While we’re cutting it close, we are still in the first month of the year and the predictions of what 2018 will hold are abound: from politics, to Oscar noms, and yes, certainly to food.
We at Rum & Biscuits wanted to throw our own hat into the prognostication ring, and figured we’d start by examining what the experts were saying. We looked at the 2018 food trend prediction lists from ten respected voices in the food world, from corporations like Whole Foods and Unilever, to publications like Bon Appetit, to industry associations like the National Restaurant Association. From all their hard-earned insights, a number of recurring themes definitely floated to the top. So much so that we figured, hey, why don’t we get really specific? Here are a few of the conclusions we came to that we think will find some particular love over the next eleven months:
Rum & Biscuits is boldly proclaiming 2018 the Year of the Seed, and there’s a plethora of factors that warrant some Seed Index stock purchases like, yesterday. First and foremost is a vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, and plant-based movement that is maintaining if not increasing in momentum. Seeds offer a smorgasbord of legit alternative proteins – expected to grow in 2018 – to this crowd, with unique flavors, textures, and health benefits to enhance the evolving scenes of salads and (more potent) bowls. Poppy and sesame seeds can be a nod to the humble bagel – an example of which we’ve seen masterfully done by NYC’s Doughnut Project, and one likely to increase with traditional Jewish deli food expected to grow in popularity as well.
Finally, few projected food trends persisted across pundits’ lists like the creative use of food waste. With produce seeds typically destined for the compost pile at best, don’t be surprised to see offerings of cucumber seed tahinis, or rolls served with a side of pumpkin seed butter.
Yes, that’s a portmanteau of Vegetarian and Mexican and make a note cuz even that word will probably be a thing in 2018. Many imagine the Green Wave, Taco (R)Evolution, and rise in Mexican regional cuisine as distinct tributaries, but we predict a converging stream. The sky is the limit for chefs that can master the veggie-based, alternative-flour or alternative-fat tortilla; same goes for tacos showcasing tempeh asada or beer-battered cauliflower tacos. Even potato peel chicharrónes seem a low-hanging fruit (or vegetable) in 2018.
Middle Eastern wine
Two common themes that emerged from the ether are the rise of Middle Eastern food (Israeli in particular) and the pivot toward alternative wines after a season of extreme weather in major wine regions of Western Europe and California. There seems to be a natural synergy here around Middle Eastern wines, pairing well with increasingly popular foods from the region and at price points poised to be extremely competitive. Don’t be so surprised: many Middle Eastern countries treat the production and export of alcohol quite liberally, in contrast to consumption, and have histories to show for it. Be on the lookout for more menus showcasing Grenache from Morocco and Carignan from Lebanon. Even Chardonnay-Sauv Blanc blends from Syria.
Restaurants like this
In the Golden Age of American meatless enthusiasm, the more savvy in the scene will identify fun, welcoming, and buzzy “hooks” that plant-eaters embrace as fuller dining experiences and the Vegicurious will appreciate as unpretentious Green Gateways. Seattle’s No Bones Beach Club, for example, which opened its second location in Portland one year ago, showcases their vegetarian fare with a particularly unique spin: in the service of tiki cocktails.
The concept is genius and zeitgeisty not just for its broad appeal: colorful, wild-mugged tiki drinks also readily lend themselves to our Instagrammable culinary culture, and do so with just the right dash of tradition (started in 1930’s SoCal), ironic kitsch, and worldliness (eh, Polynesian-inspired?). Look for similar locales to spread in 2018.
Beets are the new beef
Sirloins for steaks, chuck for roasts, bones for broth, and…other stuff for sweetbreads. What would happen if you applied the same nose-to-tail utility of the beef cow to the non-animal world? Well, you’d get what many are calling the stalk- (or root-) -to-stem movement. It’s what Whole Foods’ clairvoyants frame simply as “one ingredient, infinite possibilities,” and few ingredients seemed positioned to shine as brightly in it as the beet.
National Restaurant News includes cocktails with beet trimmings in their “Farm-to-Shaker” prediction; nearly everyone predicts the explosion of colorful food, in which beet juice can play a critical part thanks to the bold fuschia shade they naturally impart on foods through soaking or pickling. Beets are already a popular addition for color and crunch in tacos – expected to grow in 2018 – and when mandolined and fried are a staple of healthy potato chip alternatives – on their way through the roof as well.
Ahhhh shit, we just remembered beet sugar is a thing. Restaurants will definitely be refining their own in 2018, or providing it, locally-sourced. Guaranteed.
The Root is Bangin’
And speaking of beets, whether it’s the performance-enhancing qualities of beetroot and maca, the gut-cleansing of ginger and chicory, or the plate appeal of lotus root, roots look set to be gangbuster in 2018. And yes, this means a hell of an opportunity for diaspora cuisine if the marketing is right.
Crazy cauliflower shit
Anyone who has doubted the upside of cauliflower has had a rough couple years, bruh. 2015 marked the hard launch of cauliflower rice, whose popularity is still surging, and 2016 may have been the banner year for fried cauliflower in its various forms – tempura, buffalo, etc. Any vegetable tapped as a substitute for meat as eagerly as for a staple commodity grain is certainly hard to count out; it’s even made appearances in everything from pizza to mashed potatoes to ice cream. Look for the veggie to get taken to new and more surprising heights in 2018, courtesy of the Veggie/Vegan Everything craze.
Sip ‘n’ Sniff
Cocktails and perfume – how has this not happened already?!?! Expanding upon the widely projected trend of floral elements being used both as lovely edible garnishes and as distinct flavors, this idea could come to life in a variety of ways. Hybrid retailers might serve sample beverages that compliment the perfume you’re eyeing, or wine bars using fun but prohibitively expensive scent-evoking gadgets to curate unique wine flights through specific scents. Most likely, though, we’ll see cocktails accompanied or adorned with perfume testing strips that enhance and change the drink flavor as it’s enjoyed. Perhaps restaurant seating areas or seasonal menus will use ambient fragrance to guide custom offerings that support the aroma. Any of these would surely be an unforgettable pleasure. Remember after all, scent is the sense most strongly linked to memory.
Teas that look like cocktails
But if the booze in your sip risks overriding the memory of your sniff, you’ll be grateful for the near unanimous expectation that fancy, craft, non-alcoholic beverages will flourish in 2018. Coupled with the anticipated popularity of anti-inflammatory and medicinal foods, tea seems a safe bet for beverages this year. In three different restaurants just in the immediate vicinity of this blog, you’ll see brews on tap with combinations like, “Coconut ginger lime,” “Ginseng mint,” and “St. Tropez.” Expect the trend’s momentum to birth future options like “Blackberry orange blossom” or “Lavender-Lemon Nopal.” And better yet, expect them to be sparkling.
But while the 2018 tea leaves may indeed indicate…tea…, our last trend prediction takes us out on a limb – away from the industry leaders and into the purely anecdotal. What are we talking about?:
Black pepper sweets & treats
The experts may not have co-signed this one, but in the past six months we’ve come across everything from black pepper jelly, to black pepper icings, even black pepper popovers. Something tells us that this spice with a unique place in American history still has yet to hit its pique in baked and fried goods.
While these may be the gems that we extracted, trust that this quarry runs deep. Feel free to peruse the expert picks that inspired our projections, listed below. Maybe even posit your own!: