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!

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Review:Toronto:Yorkville:C5

Note: Some of my pictures mysteriously disappeared from my media card.

About a year ago, the Royal Ontario museum announced Corbin Tomaszeski, best known for appearances on the Food Network’s Dinner Party Wars, as the new executive chef of C5, a lunch spot right in the museum which over looks the Toronto skyline. The space is almost uncomfortably vast and a bit industrial despite attempts to offer an upscale dining experience. The open kitchen is awkwardly placed and  seems more institutional than it does inviting.  I arrived for my 130 reservation (hours are 11-3) and had to wait 15 minutes to be seated due to what I was told was a busy lunch rush.  You cannot see the restaurant from the entrance, so I was surprised (and slightly annoyed) to see the restaurant less than half full when I was finally seated.

Must

Nothing beats a hearty, well-seasoned soup and C5 didn’t disappoint.  The chicken soup was served hot, full of vegetables and with a perfectly salted  broth fragrant with thyme. It was served with a  cheddar biscuit, the first of many examples of the  delicious baked goods to come.

The dessert sampler  for 2 was a great finish to the meal.  It offered  four different tastes on one plate: something baked, something chocolate, something fruity and something  creamy. In this case it was pumpkin pie with whipped cream, a chocolate fudge square , a fruit cobbler and a  custard flan.  Each of the desserts were prepared nicely and demonstrated yet another example of  a commitment to preserve the  fading art of  baking from scratch.

Dessert Sampler for 2

Maybe

The resounding theme of baked goods was evident again with  the chicken pot pie.  A flaky puff pastry surrounded a hearty bowl  of rich chicken stew.  The pastry was wonderfully browned and tasty but the filling was underseasoned.  I would have liked more thyme or even salt but all I tasted was a bland cream sauce.

The highlight of salmon tart  was also the crust.  It had a buttery taste but was very light and not t oo overbearing. There were abundant chunks of potato and salmon but, like the pot pie, just seemed to be missing a little something. It was a large portion but  just a lot of the same,  although I did enjoy the salad.

There was a feature menu featuring food from around the world.  I opted for an appetizer dish featuring hummus and a roasted eggplant spread served with  not enough pitas.  The hummus was unimpressive but the eggplant was nicely spiced and was not mushy like some other eggplant spreads.

Mundane

I made the mistake of talking myself into ordering the classic frites after seeing them delivered to a few other tables.  They were overcooked, served with a  less than impressive aioli and hardly worth the 6 bucks.

As mentioned, the service was not impressive.  Perhaps it’s set up to appeal to a slow-moving, pretentious subset of  the museum-dwelling artisans next door  but it  won’t appeal to the masses who are looking for efficient service with a smile.

My Take

C5 is a decent lunch choice despite the difficulty parking and  getting into the restaurant itself (the signage is bad and you need to venture through the museum  itself to find the right elevator). The service was a little stuffy and the decor too cold and cavernous which is a bit ironic for an art museum. Some may like the roominess but I felt a bit lost.  I wish the open kitchen was more of  a highlight but it is relatively inaccessible and unimportant in the scheme of things.

This menu was changed shortly after I went for  lunch and the new menu offers a appealing fall/winter menu with dishes including classic dishes such as Sheppard’s pie, poutine, coq au vin and an expanded side collection including a variety of fall vegetables.  It looks good enough for another try.  There also appears to be an expansion of vegetarian options including corn cakes, flatbreads and dinner salads. I’m just leery that decor and service  won’t match the warm appeal of the menu. If this was dinner party wars, it would be decent food and  great baking served in a garage by your mother-in-law, but with a really nice view.

C5 Restaurant on Urbanspoon