Its time to dust off the good old culinary crystal ball in hopes it reveals a few notable food trends for 2019. Obviously I have no guarantee if I’m on the right track, but have high hopes I’ll be proven right over the next 12 months. Looking back on my trend predictions from 2018, I foresee “bleeding” meatless burgers, ghost restaurants and poutine to continuing to gain popularity in the new year, but be sure to make a little room in your diet for Israeli Shishlik experiment with harissa and track the rise of cannabis cuisine to be even more on trend in 2019. While you’re at it, help prove me right by ordering a meal at a kiosk, ordering dinner from a hyper-local meal prep service, or enjoying a chicken sandwich in lieu of a cheeseburger!
And stay-tuned for a trend focused recipe next week!
Few people have avoided the late night trap of eating a gyro of falafel sandwich in the middle of the night after an evening of drinking and dancing. Traditionally, Israeli (more broadly referred to as Middle Eastern) food has been reserved for counter service establishments known for peddling cheap eats, but chef-driven menus are focused on elevating and defining Israeli cuisine. Israeli and Jewish influenced fine-dining fare has popped up in important places like California and New York in recent years and I predict we’ll see elevated Israeli cuisine spread across the country in the coming months. Known for produce heavy dishes and small shareable plates, Israeli food is mishmash of various cultural influences, but as the young nation matures expect nuanced Israeli fare to make its mark and consumers to embrace the niche flavors of Israel.
As marijuana laws are becoming more lax, all eyes are on snacks, entrees, and desserts spiked with a little THC. Think beyond a pan a of pot brownies and consider the impending evolution of chef-curated cannabis-themed meals. Sure, there are hurdles the industry needs to overcome (not the least of which are federal legalization, standardized dosing suggestions, and destigmatizing marijuana generally), but given the ever growing list of states where pot is already legal and the very real possibility Illinois will follow suit, I am betting we’ll see a rise in creative edibles, fancy weed-pairing dinners, and entire restaurant menus designed to get you responsibly high in the coming year.
Move over gogchujang and siracha and make room for North African harissa. This Tunisian chili paste is bound to make its mark on the culinary scene in 2019. Broadly used in Tunisian, Israeli, and Moroccan dishes. Harissa is incorporated into meat, vegetable and couscous offerings and is comprised of roasted hot chilies, onions, garlic, caraway, mint and coriander. Harissa can be used in paste or powder form and isn’t incredibly hot; the chili paste typically measures 40-50K on the Scoville scale making it comparable to a cayenne pepper in heat. Not only can we expect to see this ingredient rise in popularity on restaurant menus, I predict harissa will become part of any accomplished home-cook’s hot sauce arsenal in the coming months.
We’ve all benefited from calorie counts on restaurant menus; I don’t know anyone who hasn’t made a “better” choice because they had numbers starring them in face, but now its becoming clearer to the masses that all calories are not created equal. Counting macro nutrients (sugar, fat and protein) separately from total calories ensures folks choose nutrient dense foods to maximize their health and meet their fitness goals. Savvy macro counters know how to navigate restaurants without lowering their nutritional standards, but it takes work. With a dip in calorie counting and a rise in nutrient tracking, I predict we’ll see restaurants begin to help folks navigate the world of macro nutrients more easily in the coming year by making complex nutritional information readily available to the general public.
2019 will likely bring a decline in the popularity of both avocado toasts and donuts, but bagels are destined to go beyond basic. Baked goods like croissants, waffles, and cupcakes have had their savory-sweet moment in the sun and bagels are up next. These bready rings have been relegated to grocery store shelves for too long. The Daly Bagel already has Midwesterners lining up for East Coast style bagels in our area, but I predict artisan bagels will drive breakfast sandwich creations on restaurant menus while quirky, colorful, filled or stuffed bagels will make appearances on dessert menus, too. From the artisan to the absurd take a bite out of bagels this year!
No-one will ever truly turn away from the iconic American cheeseburger, but burgers have experienced a big boom in recent years. Premium (top-dollar) burgers, skinny “smash” burgers, fried egg topped breakfast burgers, and farm-to-table beef burgers have revolutionized what we expect when we order beef between a bun. While burgers are sure to remain a menu mainstay, larger percentages of people (close to 50% of customers according to Mintel) are looking for a chicken option to replace traditional burger options. Combine that stat with the recent obsession with Nashville hot fried chicken, the evolution of chicken waffles, and general rise in folks seeking a health-conscious alternative to cheeseburgers, I expect to see broader list of burger options on most menus, with special attention paid to crafting thoughtful chicken burger/sandwiches, that will snag a piece of the comfort food spotlight in 2019.
Love it or hate, kiosk ordering in casual restaurants (even local joints) is on the rise. While many folks are disturbed by the decline of personal interaction kiosks bring, the benefits are undeniable on the restaurant side. Self-order and self-pay kiosks are thought to increase preparation accuracy, speed up lines, cut-down on employee expense and increase average check size. As a result, self-ordering kiosks are making their way beyond fast food chain restaurants and into our local lunch and dinner spots.Lea French Street food in Oak Park has been ahead of the curve in this regard since opening in 2017. Over the past year, Lea owners, Nicolas Caulliez and Colleen Wagner-Caulliez, have been dedicated to helping folks navigate their kiosk-based ordering system and admit the young business struggled with operations early on, but today their streamlined menu and educated customer base is key to their success. The system is user friendly, offers easy customization options and allows guests of age to tack a glass of wine onto their lunch order!
Pendulums swing and I predict the dietary restriction pendulum will start to swing back in 2019. Making healthy daily decisions will never go out of style, but extreme, choice-driven restrictions have kept people out of restaurants and away from social gatherings for too long. In 2019, I expect to the word “flexible” to pop-up among people who embrace dietary restrictions (for non life threatening reasons) on most days, but will splurge on occasion. Your keto friend, who swears off carbs, may start to view himself as “keto-flexible” and happily indulge in a piece of birthday cake on a special day. Serving up a stack of pancakes for Sunday brunch may suddenly be an attractive treat for someone who lives a predominantly gluten-free lifestyle, while a “flexatarian” might enjoy chicken, beef, or fish every now and then despite eating a plant-based diet on most days. Expect the word “flexible” to release some of the pressure associated with dietary restrictions this year.
Since first appearing on the food scene in 2012, national meal kit delivery services, have helped busy folks make the most of their limited time. As the novelty of this type of service continues to wear off, I am betting folks will still want mealtime help, but may start to crave a some a local connections when it comes to procuring dinner. Look for week-night meal assistance to take a decidedly hyper-local turn in 2019 as folks make community connections to help get dinner on the table. In the Oak Park Eats area check out New Rose Catering and Angie’s Pantry to make your dinner dreams a reality.
“New Rose is local; I am a local mom who has lived in Oak Park for 20 years,” says chef-owner Su Jang proudly, “and I started this business to help busy families.”
Jang, of New Rose Catering, offers free dinner delivery ($25 minimum)to people in Forest Park, Oak Park and River Forest. Her personal chef menu rotates each week and typically features two soups and three entrees. Vegan, vegetarian gluten-free, and dairy-free options are available and she is willing to work with clients to customize dishes to suit personal tastes and dietary restrictions.