2012 Food & Drink Predictions: The Foodies
To make food and drink predictions about upcoming trends that will be glutting the masses is always entertaining. Well, entertaining but easy. After all, I am a Foodie. Yes, with a capital ‘F’, because we Foodies are so insufferably smug about our predilection for rarefied and transcendent gastronomy that we think our associated rank and file deserve capital acknowledgment. That would be as opposed to the foodies, small ‘f’, who are infinitely more fun to be around.
You see, foodies are the people who really like food. They like making it, serving it, talking about it, blogging about it and most of all, eating it. A foodie will sigh blissfully at the sight of a ripe wedge of runny Brie and a crusty baguette. A Foodie, on the other hand, sniffs at that bourgeois wedge of Brie and asks, pointedly, if you don’t happen to have a cave aged washed rind cheese made from the milk of lavender fed yaks instead? A foodie will animatedly describe, in whimsical detail, every aspect of the amazing juicy, tender, remarkably delicious beef burger that they ate. The disenchanted Foodie will yawn and say it sounds like it was made with wagyu beef, which is just so 2010. The foodie is someone that you want to hang out with and take out for dinner, because they always know the best places to go and can translate all those strange terms on the menu. A Foodie is someone that you kind of want to watch from a distance, like an exotic animal that has the potential to be entertaining, until (god forbid) the duck egg pasta comes out overcooked.
Yes, I just yet another pretentious and arrogant Foodie. I know that and yet I still have to live with myself, which quite frankly is punishment enough.
If you’re wondering what we think will be influencing the next iteration of a Moxie’s menu, feel free to browse our post on 2012 food and drink predictions for the masses. However, if you want our opinion on food trends that we expect to see in the niche community, the isolated pockets of Foodies that dwell among us (but mostly in expensive and rapidly gentrifying urban areas), please read on….
NICHE FOOD PREDICTIONS: 2012
1. A cut above the rest: Butchery continues to be one a sizzling trend, where local butchers are revered like gods among men and the ability to de-bone a pig’s face in less than 2 minutes will earn you the culinary equivalent of a Nobel prize. However, all things get tiresome after a time, and the coolest kids aren’t content with the primal cuts anymore. A few years ago it was international butchery, where the hipsters sought out Argentinian asado, French entrecôte and Irish gammon. These days, with nose-to-tail eating still top of mind, the less popular cuts will be more in demand by the masses which means that to a proper Foodie, they have just become toxic. Instead, it will less about the offal and more about cut; specifically, the unfamiliar or rarefied cut. Expect to see pork belly replaced with secreto, filet mignon usurped by teres major (which really needs a catchier nickname), and lamb shoulder, breast, neck and belly will have us pushing the traditional rack to the back. If you haven’t had braised veal neck, go out and get it now before it starts to sell out to the uber-hip rustic Italian restaurants that are peppering your city.
2. Frowns to the left of me, hipsters to the right: Here I am, stuck in the middle with you. There is communal dining, where a large number of strangers sandwich themselves on wooden benches around long farmhouse tables like they’re in a bier-garden, then there is hyper-communal dining, where a small number of strangers sit in forced but civilized conversation. That said, we’re tired of the elitist underground supper clubs. Like any affair, all of the sneaking around just gets old after a while. After all, why spark excitement by shrouding the event in all the secrecy of an early 90’s rave, limiting clientele to the culinary elite and making it exceptionally hard for the pitiful plebs to make a reservation? All you have to do is fix the set price at ‘ludicrously expensive’, and make it exceptionally difficult for the pitiful plebs to make a reservation, and you can accomplish the same end but without all the encrypted emails. One trend that we think we’ll see in high end dining are small sought-after seatings where 12 or less guests per night will share the table and, of course, share the plates all ‘family style’.
3. Out with the ortolan, in with the new: Do you remember the days when food was special purely because it was expensive? You know, the days of $100 burgers and zillion dollar breakfasts? Ah, I remember them fondly. Kind of. And then I reach for a packet of ramen noodles just to keep myself sane. After the expensive came the outrageous, or simply, the controversial. Foie gras once again had it’s fat place in the sun, horse was the new beef, and shark fin soup stopped tasting like weak turkey gravy. These days, Foodies have taken their slap on the wrist to heart and it is less about luxury or endangered ingredients, and more about the ones that are just plain hard to find. Attention smoked paprikas and cardamoms of the world: move over and make way for kirmizi biber, mahleb and filé. Why eat sultanas like a chump when you can have hunza raisins in your muesli? All of these are fairly popular ingredients in some parts of the world (and even some parts of North America, such as filé to the American South), but they’re less likely to all be accessible at your local community grocery store. All that I can say is thank god for Amazon!
4. Fine foraged friends: Twenty years ago, if you put a bowl of salad down in front of your dinner guests and exclaimed with a smile, “I got everything on your plate from down at the ravine!” you probably would have heard a few forks clatter down and weeks later you would still be wondering why your friends have stopped returning your calls. These days, if your friends are foodies, that statement would be met with a round of applause. Urban foragers are totally sexy. Well, the ones that are rooting around for wild leeks in the park are pretty hot at least. The urban foragers that are dumpster diving for a crumpled McDonalds takeaway and a broken lamp from Ikea are less so. As more of us start to heed the call of the wild, in-the-know farmer’s markets will respond with the sale of purslane, burdock, nettle, cardoon (my personal favorite), salsify and sea bean. Considering that dandelion is frequently being sold between the kale and the collards, you had to know that it was only a matter of time.
5. I’ll have two tickets to dinner, please: That crazy culinary mastermind, Grant Achatz, started this trend at his newest restaurant, Next. Rather than spending five hours on the phone, frantically redialing to try to get a reservation at his other popular restaurant, Alinea, you can spend hours online checking your RSS feed to see if there are any tickets available. In fact, if you have the finances of a Saudi oil tycoon, you can now even apply to buy season’s tickets to all the fun! Gone are the days when you would go out for dinner before catching the big show; we merely go to a show to kill time before dinner, because that is really the main event. As chefs strut like rock stars in front of their adoring fans, the expectation is less about eating a nourishing meal and more about the theater. We want dinner to be an experience; something special and exclusive that can be talked about with friends. Whether this presents as a limited engagement restaurant that changes menu and decor on a quarterly basis, or reservations for the culinary equivalent of a blind date where your menu-less meal will be presented by a surprise rotating band of illustrious chefs, we’re willing to buy tickets because this kind of dining is an event. However, the chefs are going to have to keep picking up the pace of creativity and change to hold the interest of a fickle audience.
6. By the light of the moonshine: Craft brewing was originally about economy, where the patient mid-twenties man set up a few carboys in a closet and waited for the magic to happen. These days, if a gastropub doesn’t pride itself on the breadth and variety of it’s bottled imports and micro-brews, it is usually because they’re serving you their own eponymous craft beers on tap. The good news is that, from our experience, most of these craft brews are infinitely better than the plonk of “house wines” that were sold back in the day, so we really have no complaints. However, the next challenge is to move out the carboys and make room for the still. With shows like Boardwalk Empire and the re-popularization of speakeasies bringing bounce to our bobs, the next trend will be to craft and market home brewed whiskeys, liquors and spirits. And no, sadly, infusing vodka with spiced pumpkin and delicious apple won’t be cutting it this time.
7. French food at home: Do you remember the first time that you saw Martha Steward tapping lemon scented madeleines onto her marble counter top? Or, better yet, did you learn how to truss a chicken from watching reruns of Julia Child on PBS? For most of us, French cooking has long been the yardstick to which we measure culinary success. However, who here (culinary students excluded) started with the basics and ran through the mother sauces? Not many, I’m sure. Instead, we sized up the ring of fire and went straight into making our first perfectly puffed cheesy gougere and sparkling sugary palmier. We abandoned cinnamon rolls for flaky croissants. For the last three years, the food world has been saturated with colorful macarons, and now the classic custardy canelé is fighting her way up the rank. Expect to see more French patisserie, but also expect that Foodies worth their feathers will be setting the bar higher for themselves, perfecting the art of genoise and dacquoise, bavarians and mille-feuilles. So the time has come; let us eat cake!
8. Put your money where the compost is: Or, well, something like that. Eco restaurants are a formidable trend that have made their way into the mainstream with locally sourced produce and sustainable fish. But please, for god’s sake, let the greenwashing stop. Customers in Calgary aren’t going to buy into the concept of a salad made with locally sourced field greens that also contains pomegranate from Iran and pecans from Peru. To wave the flag of Sustainability, savvy clientele are going to want to see biodegradable or reusable linens (washed in cold water with environmentally friendly detergents), nose-to-tail approach to both plant and animal use and consumption, and a visible compost heap beside the dumpsters out back. In other words, if you’re going to do it, you had better do it right or not at all because the Green Army is certainly going to be watching.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and predicting the top trends for Foodies can often be as reliable as predicting the weather, but this is our version of “partly sunny with a chance of rain”. Feel free to weigh in on what you think is going to be hot – or not – as the year unfolds!