Trend can be defined two ways, according to the dictionary. It can mean "to follow a general course," or to "veer in a new direction."
Both meanings apply when it comes to the food and dining scene, where chefs are staying the course with tested ingredients and venturing into new territory to tantalize diners' taste buds. What are taste influencers predicting for 2018?
The "it" vegetable will be …. It's a smackdown between two, according to Vedge owners Richard Landau and Kate Jacoby, who will open their first Washington location in February. Landau says rutabaga, for sure. "Chefs will discover its diversity and versatility, beautiful creamy texture, attractive color, and unique flavor." His partner/wife begs to differ. "I'm going with radishes," she said. "They are stunning, with a wide range of shapes and colors. They can be raw or cooked in a million different ways. And they're supposed to be excellent for your health, very cleansing and anti-inflammatory."
Chefs will connect with family roots. The bond between food and family has long been nourished in kitchens from South Philly to South Jersey, but more chefs are feeling this connection, according to Alon Shaya, a Harriton High School graduate and James Beard Award-winning chef in New Orleans. "I see more chefs embracing their own ethnic roots through cooking," something he does in his new cookbook, Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel, due out in March. "So many people are exploring the cuisines of their families and ancestors — from Persian meat-based stews to Russia's delicate pelmeni to the limitless varieties of Japanese ramen and the rich flavors of the American South. I've always found that food tastes better accompanied by a strong personal story."
Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Smoked everything — from cocktails to desserts — hasn't been this popular since the first caveman discovered fire. Locally, restaurants like Hearthside, 24, and Sikora have opened with concepts based on wood-fired cooking and are earning consistent buzz for the smoky, complex flavors delivered to the table. GrillWorks, a bespoke grill company, is pushing the envelope with beautifully designed grills. There are a few of these in the city — most notably the one at Hearthside, displayed in front of the chef's counter.
The Cuban food revolution will continue. About 140,000 Americans traveled to the island last year, according to ABC News. Although that flood may slow to a trickle because of new restrictions, the impact the influx of Americans has had on the Cuban food scene is profound, according to Guillermo Pernot, chef-partner of Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar and two-time James Beard Award winner. "I don't think the island will go back into a bubble," Pernot said. "The chefs have discovered what it means to partner with local farmers and producers, and the food that is coming out of the kitchens is wonderful. All of a sudden, there are foodie entrepreneurs and more restaurants everywhere. It's an exciting time."
Alternative alternative dairy. Now that almond, soy, and coconut milks are positively mainstream, dairy is getting even more alternative, says Claire Siegel, lead registered dietitian for Snap Kitchen, which offers healthful takeout meals at seven locations around the city. "It seems like you can 'milk' almost anything," Siegel said, including cashews, hemp seeds, and macadamia nuts. Milkadamia's sustainably made macadamia nut milk has been cropping up in an increasing number of grocery stores and coffee shops. Ripple Foods, a dairy-free, plant-based milk company that sells through Whole Foods, takes a protein-forward approach to nondairy milk with its creamy, pea protein-based option containing ingredients to provide nutrients such as vitamin D, calcium, and omega-3s.
Relax, man. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of marijuana's many cannabinoids, and, unlike THC, it does not have psychoactive properties. It's all the rage topically, used especially for anti-inflammation and pain relief. CBD is also making its way into food products, like Not Pot's CBD chocolates and CAP Beauty's Daily Hit oil. Because CBD is considered a Schedule 1 drug at the federal level, check your state laws before getting your first taste. Beyond CBD, Philadelphia chef, author, and television personality Hope Cohen said cannabis-centered recipes, cookbooks, and blogs, along with chef-led dinner parties at underground supper clubs, are big and getting bigger.
Food for what ails you. Doctoring with food is nothing new. But we'll be seeing more restaurants teaming up with nutritionists in designing menus, according to Food and Drink Resources, a research center for the food and beverage industry. Also, expect a continued demand for foods that are healthy, especially pro- and prebiotics, and ingredients that have a positive impact on gut health, including kombucha, miso, kimchi, and yogurts.
Root goes to table. Just as nose-to-tail cooking has undergone a resurgence, whole-plant cooking is on the uptick, Shaya said. "It's important to understand that broccoli stems taste just as good as the florets." His recommended reading for home cooks includes Joshua McFadden's Six Seasons and Steven Satterfield's Root to Leaf. "The recipes and ideas provide relevant lessons for all cooks, whether at home or in a restaurant." Mareya Ibrahim, the Fit Foodie and creator of eatcleaner.com, concurs. She's all about "living" produce — veggies still attached to their roots to help maintain nutrients and prolong shelf life. Brands such as Pete's Living Greens, an employee-owned hydroponic grower carried at Whole Foods, say its escarole, endive, cress, and lettuce blends last up to 18 days, compared with an average of three to five days for a typical bagged salad.
It will be the year of the mushroom. Fungi are everywhere, proclaims foodanddrinkresources.com, a restaurant industry resource. Find them brined, pickled, made into pate or tea, smoked, braised whole, seared, grilled, and charred. Low in protein, fungi is high in umami, helping you not miss the meat you don't see on this trends list.
Fat is seriously back. After decades of demonization, fat is being welcomed back into the healthy diets of many, and its increasing popularity shows no signs of decline, according to Snap Kitchen's Siegel. "Purse avocados" are a thing, butter coffee has gone from obscure homemade concoction to grocery store CPG (Picnik, Bulletproof), and the high-fat ketogenic diet, with it's trufflelike "keto balls" snack, is set up to be a go-to for the new year.
Tart cherry will be the new super food. Different from the everyday sweet, dark cherries, tart cherries are sour, small, and bright red, Ibrahim said. Little but mighty, these berries have one of the highest oxygen radical absorbance capacity scores (a method of measuring antioxidant capacities) — topping even those of blueberries, pomegranate juice, and tea. Tart cherries have a mega-boost of anthocyanins to battle free radicals and repair cell damage. Available in many forms — fresh, frozen, dried, chocolate-covered, in concentrated powder, and juiced — look for them in baked goods, jams, sauces, and beverages.
Plant-based options will go mainstream. Vast choices for plant-based prepared foods will take the sting out of going meat and dairy free. Companies such as Explore Cuisine and Carrington Farms are supplying Walmart, Acme, and Target with ingredients like bean and rice pastas, ancient grain blends, and coconut oil ghee; services including Veestro and Thrive Foods Direct are delivering a la carte and meal packs of all-natural, organic, non-GMO ingredients with no animal products or preservatives. Think herb-crusted turk'y (not real turkey!), cauliflower Milanese, and pecan pie.