The time has come to dust off my culinary crystal ball and predict the great food trends of 2014. It will take 12 full months to see if I am even close to right, but you can always help a girl out by drinking a retro gin cocktail, cooking up some collard greens and hoarding a little hot sauce!
Hyper Local Menu Ingredients: Backyard gardens, bee hives and chicken coops are more popular than ever and I’m betting restaurants will begin harvesting their own homegrown vegetables and herbs from rooftop gardens and greenhouses with increasing frequency in 2014. Serving hyper-local fare works in tandem with responsible food sourcing to bring a desirable authenticity to restaurant menus.
Scandinavian Fare: Look for Danish spherical pancakes known as aebleskivers to begin popping up on restaurant menus as well as creative riffs on gravlax, Swedish meatballs and pickled herring. Embracing the cold climate ingredients of Nordic countries will offer chefs a host of new flavors and cooking techniques to share with their eager guests. And trust me, your life will be better with lefse in it.
The Elevated Grilled Cheese: Get ready to indulge in ooey-gooey grown-up versions of this American classic in the New Year. Ditch the plastic wrapped cheese singles in favor of artisan breads, handmade cheeses and a host of creative garnish options.
Coconut Oil: Sure, this trendy oil is controversial because of its high saturated fat content, but thanks in part to the popularity of the Paleo diet, coconut oil is making its way onto mainstream market shelves. The solid oil has a high smoke point making it an ideal choice for pan-frying foods and is even thought to support weight loss.
Sriracha: Thanks to a court ruling, a major Huy Fong foods factory has halted production and folks are hoarding “rooster sauce” in the face of a potential Sriracha shortage. Passionate Sriracha lovers are sure to go looking for alternatives when their stockpiles run out; creative cats may even dabble in making a homemade version in the New Year.
Diabetes Awareness: Vegetarian and heart-healthy fare have made their way onto mainstream menus and restaurants are warming to gluten-free fare, but with more than 25 million diabetics living in America, local eateries will surely help people manage their dietary modifications by cooking up an array of sugar-free menu options.
Old Tom Gin: With pre-Prohibition era cocktails surging in popularity, mixologists are certain to clamor for the sweet citrus notes of old school gin in 2014. Logan Square hot-spot Scofflaw peddles their own brand of locally made Old Tom Gin, a sweeter version of London dry gin and perfect for use in a classic Tom Collins.
Not Kale: No one can deny the benefits of this dynamic super food, but enough is enough — people are a little kaled out. It’s time to give good old collard greens their moment in the sun. Thanks to their ability to adapt to multiple cooking methods and their high levels of fiber and potassium, collards will enjoy a surge in popularity in 2014.
Homemade Kimchi: Piggybacking on the pickling and canning trends of recent years, the popularity of fermented fare is on the rise. A stinky blend of inexpensive and readily available ingredients, kimchi is lauded for its digestive health benefits and addictive flavor. Look for home cooks to begin fermenting cabbage in the next 12 months.
Ears and Tails: The nose-to-tail cooking movement is here to stay and restaurants will continue to push foodie aficionados to embrace whole-hog cooking by offering diners approachable dishes featuring crispy pigs ears and braised tails.
To keep me honest, here is what I predicted as the big food trends for 2013:
Cauliflower: This versatile veggie will emerge from behind broccoli’s shadow.
Mussels: Mussels cook up in mere minutes and deliver big flavor without breaking the bank.
Nose to tail at home: Increased environmental awareness will help home cooks address their food waste issues and use every part of an animal or vegetable.
Friendly lighting for social media food photos: I predict we’ll see upscale restaurants reluctantly embrace this quirky trend in 2013 by adjusting their lighting to accommodate no-flash photography.
Hold the meat; pass the veggies: Thanks in part to the continued efforts by our First Lady, it stands to reason that 2013 will be the year of the vegetable.
Eggs: Thanks to our new-found love for chickens, tireless devotion to breakfast and a desire for alternative protein sources, there is no doubt that egg cookery will gain in popularity in 2013.
Restaurant romance: Communal tables are still all the rage, but look for the return of two tops and individual entrées in 2013.
Mainstream Banh Mi: Vietnamese and French flavors fuse in the most traditional variations of this meat, mayonnaise and veggie-laden savory.
Tequila: Due to the rising numbers of folks restricting gluten in their daily diets, I predict tequila-based cocktails will be all the rage in 2013.
Befriending local chefs: As responsible sourcing becomes ever more important to restaurant patrons so will knowing the local chefs who create the foods we eat.
Havarti grilled cheese with kimchi and “Sriracha” dipping sauce
These sandwiches embrace a multitude of my 2014 trends without suffering an identity crisis. (Makes 6 sandwiches.)
1 loaf French bread with sesame seeds, cut into 12, 1/2-inch thick slices
8 ounces Danish Havarti cheese, cut into 12 slices
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 1/2-2 cups hot or mild kimchi
1 Gala apple, halved and thinly sliced
1 Bartlett pear, halved and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons butter, melted
For the Sauce:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup homemade sriracha
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Sandwich 2 slices of cheese, a sprinkling of scallions, about 2 tablespoons of kimchi and some apple and pear slices between two slices of bread. Brush the outside of the bread with the melted butter and grill the sandwiches until golden brown and cheese has melted. Mix the sauce ingredients and serve alongside the warm grilled cheese sandwiches.
Sriracha (sort of)
This sauce doesn’t taste exactly like the beloved rooster sauce, but a homemade version offers enough complexity to best most bottled hot sauces. (Makes about 3 cups.)
15-25 serrano chili peppers
4 tablespoons canola oil (divided)
2 medium sweet onions cut into rings
1/4 cup sliced lemongrass (the tender portion of 1 large stalk)
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
6-8 medium garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
2 medium red peppers, roasted, peeled, seeds and stems removed
1 15-ounce can tomato puree
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
Halve the serrano chilies lengthwise and remove the stems and seeds from the peppers. Roughly chop the chilies and set aside.
Heat two tablespoons of the canola oil in a large heavy bottomed sauce pan until smoking. Add the onion rings and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes or until onions are soft. Reduce heat to medium and add the lemon grass, ginger and garlic to the onions. Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.
Transfer the onion mixture to a food processor. Add the roasted red peppers and process until a wet paste forms. Set aside.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in same pot and add the chilies. Cook the chilies, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the onion paste, tomato puree, tomato sauce, vinegar and sugar. Simmer the sauce for 30 minutes and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer the sauce to a blender and process until smooth. Store sauce for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.