Food Trends in 2018

Like everyone else who loves wine and food, I’ve been watching the parade of food trends coming in over the culinary transom.  Some are of value. Others I know will be short-lived.  For your perusal, here are the ten which caught my attention.

The Rise of Farming:  With direct farm-to-consumer connections on the rise, the profession of farming is growing.  Not only that but not since 1900 has there been an increase of farmers under 35 years old.  The USDA reports that the new incoming breed of farmer is younger and even smarter than the rest of us:  69% have college degrees vs 40% among the general population. 

Technofoodology:  Thanks to the proliferation of home-based assistants such as Alexa, Sonos and Google Home, the way we buy our food is changing. With the internet rapidly becoming “the biggest supermarket chain on the planet,” according to Forbes, the brick and mortar stores will be forced to change into something totally new. Most likely, stores will shift their focus more on fresh, artisanal food and prepared dishes.

All Day Restaurants: Given the expense of running a restaurant, why not keep it open all day and then into the night as well? While the Millennials continue to monopolize the attention of the hospitality world with their increasing demand for take-out and delivery across all meal periods, every age group craves convenience and deliciousness.  Look to more all-day restaurants cropping up in your neighborhood.  A few in New York include Alta, Daily Provisions and Norman.

The Beautification of Ugly Fish:  At the recent “The Next Big Bite (TNBB),” a food trends forum hosted by Les Dames d’Escoffier’s New York Chapter, Kerry Heffernan, executive chef of Grand Banks, predicted the makeover of “unjustly maligned seafood. ”  While the trifecta of salmon, shrimp and tuna dominates our current fish consumption, look for readily-available dog fish, blue fish, catfish and porgy to start appearing on more menus.

Legumes: Padma Lakshmi, of “Bravo’s Top Chef”-fame, forecasted the rise of legumes at the same gathering, TNBB. This class of vegetables includes beans, peas and lentils. Globally speaking, they are amongst the most versatile and nutritious foods available. Low in fat, high in potassium, iron and magnesium, they also contain fiber and are low in cholesterol.

Plant-Based Foods: Trend forecasters Baum & Whiteman predicted the increased interest in vegan and vegetarian diets and food options. Even for carnivores such as me, my family’s current eating preference tends to be heavy on the vegetables, light on the meat. While we have not yet succumb to “plant-based foods,” such as the Impossible Burger—which is made of wheat, coconut oil and potatoes—we are open to seeing what scientists, farmers and chefs can concoct for us to eat as long as it is delicious.

Flower Power:   This is Whole Food’s No 1 trend for 2018.  Either used in drinks, snacks, or decorations for dishes, flowers are everywhere.  Not only do they look appealing, they lend a refreshing and aromatic component. Look for lavender, rose, hibiscus and elderflower to brighten the flavor and appearance in many food and beverage preparations.

Stem-to-stalk:  The veggie counterpart to snout-to-tail using all parts of the vegetable is catching on. Not only does it make vegetables the star of the meal but it also reduces food waste.  New York City restaurants to seek out where vegetables rule include Dirt Candy, Narcissa, Dovetail and abcV.  Currently, Via Carota in the West Village is my favorite.

Along the same idea of reducing food waste, one of France’s major grocery chains, Intermarché, launched a global campaign in 2014 to sell non-calibrated (read less than perfect) produce at a 30% discount. The campaign called Les Fruits et Légumes Moches or Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables was a raging success.  Other competitors in France and around the world followed suit in creating their own initiatives.  Check out this video to see the original concept.  Luckily, it is coming to our shores as well, albeit at a slower pace. Recently one of the vendors at the Union Square Market was selling “Aesthetically Challenged Root Vegetables.” It’s a start.

Natural Wine:  According to Pascaline Lepeltier, MS, the natural wine movement shows no signs of abating. Though hardly new, the concept is going main stream. More and more consumers seek out wines with no chemical intervention made by small, artisanal producers.  Neither the wines’ unfiltered look nor funkiness on the taste seem to be a deterrent.  Formerly natural wines were the darling just of sommeliers. Now, consumers demand them as well.

Edible insects:  While this is not a completely new food trend, as certain cultures have enjoyed them for centuries, edible insects are beginning to make headway in America.  Given the challenge of feeding an ever-increasing world population—many of whom go to bed hungry each night—insects offer a viable solution. They are an excellent source of protein. And, unlike livestock, insects do not require land, water or feed to grow.  They can be eaten whole—often flavored—or milled into a fine powder for producing a range of products such as granola bars, crackers, cookies and even chocolates.  In France, my dear friend Armand Cottin recently invested in a small company which markets gourmet edible insects. My favorite in the line were crickets flavored with raspberries and almond.   Although a bit hesitant, I tried them out for the first time in front of my husband’s two teenage grandsons.  The texture was crunchy and flavor surprisingly delicious.   And, what a way to win Brownie points with the kids.  “Noni eats bugs,”   the boys squealed with a mix of disgust and admiration.