Looking back on last year’s culinary trends list, 2010 was all about macarons, bacon, whoopie pies, food trucks, cupcakes, raw food diets, sous vide, and sea salt. Some I'm glad to see phase out, and others continue to trend beautifully. This year has us once again seen us engaging in provenance, but to hyperlocavorist levels. Microdistilleries, homemade pie, sustainable seafood, food photography, pickling, and foraging also top my list of culinary trends this year.
I am in no way a culinary expert, but I'm observant in many corners of the culinary community, and follow blogs, culinary journals, chefs, social media, and product manufacturers, not to mention I'm a cookbook collector (and by "collector", I mean "hoarder").
In my small corner of this gastroverse, these are shifts and trends I've seen pass through this year. I've also made a few culinary predictions for 2012 at the end.
Hyperlocavorism. People have been gravitating toward getting produce and meat direct from specialty farms, butchers, seafood suppliers, farmers markets, and sometimes even growing/supplying their own food at home. We are taking provenance to a whole knew level, insisting on knowing our meat, produce, and seafood suppliers.
Microdistilleries. Boutique booze is shaking up the bar scene, at least in the Pacific Northwest. All varieties of distillers have cropped up literally overnight.
Pickling. Pickles aren't just baby gherkins anymore! Folks are pickling all manner of veggies right and left, and yes, even fruit. In particular, stone fruits and melons, are experiencing a vinegary makeover. Sign me up!
Whole and ancient grains. Spelt, quinoa, amaranth, and kamut (among others) are seeing a resurgence as people gravitate toward healthier grains and away from over-processed foods.
Food photography. There's been an exploding interest in photographing our edibles—a subject near and dear to my heart and palate. Taking photos of your meal is the new duck-face snapshot.
Cardamom. This spice just rejoined the ranks of home pantry staples. I've noticed that this once-exotic spice is trending rapidly in desserts, breads, savory dishes, and drinks.
Street food. Food carts and trucks have been trending for a while now, but this year it was all the rage to rent them for parties and weddings. Even some restaurants (like Seattle’s Revel) specialize in restaurant-served street food. (Somehow, this works.)
Foraging. Searching for edible plants and mushrooms is on an upswing, and is undoubtedly connected to our desire to eat fresh, eat local, and known where are food comes from. Chefs and foragers have been giving tours to those wanting to learn to spot food growing in our midst.
Gastro-tourism. People have always enjoyed meals in the exotic places they've traveled to, but now, they are traveling more and more for the express purpose of tasting a city's or region’s culinary offerings, waiting months to get reservations at a world-renowned restaurant, or visiting specific regions to buy its ingredients and wares.
Butchery. Despite Meatless Monday and vegetarian/vegan lifestyles also enjoying a healthy upswing, people are more often frequenting butchers, taking butchery classes, and using nonstandard types and cuts of meat more than ever. Heritage handcut meats are trending, as mass-produce supermarket meats (even those labeled "organic") get snubbed.
Food on a stick. There's been just about everything attached to a stick this year. Cake-pops, pie-on-a-stick, ice pops, candy, and even macarons have found themselves on sticks previously reserved for lollipops or corndogs. There's even a cookbook for stick-food lovers.
Boutique gourmet/fusion burgers. Not only have specialty beefs (wagyu, kobe, or local varieties) become all the rage, but a fusion of cultural flavor notes employing exotic condiments, such as berry spreads, specialty mustards, and non-traditional veggies and relishes all enjoyed time in the limelight this year.
Pie. It finally happened. Pie is the new cupcake. Single-serving pies, pies on a stick, deep-dish heirloom fruit pies, seasonal tarts, savory pies, pie-in-a-mason-jar... you name it. If it has anything resembling a pie crust, people are gobbling it up. I’ve even seen “pie shakes” and “pie ice cream” flavors. Pie maven, Kate McDermott, who has undoubtedly helped spread the pie love with her best-pie-crust-I've-ever-tasted recipes, has sold-out-for-months-in-advance baking classes. People are craving pie, which won the Dessert Olympics this year.
Cocktails. Cocktail bars, and specialty cocktails, are all the rage, and mixologists have become the new culinary celebrities. I expect this cocktail culture to increase exponentially in 2012. There is a particular interest in bitters and microdistilled spirits. Spirit-serving gastropubs are the new wine bar.
DIY meat curing. People are taking their meat into their own hands (not a euphemism, ahem) by smoking and curing their own meats, making their own bacon, and creating homemade versions of charcuterie classics like salami and pastrami.
Cooking show competitions. These have been around for a couple of years, but this year, I couldn't even keep up with all of the cooking competition shows. It's no longer chefs competing in culinary smackdowns, but the home cook who dreams of taking their culinary prowess to the next level.
Homemade ice cream. Seems that everyone in my social media feed this past summer was out buying their own ice cream makers, and concocting all types of traditional and exotic frozen treats. I was even invited to a number of ice cream socials, or attending parties where homemade ice cream was paired with other desserts. This can just keep on trending, as far as I'm concerned!
Sustainable seafood. With unethical fishing practices depleting our oceans' resources, the topic of sustainable seafood has risen to the top of the culinary discussions of the year. At the forefront is the book Good Fish by Becky Selengut. If you enjoy eating, reading about, or cooking seafood, this book is a must.
Goat. I know goat cheese has been around a long time, but this is the first year I've seen goat meat and milk trending, as well as goat cheese showing up in non-traditional forms. There's also a new cookbook specializing in culinary goat offerings.
Sriracha sauce. I've seen it added to sweets and other non-Asian foods. There's even a Sriracha cookbook for this flying rooster hot sauce. I've seen it as a standard condiment in many restaurants now, with people adding it to eggs, soups, burgers, and more.
Hash. I don't mean the green variety. I'm talking the it-ain't-just-for-corned-beef-anymore kind. Gourmet hash is totally on the rise with more restaurants serving standard and non-standard varieties with their breakfast menus again. I blame Clark Haas of Hashcapades fame. I hope he writes a Hash cookbook this year. (Hint, hint.)
Cheese curds. With the Canadian specialty poutine gaining more popularity across the border, and cheese varieties expanding, I'm starting to see squeaky cheese in my local, tiny market now. I imagine there will be all types of gourmet cheese curds making the rounds this year. Bring it on!
Butter churning. During the butter shortage in Norway, people have started churning their own butter. These kinds of things tend to spread across borders and I imagine fresh, hand-churned butter being the next big culinary craze.
Fermenting. People are starting to go beyond basic pickling and make homemade sauerkraut, kimchi, and other foods, as well as more home brewing, and other DIY fermentation projects.
Healthier fast-food options. This trend has already turned up ethnic and vegetarian food carts, but I am sensing this will spread widely to fast-food restaurants, both with old standards offering healthier options, and brand-new restaurants offering quick and easy healthful options. School and work cafeterias are also starting to get the message.
More allergen-free foods. More restaurants, food manufacturers, and home cooks serving gluten- and allergen-free foods. Too many folks have special culinary diets for food servers and producers to ignore this any longer.
Microfarming.Urban farming has seen an increase in the last couple of years, but more people are investing in backyard chickens, bees, and gardens than I ever remember in years past. It seems like I've seen more front and back yards converted to vegetable gardens than ever before, with fancy raised beds, little greenhouses, and wire/fencing (to keep out other hungry animals).
Hunting. I admit that I look forward to learning to hunt this year, which seems to be a new trend, with people like Georgia Pellegrini (of Girl Hunter fame) leading the way. This year, I learned to shoot a rifle in preparation for this year's hunting expedition. I think at the heart of the matter (at least for me), people are wanting to look intimately at the source of where our food comes from and to learn valuable skills for survival in case of catastrophic disaster.
What trends have you seen come and go this year, and what do you anticipate for next year?