Food Trends of 2012

As the year comes to a close, its time to reminisce on all the food times we’ve had and those yet to come. Here’s a look back on a few of 2012's food trends and highlights:

1. Bitters: As we looked for new ways to spice up our libations, the years old tradition of using bitters as remedy became just the dash needed. Once the craze began, companies realized that mixologists needed more than just Angostura’s and Peychaud’s to make the bitters movement as monumental as they hoped. Just another reason why company’s like Fee Brothers presented us with a plethora of choices from Aztec chocolate to grapefruit, and mint, even celery bitters to pack more punch in that Bloody Mary.

2. Chia Seeds: These ancient seeds provided a great source of energy to many south American cultures for centuries, which makes it a bit of a shock that its taken us so long to catch on. Chia seeds have been used this year in salads, desserts, and even promoted as a delicious pudding made with almond milk and fresh fruit to give your morning routine an extra kick in the pants.

3. Peruvian food is the ultimate melting pot of cultures. The food’s inspiration is influenced by Incan, African, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine. Using corn, potatoes and chili peppers as their main crops, Peruvian food comes to life in these dishes by chef Nico Vera, which are just a few windows into the wonderful world of Peruvian fare.

4. Doughnuts: Although these have been a morning classic for years, it wasn’t until this year that, like cupcakes in 2011, these decadent desserts went to whole new heights. Some favorites are Red Rooster’s own sweet potato doughnuts, the salty caramel custard injected doughnuts from Colonie in Brooklyn, and Dough, one of Smörgasburg’s vendors this year, selling artisan wholly treats like cheesecake, blood orange, and lemon meringue.

5. Multi-cultural tacos: As much as we love the bright, meaty, and spicy flavors of Mexican style tacos, we’ve decided in the past year to branch out. At American Table, Marcus has taken the taco to a whole new level but stuffing it full of Doro’Wat, a traditional Ethiopian stew and crumbed egg on top to create a completely different flavor with a relatively familiar shell. With the tortilla as our guide, the possibilities were endless. From Asian-flavored pork and kimchi, to lamb and tzatziki, even turkey cranberry and gravy; if it could fit (or at least somewhat) into a tortilla, it was considered a taco.

6. Molecular cooking: As we saw with Max and Marcus, molecular cooking was a way for 2012 to take a step into what food could be: by doubling the flavor without the extra calories. This style of cooking has made the impossible possible and has made a play on flavors, textures, and ingredients that leave most dinners baffled, but always wanting more.

7. Gluten free: Ever since the discovery of Celiac, a wheat intolerant disease that had previously been diagnosed, followed by the sudden up rising of wheat allergies, and the philosophy that the Paleo diet (eating only the foods that existed before agriculture and man made crops) is the way our bodies are fashioned to eat, bakers and chefs alike have been challenged to find new and interesting ways to create textures and flavors to accommodate these health needs and preferences and make them delicious!

8. Nostalgia desserts: Just as Hedy Goldsmith’s new cookbook, Baking Out Loud, this year has been the year to reminisce. Bakeries and restaurants everywhere have been selling baked goods that remind us of our childhood. Whether it’s cereal milk ice cream, homemade graham crackers, or red velvet “twinks” we’ve been constantly reminded that it’s still okay to indulge a bit, and what better way than to indulge in sweet, sweet memories.

9. Ramen: Ever since David Chang made slurping noodles sexy, we haven’t been able to get enough. Gone are the days of adding water to a cup of dried flavored vegetables and noodles, this year we’ve upgraded and it’s lip-smacking good. Check out this tasty version of turkey ramen.

10. The importance of Food writing: An article by Michael Ruhlman of the Huffington Post renewed our faith in and love for food writing as well as its importance and necessity in society. With obesity on the rise this couldn’t be more correct.

11. GMO and Prop 37: Another great article this year, by Alexandra Sifferlin of points out the failures and triumphs of Prop 37, an attempt to force food companies to label G.M. products to allow people to make more educated decisions about what they eat. “But despite the defeat, the Prop 37 supporters see the campaign as a victory of sorts. Prop 37 is a really important and historic opportunity for an emerging food movement”. Read the rest of Ms. Sifferlin’s article here.

And now a look at what to expect in 2013:

1. Artisan tonics, cordials, presses and syrups: Now that we’ve tried our stirrer and shaker at bitters, it’s type to top off our bubbles, and spirits with a new kind of zing. Try Belvoir’s elderflower presse with Prosecco or Cava. Spice up your Super Sonic (Gin & Tonic) or this Ginger Tea Tonic with Liber & Co.’s Spiced Tonic Syrup, or pair Haber’s Tonic Syrup with your spirit of choice and top ‘em all off with a refreshing splash of soda.

2. Out with the buttery, sweet, and savory… In with the tart, tangy, and briny: Without the fat this year, there will still be plenty of flavor. With things like fermented cherry juice, sour beer, pickled vegetables and tart sauces your taste buds are in for a real rollercoaster. Looks like Surströmming’s time may have come at last.

3. Veggies as entrees: Whether your vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian or just trying to add some more color to your diet, 2013 is your year. No longer are vegetables a measles side; they have become the starring attraction. Chefs and cooks alike are becoming more inventive with dishes like roasted head of cauliflower at The Fat Radish, Smoked Carrots at Northern Spy, or this hearty root vegetable tagine.

4. Small plates: Now that we’ve figured out that more isn’t always more, 2013 brings more flavor in smaller portions. This approach is not only on the side of our health, but what’s more is the increase in our options. It enables us to choose each component of our meal instead of being stuck with unwanted sides, or wasted food.

5. Restaurants more gluten free, vegan, and everything-in-between friendly: This year presents us with much more possibility, freedom, and choice. More and more restaurants are recognizing the wants, and needs of their customers, and have decided to comply. We will now have more restaurants offering dishes such as gluten-free pasta and non-dairy based soups like Tre, in the Lower East Side. Even massive chains like Claim Jumper, and Chipotle are complying with their customers’ requests.

6. For all of you popcorn lovers, its cool to nosh on your favorite treat once again. 2013 welcomes popcorn as its expected snack of the year. With all of popcorn’s sweet and savory versatility the snaking possibilities are endless. Here’s a sweet and savory recipe to kick off your year of crunchy corny snacks.

7. East meets West with Asian-infused American comfort food: Now that we’ve experience multi-cultural stuffed tacos, it’s time to expand the mediums. In 2013, it seems that not just tacos, but hot dogs, burgers, fried chicken and any other comfort food you can think of is going to be taken over with Asian flavors. Just imagine a juicy pork belly patty with kimchi, pickled cucumbers, carrots, Nunya (we will get to this one) and cilantro all held together by a soft doughy warm bun. And if that doesn’t satiate, here’s a look into a Japanese version.

8. Local European artisan shops: Local European? That’s right. Artisan cheese, meat, chocolate, and bread shops are popping up left and right, like Saxelby’s at Essex Market or Cavaniola’s in TriBeca’s new All Good Things Market. Carrying everything from local breads and cheese to imported delicacies, we are happening upon a more European way of shopping.

9. Oregon Sake, New York Whiskey, and Brooklyn Bourbon: Not only are our foods becoming more localized, but so are our spirits. Although, many of these American companies have been around long before this year, their popularity and use should be much more apparent come this time next year. In Oregon, Sake One, is creating delicious rice wine from plum and Asian pear Moonstone to organic Nigori (unfiltered sake). Tuthilltown Spirits have been creating whiskeys since just after the prohibition and they carry products like Hudson Baby Bourbon, and Hudson New York Corn Whiskey. In Red Hook, Brooklyn, they’re slanging out Widow Jane from sweet pure water, and tough rock.

10. Savory sweets: Yes, bacon in desserts like chocolate and ice cream have been done before. But were talking savory like fennel, black pepper, chili, saffron, sea salt, balsamic, and olives. Foie gras and cherry pop tarts have already popped up at Chicago’s Restaurant, Two Sparrows. Another great savory sweet is this chili cheesecake that's sure to prep the palate for the year to come.

And a bonus...Nunya sauce the new Sriracha? Editor of Food and Wine, Kristin Donnelly, seems to think so. This Nunya-business-what-it's-made-of sauce was cleverly and secretly concocted by the owners of Marination Station in Seattle, Washington and can be compared to an elevated Sriracha aioli. Order your own tub of Nunya sauce (1.800.873.6685), and taste for yourself if it's a worthy opponent to our beloved rooster sauce.

We'll see you in the New Year!