Fried Green Everything
It’s said that deep frying makes anything taste better…so why not herbs and greens? Some of the better dishes I have eaten recently have been accented by crispy kale, sage or some other morsel that normally doesn’t come fat-infused. It’s pretty, delicious and leaves a place for kale in the event it gets displaced by some other vegetable in 2014.
Turn the other cheek
Beef cheeks have been popping up on menus as of late. In particular, they are staples in tacos, perogies and other dishes. They are cheap and tough but extremely flavourful and tender if cooked properly. Plus, they appease the hipsters who still embrace the nose-to-tail concept as well as those who want to push the envelope but aren’t adventurous enough to try testicles, rectums or other internal organs. Look for pork, veal and fish cheeks to step (or swim) forward this year.
You’ll be my honeysuckle, I’ll be your honey bee
Food trends often go full circle and honey is a good example. Once an ingredient used in everything, fear of a worldwide bee shortage plus the emergence of other sweeteners with bull shit health claims put honey on the back burner. It looks like its coming back with a vengeance. It’s local, fresh and versatile. Look for honey to be slathered all over sticky ribs and delicately drizzled over fresh cheeses, thick yogurts and fresh pastries in 2014.
I got your goat!
Goat is a cheap and flavorful staple in many parts of the world and yet it still remains relatively unused as a major protein in major Canadian cities. The wild success of Stephanie Izard and her Girl and the Goat and Little Goat diner concepts may creep north of the border. Carbon bar is already offering goat rib fridays. I think others will follow suit and offers it seven days a week.
Plates of the Caribbean
The demand for explosive flavours coupled with an overpopulation of restaurants serving Latin and Asian flavours leads one believe to that impatient foodies will want new tastes and flavours. Ingredients like jerk spices, plantains, okra and scotch bonnets coupled with the versatility of a large array of protein sources make Caribbean food a front runner. In addition, cooking methods ranging from stewing to the grill allows for a diversity of dishes on any menu. I see “Cool Runnings” for Caribbean in 2014.
With the gluten free movement in full force, patrons are looking for alternatives to quinoa and the numerous other grains they claim to adore. Brown rice can improve dishes made with white rice in nutritional value, colour and taste. When toasted it can serve as an excellent filler for dishes that typically rely on gluten-filled bread crumbs.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock eating red velvet cupcakes, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the trend typhoon that is cauliflower. Called “the new kale”, cauliflower’s versatility has expanded beyond being covered in Cheez Whiz in order to fool the kids into eating it. Now, it can be shaved, breaded, roasted, deep-fried, formed into patties, made into soup or served in an omelette. It even comes in orange, green and purple varieties for those who require additional visual stimulation.
Count your Beans
The lowly bean has been overshadowed by the lentil over the past few years. Despite the fact there are a few dozen types of beans readily available, they haven’t graced tabletops regularly since Grandma’s mixed bean salad at the annual family picnic. Sure, the southern barbeque trend has lent way to a million variations of baked beans but the alternatives including black-eyed, pinto, lima and fava bean may surge this year as a cheap, attractive and tasty backdrop to a number of proteins.
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
It’s hard to find a menu without fish. Gone are the days when salmon is thrown on the menu Keg style to appease the peskies*. Fish of all shapes and sizes (including the very ugly halibut and terrifying monkish) are now the main attractions on all kinds of menus and should be the focal point in 2014. Old school favorites such as ahi tuna, snapper and sea bass are back while newcomers such as sturgeon and mackeral are emerging as foodie favorites. In addition, fish is a better compliment than red meat and chicken to other trendy foods such as lentils, rice, quinoa and beans.
Loco for Local
The demand for local food is nothing new but the trend will only increase. It’s intuitive to think that in-season produce is a must but embracing flavors that make us truly Canadian will be the rave. Maple syrup is the new agave nectar. Squash, celeriac, cranberries, fiddleheads, sea buckthorn and sunchokes are all Canadian favorites with distinct flavour profiles which induce both a taste good and feel good character. In other words, in addition to the demand for Canadian ingredients there will be more demand for Canadian flavours in 2014.
Although Spanish and Latin flavours will continue to be the trend, watch for the bold flavours of the Caribbean to become more mainstream in 2014, another reason why I think goat and beans will join the party. In addition, restaurants will step up in an effort to redefine Canadian flavours (including local honey) and the masses will respond. The movement toward safer offal will continue as will the gluten free movement. Cauliflower is the new kale (although kale will now be fried and served as a garnish) and fish (whether old favorites like ahi tuna or new wave sturgeon) is the new protein. All in all, it will be a swing back toward lighter foods with big, fresh flavours and a step away from the messy, rich ones which dominated 2013.
*peskie- Pescatarian who may or may not have a gluten intolerance.