Trends — the general direction in which something is developing or changing —advance in predictable stages. This is no different in the culinary world, where we see the manifestations of our collective appetites. In no particular order, here are the most prominent local trends.
1 The big news this year is the ever-increasing popularity of, and passion for, plant-based cuisine. Vegetarian, vegan and root-to-stalk cooking have gone from hot food trends to mainstream contenders. The majority of meat alternatives may still be soy or wheat-based but chickpeas, corn, legumes and fungi are replacing animal proteins in restaurants. Think kidney bean pepperoni, heart of palm calamari, coconut bacon, smoked carrot lox, cultured cashew milk cheeses and vegan doughnuts. At the centre of several trends — plant-based cuisine, foraging and umami — all manner of fungi are building a forceful presence on the culinary scene.
2 Jackfruit, with its spiky outer shell and starchy pear-like inner flesh, is also touted as a go-to meat substitute with a good source of dietary fibre, an ability to absorb flavours, and a savoury taste when cooked. In fact, jackfruit is expected to be positioned as a top food trend for 2017. Kale’s former ubiquity was challenged by cauliflower last year. Expect seaweed’s new-found popularity to be the latest contender thanks to its being high in umami flavour and health benefits. Incidentally the term “veggies” in Pinterest “comfort food” searches soared 336% in the past year.
3 There is a strong argument that the spiralizer is one of the hottest kitchen gadgets in the market right now. Spiralizing —turning fresh vegetables into faux noodles — is expected to sustain popularity for a long time, owing to the “eat healthy” and vegetarian movements.
4 Last year saw the launch of a savoury, spicy and sweet flavour trend which was found in everything from potato chips (harissa-hummus) to ice creams (Thai peanut butter pretzel). Due to their success these mash-up flavour combos are on the radar again this year.
5 There are a number of emerging super foods which include the African fruit baobab (usually pronounced bow-bab, or bay-o-bab) known for its high concentration of vitamin C, fibre and antioxidants; tropical fruits cherimoya and soursop whose sweet flesh and distinctive characteristics are used to flavour beverages and ice cream; and kaniwa (pronounced ka-nyi-wa) a high-fibre high-protein food that is being heralded as the new quinoa.
6 Speaking of quinoa, there is a developing market in Ontario for a homegrown crop of the superfood that is gluten-free, high in fibre and zinc, and an excellent source of magnesium and iron. Quinoa has been reigning supreme as a healthy high-protein trend since 2014. Also expect to hear about a whole new generation of spirits made with grains like quinoa.
7 One of the top break-out trends continues to be the “clean” movement. Eating “clean” is the present-day form of the late 1960s and ’70s natural food movement. It is all about providing transparency and eliminating anything that has additives or chemicals, is processed, or has been exposed to pesticides. The movement streamlines product labeling and provides clean label lists of simplified ingredients that consumers can easily understand and pronounce.
8 Turmeric, the rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family with powerful anti-inflammatory effects, antioxidant benefits, and an ability to balance other flavours, is considered to be the top culinary trend of the last few years. According to
industry insiders turmeric continues to pick up steam as a trending ingredient (up 21%). Other trending spices are caraway (up 40%), saffron (up 31%) and horseradish (up 29%). Cayenne pepper rose 47% in global product launches.
9 There is a growing demand for greater diversity and higher levels of authenticity in ethnic cuisines. Relatively unknown and underappreciated, the African culinary canon features a range of distinct and diverse cuisines. Berbere, baharat, dukkah, ras el hanout, tsire and other traditional African spice blends are achieving broader use and emerging as the new ethnic inspiration for cooks.
10 Offering authentic flavours and showmanship, hand-pulled noodles are expected to be the big on-trend taste in urban Chinese restaurants. Pasta is also poised to make a strong comeback.
11 Food symposiums and culinary events are a very effective way to gauge the culinary zeitgeist. To celebrate 150 years of Canada, the 2017 presenters of Terroir will showcase the history, diversity and leadership of our culinary landscape in a program titled “Our Home and Native Land: Celebrating Canadian Gastronomy” at The Art Gallery of Ontario on May 29, 2017. The Terroir Symposium is a non-profit educational event designed to bring together innovative and creative influencers from the field of hospitality, including chefs, food and beverage experts, writers and business leaders. It is an opportunity to champion the connection between “taste and place,” showcase culinary innovation and raise the global profile of Canadian cuisine.
12 Anyone who has chanced upon a menu with a strong focus of wild and foraged seasonal ingredients, or that draws inspiration from traditional indigenous cooking techniques such as cedar plank barbecuing, has tasted the influence of contemporary Canadian cuisine. Rich with culinary history, Canadian indigenous cuisine is full of the seasonal flavours of traditional First Nation’s cuisine as well as the culinary practices of early settlers and immigrants.
13 Chefs continue to be preoccupied with cured, pickled, fermented, foraged and house-made or artisanal food and beverages like kombucha, pickles, sausages and salumi. The demand for artisan cured meats and charcuterie and artisan cheese boards show no signs of abating. Pork in all its iterations, especially charcuterie, pho and bibimbap remain wildly popular. The earthy and acidic flavours of fermented foods like tempeh, kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut continue to be hot trends.
14 Made by hand, in small batches, with specialized and local ingredients continues to be the gastronomic entrepreneur’s rallying call.
15 Going out to a restaurant remains the number one preferred activity for spending time with family and friends. Recent studies state that nearly half of all restaurant visitors now self-identify as foodies.
16 Breakfast as we know it is expected to be transformed with more ethnic flavours and heavier brunch-style items. The hottest recent “innovations” are updated versions of the all-day breakfast. Also expect to see dark chocolate cake make an appearance on breakfast menus, given its recent elevation due to its purported beneficial impact on memory, focus and cognitive function.
17 The inclination of millennials for natural, uncomplicated and healthful diets will drive the continuing expansion of vegetarian, vegan and other plant-based food and beverage offerings. Recent studies have indicated that 58% of millennials are inclined to agree that the food you purchase and where you buy it are a reflection of your personal values.
Bryan Lavery is eatdrink’s Food Editor and Writer at Large.