At the onset I must say that the end of a year makes no remarkable difference for me. If it was not changing the last digit (and every ten years, the last two) when inscribing a date, whose handwritten frequency is plummeting in a digital touch-savvy world anyway, the time itself is not distinguishing enough from the culminating days of the previous year. And of course there is the wall calendar swap, whose sales are possibly declining as elements like digital frames and larger televisions and ceiling-to-floor windows grace homes.
Yet, I am alone in this boat of not feeling the zing of the December 31st to 1st turnover. It seems more as a way to put good behavior and resolutions off, procrastinating until an apt day is found, and artificially holding up promises. I think our minds are acclimated to celebrating a date change, which back in the 90s was fun as we inscribed these with ink. But now, when a digital number reorganizes its electrical lighting to propel a new digit into the eyes of empty signal blurred air, the zeal is missing. It is, honestly, just another day.
Nevertheless, since this is only my vision, I may as well keep it aside and check out what this new pile of months has in store for us in terms of my primary passion of two: food.
Foods go through severe trend cycles. So does food inevitably have a destiny? Perhaps, although some may repackage it as rebirth. While I hope the cookie trend never fades, I am quite positive that cupcake one is peaking, or hopefully languishes soon as I am personally not a fan of frosting. Similarly, we have had sushi fads (still prevalent, you say?), and have gone through phases where restaurants introduced organic menus, fair trade ingredients, and adapted themselves to gluten free options, trends which all have become a staple in most menus. But what is next? Through cocktails with pastry chefs, networking at food events, buzzing it up with food network champs, simply chit chatting with enlightened relevant strangers (no longer, though!) and researching with fellow food enthusiasts, I think I have a list. So the tick of the clock only makes one wonder what other trends of food shopping, ingredient hunting, and restauranting await the food driven planet in the upcoming several months.
Or politically correctly speaking and periodically segregated – in the year Twenty Eleven.
Ice Cream Meals
Yes, as foreshadowed in my ode to ice cream, ice cream meals are here to stay. From infusing lobsters and meats into ice cream to sprinkling mindblowing flavors ranging from sesame to wasabi, to getting inspired by mealtime combinations like peanut butter jelly sandwiches which easily transform into ice cream sandwiches, this is one lickworthy trend that I am happy is seeing more prevalence outside of cosmopolitans too. It also sustains itself due to lovers who see age as no bar – from barely walking toddlers to barely walking century-olds, we all love the cool dairy whip.
Are popsicles replacing the popularity of soft serve ice cream? Untangling themselves from the polka dotted fluorescent gaudy history that actually dates back a century, it looks like they are back, with blasts of bold flavor! By taking inspiration from the dairy counterparts and having cola, tomatoes, cola, cotton candy amidst a plethora of fruits, all in multiple flavors and colors and shapes, the hyperactive new age has brought popsicles back as a fresh alternative to other frozen treats, sneaking them out of the clutches of tongue-dyed kids and making theman adult savvy treat. The big question is whether they will only be restricted to sunny summers or not.
Ah, the world borrows so much from Parisian glamour. From perfumes to evening gowns to kisses to scandals, Paris conjures a fairly common, yet aspirational lifestyle t. And as a creator of world famous macaroons, reviewed with a mix of apprehension and glee, it is not surprising that macaroons have popped up in every bakery and patisserie recently as the new food fad! Even Payard is influenced by the ‘better than cake’ type quality of these gluten free treats. They are made of almond paste and dairy, hence gluten free, a relief to fitness enthusiasts I know. From flavors like passion fruit and peanut butter to classics like hazelnut and vanilla, they all come in vibrant colors and perfect textures. This crusty shelled tender centered and gooey core bite sized treat is a refreshing delight from the cupcake frostings that are nevertheless definitely increasing the business for treadmills and running shoes!
Gourmet Junk Food
Did you know the pizza started as a healthy item? Carbohydrates as a thin base, minerals in the light sauce, and protein on the cheese. And now, decades and centuries later, it has become a voluptuous snack, ordered by weight at times, and commercialized enough to become a problem for doctors to whom its eaters turn for help. So why not reverse the good to junk phenomenon? Junk food is admittedly amazing to taste – the tangy falafel, the crunchy fries, the salty potato salad, and so much more. Making this with some care, looking at the ingredients, adding some refinement and elevating the price point gives a new category – gourmet junk food. Definitely on the rise, as we see glitzy colleagues and starry showstoppers dropping their plain celery (which is good, too, by the way) for an organic hand-cut sweet potato fry with Middle Eastern seasalt and tangy Indian tomato sauce. Or so we can hope, rightfully so with the rise of such joints! Lick!
Roots (No, really)
I was surprised at the prevalence of ginger, a root, at the scrumptious and delightfully reviewed New York chocolate show this year. From ginger covered cocoa beans to ginger infused chocolate, and even as I stepped out, ginger cupcakes and a poster of Shrek Forever After with a gingerbread man for total recall! While comfortable in its dessert setting, it is one of many roots that are becoming popular at many places. Beetroot, for its superpowers and gloriously rich color, is next in line, used in pies, vegetables, even juices and alcohols. And thankfully sweet potatoes are given their due in more than just fry form, becoming part of cheese fillings and French toast.
Bread has been a staple as sides or munchables. Although the demand for fresh, whole wheat, protein rich, fiber infused, multigrain, and flavored breads has risen, everyone’s favorite form of carbohydrates is now going high end, too. With chefs serving up breads as a course of its own, designer breads are up in style, where instead of having a homogeneous loaf infused with spices and nuts and such, shapes, sizes, accessories and designs are taking over. Will breads go the cake way, eventually?
Inter Asian Fusion
Asians coming westwards often complain that their origin food is a bit ‘off’ in restaurants. Perhaps because when fusing the vibrant Asian cultures, like Chinese and Indian for instance, (non-ingeniously called Indian Chinese cuisine) gives rise to a delectable palette of sweet sour spicy tangy foods that becomes an enthralling orchestra for the tastebuds. The mouth watering spicy and tangy cauliflower manchurian comes to mind as a classic! Popular in Asia, it is finally coming to Western shores, riding on the boat abuzz with buzz words like fusion. Add some masala to your Manchurian and you are most certain to walk out pot bellied! How wonderfully it works!
Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Veitnamese … we have had it all. Somehow Korean falls behind, but no more! Beyond the well known Namu, many are unaware that Korean food has its own style and twist to the frequently confused Eastern cuisines. As food critics debate whether sushi will be replaced by kimbap, it is time for mainstream restaurants to infuse at least one dish with a Korean spin to it, be it a kimchi quesadilla or a classic Korean sauce as a dipping side. Infiltration via variety is truly at its best.
Being vegetarian, I have to admit that at times I am at a loss for meals when waltzed to an authentic restaurant in a European suburb; perhaps not so much the case in kaleidoscopc metropolitan cities, where thankfully the options are immense and the meat swap common (mostly, at least). Yet, as a celebration of gardens and farms and a restaurant or entire city’s relationships with farmers, entire days devoted to vegetarian dishes are popular. Touted cheesily as meatless Mondays, which honestly drops the nobility down a few notches, this trend is being lapped up for healthy reasons as the world tips sideways due to bulky weights. Since even being vegetarian is considered savvy. The risk of this trend is to dig out obscure vegetables and take them the tempura way by over frying them! Nevertheless, we are getting our dose of vegetables, are we not?
Mini Size Plates
Mini is the new small. With restaurants bombarded with accusations for their inflated portion sizes, mini plates are a health enthusiast and tasting expert’s dream come true. Easy on the wallet, light on the belly, and with the power to impact your tastebuds more effectively than if they were attacked by calories, this is a cost-cutting, budget-fitting strategy that is actually tasty! So watch out for more mini desserts, mini appetizer portions, and a little more of mini everything! (Hopefully it does n0t defeat the purpose of magnanimity!)
Single Dish Restaurants
Ever wonder why its only pizzerias and burgers and the likes that have their namesake restaurants, serving oodles of riff raff that accessorizes the staple dish? Because single dish restaurants really work, if you can have enough variety (and consequently, enough demand) for the dish. Which is why this trend is delightfully climbing the rungs to give us a plethora of treats, segmenting it by favorites! Peanut Butter and Company has a peanut butter restaurant (complete with sandwiches of course), but its not long before the likes of a biscuit place opens up to join the likes of increasingly popular waffle spots, falafel joints, pancakeries and meatball houses!
Indoor Street Food
Ah, the joys of street food. From hot dogs on American streets to jacket potatoes on the Queen’s land, and pani puri and chaat on India’s bustling roads, the street food addiction does not pardon anyone. And these ‘now affluent’ street vendors are starting to move inwards, away from weather-impacted stands and opening up their own restaurants, which try to incorporate as much street-savvyness as possible, but with more security, an actual door, and potentially elevated profits! As long as the food quality remains street-esque, I am okay to not stand in the rain chewing down my bhel puri. Whether bystanders miss their commotion filled pleasurable street chow or not remains to be seen.
Gigantic Food Halls
The term food hall derives from European style spaces dedicated to food, which crumbles to a cafeteria association when moving westwards. Eat-aly is a perfect example of a glorious food hall, a trend which is infiltrating large spaces both eastwards and westwards. The goal is to create a Disneyland for food enthusiasts and by providing them with a plethora of options to choose from, as they play hopscotch around seasonal ingredients and grocery aisle foods, or as they gape and giggle over the oxymoronic combinations like carrot crisps and onion cake that this world has to offer! And of course, to remind us that we still exist on Earth, these do carry your everyday soft drink aisles, alcoholic walls and piles of organic grocery and chunky chocolate or the overdone fad of cupcakes soaked in frosting and littered with confetti sprinkles or other sweetnesses. An all comprehensive one stop trip to a food haven, this is.
As aforementioned, I am not a loyalist towards yearly flips of calendars. And neither are these trends. Like waves which combine and part and recombine, trends sway partly into the fiscal year, spilling over and influencing timelines and cultures alike. Similarly, these trends may infiltrate minds and kitchens slowly, like fresh air in a closed room, or dissolve into life instantly, like sugar in water.
Nevertheless, keep your eyes peeled, scent sense alert, and taste buds open, for you may be tasting the next big thing in foodotopia today. Or tomorrow. Or sometime soon.
Hopefully Sooner than Later.