Algae oil, banana ketchup, broccoli leaves and moringa: These are a few of the hot items on trend forecasters’ lists for 2016.
As the hours tick down to New Year’s Eve, official lists have been dinging into my email box at an alarming rate. I’m always curious, but these national reports often prove a blunt instrument when it comes to what’s destined to be hot in our hometown.
I do put stock in the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot Culinary Forecast. For the past decade it has annually polled 1,600 chefs and industry professionals. But unlike what pundits would have you believe about what’s in and what’s out, well-constructed surveys must be tabulated. And in reality, the list changes are incremental rather than a sea change, flowing more like molasses than maple syrup.
The association’s current list includes trends that have taken root in Kansas City: artisan butchers, sustainable seafood, local produce, distilleries, specialty coffees, microbrews and fermented foods.
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For a global perspective, the McCormick Flavor Forecast 2016 focuses on “the less well-known flavors” from Southeast Asia, including Pinoy barbecue, a street food from the Philippines made with banana ketchup. I’ve purchased banana ketchup at 888 International and have been acquainting myself with Asian hot sauces all year.
The condiment is as popular as ketchup but, yes, made from bananas and usually dyed red. McCormick combines the condiment with a spice mixture of red pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika and black pepper to marinate pork skewers (recipe).
The Specialty Food Association’s Trend Watch 2016 proclaims the next superfood may well be moringa. News to me, but the leaves of this African plant are high in vitamin C. The new kale, they say, is broccoli leaves. Hard to envision that one. Meanwhile, Phil Lempert, a trend forecaster who contributes to Forbes, thinks algae is going to become a hot protein source. Thrive, a commercial brand of algae oil, has 75 percent less fat than olive oil.
My hot picks for what I see right now and think will continue strong into 2016: the Brazilian brigadeiro, bone broth, bahn-mi and Cuban sandwiches, eggs, chef-driven ramen, Icelandic skyr and more toast.
Icelandic, Australian yogurt wrestles with Greek
It’s really too bad the health and wealth of the Greek economy isn’t resting on the skyrocketing sales of yogurt. For Greek yogurt alone — which appears to have taken over whole refrigerator cases in supermarkets across the city over the past year — sales are expected to reach $4 billion by 2019, according to a trend watchers cited in last month’s dairyreporter.com.
Greek yogurt innovator Chobani has announced it is looking to grow its market share with spicy flavors, including a Sriracha mango and pineapple chipotle. The flavors are contained in 100-calorie Flip boxes with nuts for texture.
Meanwhile, richer, thicker Greek yogurt has paved the way for Australian- and Icelandic-style yogurts in the creamy deliciousness-yet-good-for-you category. Food Business News reports Australian yogurt is made of whole milk and not strained, and Icelandic skyr is made with skim milk and strained, then fermented, making it thicker than Greek styles and giving it an even higher protein content.
Noosa’s Australian-style yogurt, made in Colorado, is creamy and dessertlike (in calories and fat), and Siggi’s brand skyr, also available at Hen House, uses organic agave for vague sweetness as it coats the palate with a grass-fed cow tang.
Put an egg on it
Is there anything that doesn’t benefit from an egg on top? I think not. Throughout the area, on everything from Port Fonda’s signature chilaquiles to Providence Pizza’s Neapolitan-style Carbonara, eggs were spilling their sunny yolks. That’s quite a revival for a food that just a decade ago was vilified for containing whopping amounts of cholesterol. Nutrition studies have since proven that egg cholesterol doesn’t affect blood cholesterol.
Throughout 2015 I have been squeezing Asian hot sauces such as Sriracha and gochujang on my hard-cooked eggs at home. Meanwhile, my put-an-egg-on-top winner was the Croque Madame at Charisse, with a duck egg on top.
The Japanese noodle soup is capturing the imagination of local chefs, including Josh and Abby-Jo Eans (Happy Gillis) with their sister Columbus Park Ramen Shop, and Erik Borger (Il Lazzarone) and Joe West (formerly Bluestem and working on Kusshi) with their forthcoming Komatsu Ramen, set to open in midtown this spring.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Columbus Park Ramen Shop opened in a converted garage and is the first ramen shop in the area. The menu is traditionally authentic with local ingredients and Midwestern interpretations.
Chef-driven casual concepts are not new, but they are trending. Watch for classically trained chefs previously associated with regional American concepts to branch out with a second or third concept centered around ethnic street foods and re-imagined versions of such casual classics as the hamburger, hot dog, waffle and doughnut (see Westport’s Doughnut Lounge).
The ‘It’ sandwich
Two sandwiches were standouts this year.
It seemed the Vietnamese bahn mi was showing up everywhere in the city this summer. My favorite local story is also chef-driven. Owner Sidney Fish had never had a bahn mi before she started research, with the idea she would serve them off of her food truck (also on the National Restaurant Association’s trends list) Beauty of the Bistro.
Fish got the idea from photos she had seen of the Lone Wolf Bahn Mi truck in Tulsa, Okla.
“I guess I was struck by the freshness of the vegetables,” she told me last spring.
The sandwich has become her personal favorite, one she eats every day when she’s on the truck — only she eats it as a bowl, without bread. Bowl versions of sandwiches are an idea that is sure to eventually show up at Subway or Jimmy John’s, if not Chipotle’s nationally emerging Asian concept Shophouse.
Meanwhile, watch for the Cuban sandwich and its variations to gather steam in 2016.
Toast as a blank canvas
Blackdog Coffeehouse in Lenexa started serving thick slabs of toast two years ago. Slathered with nut butters, preserves, honey, a sprinkle of sea salt and other imaginative toppings, the luxurious toast has become a signature item that elevates a simple staple into something sublime.
Now toast has also become a hot topic with cookbook publishers. “Posh Toast” (Quadrille) by Emily Kydd and “Better on Toast” (Willam Morrow) by Jill Donenfeld each include 70 recipes for topping toast, including “avotoast”: mashed avocado, olive oil, lemon juice and chili flakes on grainy toast. Avotoast even has an Instagram account: @avotoastoftheday.
A salute to the Brazilian brigadeiro
This Brazilian confection is suddenly popping up all across town. The marble-sized candy is named for a brigadier general who tried to sweeten the pot with voters, using the brigadeiro as a way to raise funds while campaigning for president. The brigadeiro is made from sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter, then shaped into a ball and rolled in chocolate jimmies.
A popular party favor is made by Brigabon Candy Co. and Sweet Kiss Brigadeiro, and can be found in a variety of nontraditional and seasonal flavors, including pumpkin, pistachio hazelnut, peanut butter and jelly, creme brulee and white chocolate.
Brazilian food took a big leap forward in Kansas City with the addition of a bar specializing in a rainbow of fruit-flavored caipirinha cocktails at Taste of Brazil, and the just-opened Espirito do Sul, a churrascaria (Brazilian steakhouse) in the former Elephant Bar/Amor de Brazil space at 119th Street and Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park.
Bone broth for health
Uncommon Stock, a pickup soup company run by chef Todd Schulte of Happy Gillis, has been selling bone broth for a few years. Now the healthy aura of this restorative sipper is capturing book publishers’ attention.
New York chef Marco Canora — a catalyst for the trend when in November 2014 hipsters lined up for a paper cup of his broth — has “Brodo” (Pam Krauss Books). The owners of Bone Deep & Harmony, a wellness business, offer “Bone Deep Broth” (Sterling Epicure). Local Recommended Daily food blogger Jonathan Bender has “Stock, Broth and Bowl” (Andrews McMeel).
Bender’s book includes recipes from Kansas City chefs, including Schulte, Patrick Ryan of Port Fonda, Alex Pope of Local Pig and broth cocktails by Arturo Vera-Felicie of Justus Drugstore.
Top 20 Food Trends in 2016 from the National Restaurant Association
1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
2. Chef-driven fast-casual concepts
3. Locally grown produce
4. Hyper-local sourcing
5. Natural ingredients/minimally processed food
6. Environmental sustainability
7. Healthful kids meals
8. New cuts of meat
9. Sustainable seafood
10. House-made/artisan ice cream
11. Ethnic condiments/spices
12. Authentic ethnic cuisine
13. Farm/estate-branded items
14. Artisan butchery
15. Ancient grains
16. Ethnic-inspired breakfast items
17. Fresh/house-made sausage
18. House-made/artisan pickles
19. Food waste reduction/management
20. Street food/food trucks
Top 5 Alcohol Trends
1. Craft/artisan spirits
2. Locally produced beer, wine and spirits
3. On-site barrel-aged drinks
4. Culinary cocktails (i.e., savory, fresh ingredients)
5. Regional signature cocktails