Food Trends to Watch for in 2012

Andy Ricker and Sean Brock


Predicting food trends is an inexact science (though some people are actually paid to do it). At any rate, here’s our stab at what we suspect will be crossing our plates in 2012.

Locavorism, Redefined
Taking his lead from the Cook it Raw crew, Charleston’s Sean Brock is striving to revive the cooking of the South's antebellum period, teaming up with foragers and historians to rescue heirlooms from obscurity or extinction. We’re hopeful that his efforts will spark a similar curiosity in chefs working in other regions of this country.

Doughnut World Tour
These irresistible fried treats have recently resurged in popularity: our in-depth study of the Serious Eats archives revealed that doughnut-dedicated content rose by roughly eighty percent between 2010 and 2011. America is clearly wild about doughnuts, which is why we suspect that next year we’ll start seeing other regions’ and countries’ versions of them, such as the Texan kolache, Turkish lokma, or Portuguese malasada.

Thai Revival
After too many disappointing bowls of sugary curry, we had abandoned all hope that real Thai food could find a foothold in the United States. But this year we watched the start of a reclamation. The cuisine got its first P.R. boost when Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker won the 2011 JBF Award for Best Chef: Northwest. (UPDATE: Lotus of Siam’s Saipin Chutima, who won this year’s JBF Award for Best Chef: Southwest, most definitely deserves some credit, too!) Two months later, Grant Achatz unveiled his Thai menu at Next, and while its authenticity was debated, critics applauded the restaurant for refusing to capitulate to Westerners’ tastes. Ricker also recently announced that he will soon open two new restaurants in New York City. Will Thai food finally be wrested from the grip of bland rice noodles in 2012? We think so.


 buckthorn and sorrel


New Nordic Pantry
Chefs are hopping on the Noma-inspired New-Nordic-Cuisine train and are reaching for these ingredients: sea buckthorn (a tart orange berry), wood sorrel (a plant with heart-shaped leaves), bark flour (made from real trees), and evergreens (such as Douglas fir). To wit: a recent Douglas fir eau-de-vie sighting on the menu at GT Fish & Oyster in Chicago.

Canelés: The New New Cupcakes
First it was pies. Then it was macarons. Our bet for the next hot specialty bakery item? Canelés, a favorite in Bordeaux, made from an egg-yolk-enriched crêpe-like batter that's baked in copper molds lined with caramel and beeswax. (The egg whites were traditionally used to clarify the wine.) We love the ones at the new Dominique Ansel Bakery, which achieve the perfect crisp-shell-to-custardy-interior ratio. We also enjoyed watching Chez Pim work out her favorite recipe. Just don’t count on a proliferation of canelés at kids’ birthday parties: individual molds go for around $25 a pop. UPDATE: our Cochon 555 kick-off dinner on January 20 will have pork blood canelés on the menu—a trend twofer!

Eat-in Kitchen, Reinvented
The 80s gave us open kitchens, the 90s brought us chef tables. Now we’re seeing kitchens that also function as restaurants. Think the Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare in Brooklyn, or Beast in Portland, Oregon. What’s next? Pull up a chair (next to the stove).


canele and lokma

Bloody Good Food
Maybe it's our love for Twilight and True Blood. Maybe it’s the natural next step in the nose-to-tail movement. Whatever the reason, blood is appearing on menus more and more. Blood pancakes, blood cups, sauces thickened with blood. JBF Award winner Jennifer McLagan even features a recipe for chocolate–blood ice cream in her latest book, Odd Bits. Odd, indeed.

Diminishing Portion Sizes
While fast food continues to get supersized, fine-dining portions are getting smaller and smaller. It seems the shrinking of full-size dishes down to small plates just wasn’t enough, as single "bite" servings are the new big…um…small thing. We’ve recently amused our bouches on full menus of bites at Aviary in Chicago and Picca and the Bazaar in Los Angeles.

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