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F&B buzzwords for 2016: Part II

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Food and Hospitality World presents the second part of a trend report by Baum + Whiteman, International Food and Restaurant Consultants. The report highlights F&B dining trends in restaurants and hotels in 2016

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#6 Poke -the next ceviche/ sashimi/ crudo?

Poke pronounced poke ay and poh key is a Hawaiian mainstay that’s migrating to the mainland. Basically a bowl of chopped or cubed raw fish (traditionally ahi tuna over seaweed-seasoned rice the fish tossed in a capriciously composed marinade: soy sauce, macadamia nuts, green onion, seaweed, avocado, mango, sesame oil, ginger, chiles of varying degrees of heat, numerous Japanese seasoning blends you can see where this might lead directly to kale and tofu. Pokerias are cropping on the West Coast and ahi is giving way to octopus, scallops, salmon, blue fin.

The dish is all over Los Angeles. You also can find it at Laid Back Poke Shack in Salt Lake City. Boston’s new Hojoko at the Verb Hotel by the hot-hot O Ya team has tuna poke with chile water, roasted macadamia dressing and avocado. Seamore’s an offshoot of New York’s Meatball Shop has one Asian-hipster Super Six in Seattle offers ahi, mackerel, shrimp versions.

Evolving: Poke places using the fast-casual menu formats that emphasise glistening raw ingredients on display and places using check-the-boxes menus both for building-your-own bowls. Metropolitan Market in Seattle has a by-the-pound poke bar so do some whole foods stores.

New-ish Jew-ish cuisine

There’s a resurgence of Jew-ish food. The (dash) signifies we’re talking about chef-driven modern Jewish cookery or even modern Jewish heresy rather than heavyweight Eastern European dishes.

How come now? Because chefs everywhere are today exploring their roots and cuisines, examples being Peruvian, Korean, Mexican, Chinese, along with Middle Eastern fusion and Israeli. ‘Heritage cuisines’ are being expressed with stories behind them. In the case of new Jew-ish, we’re looking at grandchildren and great-grandchildren reinventing dishes and foodways that second-generation immigrants turned their backs on. Chefs are juggling their culinary traditions with modernity without falling into the trap of ‘fusion’ and mainstreaming dishes that no longer seem so ethnic after all, where in the US can’t you get a bagel, or something like it.

Atlanta’s General Muir typifies the trend, curing its meats, rolling its bagels turning out food with only a slight accent: matzoh ball soup, and smoked duck with peaches and blackberry gastrique; chopped liver, but also halibut with heirloom tomato sauce and pea tendrils; gruyere burger with crisped pastrami. After great success at Zahav (Middle Eastern fusion) in Philadelphia, Michael Solomonov opened Abe Fisher’s, a tongue-in-cheek riff on diaspora food: halibut crusted with challah, chopped liver offset with pastrami-onion jam. Next door there’s Dizengoff hummusiya, a 24-seat joint specialising in hummus topped with daily changes: Persian lamb, spiced turnips, and kale pesto with walnuts; chermoula-marinated turkey with pickled-onions, or beer-braised brisket with roasted beets (around ten bucks a plate).

In Miami’s Wynwood arts district, Zak the Baker opened last year in garage turning out spectacular bread but limited kosher toasts, sandwiches, a salad or two, pastries and excellent coffee. A Kickstarter venture, they’re now selling 1,000 loaves daily, moving the bakery to a 7,000 sq ft space and expanding the restaurant. Today, if you want a table, better do carryout instead.

Shaya, a New Orleans venture of Israeli Alon Shaya and multi-starred chef John Besh calls its food ‘modern Israeli’ with roots across North Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Turkey and Greece. Little on the menu is geographically specific. Force your gaze past enticing small plates, five kinds of hummus; foie gras with rose tahini and carob molasses … and you’ll find shakshuka with local shrimp, and lamb with whipped feta and stone fruit tabouleh. Esquire named it restaurant-of-the-year.

Venerated appetising store Russ & Daughters new cafe on New York’s Lower East Side last year opened the floodgates for Jew-ish places, the most interesting being Sadelle’s, by the people behind Carbone and Dirty French. An exercise in exaggeration and decadence, smoked fish comes on a tiered stand generally used for shellfish displays … a glass-box bakery in the dining room delivers warm bagels to the table and not being even kosher style, it avoids the limits of cliches. So there’s lobster salad, and shrimp and hearts of palm along with paprika chicken and salmon paillard chopped liver and steak tartare.

A curiosity: Despite anti-Semitic rampages, bagels are on a roll in France, with four chains growing, Bagelstein says it’ll have 40 stores by 2017; Authentic Bagels sells to about 200 supermarkets and restaurants; and Le Bagel Qui Roule (The Rolling Bagel) has three food trucks on the road.

Others: The Rye Project, San Francsico; Black Seed Bagel in New York ripe for chainification; Harry & Ida’s, an eccentric New York sandwich joint with house-smoked meats and smoked eel; Einat Admony, with three concepts from fast food to casual dining in Manhattan plus a food truck.

Also, it wouldn’t hurt to see The Deli Man movie.

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#7 Acai bowls- pulp but not fiction

Move over, smoothies … acai bowls are the next big hipster food. Using a fruit from Brazil, they’re migrating from Hawaii and spreading cross-country. Not seen one? Fundamentally a big-bowl smoothie made from frozen acai pulp and soy or other milk plus bananas, bits of other fruit, and lots of ice with toppings like granola, chia seeds, chocolate chips, coconut flakes and peanut better. You eat it with a spoon and it tastes fairly close to ice cream. You also pay about US$10 most often eat it for breakfast and possibly skip lunch. Loaded with nutritive stuff, acai bowls unfortunately contain between 60 and 90 grams of sugar, about what you’d get by chugalugging a 20-oz. bottle of Coke. They already are franchisors and you’ll find these bowls at juice bars, smoothie chains, ice creameries, food trucks, even Jamba juice. Google searches for acai bowls have more than doubled this year.

#8 Obsessing over fried chicken

Sandwich of the Year: Fried Chicken. Shake Shack made headlines this year with a limited release of a fairly conventional ChickenShack sandwich and David Chang did, too, with an incendiary sandwich at Fuku, perhaps a nascent chain. They follow an emerging obsession. No longer just southern, fried chicken sandwiches have gone creative and ethnic.

In Fuku’s case, you’re munching on a mammoth boneless thigh marinated in habanero purée, buttermilk, and Changian spices, deep-fried topped with some acidic vegetables. Barbecue maven Mighty Quinn smokes its thighs before frying topped with fermented chilies-garlic-lime sauce on brioche with pickled cucumbers and pickled celery for crunch.

In LA, Night+Market has an off-menu ultra-crunchy brined-and-fried thigh with ranch dressing, tomato, green papaya shreds tinged with fish sauce, cilantro and fresh jalapeno. Also in LA, Hinoki and the Bird has a lunch-only version topped with shichimi togarashi dressing and crisp daikon radish. Meanwhile, McDonald’s audaciously leading from behind slaps the word ‘artisan’ onto its factory chicken most outrageous version? Kansas City’s Chicken Macaroni & Cheese restaurant serves Chick-A-Roni … crunchy pieces swaddled in gooey mac-and-cheese in a soft hoagie. Tied, perhaps, with a bizzaro donut shop’s chicken breast sandwiched between a griddled pumpkin spiced latte donut.

Chicken Flavour of the Year: Nashville Hot. A cult favourite that’s spreading across the country meant to burn your lips for days on end. Like buffalo wings, Nashville Hot Chicken is dunked in hot sauce after frying; but it is not plain old hot sauce, this is a thermonuclear paste of melted lard, sugar, sadistic quantities of cayenne, sugar and each chef’s secret spices. It is showing up in fried chicken joints and sitdown restaurants usually sitting on what looks like a blood-stained piece of white bread.

In St. Louis, a new restaurant called Southern generates lines for its Nashville Hot Chicken run by Rick Lewis, the town’s chef of the year in 2013. Johnny Zone who cooked at Husk in Nashville … NHC to LA in Howlin’ Rays food truck. Cask & Larder will open next year in Orlando’s airport featuring the item. State Park’s NHC in Boston bites your entire face with ghost chiles, cayenne, aji amarillo and smoked paprika. Due South in DC puts its version into a sandwich. Carla Hall’s opening a NHC place in Brooklyn. The Yardhouse chain added the item this year even latecomer KFC has been testing some version of it. We’re waiting for cheffy versions of the dish to emerge like Seoul Hot Chicken marinated in kimchee juice.

#9 When heat is not enough

America’s pepperheads are (finally) discovering that heat is not enough … that food also has flavours. So we’re watching an interesting shift from just-plain-incendiary to aromatic and flavourful spice blends and sauces.

Piri-piri peppers (African birdseye chili) gain notoriety as Nando’s Chicken chain expands in the US, the pepper blended with tamer spices, herbs, citrus peels used as bbq rubs or as bases for piquant sauces.

Sweet-spicy gochujang, a thick Korean bbq sauce is made from malted barley, fermented soybean flour, red pepper and rice flour. It is popping up on adventurous menus, especially as a step-up from ubiquitous sriracha in Asian fusion dishes.

Watch for new spice blends from Syria, a consequence of their maniacal war. Few Syrians (legally) enter the US but their flavours to migrate via Europe without clearance from Homeland Security. Arabic, Christian and Jewish influences … warm, rather than hot … mixtures include all spice, cardamom, ginger, coriander, cinnamon and black pepper.

Red and green curry blends and pastes are catching on as Thai food sweeps the country.

Shichimi-Togarashi sprinkled on food is a blend red chilli pepper, black pepper, sesame seeds, dried orange peel, seaweed flakes and poppy seeds. Also called Japanese Seven-Spice, it starts out hot then shifts to complexity, plus a bit of crunch. Showing up on raw fish, on creamy pastas, as chicken rubs, on burgers even on cocktails.

Berbere … a highly fragrant but hot Ethopian mix … makes a great rub or mix for braised food: cardamom, hot peppers, paprika, cumin, clove, cinnamon, fenugreek, nutmeg, turmeric, ginger.

Many star chefs’ secret weapon is a company called La Boite in New York run by an Israeli expat who concocts all manner of spice blends: verbena-cardamom-sage, saffron-cayenne-lemon- seafood essence. An early user was Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin who now has his own La Boite line.

Spice-of-the-year

Turmeric is showing up fresh in health food shops and juice bars, powdered in supermarkets. It’s what makes curry powder yellow. Theoretically cures almost everything, and is getting a big play at retail but hardly showing up on restaurant menus yet.

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#10 Retailers renew attack on restaurants

In our 2014 forecast we highlighted how US retailers are building revenue by luring shoppers into stores for snacks and meals. Retailers, we said, were discovering what we call the magic of ‘dwell time’, the longer you keep a shopper on the premises, the more the shopper will buy per hour of stay. Theme parks understood this decades ago, as did museums with gift shops. The trend has momentum because bricks-and-mortar retailers are suffering a serious decline in footfall. The trend is a threat to conventionally located restaurants particularly because in-store eateries are aimed at high-spending millennials. Who’s yanking diners from streets to stores?

  • Ladies who lunch aren’t enough … so Saks Fifth Avenue in New York will replace its generic Cafe SFA with L’Avenue, a Parisian restaurant inhabited by boldface names and glitterati. Run by the Costes Group with trendy restaurants dotting Paris … L’Avenue will have other venues in the store to prevent shoppers from leaving hungry or leaving at all.
  • Outdoor World owned by Bass Pro Shops inserts large-scale Islamadora Fish Co. restaurants among its hunting, camping and recreations departments. In Brandon, Fl., their 130,000 sq ft store has a 7,000 sq ft eatery to keep shoppers from wandering off.
  • Whole Foods (they’re retailers, too) just invested in the boutique high volume sandwich-salad chain, Mendocino Farms, to help them grow and, more importantly, inserting units into select whole foods markets and their more popularly-priced 365 stores. Mexican mishmash with lots of pretention. More intersects with food and clothing opening in New York and Dubai.
  • At their Experience Centre in Atlanta, Porsche teams an auto showroom with an upscale restaurant called 365, serving simple food with regional accents. It looks onto a driver development track. Have the pork jowl with white bean puree and collards for US$24… buy a Carrera.
  • The big gorilla here is URBN Inc owning Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and gardening shop Terrain. With some restaurants already in place, Urban Outfitters is adding cheffy restaurants in urban complexes by Marc Vetri, Michael Symon and others to solidify make their stores more meaningful lifestyle destinations.
  • In Chicago, Restoration Hardware’s flagship has three eating venues run by Hogsalt … a prolific local chain. They’re serving simple stuff but the objective isn’t so much a gastro-experience as it is a method for keeping customers engaged. In New York they’re opening a store-hotel-restaurant complex.
  • Target is testing new food concepts from Freshii, Pizza Hut and Minneapolis-based D’Amico & Sons Italian Kitchen replacing their garden variety cafes. About 40 per cent of customers already buy nachos and hotdogs at Target’s, so this looks like a branded revenue-enhancing upgrade.
  • ABC Home in New York is adding a third restaurant called ABCV … ‘V’ standing ambiguously for vegetables or Vongerichten. Jean-Georges operates the store’s other two high-volume venues.

Look for lots more of this activity in bowling alleys, clothing stores, movie theatres, convenience stores, supermarkets since restaurants provide unique social experiences that consumers can’t enjoy by clicking ‘buy’ on their smartphones.

#11 What snacking tells us about future flavours

We’re seem to be moving from three meals a day to none. Snacks are obliterating meals. It’s not just millennials or dashboard diners, growing numbers of Americans snack four or five times daily. Snacking increased 47 per cent from 2010 to 2014. We raise this because snack flavour profiles are changing. Restaurateurs (and hotels with minibars and minimarkets) should prowl supermarket aisles. They’ll find:

  • The ground is shifting away from sweet to savory and from high-carb to nutrient dense high-protein indulgent snacks– evidence that sugar is this year’s culinary Satan.
  • Even when sweeteners are involved, they’re often combined with spicy chilli-spiked honey, for example. So sweet+heat is a winner and sweet+heat+smokey.
  • Spicy-salty-savoury ethnic snacks are afternoon favourites and meal replacements … hummus variations, flavoured popcorns (like seaweed-and-sesame), chilli-citrus potato chips, mango-chilli-lime chips.
  • Compound flavours are hot. Jerky … with year-on-year double-digit sales increases in supermarkets and C-stores explains why Hershey acquired Krave, purveyor of Jeff’sFamous Jerky, with flavours like sweet teriyaki, cranberry jalapeno, branching into honey jalapeno bacon and buffalo chicken jerky.
  • Plant-based protein get lots of play with millennials
  • Savory yogurts are worth watching not just as snacks but as components of ‘healthful’ restaurant dishes.
  • Sour replaces sweet. Consumers seek deep contrasts to richness explaining why fermented condiments (like kimchee and house-pickled vegetables) are popular on menus. Now you can buy sour gummy bears. Sour beer is a trendlet … but for afficiandos.
  • Tart + Bitter offsets sugar and salt. That’s why you see new packages of kale, crunchy broccoli and other vegetable chips.
  • Bitter itself gains momentum especially in beverages. New forms of coffee cold brew, carbonated and teas, including matcha.
  • Good-for-you, good-for-the-earth packaged snacks are getting commanding space on supermarket endcaps often near the fresh vegetable aisle suggesting that consumers will pay premium prices for products that cover both bases.

2016 buzzwords

Falafel appearing as vegetables in serious restaurants. Kombucha going mainstream. Burnt vegetables. ‘Shack’ in restaurant names. Everything bagel seasoning mix. Root-to-stalk cooking. Why poke isn’t hokey. Globalised ramen. Adding seaweed to popcorn. More automation and kiosks in fast-food, fast-casual restaurants speeding service, saving labor. 3-D food printers. General Tso flavourings. Alcoholic beverages in quick-service restaurants. Chains replacing artificial additives with natural artificial additives Paella. Fast feeders complicating their lives by adding build-your-own options. Values, not value consumers scrutinising restaurants’ policies on health-wellness, sustainability, additives, GMO, animal welfare, employee wages. Nashville Hot Chicken. Fallout in frozen yogurt chains … juice bars may be next. Food halls galore — maybe too many. War on food waste. What happened to bone broth? Philippine cuisine.

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