These food trends might have emerged in metropolitan cities like New York or Los Angeles, but they have now taken over the rest of North America. I’ve narrowed down the list to the top five food and dining trends that seem to be popping up all over the place.
Snout-to-Tail Cooking: This trend is really a return to the foundations of cooking, to the time when man hunted and killed his prey and used all parts of the animal without waste. Nowadays, chefs are clamoring to use all the ‘nasty bits’ or offal (ie. guts) in their high-end restaurants, where it is common to see offerings such as crispy pig ears, chicken gizzards, sweet breads, beef’s tongue, tripe, pig’s feet and other innards on the menu. It might not sound that appetizing, but if you’ve ever had a pork rind, you already know how tasty the nasty bits can be. An extension of this trend is also found in the garden with root-to-stem eating, referring to the use of all parts of the vegetable, from watermelon rinds and brocolli stalks to potato peels and celery leaves. These under-used and often discarded parts of the vegetable are not only edible, but also delicious with a little creative cookery
Stoner cuisine: According to a recent NY Times article, stoner cuisine has become a dining trend, or is it a lifestyle choice? Either way, the pairing of pot and munchies is a long-standing tradition that is now being touted by the poshest of gourmets. Yet, this trend isn’t so much about the standard stoner fare of Doritos and microwave burritos from 7-11, but rather marks the elevation of all things gooey, greasy, and cheesy—basically, the kinds of foods that taste great at 3:00 am, when you’ve been partying hard and need some grub, pronto. Gourmet versions of fast food like fois gras poutine and high-end hot dogs of Kobe beef topped with truffle not only display the ingenuity of chefs, but also reflect the pot cravings of delinquent restaurant staffers. I guess Harold and Kumar were ahead of the game on this trend.
“Epic” Meals, aka the Ron Swanson diet: Call it a back-lash against diets and healthy eating, this trend celebrates everything that is bad for you: meat, booze, fat and sugar. Made popular in t.v. shows like Man vs. Food, and most notably in the “Epic meal time” youtube series, where Canadian beef-cakes Harley Morenstein and his sidekicks, the most memorable being “Muscles Glasses,” cook up high calorie, meat-centric, and boozy meals, where the star ingredient is, you guessed it, bacon.* The “Epic” quality of the meals comes from the sheer audacity of their food abominations, where viewers watch with shock, awe, and vicarious enjoyment as the guys gorge themselves on Turducken stuffed pig or a deep-fried tower of bacon cheeseburgers. Love or hate it, this over-the-top style seems to be taking over!
(Note* this trend is also part of a much-greater movement towards pork appreciation, where the humble pig has been elevated to a some kind of divine or mythic beast capable of producing not only pork chops and ham, but arguably the greatest taste sensation on earth, bacon!)
Locavores: At the other end of the spectrum is the extreme rejection of all things processed and commercial, an eco-friendly approach to eating known to many as locavorism. Being a locavore is all about eating locally, organically, seasonally, and from sources that practice sustainable farming. This means not only supporting local farmers and farmer’s markets, but also knowing exactly where and under what conditions your food was produced. It’s not unusual now to see a restaurant list the ingredients and local sources of its ingredients on a menu. While I’m not against eating locally, this trend does have its drawbacks. I mean, do I really need to know that the arugula on my salad was grown organically on Bob and Margaret Mackenzie’s family farm?
The Rise of the Banh Mi: Ahh . . . the banh mi. If you haven’t tried one yet, you soon will. This Vietnamese sandwich has already conquered New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Vancouver, but I predict a mass invasion of the banh mi in neighbourhoods all over North America. Consisting of a crusty baguette filled with the likes of grilled pork, lemongrass chicken or pâté and cold cuts, then garnished with pickled carrot and daikon, jalapeno and cilantro, this sandwich packs a flavour punch! The sandwich is a perfect blend of east meets west: familiar sandwich form with exotic, Vietnamese ingredients. Other submarine sandwich pale in comparison to the banh mi. In fact, I predict banh mi specials will soon be popping up at your local sub shop within the year – that’s how fast this trend is growing. This trend is also part of the growing popularity of global street food and food trucks that are spreading into urban centers everywhere.
Honorable mentions: Slow food, whoopee pies and/or fancy ice cream sandwiches, street food apps for your iphone, underground dinner parties.