At its most basic, food fuels the engine of our bodies to make it through the day. Unlike actual engines, though, we want our fuel to taste good—and we’re always on the lookout for new fuels.
With each new year, there are some trendy ingredients that seem to capture the attention of food-lovers everywhere. At the same time, others seem to fall out of favour, either from overexposure or the simple fact they never tasted very good to begin with.
(I’m looking at you kale)
Sometimes these items make their way onto restaurant menus because it’s clear that people want to eat them. But in some cases people want to eat them because they experienced them at a restaurant. It’s a classic chicken or the egg scenario, which is ironic since neither of those ingredients are trending very high right now. Here’s what is.
Paleo and Keto diets continue to rise in popularity, maybe because gluten-free became a thing and gluten-free breads and the like are just gross.
So instead of coming up with clever ways of making things like bread and pasta with non-wheat based flours, chefs have been getting creative with vegetables instead.
Things like zucchini pasta and cauliflower pizza crusts have started to catch on, and that trend is likely to become even more widespread in 2017.
Yes, it’s green tea.
But there’s a whole process involved in growing and preparing matcha for consumption.
Part of that process is the grinding up of the tea leaves to form a powder, which effectively makes it like a concentrate. This leaves you with a drink that’s got more flavor, more antioxidants—and costs more money.
Because it’s a powder, that leaves it open for some uses other than a nice cuppa. Check out the menu from Western Australia’s Little Matcha Girlor just wait till similar recipes show up at your local earth-friendly vegan cafe.
3. Plant-based Proteins
Each of the U.S. based companies has products in some grocery stores and restaurants, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. There are also a number of “Plant Butcheries” that are sprouting up (pun intended) and providing wholesale and retail sales to restaurants and consumers alike.
Meat production has been cited as one of the leading contributors to climate change, and this awareness has impacted the eating habits of even the most die-hard of meat-eaters.
That conscious choice doesn’t eliminate cravings, though, and these latest versions of alt-meats are expected to go mainstream in 2017.
4. High End Steaks
This is a weird kind of side effect of the increasing popularity of plant-based meat substitutes.
Many meat lovers are choosing to eat less meat, but when they do? They’re not messing around.
Filet Mignon, Rib Eye, and Porterhouse steaks are replacing less expensive cuts as staples—if you’re only eating your staples once a month, you can splurge a little.
Beyond the cuts, though, is the focus on local beef, since small-scale farms offer more ethical and environmentally sound choices. And specialty breeds of cow, like the Japanese Wagyu (the breed responsible for Kobe beef) have made their way around the world.
Spring-Rock Farm, for example, in Springfield, Vermont, USA, is just one of many small operations providing the highest quality of beef to chefs, at a fraction of what actual Kobe beef would cost.
Inspired by the success of the Cereal Killer Cafe in London, the Kellogg’s company has opened its own version in New York City’s Time Square.
Offering cereals, milk, and toppings—along with coffee and milkshakes and sides of Pop Tarts—Kellogg’s NYC is demonstrating that the original Cereal Killers didn’t have such a crazy idea after all.
For real barbecue lovers, there’s no choice in the fuel source for their grills.
Gas grills are easy, but nothing beats the flavor of something cooked over hot coals. Somewhere along the line, somebody took that idea and ran with it: if coal-fired meat is so delicious because of the coal, then why not go directly to the source.
Morgenstern’s ice cream parlor in NYC got a lot of attention this past summer with their Charcoal-Coconut ice cream. The pitch black flavor raised some eyebrows, but when people tasted it the flavor became a success.
Charcoal-infused food is now popping up all over NYC, which means it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world follows.
Over the last decade, the world has fallen in love with Greek yogurt.
In Greece (where they just call it “yogurt”), it’s always been custom to hang on to the whey, the curdled byproduct of yogurt making, for use as a flavoring agent in lamb marinades.
And now the rest of the world is catching on. Fueled by increasing awareness of restaurant food waste, chefs and yogurt producers are starting to put all that whey to good use. Bottles of the stuff have been appearing on the shelves at health food stores, while fine dining establishments are beginning to incorporate the ingredient on their menus.
A staple ingredient in cuisines where curries are regular dining choices, the bright orange root in the ginger family has been touted for its anti-inflammatory benefits the last few years.
Some coffee drinkers are trading in their morning cup for a “Golden Milk Latte”—steamed milk with turmeric root and, spurred on by this, the demand for it has taken off.
In the UK, the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s watched turmeric increase by 45% last year. Meanwhile, Bill Granger—the chef and owner of the UK’s Granger & Co. restaurants—states that getting a hold of the fresh root has become far easier, and he’s been using it liberally in vinaigrettes and chicken dishes.
Koji is a fermented culture used by the Japanese as the base for miso paste, soy sauce, and any number of pickled vegetables featured in their cuisine.
It was listed as a trendy food to watch in 2016 by Bon Appétit, but it’s only now starting to gain name-recognition with consumers. Non-Japanese chefs have been experimenting with it for its flavor enhancing properties, and is fast-becoming a staple in fusion cuisine kitchens.
10. Nutritional Yeast
If you were raised by vegan hippies, or just live among them, you probably already know about nutritional yeast.
Most people don’t, though. Or if they have, they’ve ignored it, because its name sounds completely unappetising. But it’s one of the most flavorful and versatile ingredients you can use.
Add it to a vegetable stock and it imparts a deep creamy flavor usually only reserved for cheese. Blend it up with garlic and oil, and you’ve got a tastier and healthier alternative to butter. Blend it with cashews and salt and you’ve got a great parmesan substitute. Or, just shake it on top of popcorn and skip the salt.
With the growing number of vegan cafes and restaurants, 2017 looks like the year nutritional yeast makes a name for itself—even if it is an unfortunate name.