It's that time of year again -- a chance to see what's in store food-wise, as dozens of publications, companies and agencies pin down celebrity chefs, food product developers, specialty purveyors -- even the U.S. culinary ambassador -- to get their opinion on what they think will be the hot new thing coming out of the kitchen in the new year.
Clean Plate Charlie has dug through a multitude of trend lists (right now there are at least a dozen, with more to come) to highlight what we think will be hot in the coming year here in South Florida.
According to the experts at Cooking Light, 2013 is going to be a year of bitter flavors. That means fermented juices, vinegars and pickled foods will take center stage at the dinner table this year. It will be an easy trend to master for Fort Lauderdale's Hector Lopez, executive chef for The Grateful Palate. Marinating and pickling foods with vinegar and spices -- as he does with his all-time favorite recipe of eggplant escabeche -- is one of his specialties. Also, look for more sour in your drink, too. Even craft beer companies will be making brews with a sour edge, like they do at The Funky Buddha with their tart, fruit-infused Berliner Weisse style beers.
Farm-to-Bar and Barrel-Aged Cocktails
According to International food consultants Baum & Whiteman, this year look for fresh, local produce being served at the bar instead of the table. While the recent craze for producing hand-crafted and artisan cocktails can be slow and labor-intensive, look for pre-made and barrel-aged cocktails, or small batch drinks infused for several weeks (sometimes even months) in old bourbon, rum or sherry barrels. It helps impart an intense amount of flavor, like the house infusions you'll find already being made at local bars including Sweetwater Bar & Grill in Boynton Beach, and Tap 42 in Fort Lauderdale.
On the Food Channel's Top Ten list of 2013 food trends: smoking. Think slow-smoke meats and smoke-infused bourbon drinks like the ones you'll find at Bobbi Sue Bar-B-Que in West Palm Beach. The restaurant is among the first to design its entire theme around the idea.
The Ultimate Pairing: Food and Technology
According to Epicurious.com, and many other reporting agencies, chefs are calling for tablet computers to be the next big thing, part of a hot new technology trend in restaurants. That means apps to place to-go orders or make reservations, and the ability to pay your tab via your smartphone or wireless device not far behind. Look for technology behind the bar, at the servers stations, in the kitchen -- and at the table. We've already seen a small taste of it here in Palm Beach Gardens, where Red Tapas introduced the iPad to the dining room with their servers and bartenders wielding wireless technology to take orders and assist patrons with making food selections.
Half-Portions Take the Place of Small Plates
Forget full-priced, pricey dinners. Make any restaurant your new favorite tapas bar when chef's allow for the option of ordering half-sized portions that will make any menu your own personal tasting menu. The concept has already taken hold at d.b.a./cafe in Fort Lauderdale, where entrees can be ordered in half-portions to not only make a more affordable dinner, but also allow for larger parties to sample a little bit of everything.
Fast and Casual Concept Craze
If it's "fast" and "fresh" -- it's in. Think Chipotle, but with new formats like salads, pizza or hot dogs -- and new cuisines like Italian, Asian or Japanese. This year, keep an eye out for the fast-cas (short for fast and casual) to take advantage of nearly every type of ethnic cuisine. That means customizable sushi rolls, made-to-order Greek pitas like the ones you can order at Gyroville in Boca Raton, design-it-yourself pizzas, or a Korean bun counter resembling Subway.
Along with the fast-cas theme comes a new trend towards super-small-sized food. Everything goes mini in 2013 -- even your breakfast sandwich, dessert and snacks. If you can fit it between two fingers, all the better. That means a whole lot more of the teeny-tiny finger foods like the mini-Cinnabons and BK Burger "Shots" they started selling at Burger King, the mini sirloin burgers you can get at Jack in the Box, or the lollipop cakes you can snack on at Starbucks.
Eating the Whole Animal
To really cash-in on the green and sustainable trend, look for high-end eateries to offer the whole animal for special table prices. Think whole cornish game hens and more parts of the pig -- like the cheek, tail and ears -- being utilized to create larger, table-sharing platters. The executive chef for Market 17 in Fort Lauderdale, Lauren DeShields, stated during a recent interview that she was interested in the nose-to-tail trend. Expanding that idea, look for some chefs to start doing the same thing with local veggies and fruits -- utilizing every part to eliminate waste and expand on flavor and texture. Nothing goes to waste in 2013!
Could it be? Finally? No more talk of obesity -- rather, a trend towards combatting it? Recent polls show a growing number of Americans striving to eat healthier, which means chefs are expected to respond with smaller portions and more health-conscious ingredients. Have you seen those new commercials for Applebee's advocating Weight Watchers-endorsed entrees under 550 calories? Let's just hope it doesn't go too far. We can buy Lean Cuisine at the grocery store.
Vegetables, Vegetables, Vegetables...
Everyone is saying you can expect to see healthier dishes from chefs, and thanks to increasing demand for healthier food -- coupled with the rising cost of meat -- veggies are the new hot menu item. Expect flavors will be bigger and bolder with smoked, pickled, marinated and mousses making their way onto the scene. They're even in dessert. A recent special at Dada in Delray Beach featured a broccoli panna cotta, and a new restaurant set to open on Clematis St. in West Palm Beach highlights fire-roasted vegetables as a main focus. Expect to see things like veggie-themed cakes, pies -- especially avocado mousse -- to help make getting your daily vegetable quota even easier.
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