Fare..Eat..Ales 10 Food Trends That Will Fade in 2013

Much like trends that surge in a given year, there are many that begin to fade away.  Here are my predictions of the Toronto food trends that should curtail in 2013.

1. Beet to Death

Almost every menu offers a beet salad of some kind.  They are cheap, earthy and offer a pretty colour to a plate.  They are however, very distinct.  This uniqueness usually results in a short shelf life. Plus, root vegetables take turns being in favour. Just ask a sweet potato.  They had to step aside for the beet and a new tuber should soon reign supreme.  Perhaps an heirloom carrot, parsnip or even the relatively unknown sunchoke?

2. Doubt the Sprout

Despite its sinister reputation among the young, the brussel sprout  has become the cool cruciferous vegetable in the past few years, offering a perfect marriage with other in vogue flavours  like  hot sauce and bacon fat.  However, with other greens such as collards, swiss chard and  mustard greens gaining popularity, I suspect the brussel sprout will lose some of its spark and go back to being the low point of many a childhood.

3. Pig: The Magical Animal

Pork is no longer the other white meat; it is THE white meat.  Thick chops and pork  belly have dominated menus in the past few years.  Bacon has been used to wrap everthing from steak to scallops to ice cream.  The combination of demand for lighter foods  coupled with expected increases in pork prices in 2013 should see the presence of pork diminish somewhat across the board.  That being said, bacon will be coveted and pork will remain a key component in ramen dishes, but don’t be surprised to see more chicken (in an attempt to gain the white meat status back) and beef options emerge as a replacement to the mighty pig.

4.  Feelin’ Blue

Strong flavours will be replaced  with more mild ones and cheese is no exception. The intensity of the bold blues, including gorgonzola will be replaced by lighter cheeses with more subtle flavour.  The use of blue as a base for rich creamy pasta sauces (especially vegetarian ones) should fall out favour for more acidic, zingy ones.

5. Falling Flat

Flatbreads are pizzas for places that don’t make pizza.  Once a popular appetizer, flatbread is a canvas to display other popular ingredients such as short rib, mushrooms and asparagus with white, red and barbeque sauce foundations.  The novelty has worn off as diners are satisfied with the toppings reconstructed in novel and abstract ways minus the bland and often overcooked dough.

6. Holy Aioli!

Chipotle mayos, basil aiolis and other thick and sinful sauces should give way to vegetables based dips, sauces and condiments.  The trend toward the focus on fresh and local ingredients doesn’t necessarily include mayonnaise and oil but  may favor tangy, tomato jams, spicy chimichurris and vibrant pestos instead.

7.  “Poutin'”

Call me crazy but the life cycle of poutine may be coming to an end.  The classic Quebec dish has evolved to include lobster, brisket and pulled pork as well as modifications to the traditional beef or chicken gravy.  The pendulum is swinging in the direction of lighter flavours. In the end, poutine, regardless of the version,  is a salty and fatty mess to the extreme, one which will soon return to be reserved primarily for the after bar crowd.

8.  Taking a Slide

Despite the number of new restaurants opening promoting sliders of all kinds, in all likelihood they will not sustain the popularity of the past couple of years.  The initial simple slider gave way to newer ideas like pulled pork or beef topped with kimchi, slaw or fois gras. There may be some survival among the many small plate restaurants, but sliders have quickly become an outdated novelty. The advent of competitive burger joints have swung the pendulum back toward the large chin-dripping mains and away from the dainty, often dried out finger sandwiches.

9. “Not”ella

Nutella has gone from  a rare childhood vice to a condiment which recently seems to grace everything from grilled cheese to crepes to burgers. The hazelnut spread has been elevated to iconic levels in the past couple of year with many restaurants going as far as displaying various sized nutella jars in their establishments like some kind of award or trophy.  Not that it will go away, but the jars should come down with diner’s reactions shifting from 2012’s “Cool, this place has nutella” to 2013’s “Oh, nutella…again”.

10. Muffle the Truffle

Truffle oil is not a truffle.  It’s a cheaper, liquid version of the exquisite fungus which has been grossly overused in everything from popcorn to pasta.  Truffle is like fish sauce and saffron; if you use too much once, it resonates to every similar  dish afterwards.   Truffle is meant to subtly complement other flavours, not be the main flavour and too many dishes are offered without this understanding.  Similar to Newtonian law, as the numbers of those who have been subject to truffle oil  abuse increase,  its popularity will decrease.

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Fare..Eat..Ales Predictions of 2013 Food Trends.

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!