Along with the neverending list of logistical details that planners tend to, comes the responsibility of advising or creating menus to meet our clients’ needs. With TV networks dedicated solely to cooking, presenting and finding new foods, a limitless supply of food blogs to read, gourmet food-truck rallies to attend and food apps that cover every angle, the industry is evolving fast and furiously. Food is a billion-dollar industry that’s constantly changing in tastes and trends. Read on for some of the highlights. (For a look at 2014 trends in event design & decor, see this column.)
BACK TO BASICS. Comfort foods are still a mainstay, but these traditional savories have been updated with playful twists. Look for smaller, yet still-oh-so-satisfying, servings. “Individual portions” have become chic, giving foodies the chance to indulge without guilt. Fried lobster mac & cheese, french fries with assorted toppings, meatloaf sliders with pâté, French onion soup dumplings and hot dogs in warm pretzel buns are a few examples of updated classics.
EYE APPEAL. With smaller portions comes a need for more creativity and innovation in presentation. Chefs realize the importance of the vessel from which you’re served. A recent favorite of mine was dubbed the “Beer & Burger Bite” — a juicy, one-bite, cheeseburger skewered with a single gulp-size cup of craft beer! Other clever presentations include: shot glasses, once used only for whiskey and bourbon, holding tomato soup “shooters” garnished with miniature triangles of grilled cheese sandwiches; hummus or other dips in individual demitasse cups and saucers (the cups hold the dip, the saucer holds crudité or flatbread chips). For dessert, fill miniature old-time milk bottles with cold milk and rest a fresh doughnut around the neck or skewered with a straw. A favorite of mine is the brainchild of Enrique Luis Sardi. It’s a totally edible coffee cup made of cookie. The cup is lined with a special icing that holds in the brew and adds a touch of sweetness. Utter genius!
OODLES OF NOODLES AND GRAINS. A few years ago Latin flavors were all the rage. Such is the case now with Asian-fusion cuisine. Whether it’s blending Asian recipes with other cuisines or merging ingredients from various Asian countries, Asian-fusion has taken the nation by storm. Witness the noodle bar. The concept is simple: Most recipes start with Ramen noodles and offer restaurant-goers a blend of dishes made with fresh, healthy and tasty ingredients. Also popular: side dishes and salads made of everything from farro to quinoa.
THE NEW FISH IN THE SEA. Move over salmon, tilapia and mahi-mahi, and meet corvina. Corvina has a firm, large flaky flesh that resembles snapper. Its mild flavor holds up well to many preparations, plus it’s palate-pleasing and budget-friendly. Oysters are making a comeback. We’re seeing oyster gin and tonics, made with creamy Kumamotos topped with a gin-and-tonic mixture, slivers of lime zest and a pinch of salt.
IT’S 5 O’CLOCK SOMEWHERE! Adult milkshakes are the new thing, and the possibilities for clever, tasty combinations are endless. Imagine a creamy shake spiked with Crave chocolate-cherry liqueur and topped with whipped cream, crushed chocolate wafers and a cherry. A Black Forest milkshake. Peanut butter cups made with Godiva Chocolate liqueur and a splash of Castries Crème Peanut Rum. From Key lime pie to white chocolate mint, it doesn’t get any better than this. Craft sodas are also becoming more popular, too, especially with chefs who create house-made syrups and infusions from fruit and herbs. These sodas then become the base for an endless array of cosmopolitans and martinis.
What food trends are you seeing this year? What do you like, not like or want to amend? Please share your comments in the box below.