Test drones may not yet be delivering Chipotle burritos or Domino’s pizza to your doorstep in 2017, but you can expect technology to continue to reshape the way the world eats.
Baum + Whiteman, an international food and restaurant company whose projects have included the late Windows on the World, the Rainbow Room and the world’s first food courts, notes in its annual trend report that more people working from home means fewer people out circulating through drive-thrus or sealing deals over power lunches.
The report finds supermarkets (with lower food margins than restaurants and where startups in the snack and beverage aisles are better indicators of millennial tastes than restaurants), UberEats (a food delivery service) and home meal kits (such as Blue Apron and Hello Fresh) are poised to fill the void.
As we dive deeper into the sharing economy mindset, home cooks are signing up in some cities to create meal-sharing groups. (I’ve already seen a hardcore Kansas City foodies Facebook group do a shoutout for this one among its members.)
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As Americans show more concern for their personal health and the sustainability of the planet, veg-centric menus are starting to get some serious consideration, spawning a curious countertrend to artisanal charcuterie known as vegetable butchery.
OK, vegetable butchery might be a hard sell in the heartland, but if a plant-based hamburger can “bleed,” this is indeed a brave new world. I’ve been in this business of predictions long enough to have learned to never say never.
Here’s what I think we’ll see on our plates around Kansas City in 2017.
Fat is back: Remember when lard was considered a dirty word? The pendulum has swung: Walk the aisles of a health food emporium such as Whole Foods, and nonhydrogenated fats in Mason jars are displayed at eye level. Take your pick: There’s pig lard, duck fat, beef tallow and more.
The Mason jars by Epic and Fatworks brands are handy, if pricey. Watch for classes teaching how to render your own: I attended a Kansas City Food Circle class taught by Cherie Schenker of Schenker Family Farms at Howard’s Grocery, Cafe and Catering to learn how to make my own in a slow cooker. Schenker also sells nonhydrogenated leaf lard.
Fish-to-table makes a splash in the Midwest: Kansas City is undeniably a beef town. Pork has made strong inroads, too. But the landlocked Midwest is not a place where you immediately think about how to source the freshest fish and seafood.
Jax Fish House works with Monterey Bay Aquarium to source sustainably, and so does chef Carlos Falcon of Jarocho Pescados y Mariscos in Kansas City, Kan., and another location soon to open. Then there’s KC Shrimp Co., which began selling Pacific white saltwater shrimp grown in Oak Grove earlier this year.
Several other exciting restaurant projects include the just-opened Mass Street Fish House and Raw Bar in Lawrence, and a freshwater fish project still under wraps is in the works for 2017.
Farm-to-bed room service: James Beard award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson of Red Rooster in Harlem announced he was moving into “farm-to-bed” territory. Think of it as upscale room service. It’s not really a new idea, Samuelsson told me during his recent trip to Kansas City to promote his “Red Rooster Cookbook,” but it is an expectation that diners increasingly are demanding upscale food wherever and whenever they want it.
Samuelsson’s new venture kicks off at MGM National Harbor, a luxury hotel in Maryland just outside Washington, D.C., and includes climate-controlled carts that make it easier to deliver hot, fresh food to guests in their own rooms.
Make way for mead: This “wine” made from fermented honey has been around since the days of the Vikings. More recently, it has been popularized on the hit series “Game of Thrones.”
But several local wineries, including Pirtle’s in Weston, have found renewed interest in mead. Watch for Kaw Point Meadery, expected to open in 2017 and a member of the American Mead Makers Association, according to the company’s website.
Sous vide at home: If you think sous vide devices are found only in professional kitchens, it may be time to think again. On a trip to Seattle to meet with other food journalists this fall, I took an Uber out past Bill Gates’ house to a small industrial park where, after signing a waiver prohibiting photographs, I got a tour of Nathan Myhrvold’s groundbreaking Modernist Cuisine test kitchens. A battalion of chefs were baking bread to put the finishing touches on Modernist Bread, due out in 2017.
Later, at Pike Place Market, I met Chris Young, a former Modernist Cuisine chef and owner of ChefSteps, producer of the Joule Sous Vide.
The idea of sous vide, a method Myhrvold and Young dissected in the first multivolume Modernist Cuisine cookbook set, is to season the food in a bag, drop it in water and cook it with slow heat to the perfect doneness, then finish with a traditional sear. The device, which is supported by an app and an online community, retails for $199, plus tax and shipping.
Jackfruit is jumping: Americans are eating less meat, and Baum + Whiteman reports one vegan company has a plant-based burger that “appears to bleed.” So is jackfruit — a spiny, green, sticky tropical fruit — the new tofu? It has certainly been a game-changer for chefs around Kansas City — from Füd, a traditional vegan restaurant at 813 W. 17th St., to Westport’s Char Bar, a meat lover’s emporium. Both have jackfruit barbecue on the menu.
With the texture of pulled pork, chicken or even crab, jackfruit might be an all-around meat substitute. One trend report has named it to its watch list for 2017. Stay tuned: We’ve been working on a story with tasty jackfruit recipes for a January issue of Chow Town.
Talking tiki: The newly opened SoT, 1521 Grand Blvd., has announced it will make Monday tiki night, and word on the street (OK, social media) is that there’s a new tiki bar in the works somewhere in Kansas City that will employ the design mojo of professional tiki bar designer “Bamboo Ben” Bassham.
More buzzwords for 2017
Re-invented cottage cheese
Upscale ramen noodle shops (Yes, we’re getting there. Look for our upcoming winter roundup.)
War on food waste
French dip sandwiches
3-D food printing
Food halls (One is slated for Lenexa.)
Robots in restaurants
Salted egg yolk
Breakfast becomes brunch (This seems to be already in full swing in Kansas City.)
Source: Baum + Whiteman