Small plates were one of the hottest food trends of 2013.Here are the foods that dominated our plates (and glasses) in 2013 - from good-for-you to the super indulgent.
1. Juice, Juicing, and Juicers
Whether or not juice is really a healthy way to get your vitamins is up for discussion - our in-house dietitian prefers you fill up on fiber-rich whole fruits and veggies. But an awful lot of you have been gulping down kale-pineapple smoothies rather than munching on kale salads. According to Barron's, the U.S. is home to more than 6,200 juice bars now, and juicing is a $5 billion business.
2. Gluten-Free Everything
This is another juggernaut on the healthy-eating front. The fact that very few people have an intolerance for gluten hasn't prevented gluten-free items from filling restaurant menus and supermarket shelves.
Related: The Best Gluten-Free Snacks
3. The Cronut
Totally unpredictable, but this was, hands down, the dessert of the year. Within a nanosecond, the furor over this fusion of a croissant and a donut (hence, "cro-nut") spread from the streets of Soho in the Big Apple to small-town America. And recipes abound on the internet for making your own. So much for going gluten-free!
4. The Paleo Diet
According to Google's latest Zeitgeist report, "paleo diet" was one of the top-searched diets in 2013, so you know it must be big. Also known as the "cave man diet," this plan is billed as an antidote to all that ails us from acne to cancer. Followers say "yes" to fresh meats (preferably grass-fed or free-range), seafood, fresh fruits and veggies, seeds and nuts; they say "no" to dairy, grains, legumes, and refined or processed anything. Basically you eat like you live in the Stone Age, but do your hunting and gathering at the supermarket.
5. Mix-and-Match Menus
Little nibbles, small plates, and big plates have been replacing traditional appetizers and entrées. The idea is order a few items from different grouping for everyone to share. You get to try a lot more dishes, and it helps you go heavier on the greens and grains and lighter on the meat.
Related: 2014's Biggest Food Predictions
6. Communal Tables
We're eating those small plates at bigger tables now. It no longer seems odd to be seated at a long, bar-height table side by side with strangers. This is fine when you're dining alone or if you're just plain friendly, but not so ideal when you're out for an intimate dinner.
7. Artisanal Cocktails
Every restaurant worth its salt now employs a mixologist. Don't mistake him or her for an old-fashioned bartender. These new shakers and stirrers also infuse fruits and herbs into housemade liquors, make their own maraschino cherries, and even chip and sculpt ice blocks into flakes or chunks - whatever suits the cocktail best.
8. Sriracha Sauce
You know this Asian hot sauce has gone mainstream when you see Sriracha Chicken Melt on Subway's menu and Lay's Sriracha-Flavored Potato Chips at the supermarket. Also known as "rooster sauce" because of the iconic bird on the bottle, this Thai condiment is a great stir-in for pho (the national soup in Vietnam) and better for dipping than other hot sauces because it's thicker. Bad news, though: The California-based manufacturer has shut down production because of a community protest, and a shortage may mean you have to wait to try it. Good news: We've taste-tested other hot sauces that we think are just as good.
Related: Our Favorite Hot Sauces
9. Farm to Table
Many restaurants now offer food with a local pedigree, and die-hard foodies shop at the farmer's market and local butcher. In its most extreme variation, some places only offer dishesu that's feature ingredients grown or raised within 100 miles of where they're eaten. While we can't say a carrot tastes better just because we know the name of the farm that grew it, it's reassuring to know the produce is relatively fresh, not picked and packaged six months ago at a mega-farm across the country.
While chicken will probably never disappear from our plates, somehow in 2013 it became downright chic. Offerings ranged from whole roast birds that are fed table scraps from the very same fancy establishments where they're served to "best-ever" versions of fried chicken at more casual bistros to creative takes on wings, like spicy Thai and Dorito-flavored.
-By Sharon Franke
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