For as long as I can remember I’ve been a food trend nerd and fascinated by the food of the future as depicted in science fiction and fantasy novels and films. I binge read statistics about what we are eating, drinking and buying at the grocery store even if I’m not writing about it. Here is what the experts are predicting for the coming year, and in 12 months I’ll check back and see if any of this stuff actually happens.
Grocerants: Expect to see the line between restaurants and grocery stores further blur in 2016 as everybody sells groceries, ready-to-heat meals and ready-to-eat-now fare and upgrades delivery and pickup options. Expect “grocerant” dining areas like those you already enjoy at Boulder County supermarkets and natural food stores to become much more common nationally. Also in supermarkets, you will see more digital shelf price tags like those in use at Hazel’s liquor store in Boulder.
Savory meets sweet: In the coming year we are likely to see more sweet-and-savory food products. Chobani is introducing Chipotle Pineapple Yogurt. England’s Cadbury celebrates the 100th anniversary of its boxed chocolates with fillings including Kale Crème, Wasabi Crunch and Beet Jelly. You will hear a lot about savory breakfast oatmeal, i.e., topped with sriracha and a poached egg. It’s odd but not far removed from cheesy grits or congee, the savory Asian rice porridge. Finally, the maple-bacon boom has jumped the shark with the introduction of Kellogg’s Frosted Maple Bacon Pop-Tarts.
Canned wine: They all laughed, cackled and guffawed when Colorado’s Oskar Blues Brewery started selling its exceptional brews in cans at a time when cans were synonymous with cheap, watery American lagers. Now almost every craft brewery is canning their ales. These days, experts are chuckling about the fact that Denver’s award-winning Infinite Monkey Theorem winery is canning four wines including moscato and rose. You’ll see other craft wineries doing the same in 2016. Also: Craft brew consolidation will continue as brewing giants pay billions for top Colorado craft brewers.
Waste watchers: The culinary adjective of the year will be “low-waste.” Look for produce sections to offer deals on “ugly” but still edible items. Watch for invasive, “trash” and poorly named species to be gently sautéed with butter, shallots and pinot noir wine on fine dining menus. Support will likely rise for organizations like Boulder Food Rescue, which retrieves edible food from eateries and markets and delivers it by bicycle to community nonprofits.
Have it your way: With the introduction of all- day breakfast (yay!) and new items like macaroni and cheese and fried mozzarella sticks, McDonald’s is eagerly trying to revive its fast food fortunes. The McDonald’s at 4000 S. Parker Road in Aurora is experimenting with ordering via kiosk with food delivered to the table in fast casual fashion. An Australian outpost is dishing everything from Moroccan roast chicken breast to lentil and eggplant salad. At an upscale McDonald’s in Hong Kong, servers deliver burgers on wooden boards after you visit the salad bar. If none of these approaches work, they’ll break out the curiously boneless McRib Sandwich again.
Do you have a pulse?: The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of the Pulses — dried lentils, beans and chickpeas. A mounting demand for vegetarian and vegan fare means that eggplant, farro and nori may start to push meat from its center-of-the-plate throne. Trend watchers say that will only happen with stronger and more memorable seasonings and cooking techniques for meatless entrees including flavors of the year: charred, smoked, deeply roasted.
Buzzwords of the new year: In 2016 expect to hear more buzz about fermented foods (like Boulder-bottled organic Ozuke Kimchi); “regional” food (versus “local”); avocado toast; transparency in the food chain; cannabis, cheese and cider pairings; beef tallow; “slavery- free” shrimp; housemade charcuterie including rillettes; domestic fair trade crops; matcha tea baked goods; and gochujang (Korean fermented chile paste).
IN THE KITCHEN
Upgrade your popcorn with this simple approach shared by Peggy Markel, a longtime Boulder friend who leads foodies on visits to Italy, India, Spain and Morocco: “I have always liked a bit of salt, cayenne and olive oil on my popcorn, but I thought why not really spice it up? It’s a South Indian tradition to add spices to hot coconut oil. This tempering releases their fragrance and locks the flavor into the oil so that it distributes easier. I added ground turmeric, cayenne and cumin to heated coconut oil to pour over fresh popcorn plus some good salt and a drizzle of olive oil. It’s the bomb!”
Markel recommends always using fresh herbs, spices and oils and popping plain organic popcorn (i.e., without the weird fake butter chemical and excess salt).
In the May 28, 1997 Nibbles column in the Daily Camera Food section I wrote about the first Zagat 1997 Rocky Mountain Restaurants guidebook which featured kudos for many now-departed Boulder eateries including the European Café, Q’s, New York Deli, Full Moon Grill, Laudisio, Dandelion, John’s, Mataam Fez, Rudi’s and Tom’s Tavern. Zagat picks still serving in 2016 include the Greenbriar Inn, Flagstaff House, Moe’s Bagels, Zolo Grill, Jax Fish House and Mustard’s Last Stand.
TASTE OF THE WEEK
I recently thawed out with a large No. 4 Tai Nam — that’s rare steak and well done flank pho at the Pho Cafe, 1085 S. Public Road in Lafayette. A deep and wide bowl full of broth, rice noodles and meat gets customized with fresh mung bean sprouts, basil, jalapeno slices, lime wedges, hoisin sauce and red chile paste. The portion easily yielded another meal as it seemingly expand- ed when reheated.
WORDS TO CHEW ON
“Children want to mimic adults. They notice when you choose to pre- pare fresh vegetables over calling in another pizza pie for dinner. They will see that food made with love and care outweighs going through the drive- through window.” — Chef Marcus Samuelsson.
John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU, 88.5 FM, 1390 FM, kgnu.org. Archived shows at news.kgnu.org/category/radio-nibbles. Send your comments and quibbles to: Nibbles@boulderweekly.com.