New Year, new food. As 2016 kicks off, everyone has his or her prediction for the food we’ll be craving and how we’ll be eating it this year. The National Restaurant Association released its food forecast, as did Food Network and even Pinterest. That’s a lot of predictions to wade through. To help narrow it down, I spoke with Local Forager for Whole Foods Market’s Northeast Region Elly Truesdell and chefs Tom Gray of Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails, Doug Turbush of Seed Kitchen & Bar, Stem Wine Bar and Drift Fish House & Oyster Bar and Kevin Gillespie of Red Beard Restaurants to get their delicious takes on this year’s food trends. Think food anytime you want it, oysters exploding and sourcing playing an even bigger role in how we dine. Ready, set, eat: These are 10 of the food trends we’re looking forward to this year.
1. Food When You Want It
Love it or hate it, we are the society of now. We’ve already lost the skills required to successfully hail a cab, opting instead for the immediacy of an Uber or Lyft. Apps like Grubhub made the traditional “pick up the phone, call the restaurant and wait for delivery” a thing of the past; but in 2016, food delivery will get even more high-tech. Say goodbye to relying on your sense of smell before choosing what to eat. Starbucks has been trying out a delivery service: You can order wine and have it delivered within the hour to your door in NYC from Amazon and UberEATS. This will be widespread by the end of year, claiming to be the newest, fastest delivery service.
2. Old Is New Again
A few old proteins and grains will become new again. Everyone from athletes to those with gluten allergies has explored other options in the past few years. This year, Truesdell expects to see more of an emphasis on non-commodity wheat and alternative flours — in particular, spring and hard wheat varieties that add flavor and depth to breads, pancakes and pastries. And Gray thinks we will see alternative proteins such as chicken livers, pig ears and flank steak popping up on menus.
3. Vegetables Steal the Show
Move over kale, you’re going to have to share the spotlight with other vegetables. Forget the days when vegetables were just side dishes, with that one lonely vegetarian option on menus. This year, vegetables will become highlights on menus everywhere.
4. Wood-Fired Everything
You already love your wood-fired pizza; why not take it to the next level? The wood-fire trend is coming back; and this year, it’s not only for pizzas. Think bagels and crusty breads and more for unbeatable baked goods.
5. Sourcing Gets Real
It’s official: The farm to table trend is no longer a fad – it’s here to stay. As we pay more attention to where our food comes from, there will also be more of a focus on if the production of that food was ethical, natural and sustainable.
“More guests are excited to learn where ingredients come from, how they are handled and what the back story is on dishes,” Gray said.
The sourcing trend will extend to mixologists as more and more bartenders utilize what’s available in their kitchens—freshly squeezed juices, herbs, spices and ingredients like chipotle and balsamic vinegar—to bring out the flavors of the cocktail.
Move over peanuts, almonds and cashews — 2016 is all about the pistachio. Truesdell has been taste-testing (how do we get that job?) pistachio milks, gelatos and ice creams. Get ready for lots of pistachios in sweet and savory dishes.
Another hot ingredient and a really great plant seed protein, Truesdell expects us to see lots of chickpeas. They can be a source for gluten free pastas and flatbreads; but also look for it as a healthy snack food.
Rejoice, shellfish lovers. Oysters will explode this year.
“The renaissance and rituals of oyster eating will thrive with increasing interest in oyster terroir, growing methods and the nuances that produce oyster varieties,” Turbush said.
It’s going to be a deliciously briny year.
9. Sweet to Savory
Taste buds will be tantalized as sweet goes savory in 2016. Spices have been all the rage the past few years; but this year, expect to see them incorporated into traditionally sweet, fruit-heavy dishes for an amazing yet different flavor. Think smoothies with ingredients like avocado and olive oil, in addition to those micro greens you’ve been using.
10. Fast Casual
Millennials made fast casual a thing; and now, as we become the biggest demographic in the country, we’re making that fast casual trend extend to chef-driven and local ingredients delivered quickly.
Gillespie sees an uptick in consumer demand for faster, healthier options in 2016. “It’s going to be a redo of fast food with a healthy focus,” he said. “I’m not talking about salad bars but healthful, lighter cuisine at fast food speed.”
Which of these food trends are you looking forward to the most?