Merriam-Webster may have just selected “surreal” as the 2016 word of the year, but the forward-thinking Food Network Kitchen team says the key word for the culinary world in 2017 – the taste of the year to come – is “surprise.”
“Whether it’s hidden flavors or textures, jolting temperature shifts or cultural crossovers, surprise is poised to be the flavor of the moment. This plays to our sense of adventure and toys with our expectations,” the team writes in its 2017 food-trend forecast. “It charts a new direction in novelty: a move beyond the mash-up to something both more subtle and exciting. Surprise plays it close to the vest, offering one thing to the eye or the mind, and another to the palate.”
“Surprise” could mean a collection of candies hidden inside a piñata-like cake and other “inventive fillings,” or it could mean taking something you’d expect to be sweet and making it savory (or vice versa), such as “savory funnel cakes” or “fish sauce caramel.” It could be combining the tastes of different cultures in unexpected ways (tofu Caprese!) or unusual mass-market efforts like Green Giant’s “cauliflower rice.”
Here are some other food trends the Food Network Kitchen prognosticators foresee in 2017 (and just for snicks, here are last year’s predictions):
Mighty meaty veggies: Those veggie burgers that “bleed” that debuted in 2016 are only the beginning. In the upcoming year, you can look for chefs (and books and stores) to really dig their teeth into “experimenting with vegetables with the same intent once reserved for animal proteins, blurring the line between meat and veg,” the team says. Mock meats will get an upgrade and “plant butchers” will become more of a thing. What’s more, the team predicts, “the plant-based movement” will cross “the aisle to meet meat-eaters where they are.”
The counter point: To control costs and put the focus squarely on the menu and diners, more chefs will eschew tables and chairs and serve their food over the counter. Just pull up a barstool. “For diners,” the Food Network Kitchen team suggests, “the counter’s appeal lies in its face-to-face proximity to the chef-turned-maitre d’.”
The flavor of the Philippines: In food-friendly cities across the country, Filipino chefs are bringing to diners their country’s cuisine, with its “porky, pungent, puckery synthesis of East Asian, Spanish and Pacific flavors,” the team says. It’s all about adobo. Don’t know much about lumpia, longganisa, calamansi or kinilaw? In 2017, you may learn.
The comfort of home: A restaurant revolution is brewing, thanks to a diverse assortment of home-based chefs, some of them self-taught, who are directly connecting with customers via Instagram. After all, starting a food business in your own home has a much lower barrier to entry. “In L.A., ground-zero for hyper-connected home-based entrepreneurs, several such chefs have risen to cult status on the back of nothing more than good food and savvy hashtag marketing,” notes the team.
Move over, Goldilocks: Prepare to be bowled over by porridge in the year ahead: It’s cheap, filling, friendly and flexible, “offering a broad canvas for chefs to paint on” and figuring into a variety of meals – from main dishes to desserts. “Porridge sits at the intersection of several trends: grain bowls, whole and ancient grains, breakfast-for-dinner, and grandma food,” the team writes. Eat your hearts out, three bears.
Call them “-ish” meals? What is “-ish” eating, you ask? It’s basically embracing moderation, over strict purism, as you strive for dietary goals like healthy, vegetarian or vegan eating – a way to make room for occasional indulgences and accept that sometimes you’re bound to veer off course. “-Ish eaters include the part-time paleo, the “veggan” (vegan + eggs), and the mac-and-cheese-loving “microbiotic,” all of whom will be right on trend in 2017, the Food Network Kitchen team explains.
Coffee beyond the cup: Coffee is poised to break out of the usual grind in 2017, inspiring (and flavoring) everything from candy to cocktails. Look for coffee sodas, snacks, frozen treats and gadgetry to hit big. “For GenZ and younger millennials – generations that grew up socializing at Starbucks, not malls – coffee is approaching bacon-level trendiness,” the team says.
Take it live: Live-streamed video is inexpensive and relatively simple to produce and creates a new level of accessibility, opening up the food-media talent pool to people from a range of backgrounds and with different levels of experience and expertise. Plus, it promises to forge “an interactive, 1-to-1 connection between creators and fans” that “exists in real time, and embraces messiness, playfulness and unpredictability,” Food Network Kitchen’s forecasters say.
DIY dinners: In 2017, expect to see family dinners dispense with formality as everyone to pitches in with the prep. Think “less ‘eat your peas,’ more ‘help yourself,’” the team advises. Eaters across all generations may gather ‘round the kitchen counter to enjoy the meal directly out of the sheet pan. Serving platters are so 2016.
And what will your pantry and fridge be packed with in the year ahead? The team gazes into its crystal ball and sees cottage cheese and chickpeas, emmer, ube, jackfruit, sorghum popcorn, sorrel, Sichuan peppercorns, nutritional yeast, green peanut oil, buttermilk and more.
It’s going to be a big year, so we may as well, to use another of Merriam-Webster’s notable words of 2016, embrace it bigly.