Each year sees a shift in the direction of the restaurant industry. I’m going to take a chance and speculate on what food trends will start or continue in the Toronto dining scene in 2013. Feel free to agree, disagree or suggest your own trends by commenting here, voting in the poll or tweeting #2013tofoodtrends.
1. Ramen Rage
Arguably the biggest craze in 2012, noodle houses will continue to appear like Starbucks and Subways in the coming months. Given the versatility of this noodle dish, I suspect new variations will emerge and will not be limited to ramen restaurants alone. I expect the big chains and even the small fusion eateries and food trucks to join the ramen rage in some way, shape or form.
2. Offal Offerings
Black hoof has gained international exposure for its offal menu with thumbs up from celebrity chefs including Anthony Bourdain during his lay over visit and Richard Blais’ endorsement on his list of favorite restaurants on Urbanspoon. Adaptations of the nose to tail concept have been adapted by many eateries, even including a beginner’s lesson in offal at Skin and Bones in Leslieville. This concept will continue to flourish given the surge in responsible eating as well as those seeking the adventure of multiple organ consumption.
3. In a Jar
I’m not referring to the traditional strawberry jam, pickled cucumber and mango chutney here. In efforts to use more local ingredients throughout the year, preserving is gaining popularity. Local and seasonal cranberries, tomatoes, peppers and tree fruit can be used year round when processed into sweet or savory condiments to compliment meats and even cocktails. Savory and briny condiments are definitely in. One of the best dishes I had in 2012 was a pickle tray at Sidedoor in Ottawa and it only makes sense that these creative, unique and in many cases relatively inexpensive foods are housemade to complement menus and blackboards in 2013.
4. Eat Street
Despite strict downtown by-laws and less than favourable year round weather, Toronto is catching up with other large metropolitan centres regarding the presence of food trucks offering anything from smoked meats to tacos to cupcakes. More and more private businesses and fundraisers are seeing the potential in these nomadic sculleries as an awareness raising tactic. In addition, the low overhead, creative license and geographical flexibility are appealing to restauranteurs, ensuring that the fleet of food trucks will continue to grow.
5. Carrying the Torch
The chef’s blowtorch is a cooking method which has typically been reserved for creme brulee and more recently sushi. The ease of use and aesthetic properties of charred food could expand the use of this handy tool to other areas of food preparation. Vegetables, cervices, meringues, terrines and even fois gras could be meliorated with a quick singe of the blue flame.
6. Mexican Mania
Tacos were the rave of 2012 with the success of Grand Electric and La Carnita taco-heavy menu. Burrito Boyz, Mucho Burrito and Burrito Bandidos are lunchtime and late night hotspots. Baja fish tacos adorn almost every chain restaurant’s lunch and dinner menu. Modernized twists on tasty tostadas, multifarious moles and piquant pozole will expand beyond the traditional taquerias, making Mexican fare one of the hot ethnic cuisines across the board in 2013.
7. Soul Train
Soul food has just gotten started. The success of Barque, Stockyards and new additions such as AAA combined with the Hogtown and Urban Smoke food trucks have put pulled pork and brisket on the must eat food map. Look for southern food to dominate in 2013 with the expansion of southern-influenced mainstays such as shrimp and grits, collard/mustard greens, gumbos and maybe even a crayfish or two.
8. Snack Time
Tastebud teasers including spiced nuts and other savory snacks have been a complimentary mainstay of bars and taverns for years. It seems this concept has crossed into the dining room, with a snack menu available offering munchable morsels, such as warm olives at Patria and Campagnolo, even before the appetizers arrive. In particular, popcorn is gaining popularity, providing a blank slate for various flavors including truffle at Origin and chipotle-caramel at Cava,
9. Comfort Zone
It appears chefs have dusted off their old copies of “They Joy of Cooking” and “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. A return to comfort food is an emerging trend. In 2012, coq au vin was a staple at Richmond Station and Trevor Kitchen. Chicken Pot Pies were being baked up traditionally at C5 and with fois gras gravy at Reds Wine Tavern. Fried chicken is half the menu at Paulette’s and is available for two at County General. Old school bourguignon and gamy stews are emerging elsewhere. Expect a cornucopia of European inspired comfort food in 2013, complete with the use of fresh meats and seafood, rich sauces and homemade, flaky pastries.
10. Icy Indulgence
Frozen desserts have become a common default dessert item for many big name chefs, especically those with a aversion to baking. Working on the notion that frozen sugar and milk fat make anything taste better, unique flavours have been incorporated into ice creams, sorbets and gelatos alike. Whether it be savory flavours such as thyme or balsamic vinegar, sweetness through the use of commercial sodas or fruit nectars or incorporation of tart flavours like yuzu, a good ice cream maker and imagination is all that’s needed for this trend to blow wide open.
What do you think? Answer the poll and add your comments. Multiple answers are acceptable!