Food Trends

FOOD TRENDS 2016

While we are likely to be reading that… deep breath… Sri Lankan food is the new Korean, bitter is the new salty/sweet, seaweed is the new kale, tlayudas are the new tacos, poke (pronounced po-kay) is the new ceviche, avocado oil is the new coconut oil, camel milk is the new goat’s milk, doughnuts are the new cronuts, canelés are the new éclairs, and pour-over coffee is the new flat white as the food trends for 2016 continue to be trotted out; in Ireland you can expect to hear a lot more about grass-fed, single estate dairy and see craft butter take the headlines from craft beer.

Craft Butter is the New Craft Beer – Terroir and Single Estate Butter

Chefs like Mikael Viljanin in the Greenhouse have been making flavoured butter for the past few years, but increasingly, there is a shift to churning butter in-house. Dublin native Robin Gill, who owns the Manor restaurant in London, which was rated 5 stars for its food by AA Gill in the Sunday Times last year, has received huge acclaim for his smoked bone marrow butter. Here in Dublin Barry Fitzgerald, who has been pounded with reservations since opening his restaurant Bastible on Leonard’s Corner, is also doing an in-house churn. “I get some really good cream from an organic farm in Wicklow, which is the most important thing to start with,” he says. “I whip it up to a certain point and drain off the buttermilk which I use in some of the dishes, and then I use wooden paddles to beat it until all the buttermilk comes out of it; I season it up and roll it into a round shape and chill it down and portion it. It has a really nice farmyard smell and is a little more sour than shop bought butter.”

Say Goodbye to ‘Foodie’

Although terroir is likely to become an increasingly important term when talking about milk and our lush green pastures in Ireland, one word we should be hearing less of is ‘foodie’. Afforded culinary status when it was first listed in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1980, it has now been relegated to the poubelle by Lake Superior State University’s 40th Annual List of Banished Words. While an alternative is not offered and ‘cheffy’ has edged its way in, the new official word from the French Canadian’s is ‘cuisinomane’, a word so apt, it just rolls off the tongue like a Galician goose barnacle. And joining foodie in the scrapheap is the highly pretentious ‘curated’; so it looks like we’re back to today’s special and plain old menus again.

But as you would expect, there are plenty of shiny, new epicurean nuggets ready to step up to the plate. In the know gastronomes will already have digested Josh Freidland’s dictionary of modern gastronomy, Eatmology, and be peppering their gastro gossip with words like ‘brocavore’, which of course refers to the bearded hipster food obsessive, coined by Christina Mulke, editor of Bon Appetit who spoke at the Ballymaloe Literary Festival earlier in 2015; and as signed up ‘climatarian’s, they will be forming ‘carrot mobs’ to buy from purveyors who want to make the world a better place between stints at a yoga class to sort out their ‘barista wrist’.

2016 is the Year we’re all Prepared to Pay More

Gastro garble aside, 2016 is shaping up to be the year that we all pay more. Whereas the past few years have been led by the growth of casual restaurants, 2016 is the year when diners look for a more grown-up experience, and we need look no further than Luna on Dublin’s Drury Street. “When people go out now, they want a sense of occasion,” says Declan Maxwell, manager of Luna. “We’re not formal in a stuffy sense, but we have leather booths, a special big table for eight people and a buzzy bar which adds to the atmosphere. And the waiters are all smartly dressed in their Louis Copeland tuxes, so they match what the dining experience should be.”

Luxury and Personalised Service

And it’s not just about the food. If you can’t stretch to €3,200 for the Orient Express experience when the Belmond Grand Hibernian steams through the country from August, you could opt for a stay in Ashford Castle, ranked number 12 on the prestigious Condé Nast Gold List 2016, where it is all about making your experience as memorable and individual as possible. Head down the red-carpeted spiral staircase to the newly renovated wine cellar, past the temperature controlled rooms for an enviable collection of champagne, white and red wines; and you will reach the two tasting rooms which can be used for private dinners or a tutored wine tasting session. “The majority of our private tastings are just for couples, for people who have an interest in wine, but equally those who don’t know about wine and are starting out,” says Phillip Dunne, the senior sommelier at Ashford Castle. ”Guests have a sommelier dedicated to them for one hour. We have five different options from €35 to €95 for a tasting of three old world Bordeaux fine wines poured through our Coravin system, which gives people an opportunity to taste wines they might never try otherwise.”

Chefs Get Closer to Farmers

Farm to fork may be a hackneyed cliché, but in 2016 it will be taking on a new more literal meaning. At the Food on the Edge symposium in Galway last year, Sasu Laukkonen, the chef and part time farmer who plans to eliminate waste at his eponymous organic restaurant in Helsinki, called for chefs to work on farms and farmers to work in kitchens. Rene Redzepi will be closing Noma to re-open in a warehouse where there will be room for an urban farm; and online gastronomic oracle, Eater.com, predicts that Single Thread in Healdsburg, California, a farm based restaurant to be opened by “the best chef you’ve never heard of”, Kyle Connaughton and his farmer wife, Katina, will be the biggest opening of the year in the US.

Truly symbiotic relationships are emerging with farmers which not only ensure top quality produce for a restaurant, but also ensure a sustainable price for the farmer. “We try to get as much as we can from Fergal Anderson and Manu Russo at Leaf and Root Farm,” says Enda McEvoy, chef-patron of Michelin-starred Loam restaurant in Galway. “We get 80% of our vegetables from them. We’re working really well together, and we’re trying to close the loop with them in that they’ll pick up our food waste and turn it into compost, which reduces their cost as well. We meet with them twice a year to agree what they’re going to grow for us, and we have a commitment to them that we’ll buy all the vegetables that we decide to grow at the beginning of the year. So they have a predictable revenue stream, guaranteed from us, and in return we get a fair price off them as well.”

2016 is all about the Pulse

While the elevated role of vegetables is nothing new, and more and more restaurants like Loam are making them the central element of a dish, the United Nations has declared 2016 as the International Year of the Pulse, so we can expect to see more of this sustainable and affordable protein in the dishes we eat this year. Other trends like fermented food will continue to grow as will our focus on eliminating food waste. “Irish households end up throwing out €700 of wasted food a year and people are becoming more conscious of this,” says Elizabeth Fingleton of Obeo, a company that manufactures small, biodegradable brown bags, which means that collecting food for composting or putting in the brown bin is easier. “The new ‘pay-by-weight’ regulations are coming in from July 2016 so that means it will be cheaper to put food waste into your brown bin rather than your black bin, so people will be incentivised to use the brown bin that bit more.”

2016 the Year of Disruption to the Food Industry

2016 may indeed be the year when we see a true disruption to the food industry. With people willing to pay extra for convenience, third-party online ordering and delivery services like Deliveroo are collaborating with restaurants to make dining-in easier.  In the US, big players like Uber and Amazon are looking for a piece of the lucrative delivery action. Other start-ups like Dublin based DropChef are following the lead of US companies like Blue Apron and alleviating the pain points of cooking at home by delivering healthy, calorie controlled meal kits, and we can expect to see this trend spread to the vegan sector like US-based Purple Carrot.

There has also been a fundamental shift in how the opinion formers of the culinary industry are shaking up the accepted norms of the sector. Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer, at his recent talk at the US Ambassador’s residence in Dublin, explained why he is taking the seemingly radical step of wiping out tipping at his US restaurants.  Whereas at most American restaurants patrons are expected to tip up to 20 percent, he has brought in a non-tipping system which rewards the kitchen staff as much as the front of house staff. It is not just a phenomenon that will impact on the US. “I see technology as enabling the elimination of tipping; the average American tips the exact amount every experience, they don’t use it to rate good or bad service,” he says. “Mobile pay will allow you to get up and leave whenever you’re ready, and as soon as the GPS sees that you’re outside the restaurant, it will charge you, and then you’re going to get an opportunity to rate your experience. It will be just like an Uber taxi, where you don’t need to take out your wallet and you don’t leave a tip but what you do have is an opportunity to rate the experience from zero to five stars.”

The Rise of Fine Casual

But it’s not just tech that is influencing this gravity shift. As the fast food giants like McDonald’s are battling for credibility and eliminating additives in response to customer pressure, there has been a seismic shift with high profile chefs focusing on bringing great food to the masses rather than just the elite. Some are more upmarket fast casual restaurants, or what Meyer calls ‘fine casual’, and others have a philanthropic element to them. What is clear, is that there is now a collective effort at the highest level to improve the quality of food on offer to everyone.

At the Food on the Edge symposium, UK chef Nathan Outlaw said it was time to change people’s idea of fast food. This has happened at a highly fashionable level in the US with Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack and David Chang’s legendary steamed pork buns in Momofuku, which are now joined by fried chicken at his new restaurant Foku. Daniel Patterson, who also spoke at Food on the Edge, laid out his plans for a new fast food chain, Loco’l which he is opening with Roy Choi in an underprivileged area of San Francisco to bring not just good food, but also employment.  Closer to home, JP McMahon of Michelin starred Aniar is looking to raise funds for Farmer, a fast food restaurant group which works directly with farmers and focuses on provenance, ethics, sustainability and animal welfare. Most recently, Daniel Giusti, who was chef de cuisine at Noma, announced that he was leaving to return to Washington DC to launch a food service company that will provide better school lunches.

Camden Street is the New South William Street in Dublin

While there are no imminent plans for new openings of fast casual restaurants in Dublin, Camden Street continues to consolidate its position as the new South William Street with two of the most highly anticipated restaurant openings for 2016. Restaurateur John Farrell will be collaborating with chef Karl Whelan and DJ Will Dempsey to open a contemporary Chinese restaurant in April, which Farrell describes as “an homage to Hong Kong with an emphasis on duck”; and Sunil Ghai of the Ananda group is venturing out on his own to open a stylish North Indian restaurant in February. Meanwhile, John and Sandy Wyer of Forest Avenue will be opening a wine bar and restaurant with Ciaran Sweeney as head chef in the premises that was formerly Rigby’s on Upper Leeson Street.

Spain is Still Culinary Destination No 1

Travelling gastronauts keen to plan out their global itinerary for 2016 might do well to move their gaze from the Nordic countries to Spain. Although Nordic cuisine has had a huge influence over the last several years, and Mexican and Peruvian cuisine are red hot, the Spanish influence is still creating a major impact and goes way beyond the hugely talented Roca Brothers in El Cellar de Can Roca. Albert Adria has a 50 day residency in London where the menu will include highlights from his Barcelona restaurants, which include the permanently booked out Tickets. Asador Etxebarri, 30 minutes from Bilbao and ranked number 13 in the world, is where Victor Arguinzoniz cooks Basque style on his bespoke wood grill, and it continues to be a chef’s and insider’s favourite. And closer to Bilbao is Azurmendi, a restaurant which has jumped to number 19 on the Worlds 50 Best list and chef-patron Eneko Atxa is set to open a restaurant in London. But if you want my personal recommendation for what restaurant to book in 2016, it would have to be Disfrutar in Barcelona, run by the three former head chefs from elBulli, Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casañas. It received a Michelin star this year and it surely will be only a matter of time before it lands more.

FOOD TRENDS 2015

As Yogi Berra famously said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future”, and that’s certainly true of the culinary world. While Esquire magazine listed foraging, sharing plates, drinks in jam jars, edible soil, deep fried grasshoppers and arty pop-ups as some of the most annoying food trends of 2014, for 2015, research groups in the USA predict we’ll be focusing on deep smoky as well as sour flavours, drinking light, nutritious bone broth, chowing down on okonomiyaki, a type of Japanese pancake, and eating more fermented food like sauerkraut and kimchee. Korean food is big, so time to stock up on gochujang, the Korean sauce which is taking over from Sriracha; and for an instant Korean hit and truly authentic flavour, just add a drop of jang, made from fermented soybeans, to any dish.

But first, let’s look at breakfast.

Avocado toast, the “most annoying food on Instagram” tops the breakfast trends list for Olivia Wilde, Karolina Kurkova and Gwyneth Paltrow. To taste it at its best, you need to pop into Cafe Gitane on Mott Street, in New York, where they serve the avocados artfully  smashed on seven grain toast with a dash of lemon juice, olive oil, and red chilli flakes, yours for a healthy $7.25.

At the other end of the scale, Belfast identical twins, 32 year old Gary and Alan Keery, have a very different take on the latest trend for breakfast in their new Cereal Killer Cafe in London’s Brick Lane. With over 120 different types of cereal from around the world, ranging from Rice Krispies to difficult to source Oreo cereal from Korea; 13 types of milk including oat, almond, soy, rice, strawberry, blueberry and vanilla; and 20 different toppings,  this all day diner is putting the mass produced cereal box right back on the menu. “We didn’t expect it to be as busy as it is,” says Gary Keery. “In fact, the morning is the quietest time. We open at 7am and it’s steady, but from ten thirty in the morning till ten at night, there’s a constant queue. We’ve completely sold out of our peanut butter cereal and our Oreo cereal. We thought we had enough stock for four weeks but we’re re-ordering already.

“We do cereal cocktails, with two cereals. One of the most popular is the Chocopotomus. It’s half a bowl of Coco Pops and half a bowl of Krave and that’s served with chocolate milk and a Kinder Happy Hippo, like the way you used to get toys in your cereal. Breakfast used to be so much fun when we were kids; we just want to put the fun element back into it. We have about 700 people coming in each day – in our business plan, we thought we were going to have 120, we were very pleasantly surprised”.

Although the hipster twins were challenged by Channel 4 News about selling a bowl of cereal for £3.20 in a neighbourhood where the average salary is just over £11,000, they have been welcomed to the area by their neighbours, including Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, the first cat cafe in the UK. Not as crazy as it may sound, the cat cafe trend, where people get to hang out with cats as they drink their coffee or tea, started in Taipei in 1998 and there are now over 100 in Tokyo, with more springing up in the US.  Now 30 year old Dubliner Georgina O’Neill plans to be the first person to bring the purrfect cup of coffee to Dublin and open a cat cafe in the city centre later in the year.

Catbird Seat

If you prefer to hang out with the chef rather than a cat, it doesn’t get much more intimate than Catbird Seat restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee. Not to be confused with a chef’s table, here the kitchen is literally in the restaurant, with 20 bar seats around it. The head chef is Dubliner Trevor Moran who spent over four years working up to the position of sous chef in the world’s best restaurant, Noma in Copenhagen, and he’s been receiving rave reviews for his innovative and highly focused 15 course menus. “It’s not a gimmick but it’s a very comfortable and natural way to cook,” says Moran. “I don’t want to call it a trend, but there are a few restaurants here with a similar set up, although I think we’re the only one in America where we’re actually interactive. I spend about fifty percent of my night chatting and interacting with people. It’s very different, you feel like you’re in someone’s house; it’s very warm and very comfortable. It’s an incredible way to get feedback. If you don’t listen to the people sitting in front of you, then you’re in the wrong game.”

The development kitchen is where it’s at

Not only is the dialogue between chef and diners a growing trend – for the past four years, UK chef Simon Rogan has invited customers to try out the work-in-progress dishes in Aulis, the development kitchen restaurant attached to his two-Michelin-starred restaurant, l’Enclume in Cumbria, and plans to open a similar development kitchen in his Fera restaurant in Claridges in London – chefs are increasingly taking time out from the microcosm of their kitchens, even closing their restaurants for a period of time to see what’s happening in food on a global level. Ferran Adria, who only opened his famed elBulli restaurant for six months of the year was at the front of this trend, and Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken restaurant in Sweden recently announced that he will be closing for nearly five months of the year so that the staff have time to work on projects, visit restaurants around the world and develop creative new and unique experiences for customers.

Dylan McGrath

Not one to be far behind on trends, Dylan McGrath, the executive chef at Fade Street Social and Rustic Stone has been travelling around Europe and Japan for the past few months and is focusing on creativity and generating new ideas. “I’ve been off working in different kitchens learning different styles of cooking,” he says. “More and more, I find myself moving back to the stove and cooking, because that’s what I do. I’m building a development kitchen on the top floor of Rustic Stone; it’s a kitchen that will be a think tank for all of the chefs I have, so that we get ahead of the seasons and have a chance to be creative and to make sure that we’re always trying new things. Because cooking is moving forward all the time. The chefs will get to develop their creativity and look at new techniques. I love learning about new ingredients, new things, seeing things I haven’t seen before. If we’re to stay on the cutting edge, we need to keep reinventing.”

As well as starting the first culinary think tank in the country, McGrath – who says he’s a completely different man now at 37 from what he was as a 27 year old behind the stove in Mint – is looking at a Japanese influenced concept which he says will be funky and fun.” I think people are starting to look at eating cleaner; I like that lightness and I think the Japanese are amazing at that. That’s where I think food is going.” Look out for this new opening in May.

Vegetables take centre stage

Whilst not a new trend, the move away from meat dishes is continuing to grow. In September, when he re-opened his three-star restaurant at the Plaza Athénée hotel in Paris, Alain Ducasse, the most Michelin-starred chef in the world, decided it was time to bid au revoir to meat on the menu. And in Ireland, we’ve seen the appetite for more vegetable centric menus at restaurants like Ox in Belfast and Loam in Galway. If you’re thinking that means another year of kale, you’re behind the times. Cauliflower is the new unsung vegetable of the moment, radishes are making a move onto the menu, and for protein, the humble bean is having a well deserved fifteen minutes of fame.

Beans get a tasty makeover

“I was seeing fancy baked beans in lots of places; in hipster restaurants like the Cake Cafe and Herb Street, and even Gordon Ramsay is cooking fancy baked beans. So I thought, these are nutritious and full of protein and relatively simple to make, yet no one was doing them in the convenience market,” says 29 year old Sarah Connolly from Cork, who set up the Cool Bean Company with Isolde Johnson who she met when they were both working at accountancy firm EY in Dublin. “We started off in 2013 selling our three types of beans – original, smoky and chilli – at Forbidden Fruit, Body and Soul and Electric Picnic, and found that there was a huge market for healthy options at festivals. People are fairly honest at four in the morning after a few drinks, so it was a great way to get customer feedback. People were really craving a healthy alternative and we were totally catching the vegetarian and the vegan market, although now that we use honey instead of sugar in the beans, some of the hardcore vegans don’t go for it. We were seeing that people wanted to eat gluten free, not because they were celiac but because they preferred to eat that way.”

“I think the healthy concept is something that is going to be driving in the mainstream,” says Shaun Hergatt, the head chef of Michelin starred Juni restaurant in New York, who was in Dublin to talk at the Food Summit in October last year. “There’s a lot of momentum in New York city for low price healthy food. The new generation who are coming up want to eat out regularly, and they want healthy food.”

Fat free ice cream

Rachel and Brian Nolan, who returned to Ireland after working in New York, saw that there was a gap in the market here for healthy products and launched Nobo, a dairy-free and gluten-free ice cream which they describe as “frozen goodness”. Although gluten free might seem like a strange claim, many ice creams use stabilisers which contain gluten, and after much recipe testing they identified the avocado as the magic ingredient for their product. “It’s made from a blend of coconut milk and avocado which gives it the creaminess, and we use honey to sweeten it rather than refined sugar. It’s pretty unique; there is no other ice cream in the world that uses avocado. We’ve found that people are buying it as a healthy treat even more so than because it’s dairy free.” The product is already stocked in 300 shops and they plan to export to the UAE in the next few months.

Savoury ingredients in desserts

While avocado might sound like an unusual ingredient to have in ice cream, there is a growing trend towards using more savoury ingredients in desserts. In Noma, Rene Redzepi uses potato puree with plum in one of his desserts and Hergatt says that his pastry chef at Juni uses a broad range of savoury ingredients. “We integrate a lot of vegetables and herbs with a low sugar level in our desserts,” he says. “What I see in high level cooking is a lot of different products being integrated into pastries, like bone marrow for instance. We use pork fat to emulsify a caramel or chocolate sauce and a lot of different savoury things like grains and steel cut oats. Spices are big and we’re using herbaceous flavours like lovage and parsley. They add to the layers of flavour in a dessert.”

“Super foodies”

Hergatt also says that food tourism is huge. While he was eating in the top restaurants in Copenhagen, he said that he was constantly seeing the same faces, “super foodies” who travel to the top restaurants in the world looking for new experiences. So if we’re planning a holiday around food, where should we be heading? While the Nordic countries, with their clean light food have created a world of foragers; Mexico, with its huge variety of ingredients and ancient cooking methods is increasingly exerting its influence with chefs like Darina Allen, Thomasina Myers and Rene Redzepi visiting multiple times. And Peru, which was named the top global culinary destination by the World Travel Awards for the third year running is a must for any gastronaut’s bucket list, with restaurants Central and Astrid y Gaston landing the first and second place on the 50 Best Restaurants list for Latin America.

Contact Corinna Hardgrave here.

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