We spelled out the letters in our alphabet soup to find out the future of food
The future. It's there in our culinary crystal ball, barely visible through the "steam" of liquid nitrogen, somewhere underneath those pearls of agar agar and gelatin, and fried mayonnaise cubes. As the final days of 2011 tick off one by one and the new year approaches, it's time for the inevitable, flawed, futile yet fun annual food prognosticating - which everyone knows will mostly end with the fortune-teller wearing pie, or whatever the "next cupcake" turns out to be, all over his face.
Click here for the 16 Top Food Trend Predictions for 2012
Food will power flying luxury cars with beer and banana peels pulsed in a quasi-Cuisinart! Black & Decker will come out with a home hydrator to rehydrate a delicious Pizza Hut pie right in your kitchen! Wait, sorry, none of that happens in the 1989 classic, Back to the Future II, until 2015. But it's always instructive when looking forward to take a quick look back - review last year's predictions, and the trends that actually panned out (or didn't). So what were 2011's top food trend predictions? How did they turn out?
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Last year, The Daily Meal's editorial director, Colman Andrews, thought hard on the subject, and tapping the collective unconscious of the site's staff, used "hive mind" to see if the trends for 2011 couldn't be determined. There were 17 predictions, ranging from Nordic and Portuguese food taking hold to whole animal feasts and the rise of the celebrity vegetable farmer. Reviewing them alongside the actual 25 top food trends of 2011 reveals a pretty good track record.
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Undoubtedly, chef René Redzepi's rise to glory spurred the spike in popularity of Nordic cuisine. Did Portuguese cuisine follow suit? Peruvian, sure. Portuguese, maybe not so much. Cardoons? Wild greens and roots? Offbeat grains? Peripherally maybe, but not enough to make this year's trend list. Whole animal feasts were a trend. Farmer Lee Jones won a James Beard Award, but organic vegetable farmers didn't necessarily storm our tables. Grant Achatz's Next opened in April with a pioneering new restaurant reservation system. 2011 didn't really mark the return of the pot or the regular pie or guerilla takeout. But rooftop and private restaurant gardens proliferated; pop-up dining was huge; and more big-name chefs ventured into airports, stadiums, and even bowling alleys. Similarly, there were completely homemade cocktails and lots of fast-food gimmicks. Eight for 17 isn't bad - almost 50-50.
Place your bets that those Vegas odds carry forward with food predictions for 2012, but don't count Sin City as the next place that star chefs feel they need to flock to. Instead, look for that city to be Miami. Some other predictions involve doubling down on last year's prognostications - so wild greens stand a good chance and you can expect to see many more special reservation systems.
Expect burger migration, alternative round fingerfoods, and celebrity chefs duking it out Ron Burgundy-style over food halls. Forget goat; look to fish. X will be the new cupcake, and perhaps there will be an election-year surprise... wait, is that President Batali? But now we're giving away all the fun. So view the accompanying slideshow to discover trends that will be big, and what's in store for the food world in 2012.
© Flickr/furibondExotic Fish
We're not talking about raiding your tropical fish tank, but as concerns about overfishing of traditionally appreciated varieties continue, and industry players learn more about which fish are most successfully farmed, you may start seeing lesser-known fish - wild and otherwise - in your local fish market and on menus. Paiche, fugu, and toadfish for everyone!
© istock/travellinglightMoroccan Food
Paula Wolfert introduced Moroccan food to Americans 40 years ago with her classic Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco. This year, she published what was supposed to be an update of it, but turned into a new book, deeper and even more delicious: The Food of Morocco. Also new was Iron Chef America winner and Michelin-star-holder (for his Aziza in San Francisco) Mourad Lahlou's stunning Mourad: New Moroccan. Coming soon is Mediterranean food expert Jeff Koehler's Morocco: A Culinary Journey. The food in these books is full of spices (though not spicy), healthy (grains and greens), and engaging. With this attention, it has a shot at becoming a (if not the) next big thing.
© Flickr/andersc77Food Halls
Big open complexes combining eating with retail food shopping, food halls have long been a European staple (take, for example, famous ones at Harrod's in London and KaDeWe in Berlin). Dino De Laurentiis, Giada's grandfather, tried to bring the idea to America in the '80s with DDL Foodshow, but the project flopped. Macy's and other department stores have flirted with the concept for years, but never committed wholly. Then, in 2010, New York City suddenly had Todd English in The Plaza (expanding), and, months later, Eataly. More Eatalys are coming - Mario Batali plans to open five more in the next 10 years, and other entrepreneurs have taken notice of the success. Expect more of these operations in other big cities and the trend's inevitable culmination: Ron Burgundy-style turf battles between teams of celebrity chefs who have joined forces to open food halls across the street from each other.
© Veer/Jonathan-LarsenMiami Is the New Las Vegas
In years past, while every major chef (even some big-deal French ones) seemed to be opening up a spot in Vegas, you started to see a trickle of outposts of big chefs and restaurants also making their way to Miami - Daniel, Mr. Chow, Hakkasan. Well, that was just the beginning. Danny Meyer opened a Shake Shack there last June, and has another one planned for Coral Gables; Andrew Carmellini has just opened a branch of The Dutch there, and José Andrés's first post-L.A. Bazaar is underway. Can Eataly be far behind?
© Flickr/Neil ConwayX Is the New Cupcake
In the past few years, people have tried to identify all kinds of desserts as the cupcake's successor: pies, doughnuts, ice cream, Twizzlers, you name it (macarons came closest in 2011, but, well, they're French). And all the while, the humble little cupcake itself continued its evil quest for world domination. New cupcake places opened in cities already rife with them, and they expanded into new municipalities that hadn't previously succumbed to their crumby frosting; they even took over some culinary competitions on TV.
The truth is, God willing, nothing will ever be the next cupcake. Pie is seasonal (so too are ice cream and frozen yogurt), doughnuts have always been around so are hardly news, cake is for birthdays, and cream puffs had their shot (though some of us still mourn Beard Papa's closing). Nonetheless, you can be sure that some confection or other will try to stake its claim this year. (Our bet for the next contender? Cookies - especially sandwich cookies. But they're not cupcakes.)
© Jane BruceFast-Food Reinventions
In 2010, the over-the-top fast-food trend really got some attention (consider the KFC Double Down). In 2011, all kinds of other eyepopping, gutbusting examples followed suit. But we're also starting to see fast-food joints trying to reinvent themselves (and in some cases succeeding, at least in their advertising). Papa John's and Domino's went artisanal, and Wendy's and Taco Bell went back to the basics. In 2012 you can expect more over-the-top ridiculousness, but also more introspection about the basics.
© Wikimedia Commons/AntissimoNordic Cuisine
René Redzepi's Noma took over the mantle of "world's best restaurant" from elBulli in 2010, and you've already seen the Noma effect take hold, not just all over Scandinavia (shrimp with rhubarb jelly and buttermilk-horseradish granita in Reykjavik!), but even in America - and you can expect the trend to continue and strengthen. Be on the lookout for cured fish, lingonberries, foraged beach plants, exotic proteins like snow grouse and reindeer, and aquavit cocktails.
Click here for 9 More Top Food Trend Predictions for 2012
- Arthur Bovino, The Daily Meal
More from The Daily Meal:
The Ultimate Christmas Restaurant Primer 2011
10 Awesome Things Food Bloggers Did in 2011
America's Best Doughnut Shops 2011
Who Makes the Best Store-Bought Chicken Soup?
The Year in Restaurant Reviews 2011
We spelled out the letters in our alphabet soup to find out the future of food
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My after-school snack was a sacred ritual. I sat on the carpet in my parents' bedroom at a low table, the television turned to "I Dream of Jeannie," and ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich cut into neat squares. I wasn't fussy about crusts. I just loved the sticky pairing of creamy peanut butter with syrupy golden sweetness drizzled from a honey bear in diagonals across the soft white bread. Nothing else--save for maybe apples and peanut butter in a pinch--could have made for as sweet an