predictions, therefore, are divided into macro versus micro. This is main stream versus niche, or as I prefer to think of it, bourgeoise and passé versus insufferably pretentious and elitist. So without futher ado, here goes nothing!
MAIN STREAM FOOD PREDICTIONS: 2012 AND BEYOND
(hey, the mainstream can be slow)
1. Juan and Miguel go to Whitecastle: Rustic Italian dishes have been all the rage for the last few years, with chefs tripping over their crocs to bring you the freshest hand-pulled mozzarella, most robust ragus and quintessentially tender young artichokes. The “food of love” is certainly not going anywhere, but advocats of The Big Boot are about to get some company from their kissing cousins, the Spanish and the Portuguese. Look for tapas to continue to go mainstream, as a small dish of olives joins the complimentary bread basket on your dining table, and chorizo sliders get noshed beside nachos at your local pub.
2. So I says to Mabel, I says…: The Europeans know a thing or two about communal dining, from the German beer halls to the elbow-room-only patios at a French cafe. Across the pond, with limited room for expansion and a notable lack of interest regarding personal space, long bench seating around rustic hand hewn wooden tables just makes sense. Over here, it is a novelty that we are certain to see more of. Communal dining has started to pick up speed with the gastropub and locavore crowd, so get ready to brush up on your small talk and remember that deodorant is not a “nice to have”.
3. The cauliflower steak please, medium rare. As we continue to raise awareness on health and heart disease, we are falling out of love with the classic meat’n'potatoes dinner, and increasingly asking for meal options where vegetables take centre stage. More than ever, menus are starting to treat carnivorous protein almost as an afterthought, mentioned in passing at the end of the tag line. However, what we’re going to see is that vegetables are not just the shining supporting actors attracting an Oscar nod for their winning performance; they will be the stars of the show. What, you don’t think the humble potato can stand up to the pressure of being a main event? Just wait, and get ready, because you’re also going to see all manner of squash and crucifers shaking what their mommas gave ‘em as the highlight of your dinner plate.
4. Affordable Indulgence. My favorite jailbird, Ms. Martha Stewart, taught me long ago that life was all about enjoying the finer things. Luxury is, in fact, a necessity, and no matter what your price point may be, you should always seek out the best possible quality that you can afford. Oh, and cover all the bad stuff in glitter so that nobody knows the difference. Life lessons, my friends. For the last couple years, times have been tough and I don’t know about you, but in our house the beef has been less dry aged and more lean ground. However, we’re not willing to compromise on quality, and like all the good people of North Americ, we expect and demand freshness, flavor and quality at a price point that is reasonable. Hence the
plague proliferation of food trucks in every city except Toronto (Food Trucks: they’re not just for hipsters anymore!) as restaurants learn that we’re asking for gourmet food at a busboy’s budget. Because we can.
5. The birds and the bees: Be honest: five years ago, had you even heard the term “urban homesteading”? And now, tell me, do you wish that you hadn’t? For those who are unsure, some people define urban homesteading as, “…city dwellers turned modern day pioneers who are forging a new frontier in the city through intensive agriculture and the Urban Homesteading lifestyle. Follow us…on the path to freedom!” If that doesn’t make you want to kick someone in the heirloom baby brinjals, I don’t know what will. When the modern Laura Ingalls got bored of supplementing her trips to Whole Foods with her homegrown vegetables and fruit, she decided to drive her Lexus down to the ol’ apiary and take up….beekeeping? And a couple of chickens, just for sport? Much to the chagrin of urban neighbors everywhere, urban homesteading continues to pick up speed as young couples everywhere attempt to model their back yards after that of someone’s Italian grandparents.
6. Half price pig ears, today only! Nose to tail eating has become integral to modern food culture, and yet the speed at which our mainstream carriers are adopting this trend has been somewhat slow. However, as I browsed my local grocery store the other day, I couldn’t help but notice that sandwiched between the BL/SL chicken breasts and pork tenderloin there was veal neck and tongue. I actually heard the angels sing. Clearly, our grocers are picking up what we’re trying to lay down (in the roasting pan), and are attempting to provide more colorful options to the ethnic, adventurous and food focused markets. It is only a matter of time before you see braised veal cheek or a seared chicken liver salad on the next Milestone’s menu….god help us.
7. Locavore Love: We still eat with our eyes, true, but more than ever we eat with our minds. Specifically, we want to see that local and sustainable options are as important to the restaurants that we support as they are on our home tables. Restaurants will be responding to this with Oceanwise logos beside the sustainable fish, and little green sprouts and leaves to indicate which ingredients are locally sourced and environmentally sound. Like a wetnap for the conscience, the little legend at the bottom of your menu will soon be a moral compass for consumers and another way that we can all feel just a little bit smug with a minimum of effort.
8. The Whole Wheat Twinkie: We all like a little bit of indulgence (see point 2), and as we scale back on fatty meats, incorporate daily whole grains, eat a rainbow diet, embrace the health benefits of seaweed and tea, and try really really hard to find a place in our hearts for fat free cottage cheese, something has got to give. Think back to day 3 of the Cabbage Soup Diet, when a coworker finds you with chocolate smeared all over your chin and you guilty claim that you needed the antioxidants. Get ready for cheaters food to hit the market with ”healthy” indulgences that, well, just aren`t. We`re talking about breakfast cookies, whole wheat buns on a Big Mac, and whole grain Cool Ranch Doritos. Like the culinary equivalent of greenwashing, this is the trend which will, by far, be the most fun to watch.
The mainstream trends are always the easy part, so consider this a warm up. As you’ll see in our next post, we have just as much to say about the niche trends for foodies and restauranteurs which will be tantalizing our taste buds over the upcoming months!