The Foods of 2013

I was on KFRU last week discussing food trends for 2013. You’re welcome for the advance notice. Anyway, a few things I’ve noticed popping up around town, in my travels and in reading some predictions from others include:

The Asian-ification of American comfort food continues. Korean, Vietnamese and Thai flavors popping up everwhere, even in traditionally American fare like chicken sandwiches with sriracha mayo, Korean-glazed pork ribs. The Sterling-Rice Group, which studies industry trends, also points to the increasing presence of sour flavors in our food and drink. One of (restaurant trade group) Baum-Whiteman’s buzzwords for 2013 is “fermented everything.” I’m down.

Local example: Wine Cellar’s pan-seared scallops with sesame crusted lemongrass rice cake…comes with chili oil and sweet and sour ginger and coconut curry rainbow trout.

Customers downgrading service but still expecting “fresh.” Baum-Whiteman’s #3 trend for 2013 is “Everyone wants to be Chipotle…Even Chipotle.”

Chipotle has started “ShopHouse,” an Asian/noodle fast-casual brand to capitalize on this trend of trading down.

B-W says the challenge for the fast-casual concept is to establish a backstory – to not only offer value, but values. Where does the bacon come from? Is it sustainably-produced, etc. ShopHouse seeks to replicate Chipotle’s success on this front.

Watch fast food. Fast food industry responds to trends faster than anyone else. See Taco Bell’s grafting of Chipotle-style menu items onto their menu last year – and the taqueria-style tacos a few years ago. The trend will only continue.

Kids menus growing up. Mac n cheese and mini hotdogs falling out of favor. Potstickers, REAL fish and chips, burgers on pretzel rolls.

Local examples are few, but Broadway Brewery’s kids menu reads like what you might find in a chain, except the food is every bit as good what’s on the main menu. Grilled cheese on homemade bread, high quality noodles with marinara, good pizza options, etc. An area with plenty of room for growth in Columbia.

Old European style makes itself at home. Across the country chefs are curing bacon, making their own salami and procuring American cheese every bit the equal of their sometimes-stuffy Euro counterparts.Very evident in big cities. Good “local” examples: La Quercia in Iowa, Salume Beddu in St. Louis, Sycamore Restaurant, which features duck pate, house-cured country ham and a charcuterie plate that may be the best thing to eat in town.

Soft drinks bubbling. Lots of artisanal, ostensibly-healthier drinks showing up. Industry consultants Baum-Whiteman say customers are abandoning colas in droves. I noticed homemade sodas all over Washington, D.C. on a visit this fall…it was everywhere.

Local example: Bek’s in Fulton for homemade Italian sodas and World Harvest for the best selection of craft sodas around. Try GUS – Grown Up Soda – options like dry pomegranate and ginger ale.

Rustic-chic. The Zooey-fication of casual fine dining.

On that most recent D.C. trip one dining decor trend was unavoidable: flannel-clad, earnestly-affected “homestyle” service and decor. Precious Zooey Deschanel lookalikes at every turn, from the uber-trendy/Hank Williams Sr.-playing Thai hotspot (with show-stopping food) to a previously-tired Southern food outpost in Old Town Alexandria. On and on it went. Doe-eyed waitstaff – usually serving up-market Southern food – everywhere. Awesome and bizarrely monochromatic at the same time.

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