Top 10 Food Trends for 2014 (Vancouver)

Top 10 Food Trends for 2014

Follow Me Foodie Predictions for Food Trends/Movements for 2014.

I thought about it for a while. I strongly debated whether or not I was going to write one of these. I’ve done them for the last couple years (Top Food Trends of 2012 and Top 10 Food Trends of 2013), and they were fun, but I’m not keen on the word “food trend” since almost everything has been done before. More often than not, it’s just a recycled idea.

It took me a while to conjure up my 10 trends for 2014 though, hence why I’m writing this after the new year. Nothing seemed all that inspiring or “new”, not that creativity is dead, but most of it really has been done before. In some cases they were done years or even centuries ago in other countries or cultures, and now the trend is being brought to new light. Trends are also place specific, so they don’t apply everywhere although culinary trendsetters still come from major food cities.

On the West Coast, chefs tend to get inspiration from Portland or San Francisco, since it’s food driven by similar philosophy for similar markets, but many are also reading the same cook books, following the same “rockstar chefs”, and borrowing ideas from the same sources.

Anyway, after reading many top food trends of this year listing “cauliflower as the new kale”, I decided to write my own. I mentioned “cauliflower as the new kale” in 2013 and I probably wasn’t even first to do it, but time to move on.

Again, these trends might be “old news” and if you thought of it first, congratulations, but no one’s getting a prize, so it doesn’t really matter.

Listed in no particular order.

Chicago Alinea (49)Hot Potato, Cold Potato – black truffle, butter at Alinea

1. Playing with temperatures.

What? You mean serving hot apple pie with ice cream? Yes, kind of, but beyond that. Playing with temperatures is most commonly found in desserts, but now savoury courses and cocktails are doing it too.

Dishes are plated with piping hot components to contrast ice cold ones and Alinea’s signature “Hot Potato, Cold Potato” is a good example of it. The Yukon Gold potato confit in clarified butter is served very hot and the soup is very cold. It brings an unexpected sensation and gives a memorable experience.

In Calgary there is also a Sunset/Sunrise cocktail which gradually gets hotter or colder in temperature. It’s a creative concept for a very creative cocktail.

Mexico City Oaxaca 221Sea scallop, ashes vinaigrette, avocado and coriander from Sud 777 in Mexico City, Mexico.

2. Black food

Whoa racist. No! I mean the colour black. But black isn’t a colour? Well, then the shade black. Burnt or “charred” things like leek ash, onion ash, charred eggplant skins, black beans, squid ink, and dark sauces. Black is the new black.

San Francisco 032BOBA Guys in San Francisco

3. Asian hipster is the new “Asian fusion”.

New York and some of the West Coast already started it last year, but it’s not “trending” or mainstream yet.

Ugh. “Asian fusion”… it’s a trend from the 90’s we try not to look back on. Some of it was okay, but a lot of it was bastardized and random versions of the real deal. For some reason Japanese restaurants can get away with quirky Asian fusion dishes, but when it’s a Western restaurant trying to do it, it usually fails. Double standard? Probably.

So what’s “Asian hipster” food? Like Pan-Asian? Think Mission Street Chinese in San Francisco and New York, Pig and Khao in New York, Pok Pok in Portland, or even Bao Bei in Vancouver.

Let’s move past the ramen stage and take for instance bubble tea, but the hipster version. It might seem like “old news” for some, but Horchata bubble tea, bubble tea in mason jars, and organic tea versions of this traditional Taiwanese beverage will come back with some hipster attitude. It sounds bizarre, and I rolled my eyes at first too, but most bubble tea places aren’t using quality ingredients, so if this means “bubble tea for the better”, than I don’t mind paying the extra $2-3 for this hipster bubble tea… even though I know I could get it for half the price at a Chinese owned and operated bubble tea joint that’s been around since the 90’s.

The food will have the foundation of traditional Asian cuisine, but the ingredients will be local and catered towards a Western palate without becoming “Asian fusion” (hopefully). It’s a fine line, but if shoulder pads can make a come back, so can “Asian fusion”.

Spur - 2 Days in Seattle (26)Textures of apricot at Spur.

4. Textures of X.

This isn’t necessarily “new” because an excellent chef will always consider texture, but now even the “not-as-good-ones” are considering it too. Playing with textures is done more so in a fine dining context, but not to say it can’t be done in any context. Textures of cauliflower, kale, corn and rice, are just some “textures of X” I’ve seen more recently.

Burdock & Co (15)Spring Salmon with Warba Potato, Peas, Goat Curd, Nasturtium Juice from Burdock & Co.

5. Milk curds and milk fermentation.

Like cheese curds and yogurt? Sort of. Yogurt as a “sauce” or condiment is typical in Indian, Greek, and Middle Eastern cuisine, but it’s going beyond just yogurt. Goat curd, soy milk curd, whey sauce, fermented hazelnut milk, almond milk curd, coconut milk curd, and various types of dairy and dairy-free “mylk” fermentation is on the rise. Health inspectors are probably ready with their pens, so chefs have to be really careful with this one.

Joule - 2 Days in Seattle (13)Octopus with bok choy, hot bacon vinaigrette at Joule

6. Octopus

I’m excited about this, but I know many are not. They are incredibly smart animals, but so are a lot of animals we eat. Maybe we should just eat the stupid animals? Like humans. Humans can be pretty stupid.

Octopus is a staple in Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and many other cultures, but in North America it’s still rather “exotic”.  However the last few years I’ve seen it on more North American menus and it seems people are warming up. There are sustainable, ocean-friendly, octopus choices out there too.

Octopus can be considered adventurous, but it’s very similar to squid and it doesn’t even have much flavour. It’s a bit neutral and absorbs the flavours surrounding it. It’s also one of those ingredients when prepared poorly, can really make or break your first experience. If it’s overcooked it’s tough, dry and rubbery, and undercooked is actually a bit chewy, which is desired for some palates and ethnic cuisines. I prefer tender, but octopus has a naturally desired chew which I find pleasant.

New York Street Food (22)Making Acaraje – Brazilian Day in New York

7. Ethnic street food and brunches.

This one is a bit retired, but there is still lots of room to explore. Ramen, tacos, steamed buns (baos), kebabs and pizza aren’t hard to find in eclectic street food forward cities, but there are still snacks like Pani Puri (an Indian snack), Acaraje (a Bazilian/Nigerian specialty), and even just dumplings that are waiting to have their turn.

Brunch and all day brunch has been a “trend” for the last couple years, but now it’s about ethnic brunch options. Think beyond Huevos rancheros and dim sum, and think arepas, Asian five spice French toast, Vietnamese crepes, rice porridge with sous vide eggs and cracklings, ackee and saltfish and more.

Burdock-Co.-Fall-Winter-Menu-5 Black Bean Cassoulet Bean Cassoulet from Burdock & Co. 

8. Beans

We already saw the love for vegetables last year and it’s still going strong this year, but proteins are still needed for a healthy and balanced diet. Instead of turning to animal products, proteins are coming from beans and all kinds of them too.

Adzuki beans, canellini beans, cranberry beans, mung beans, lentils, chick peas, Black Valentine Bush Bean, Lazy Housewife beans and black turtle beans… there is so much more than black, white, and kidneys. You’re going to look up “Lazy Housewife Bean” now aren’t you?

Anyone who cleans the toilets at a restaurant should be getting paid extra.

Mexico City Oaxaca 223“Carrot” – Sous vide for 12 hours in duck fat, dusted in charcoal, sour cream from local ranch – at from Sud 777 in Mexico City, Mexico.

9. Carrot is the new cauliflower.

Bold statement. Again, I said “cauliflower is the new kale” last year, but I’m bringing the carrot to the forefront. It could also be kohlrabi or radish, but I’ll stand by the carrot. It’s not just any old grocery store carrot either. It has to be a locally farmed, preferably organic, carrot. On top, the execution is what will make it stand out. It won’t need much to shine since it’ll be a flavourful high quality carrot to start, but it will be the chef’s job to enhance its natural goodness.

Think carrot tartare, carrot jus, braised, glazed and roasted carrots, carrot fries, carrot chips, and even carrot cake is being looked at in new ways. It can be served savoury or sweet, so it’s versatile.

Lummi Island - Willows Inn (86)Smoked Sockeye Salmon from Willows Inn

10. Minimalism

It’s the philosophy behind Japanese food. Take for instance sushi. I wrote about it in Follow Me Foodie to Japan (about Japanese culture, people and food), but now it is more commonly seen outside of Japanese cuisine. It’s also very European and “Noma-esque”.

Chef’s are stripping down to the bare basics. It is taking one ingredient and showcasing it at its maximum potential. It’s attention to quality of the ingredient and technique and there is nothing to hide.

It’s not just serving any piece of fish, carrot (like the one above), or fruit, its serving “the best” of its kind. It’s not just cutting it and serving it on a plate, but cooking technique and presentation is key. It might include sous vide or dehydration, which can play a significant impact on texture and flavour, or smoking, which was a food trend I listed last year, but minimalism will get everything but minimal exposure.

A few other trends I predict that didn’t make the list are: Kasu is the new miso, burdock root, squiggles are the new dots/smears, kohlrabi, home made crackers and chips (not made from potatoes), skin (chicken skin, fish skin, chickpea skin etc.) is in, lovage, angelica root, sardines, tea infusions in savoury food, nuts and seeds, puffed grains and rice, mustard greens, bitter greens, dessert bars, counter service, cheap price fixe menus, and bulgar/sorghum/freekeh/farro is the new quinoa. I listed some of these last year as well.

1 Comment

  • KimHo says:

    In my line of work, we use that word with the dictionary definition; however, when it comes to uses like this, I use it in a more derogatory manner. This is somewhat true in the case of the North American food trends are they are usually things that have fallen out of fashion (and being rediscovered), foreign cuisines (i.e., things not well known here) or popular by using fancier ingredients. Such are the cases of octopus (which you mention are consumed extensively in other parts of the world) or beans (used as cheap protein source in some countries). I wish some of these “trends” stuck because they are good, not just because.

    As for your predictions, I do foresee the ethnic, temperature, texture and fusion “trends” to continue, while the black and minimalism one to pop and fade quickly, as I don’t think most “Westerners” like the minimalist type cuisine (compared to Japanese).

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