North Americans always look forward to new” foods or beverages that some fringe group or marketing guru decide to promote. “Foodies” jump on each and after a few years or sometimes in months their enthusiasm fades giving way to yet another “new” invention which may be a cocktail or new food presentation, or food combination, or an ingredient that they nave not heard of before.
Forty years ago, no one in Ontario had heard of a salad bar. It was invented, no doubt by some marketing genius, to sell iceberg lettuce or other salad greens, then came muffins that soon incorporated carrots or zucchini in teh mix. Following that, cheesecake became popular in all its guises.
Croissants, generally, a popular French breakfast item with café au lait, was promoted as a fold for sandwiches.
We must also not forget quiche, an Alsatian specialty that reigned supreme for a long time on menus.
As with any trendy food item, each was taken up my the food manufacturing industry, mass produced, diluted in quality, offered at low prices. People soon became tired of soggy croissants, tasteless quiche, and mushy muffins.
Now, “gourmet” coffee and olive oil become hot “foodie” items as well as those listed below.
People in Europe cling to traditional and time tested food and change, if ever, slowly. French still cherish baguettes, croissants, quiche, creamy sauces, cheeses, butter, and olive oil, and generally live reasonably healthy lives. Their secret is to eat small portions versus the obsession of North Americans who insist on quantity rather than quality.
The latest trends, at least in Toronto are:
Bitters – most people prefer sweet beverages or foods, but bitters have their place in the diet. Cocktails with a drop or tow of bitters have their place in gastronomy.
Now bartenders are promoting the idea of incorporating and occasionally concocting their own bitters, using them in cocktails and aging them to better fuse their inherent flavours.
Offals (aka variety meats) for most people, liver, tongues, brains, animal feet, heart, tripe, sweet bread, animal cheeks etc. have been anathema for a long time. Now chefs use all the parts of an animal i.e. “nose to tail”, arguing rightly, that one must honour the life of an animal “scarified” for our eating pleasure.
Many chefs now are also smoking fish, buying whole carcasses and butchering them using every part. The expertise is being passed on from one generation to the next, as has been in Europe and elsewhere in the world for millennia.
Another laudable trend is root-to-leaf, i.e. using all parts of a plant. Think of zucchini flowers, dandelion, carrot tops, garlic scapes, and beettops just to name a few.
Argentine malbec is now very popular with red wine drinking young people, partly because of the price, but also of its deep flavour, and dare I say it, high levels of alcohol.
Bacon- not long ago, shunned by nutritionists, now the cured pork belly has become a sophisticated gourmet item. People no longer buy generic bacon, they seek Berkshire or Duroc pig double- or single smoked bacon. Some even go for the Italian version called panchetta.
Some restaurateurs have successfully promoted tapas style meals. They appeal to the young crowd who wants to nibble on a variety of foods and preparations. Tapas have been popular with Spaniards for centuries especially when enjoying a glass of dry sherry.
Braised beef cheeks now appear on many menus because they are flavourful and less expensive than many other cuts. While texturally somewhat different than a medium-rare steal, they can be very appealing when properly prepared.
I don’t know what the next food or beverage trend will be, but I can assure you that the next one will be here soon.