general information and events

sidepost: trends in food + an appeal to future food trends.

June 23, 2015

own all the cookbooks.

When I saw Eventbrite‘s  Trends in Food study, it got me thinking about food trends I’ve noticed around here (both locally and in blog world), and I thought I’d do a little rundown for you. Always nice to take a  break from the norm during summer, right? I can’t tell you what food events or festivals to go to this summer – I’d go to all of them if I could, but I will probably go to none. Instead, I’m going to write about what I know: cooking, recipe, and restaurant trends I’ve seen happening recently.

If you’ve never heard of Eventbrite, you may be one of the rare few who get out even less than I do: even my non-partying self has used the service before. It’s a super easy-to-use platform that you can use to find local events, buy tickets, and keep all the info for your upcoming event close at hand. If you’ve got a party or event to plan, you can use Eventbrite to create events, sell tickets, and if you’re obsessive like me, you can track how your event is going right on the site. If I ever get popular or famous or extroverted enough to host a big event people would pay money to come to? Totally using Eventbrite. Done. And you’re all invited and I probably will sell tickets but they will be zero dollars, just so you come. Oh, and so I can track you.

I may not get out much, but I read: I read a lot. So you may not bump into me at the hottest places in town on the regular, but I do know on some level what i’m talking about in terms of what’s happening with food presently. Here’s what i’ve observed: in honor of it being June, the 6th month on the calendar, I give you 6 Trends in Food. Shall we?

Sweet Home Alabama: Southern Fare? Everywhere.

Seriously it’s like I can’t leave the house without tripping over some banana pudding or collard greens. I’m super happy about it: fried chicken was a staple of our youth, but no one tried very hard to get it right (and mostly they just served it with sad mashed potatoes and some drippy slaw). Now, you can get life-altering, impossibly-crispy, REAL fried chicken plus all the geographically-appropriate sides nearly anywhere you live, and it’s a beautiful thing. I equate southern fare with warmer weather, so I find myself particularly drawn to it in the summertime.

Party Like It’s 1959: Retro Food Forevvvver

Finally, my golden age of cooking gets some well-deserved time in the spotlight thanks to brilliant shows like Mad Men and some recent activity due to a new summer series, The Astronauts Wives Club. Friends, I’ve waited for this day to come for years now; I am fascinated with 1950’s – 1970’s food culture and am continually perplexed by how much we dismiss it as gross. If it weren’t for this age of home cooking, we would never be where we are today, and i still maintain that things like aspics, casseroles, and food shaped to resemble non-food objects got us to where we are today. Respect.

Creative Ice Creaming – Because Finally

I grew up eating one flavor of ice cream; vanilla. Not because I was a picky eater (spoiler alert: not picky), but rather the other flavors seemed super fake and boring to me. Chocolate? I’d just rather have actual chocolate. Strawberry? Peach? Lame, with barely an echo of fruit flavor in them. Bubble Gum? Thanks, 1980’s, I can’t even deal with that one. I still appreciate a perfect vanilla ice cream, my mind keeps getting continually blown by the multitude of honest, creative ice creaming that’s going on right now. Jeni’s, for instance, is both my first crazy ice cream love as well as a pioneer in completely nailing ice cream flavors and expanding horizons. She does a butter pecan just as flawlessly as a rosemary bar nuts in beer ice cream: that’s talent. There’s other outside-the-lines thinking going on in how ice cream is delivered to you: We’ve got a local place called Ices Plain & Fancy does the nitrogen thing and also the “make amazing flavors” thing, and I really need to go so I can experience the awesomeness. As a home cook, all this exciting stuff makes me super happy because at some point, you realize you can do virtually anything with ice cream, and that it’s not constrained by certain flavors or even food groups. To date, creating and spinning ice cream is one of the most relaxing, inspiring, creative things I do in my own kitchen, and i’m continually inspired by people who really go for it.

Messing with the Perfection of Fruits and Vegetables, In a Good Way. 

No one can leave produce alone these days, and I dig that about us. No one ever complained about a perfect apricot or melon, and you’ll find me happily devouring simply-roasted vegetables as a meal most days, but using all that garden glory to do unique things is really something special. I’ve seen more grilled and smoked fruits as of late, people are pickling basically anything and loving it, and the whole idea of fermenting things has never been more mainstream. I love an interesting flavor pairing, too, and it’s nice to see even the most straightforward fruit and veg getting hit with the pow of fresh herbs – strawberry basil, rosemary grapes, corn and sage, the list goes on; it’s like the hippest thing to do right now.

Surprise! It’s a Pop-Up.

Pop-ups have long been a part of large cities food game, but they’ve made it to the midwest, in a seemingly big way. People love a pop-up around here – it’s the same generalized sense of excitement and urgency generated by a food truck, I think: limited time, you may never get the chance again situations that you just feel a giant urge to be a part of. Collaborative pop-ups seem to be the most intoxicatingly-fun of this genre, and although I haven’t been to one as of yet, they look incredibly fun to attend.

Hippie Life = Mainstream.

Hemp seeds, chia, and nutritional yeast: oh my. Ten years ago these items were relegated to health food stores and the Whole Foods bulk section, and now i’m making nacho cheese with them…life continues to amaze. I’m not fully on the hippie food bandwagon, but I do believe in equal opportunity for all foods, and I think everything deserves a shot. I’m no vegan, or even vegetarian, but some hippie-ish foods have some tremendously practical applications in cooking and eating for people who want to have fun with food but also stay healthy. The best thing about the onslaught of the vegan/paleo-style revolution, for me, is that there’s lots of interesting ingredients out there that are way easier to find in my local grocery than they were even a few short years ago, and I’m always up for experimentation. Thanks, hippies: I want to give all of you a very organic and naturally-occuring hug.

cookbooks.

Definitely not a comprehensive list, but those are some standout trends I’ve noticed in the past year both locally and nationally, and in some cases, beyond. I actually enjoy all of those trends right now and have chosen to ignore some trends I find tiresome, but enough about that: I want to talk about what trends I want to see happening in the near future. Less a predictions list and more personal wish list for a future fairy godmother or lamp genie, I hope to see these food trends happen very soon:

Vintage Cookbooks and Food: The New Kale

Cue “I’ve Had the Time of my Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, and I’ll do that running/jumping thing at the end of Dirty Dancing: this is like the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my cooking life.  As a long-time collector of old cookbooks and a Recent History Enthusiast (1900-present day), all this interest in mid-century food is almost more than I can deal with because I’m that excited about it. I hope it stays this way for a while and that people really start to appreciate what this era contributed to food, because in my opinion, it’s significant. I mean, Bon Appetit seems pretty stoked about it, so that’s a good sign, right? I’ll go into my intense love of vintage food more in future posts.

Flight. All. The Things!

Perhaps the best idea that Natalie at Wee Eats has ever had in her life; potentially ground-breaking in terms of how we restaurant and vacation. We’re all food fans here, and the experience of going to an amazing restaurant and wishing you could try a bite of everything – but knowing you can’t – is something we’re all painfully familiar with. I can feel my buoyant little heart sink when I walk into a restaurant I’ve never been to once it dawns on me that ordering everything on the menu would not only be wasteful, but impossible. This feeling becomes more acute on vacations; most would see this as you being lucky to visit a renowned restaurant; you feel a little sick knowing you may never been here again and there’s zero way to try all the things.

But what if there was a way, friends: what if more restaurants started creating flights of all the things!? Obviously many places do a tasting menu, or offer flights of specific things like desserts, but I want it done on a larger scale, somehow. This may be a total pipe dream; I’ve never been a chef, so I’m unsure how this would work from a logistical standpoint, but wouldn’t it be luxurious – not to mention darn satisfying – to order everything from Le Bernardin? Del Posto? Locanda Verde? Hattie B’s Hot Chicken? Yes…yes it would.

No Shame in Your Cake Game.

I get it: we all find ourselves eating healthier these days. Good for us! Certainly there are downsides to loving, working with, and just being in the vicinity of really amazing food: you eat the food. You taste-test the food. You make food and love food and food is all around you, so it’s only natural that many of us would choose to follow as healthy as lifestyle as possible in the midst of that. More and more healthy paleo whatevermavegan blogs pop up these days, and I also applaud that, on some level. Do I think the market is a little oversaturated? I sure do, but it’s nice to be able to find so many healthy recipes online nowadays. I think lots of bloggers saw the trend happening and suddenly created these healtharrific blogs to try to make a little money, and that’s okay too, but I think it causes a lot of overlap.

I want to see a return to cake. I don’t really care what kind of cake – I don’t even care that it is cake: it could be cookies or bars or whatever – but I want to see it come back in all its sweet glory. So many people seem ashamed to love desserts, anything with flour, or carbs, or sugar nowadays….silly, if you ask me. Everything in moderation, sure, but none of us should all the sudden act like cake is the demon among us, just saying. Viva la cake and all it’s little dessert brothers and sisters, and I hope we can find it in our collective food hearts to bring it back into style.

Mad Respect for your Childhood Food (middlesiii…wait, no)

Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar fame just put out a second cookbook – Milk Bar Life – and I think a lot of people really thought it was going to be very much like the first one, and more related to Milk Bar products. Guess what? It’s not; it’s better than that. It is a glorious ode to family, both blood-related and work-related, chronicling dinners she and her friends make now, late night must-haves, and childhood favorites. I don’t know where all of you grew up, but she grew up in the midwest, and the chapters about food from her childhood make me laugh any cry all at the same time because they are so completely identical to food we had as kids and have long since forgotten about. Embarrassing food. Single mom food. Classically 1980’s and 1990’s midwestern fare that most normal people would be ashamed to admit they loved, but thankfully, I’m not that person. I wish that midwestern kid food would have a heyday soon: questionable from a health standpoint but not from a love standpoint, it would be great for the rest of the world to know what quintessential american cuisine looked like when it’s not all classed up.

How ’bout them Yankees?

Speaking of underrated or overlooked cusines, I’d love to see the North get more attention, up there in the New England part of the US. Sure: everyone knows about lobster rolls and clam chowder, but pick up a book from 100 years ago and you’re going to find many less widly-known items worth exploring. New England cuisine is like a fun-house mirror of Southern recipes: different – sometimes remarkably so – but with the same common themes running through. File this one under “random things Shannon would total research the heck out of if she had a magical time-stopper and didn’t need sleep” for right now, but some day I’d like to go further in-depth into what made (and makes) the Yankees tick.

cookbooks again.

There you have it! Trends in food, plus a few wishes for the future; I hope you liked that little break in the recipe action. If you’re looking for something to do, give Evenbrite a little test drive: there’s a lot going on this summer, and I promise you’ll find something near you you’ll want to check out. Today, I’m feverishly packing for my vacation; we leave tomorrow and I’ve gotten next to nothing done, but it’s early in the day. See you very soon (because vacation food is pretty awesome to write about, and I like taking you guys on vacation with me) with things for you to eat.

Maybe next year I’ll Eventbrite my vacation so you guys actually can come…hmmm…

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12 Comments

  • Reply Abbe @ This is How I Cook June 23, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Great post Shannon! I love what you see. I’ve also noticed a lot of meat books and even deli books. Love the idea of tasting menus wherever you go, but I hate small plates. (Another issue.) I always wondered why restaurants don’t have rolling carts for desserts-kind of dim sum style so one could get a bite of each. And food trucks. They are like everywhere. I’d love to cook through the new Milk Bar book with you and I haven’t even seen it. I’m so behind! Have a great vacay!

  • Reply Emma June 23, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    I bet a lot of recipes coming out of NE 100 years ago had to do with BEANS!

    • Reply Brianne June 24, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      All the bean suppahs! After living here 6 years, New England food is a mystery to me, but maybe that’s because New Englanders are survivalists and much less hospitable than Southerners. They keep to themselves and aren’t much for sharing, you know? Just a thought. I like this round up of ideas!

  • Reply Deb|EastofEdenCooking June 23, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    Great insight on food trends! I also enjoy vintage cookbooks and hope the trend doesn’t mean I’ll have competition for my finds at the local thrift stores. LOL

  • Reply John@Kitchen Riffs June 23, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    Fun post. The 60s were amazing foodwise simply because of Julia Child. She taught us all how to eat (and gotta know how to do that before you can cook!). Fun post — thanks.

  • Reply faygie June 23, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    And, ironically (or maybe not so ironically), Jeni’s also has the recipe for the best vanilla ice cream ever. 🙂

  • Reply Heather (Delicious Not Gorgeous) June 24, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    def see the inability to leave fruit/veg alone on food blogs. no one wants to see a recipe for macerated strawberries, or peaches drizzled in balsamic (myself included). however, i find myself unwilling to roast/cook all the great summer fruit we have- it’s all so good on its own!

  • Reply Ashley June 26, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    Such an awesome post! The trends are spot on and I appreciate the special love to my home girl Jeni (sigh, if I actually knew her…but, wait, you do!) Your wish list is great, too! I want the Milk Bar Life book badly (and while I would’ve been happy with more Milk Bar recipes, I’m equally happy with this new book. The chocolate chip cookies were delicious and super easy to make). I have thoroughly enjoyed the health food boom, as a way to learn about new ingredients and techniques and to generally eat healthier. Plus there’s somewhat of a standing challenge to make healthy food as tasty as unhealthy food (though it’s a heck of a lot easier these days!) and I enjoy that. And I totally agree that places ought to offer flights of EVERYTHING because I understand your eating FOMO. I think I tried to eat as much as possible when at Jaleo and Mesa Grill just because I knew I’d not get another chance anytime soon. Then again, I treat holidays with the same mentality, explaining the overstuffed tummy. 🙂

    Have fun on vacation! I’m also clearly living under a rock because I’ve never heard of Eventbrite, but it sounds like planning nirvana for a nerd like me.

  • Reply Elizabeth @ Taste and Sprout July 6, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    What a great post Shannon! A fun, fresh perspective on the latest food trends.

    • Reply shannon July 28, 2015 at 12:18 pm

      Thank you so much, Elizabeth!

  • Reply elizabeth July 8, 2015 at 8:43 am

    I love good trend pieces, so obviously I enjoyed this one! You’re right about southern food being huge right now–I feel like I can’t swing a stick without finding a restaurant that doesn’t have shrimp and grits on its menu, and fried chicken is literally everywhere. Shake Shack just announced that it’s releasing a fried chicken sandwich!

    While I agree that flights are awesome, I also don’t know how appealing eating all of the things a restaurant puts out in one sitting, but I like the idea of maybe having more than one tasting menu option. Mugaritz in Spain does, this (or at least they did), which I think lends more to the element of surprise than just the standard tasting menu.

    I’m also loving how people are playing with fruits and not relegating them only to dessert (see: my blackberry chicken thighs from a few months back). It’s a way to be experimental but doesn’t feel so hard to wrap one’s head around.

    • Reply shannon July 28, 2015 at 12:10 pm

      Aw thank you! You know, had i had time before i published the piece, i was going to ask a few of you if those trends resonated. I was speaking from experience, but only regionally, and i’m happy to hear that i got it right for other parts of the country also. Southern food has been on the rise in recent years here, but man: this year it’s like EVERYWHERE…you have to wonder if people will tire of it or if it’s a mainstay.

      When you put it that way, i agree: maybe i wouldn’t want an entire menu placed in front of me, but dividing it up into sensible tasting menus would be amazing; takes you a few visits but you’re not leaving overwhelmed.

      Exactly! it’s safe-experimental, which is sometimes the best kind because you know it’s not going to go too far off the tracks, and i think it lets people who want to break out of the box do it without apprehension. Like herbs and fruit: not too far from center, just with a little twist.

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