Trends on the rise generally experience a slow burn — what may seem like mere coincidence one day (a handful of restaurants serving fried chicken sandwiches, for instance), may become an omnipresent, city-wide craze the next. So based on a few early adopters, these are the subtly flickering food movements we expect to catch fire in 2017, to a macabre obsession with charcoal, to a wave of meatless meat products.
Chic Charcoal: No one wants to find coal in their Christmas stocking — but if you spot a bit of charcoal in your cocktails this season, it doesn’t mean you’ve been banished to Santa’s naughty list. Perhaps the most unexpected new superfood, activated charcoal is considered an excellent detoxifier; which is why it first started gaining traction at health-focused eateries and juice bars (El Rey came up with a raw date and charcoal bar, by CHLOE sells a maple and charcoal tonic, and The Wild Son serves Dark Lemon Soda). But a number of chefs and bartenders are readily embracing charcoal simply because it looks cool; it’s also used to enhance black licorice scoops at Morgenstern’s Famous Ice Cream, Beauty & Essex offers an elegant, smoky “Black Tie White Noise” cocktail, and Mission Chinese Food peddles the “Moonwalk;” an ebony-tinted libation boozed up with mezcal and sake.
High Tech Edibles: Silicon Valley invested $1 billion dollars in food start-ups last year, which is why you’ll find technology creeping into the edible landscape. Already, we’ve seen the launch of brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods (which debuted their “Impossible Burger” at Nishi; an all-veggie patty that tastes, smells, and even bleeds like meat, but uses 1/20th of the land than a comparable burger culled from a cow), as well as Muufri, Ripple and Perfect Day (all devoted to animal-free dairy products), and CellPod; a heat lamp-esque appliance that grows the ingredients for a healthy meal within a week from plant cells.
Bespoke Butcher Shops: While it would seem the above companies are turning the tide even further away from meat, the truth is, steaks and chops are being treated with even greater reverence by chefs — many of whom have incorporated butchery programs and retail components directly within their restaurants. There’s April Bloomfield’s White Gold in Manhattan, of course, which produces burgers for all of her establishments (and supplies everything from lamb loins to pork sausages to bone broth in house), as well as a slew of spots across the bridge; including Cherry Point (from a Spotted Pig alum, who serves housemade charcuterie in a former Polish butcher shop), A&E Supply Company (a multi-concept Gowanus space with adjunct meat counter), and Sunday in Brooklyn, which smokes and cures the meat options found in their dining room, and peddled in a market up front.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered: As running and staffing a restaurant proves increasingly unsustainable, more and more chefs are leasing out commissary kitchens instead, in order to provide Michelin-quality food delivery service (so no, we’re not talking about Seamless). David Chang has proved the highest profile adopter with his companies Maple and Ando, but you can already get almost any foodstuff shuttled straight to your door; from NYC-based desserts (obtain Levain cookies, Dough doughnuts or Magnolia cupcakes through Sweetist), to locally-sourced wine, beer and liquor (through either MiniBar or Drizly).
Bowls on a Roll: Hawaiian poke is the latest beneficiary of the healthy, portable, pro-bowl movement (sorry, acai, you’re so 2015), but the self-contained meal trend shows no sign of slowing down. Thanks to a recent NYC outpost of Eatsa (a San Francisco-based, ultra-modern automat), you can use an app on a tablet to summon Southwestern Scramble bowls at breakfast, Stir-Fried Quinoa Bento bowls at lunch, and Burrito bowls during dinner from behind a glass cubby.
By-Products are Big: Southerners have long transformed watermelon rinds into pickles, but enterprising, eco-conscious chefs are taking the “waste not, want not” approach to the next level. For example, you’ll increasingly discover the starchy water left over from cooking chickpeas — also known as aquafaba — used as an all-purpose emulsifier for vegan mayo or meringue (it’s also a terrific substitute for foamed eggs in cocktails), and the resulting whey remaining from yogurt production fortifying probiotic drinks.