Food Trends to Watch For in 2016
2015 may be officially behind us, but that doesn’t mean our dining habits will change on a dime. In fact, most of last year’s persistent restaurant trends — such as the implementation of a no tipping system, or an increased use of environmentally sustainable seaweed — will remain explicitly omnipresent in the coming months. They’ll just be joined (or in the case of fried chicken, eventually overtaken) by movements burbling just under the surface — from a tasty wave of Hawaiian Poke to a wave of tech-driven delivery and African spices cropping up everywhere!
Jewish Cooking is Shockingly Hot? Yes, Really!
No, it’s not your imagination. Jewish cuisine has defied all odds and archaic stereotypes, suddenly demanding serious attention on the dining scene nowadays. What started a few years ago with a few, great Jewish delis serving lox, bagels, and pastrami, like Mile End in New York and Wise Sons in San Francisco, has evolved into a full-blown, Jewish food movement. 2016 is proving a huge year for more serious applications of this age-old, heritage cuisine, like Sadelle’s wildly popular Eastern European menu in Manhattan, and even an ambitious Israeli eatery called Shaya in New Orleans.
Hi-Tech Delivery: Seamless is so 2013. Last year alone, innovative companies absolutely flooded the food delivery space, from the carefully curated Caviar (which works exclusively with top-tier eateries) to the David Chang-financed Maple (a full-stack company, offering dishes from talented consulting chefs the likes of Mark Ladner and Brooks Headley), to the super-streamlined Arcade; which allows consumers to order that day’s single restaurant selection (such as noodles from Han Dynasty), simply by texting “yes.” And the market is primed to reach peak saturation next year, with Google, uberEats, and Amazon Prime Now all getting into the game.
Poke, Mon: New DOH regulations enforcing restaurants to pre-freeze fish has essentially amounted to a war on sushi, although shellfish, fresh water fish, and certain types of tuna are exempted from the rule. Which may very well pave the way for the deservedly famous Hawaiian mainstay, Poke (already a favorite at the East Village’s Noreetuh, as well as the focus of a devoted Smorgasburg stand), featuring bite-sized fish cubes marinated in salt and soy and flavored with sesame oil, chilies and nuts; which should squeak by the system relatively unsullied.
Vegging Out: This past September, Pete Wells bestowed two stars on Brooks Headley’s fist-sized veggie burger shop — which likely gave grain and seitan-based patties the shot in the arm they needed to finally surpass fried chicken. They’ve already begun popping up in expected places (like broccoli-obsessed No. 7 Veggie, and the vegan mini-chain, By Chloe), and even infiltrated the fine dining realm as well. Check out Daniel Humm & James Kent’s quinoa & lentil version at The NoMad.
Chicken’s Hot, Hot, Hot: The rise of the veggie burger notwithstanding, don’t count fried chicken out just yet. In lieu of the fast food sandwich style that ruled 2015, more and more NYC chefs are taking a cue from Nashville, by appropriating their incendiary, cayenne and lard-sauced bird. It’s a burgeoning trend that already has legs — think Peaches HotHouse and the Meat Hook Sandwich Shop — but look for hot chicken to proliferate in earnest in the coming months; especially in the wake of Carla Hall’s dedicated, upcoming spot in Brooklyn’s Columbia Waterfront District.
Into Africa: Marcus Samuelsson has made them a regular part of his repertoire for years, but African spices and condiments are slated to give standbys, like sriracha and gochujang a real run for their money in 2016. So expect to see piri piri peppers (a birds eye chili), vadouvan (a mix of curry leaves, coriander, turmeric, cumin and fenugreek) and berbere — an Ethiopian staple, comprised of chili, garlic, ginger, korarima, rue and adjwain — enlivening all manner of globally influenced foodstuffs at restaurants throughout the city in the coming year.
Waste Not Want Not: In an increasing effort to be environmentally and ecologically sustainable, chefs have cycled through nose-to-tail and root-to-stem cooking, experimented with rough fish and off-cuts, and more recently, have even turned to plentiful seaweed and protein-rich bugs. But the final frontier in reduced footprint dining appears to be dumpster diving, as exemplified by Dan Barber’s month-long pop-
up called WastED, challenging guest chefs to craft innovative dishes from ignored and overlooked food byproducts. And turning garbage to gold is already a full-time pursuit at Brooklyn’s recently opened Saucy by Nature, which has effectively reduced almost all of its waste (producing only one trash bag per week) by composting and recycling, using surplus catering ingredients, and donating the remainder to food pantries.