New York City-based consultants Baum+Whiteman International expect the following culinary trends to take off in 2012.
Edgier global fusion cooking, beer gardens and more creative comfort foods are among the trends New York City-based consultants Baum+Whiteman International expect to take off in 2012. Here the firm, which creates high-profile restaurants for clients around the world, looks at where the action will be in the coming year.
1. THE WHOLE WORLD ON A PLATE: Look for excitement at the lower end of the market where devil-may-care entrepreneurs are piling flavors from all over the globe onto a single dish. Gastronomically, everything goes. Bite into a sandwich of chipotle pork chop with burnt sugar glaze, carrot kimchee and tarragon mayonnaise, and your taste buds will announce that these flavors came from a global Mixmaster. This is what’s emerging: A multi-ethnic, multi-sensory dining experience where flavors clash on purpose. Sandwiches are the big focus of this mix-match trend.
2. A WIDENING “FLAVOR GAP.” The menu items discussed above contain ingredients and multi-ethnic combinations that are alien to your local restaurant chain. Because the financial stakes are so high, chains are compelled to serve the fewest number of items to the greatest number of people. Savvy independent operators use this growing “flavor gap” to differentiate themselves from more staid corporate competitors.
3. INSTEAD OF BREAD: Stretching for even more differentiation, look for sandwiches piled on things other than bread. Arepas, for example. Flattened tostones. Bao. Waffles. Rice cakes.
4. INNARDS AND ODD PARTS: Tongue – lamb and beef — and gizzards are hot. They’re moving up from ethnic neighborhoods (think Mexican and Korean tacos) and onto menus of upscale restaurants. Pigs’ ears, too, on breakfast dishes right through the day to night-time bar snacks. In the year ahead, look for more “wobbly cuts” – such as tripe, and chicken livers that are crunch-fried (a great topping for Caesar salad), and even beef heart (but not brains, yet) — because customers are increasingly adventurous. Even fancy places will discover that they can sell tongue tacos at the bar and izakaya-style gizzards on skewers, and pigs’ ears and ox tails will show up on white tablecloths.
5. IN A PICKLE: House-made vegetable and fruit pickles will appear on more and more menus as chefs concoct ever more complex ways of making these preserves. They’re important because they (A) enliven all those ingredient-laden multi-culti sandwiches and (B) they provide a foil for intensely flavored organ meats. They’re not your grandmother’s pickles — chefs are going global with additions of Asian fish sauce, Mexican peppers, ginger, yuzu, smoked paprika, star anise. Some are selling bowls of their own pickled products as individual menu items and there’s a kimchee free-for-all, since there’s no “authentic” recipe. Kimchee might be the ingredient of the year.
6. AT LAST, KOREAN HITS THE CHARTS: Thanks largely to food trucks, Korean food has entered the American lexicon. Bulgogi, kimchee, kalbi, bibimbap are all the rage. Look for upscale places to serve items poached or braised in kimchee broth augmented with Asian and non-Asian flavors. You won’t find red pepper paste (kochujang) in your supermarket’s ethnic food sections next year, but wait’ll 2013. Reminder: Korean barbecue comes with a barrage of pickled things, making them right on target.
7. NO, EVERYONE’S NOT BROKE: About a quarter of America’s population is still happily working and another large chunk has a bit less – but not nothing – to spend, and after deep psychological retrenchment they’ll be returning to restaurant life. They’re not burning money, but they’re still having fun spending. And when they do, they’re seeking fun, interesting food and a sense of adventure. From this, we see the following:
- COMFORT FOOD HITS THE WALL: When the recession hit three years ago, Americans gravitated to crisis food. Now we’re bored by gastro-nostalgia. Instead, we’re demanding new taste thrills and culinary invention. Mac-and-cheese is being reworked with pork rillettes, or with chicharrones for crunch and braised pork necks for depth; or it is being stuffed into sandwiches along with fried chicken or chicken-fried steak. Classic fettuccine recipes are twisted with Asian Bolognese; pasta carbonara, already much abused, now comes with meatballs, with snails and with chorizos … and now shrimp-and- grits is getting worked over. There’s no limit to what people will slap onto hamburgers (head cheese, bone marrow, pastrami-and-eggs, Cajun crawfish) as new entrants to the “gourmet burger” biz fall over themselves being creative. Sushi’s getting stuffed with mutli-culti ingredients. Plain old roast chicken’s giving way to goosed-up fried renditions — highly spicy, highly crisp Korean fried chicken being the most evident, but Latino flavors are being grafted on as well. Guacamole is being spiked with wasabi paste. Hummus comes in a dozen or more flavors. And meatloaf has taken a dive as customers opt for all manner of meatballs at twice the price.
- EARLY DRINKING, LATE NIGHT DINING: People are spending more time in their cars, so they’re shifting social times to cocktails at four and dinner at ten. Hotels are big beneficiaries and they’ll be upscaling drink lists, bar food and furnishings.
- ROUND THINGS THAT GO POP IN THE MOUTH: Kimchee- and-parmesan-filled arancini, fried goat cheese balls, spherical falafel, meat balls of all kinds, bacalao croquettes, crispy oxtail risotto balls – all of them dropped briefly in the fryer and served with multi-ethnic sauces and dips – are becoming hot-hot sharable bar food. They’re contemporary, drink-friendly finger food and no one seems to mind the calories. Also: mini sandwiches with banh mi flavors, Korean meatball sliders, all sorts of global chicken lollypops, ceviches, flatbreads from everywhere, dishes with fried green tomatoes. Next: Smart chefs explore the world of Japanese snacky things.
8. BEER GARDENS: Outdoor or indoor/outdoor, beer gardens will boom around the country. The bigger the better. Good, cheap beer, often at five bucks a pop, and unchallenging food like pretzels, hot dogs and burgers, draw crowds seeking a fresh air alternative to indoor bars or lounges.
9. WHEELS COME OFF FOOD TRUCKS: Dozens of food truck operators will open brick-and-mortar shops in 2012. Many will put their vehicles on the block; others will attempt to run both businesses.
10. CHOCOLATE DIRT: THE FORAGERS ARE COMING! Molecular gastronomy hasn’t exactly evaporated, but now you might get trampled by dozens of upscale chefs rushing to harvest dinner from the underbrush and under rocks – or assembling dishes that looked like they might be untamed gardens. In the US, “wildcrafting” is largely, but not entirely, a West Coast trend. These chefs’ horticultural foodscapes are sent to your table on slabs of slate, miniature rock slides, primordial wood shapes and thrown glass instead of plates. Their dishes come with lyrical names such as Ocean Creatures and Weeds, A Walk in the Garden, Into the Vegetable Garden, or Le Jardin d’Hiver. Watch for these kinds of items slipping onto upscale menus: White acorns; tips of fir needles; “dirt” made of dried and crumbled mushrooms, black olives, bulgur wheat, or sprouting grains; eucalyptus leaves, chickweed, wild ginger, wood sorrel, yarrow, and sumac.
11. JAPANESE CRAFT BEERS will gain a following. They’re already is making inroads on beer-centric menus and Asian-inflected restaurants and they give lots of local artisan brews a good run for their money.
12. FORGET SKYSCRAPER ARCHITECTURE. Chefs are shifting from stacking food as high as possible to stringing out ingredients in caterpillar-like lines along oblong or rectangular plates. Ceviches, tartars, sushi and sashimi primarily, with salads as the next frontier.
13. PERU GAINS MOMENTUM: Peru’s food is cross-pollinated by Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, Italian and Andean flavors and cooking techniques. It is the source of the world’s most exciting ceviches and tiraditos (another raw fish dish), and it is where pisco sours come from. We predict that this is the next cuisine, so you need to know about causas, lomo saltado, aji amarillo, anticuchos, cuy and tiraditos, along with vibrant, acidic fruits and juices that go into their unique raw fish preparations.
14. WRONG ON HAMBURGERS: We predicted last year that “gourmet burgers” would peak in 2011. But they haven’t and we may be premature. Seems that a new burger chain launches every few weeks without regard for the growing density of competition. We think they’ll outrun the available demand; they’re selling a product that’s available everywhere; creativity is running amok as newcomers strain for differentiation; and there’s a low barrier to entry. We see a bubble. So wait’ll next year.
15. THREE CAUTIONARY TRENDS: (1) Misuse of words like “artisan” and “heirloom” and “local” will pollute their meaning, especially as chains co-opt them for marketing slogans. Adding a whole grain to factory bread doesn’t make it “artisan” and not all misshapen tomatoes are “heirlooms” from “local” growers. “Green” and “sustainable” are in this category, too. (2) There’s a looming oversupply of farmers markets. (3) Too many chefs are smoking too many foods.
To view the entire study, visit http://www.baumwhiteman.com/trends.html
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