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The editors, cooks and food-curious experts at Food Network Kitchens are always looking for what’s fun, delicious and next. It’s become a given that food fans, chefs and media types of all sorts look ahead and share their expectations. From their glimpse into the 2014 crystal ball, here’s a not-so-serious, definitely unscientific look at the food trends seen as up-and-coming.
“It’s kind of a wild time in food, full of contradictions,” says Katherine Alford, SVP of Culinary at Food Network. “On one hand people are more adventurous than ever. They’re eating Korean and Szechwan, seeking out crazy-hot ghost peppers, and mixing and matching to make outlandish hybrids of comfort foods. But that’s all balanced with a growing demand for food that matters more to our bodies’ well-being and the planet’s well-being, too.” Recently and still coming, you can see an eclectic mix of comfort food and healthy food, plus local picks as well as far-flung favorites. “In the past few years we’ve upped our spices, eaten more veggies and grown to expect some playfulness on the plate,” Alford says. “With all that, next year I’m keeping my eye on what’s cooking right here in America’s heartland. There is real excitement in the fresh voices cooking there. As for 2014, we hope what we found is inspiring with a little wishful thinking mixed in.” Tell us what you’re looking forward to as the next delicious food on your table in the new year.
1. The Mashup Is the New Melting Pot
After a year of Cronuts and ramen burgers, it’s clear that America is no longer a melting pot; it’s a pastrami taco. Culinary mashups have been gathering steam since 2008, when L.A.’s Roy Choi first introduced kimchi to tortillas. Guy Fieri brought them to a mass audience with recipes like Cajun Chicken Alfredo and the Jambalaya Sandwich. Now mashups have moved into grocery stores and fast food with two prominent examples: Pringles’ recent introduction of a mint-chocolate chip potato chip and Dairy Queen’s new peanut butter-pretzel Blizzard. We live in a time of identity blending and cuisine blurring, when the mashup for the mashup’s sake dominates and matzo ball pho and kimchi quesadillas feel like authentic choices.
Look for: limited-time-only mashups; hybrid cuisines in restaurants (Viet-Southern, Indian-Mexican, Thai-Nordic, Jewish-Japanese); sweet and savory collisions in the snack aisle; salty desserts; pretzel-crust pizzas; birthday cake as a flavor; beer-and-pretzel flavored confections; popcorn flavored sweets; black pepper chocolates; miso butterscotch; kimchi poutine.
2. Real Food Is the New Fast Food
It’s not the end of burgers and fries; it’s the dawning of an age of affordable, quick, even healthier foods. Millennials’ commitment to healthy eating (as a lifestyle, not a diet) has propelled many former fringe foods like kale, vegetable juice, quinoa, and organic produce into the mainstream, with more on the way. Couple this with their desire for fresh fast food with more variety and we’re wondering whether the fast-food industry will do its own version of a juice cleanse in 2014 — go fresher, healthier, more cosmopolitan. And we’ll all eat better for it.
Look for: juice bars; chopped salads; chickpeas; miso; cashew milk; seaweed; tahini; kefir; kombucha; turmeric; tofu; wheat germ; nutritional yeast; amaranth.
3. Vegetables Are the New Meat
For years, we’ve heralded the march of vegetables toward the center of the American plate. Guess what? They’ve arrived. 2013 was the year of the $30 cauliflower steak and the $26 roasted mushroom, the year when ABC Kitchen’s roasted carrot and avocado salad became the ultimate New York City power lunch. What’s up next? Having conquered the entree, vegetables will find their way into desserts, cocktails and salty snacks.
Look for: the continued cauliflower boom — as steak (cauliflower ribeye with compound butter), as wings (Buffalo cauliflower) and as noodles (mac and cheese); barbecued vegetables (smoked carrots, squash “ribs,” planked zucchini); parsnip cakes; cucumber sorbet; beet flourless chocolate cake; avocado smoothies; chiles, beets, kale and arugula in cocktails; kale and other vegetable chips.
4. Midwestern Is the New Southern
Don’t tell the Midwest about New Nordic or DIY pickles — that’s old news. Home cooking is alive and well in Middle America, the land of rich stews, comforting casseroles and pie — always pie! Throughout the region, farmers, chefs and artisans are joining forces and energizing local food scenes. We’re loving Midwestern chefs like Cleveland’s Jonathon Sawyer and Iowa City, Iowa’s Nickolas Illingworth and their locavore approach to regional classics and techniques: cheese, beer, meat (especially charcuterie), baking and pickling. We’re looking at a new direction in American lifestyle aspiration and the next big thing in American roots cooking.
Look for: heartland gastrotourism and new destination cities like Iowa City, St. Louis, Detroit and Milwaukee; American charcuterie (bacon, brats, braunschweiger and smoked pork chops), pawpaw and persimmon, smoked lake fish, paczki, buttermilk pie, caraway, cheese curds; Midwestern classics infused with new-immigrant flavors (chorizo-stuffed cabbage, brats with salsa verde, braunschweiger banh mi).
Watch and try these: Check out cook Amy Thielen‘s Food Network show, Heartland Table. Or, in honor of the newfangled Midwestern infusion style, Food Network Kitchens developed a sausage-as-the-star Braunschweiger banh mi sandwich.
5. Bitter Is the New Sour
Brace yourself for bitter. Early indications abound: kale is, after all, a bitter green, and broccoli rabe is already riding a pizza crust to mainstream acceptance. In fact, when you survey the realm of trendy ingredients, bitterness is a running theme: from the sheer number of cocktail bitters now available to IPA brews trumpeting their international bitterness units, to the popularity of Fernet Branca and other bitter liqueurs, to Brussels sprouts, to dark chocolate, to charred everything, to all those grassy green juices sweeping the nation — they all point in the same direction.
Look for: hops as an ingredient; bitter greens like dandelion greens, chicory, and watercress; DIY bitters; charring; parsley; bitter melon; bitter orange; tannic tea.
6. Bar Snacks Are the New Food Trucks
Food trucks have proven that people will try something new if it’s offered in an exciting environment and doesn’t require a whole lot of cash. Add booze to that formula and you have the conditions for a real flavor adventure. The bar is the ideal point of entry for flavors and ingredients we’d never dare to try sober, and we’re seeing more and more chefs seize the opportunity with hybrid bar-restaurants that offer tastes of extraordinary bar food from around the world. Japanese izakayas cracked open the door on this trend, bringing blistered shishito peppers with them. Now chefs like Andy Ricker (Whiskey Soda Lounge), Hooni Kim (Hanjan) and Miguel Trinidad (Jeepney) are introducing us to pub grub from Thailand, Korea and the Philippines. Much of it is unabashedly aggressive: funky, spicy, vinegary and very low on the hog. This food might be old hat in its countries of origin, but it feels downright cutting-edge here.
Look for: Isaan Thai, Korean and Filipino bar snacks; grilled chicken skin; dried squid; crispy pig ears; fish-sauce chicken wings; adobo chicken wings; lop chong (Chinese dried sausage); Asian jerky.
Try this: Get Food Network’s picks for how to stock your own bar at home.
7. Eclairs Are the New Macarons
It’s been several years since we were swept off our feet by the light-as-air French macaron — those vivid colors, that creamy-crunchy-chewy texture, that adorable shape. Now from the world of French pastry comes another delectable with designs on our hearts. In Paris, pastry chef Christophe Adam has reimagined the fusty, old eclair as something sleek, sexy and glamorous by applying a stunning lipstick-color palette and contemporary flavors (yuzu, popcorn, salted caramel). This is a makeover, not a mashup — don’t expect a social media fameball. It might blossom in popularity the way the macaron trended: steadily, leaving us with something new and gorgeous to indulge in.
Look for: eclair ateliers; high-fashion eclairs; savory eclairs; flavor-forward varieties like pistachio, hazelnut-brown butter, green tea-sesame and passion fruit-raspberry.
8. Dim Sum Is the New Tapas
The idea of dim sum, with its carnival of carts and tableside service, was always too good to be restricted to Chinatown. Dim sum brings fun, spontaneity and theatricality to small plates, adds a sense of urgency and community to ordering and shifts the focus from the bar (tapas style) to the dining room. Beginning with the 2012 opening of San Francisco’s smash hit State Bird Provisions, some of the most-exciting new restaurants in the country — Atlanta’s Gunshow, Chicago’s Fat Rice, L.A.’s The Church Key — are seizing the format and running with it, offering modern takes on dumplings and tableside service. We’re certain this is a trend with legs — and casters.
Look for: carts, carts and carts (goodbye, menus!); avant-garde dumplings; cocktail trolleys; tableside service; creative tartare; Western dim sum.
9. Barrel-Aged Cocktails Are the New Punch
Wood is the flavor of the moment in cocktails. For the last few years, high-end bartenders across the country have been experimenting with aging cocktails in oak casks to add depth and warmth (and to make service easier). But price and availability of the casks have kept the trend from going far — until now. Recently, a couple of whiskey brands — Tuthilltown and Woodinville — have released DIY barrel-aging kits. And a wood chip-based workaround just took the cocktail internet by storm. In 2014, wood chips won’t just be for your smoker anymore.
Look for: aging kits; branded wood chips; barrel-aged spirits; barrel-aged Manhattans, old-fashioneds and Negronis; barrel-aged beer; barrel-aged cocktails on tap.
Try this: Read more about what’s been happening in the past couple years with barrel-aged cocktails.
10. The Whole Fish Is the New Whole Hog
Early this year we started seeing fish heads popping up on trendy menus. Then classes in fish butchery swam onto our radar. Next thing we knew, “seacuterie” (seafood charcuterie) had entered our vocabulary. A renewed appreciation for the entirety of the fish is clearly upon us — a trend we’d call nose-to-tailfin, if only fish had noses. We see this mostly in fine dining, where the whole fish is returning as the grand presentation piece it once was. But it’s also showing up in the willingness of more home cooks to forgo fillets for the freshness and frugality of whole fish.
Look for: bluefish rillettes; seafood terrines (octopus head cheese); cured, smoked and potted seafood; fish collars, cheeks and roe as delicacies; fish-skin chicharrones; salmon and carp heads on menus; whole sea bass, trout, snapper and mackerel in home kitchens.