Global nomadism, wanderlust, and the globalization of culinary trends are taking place at lightning speed, leading to new emotional needs connected to food. Food today is used as a storytelling method, a way to connect people and discover a creator’s inspiration behind a product, shop, or restaurant. Mindsets and identities are no longer fixed but constantly shifting, depending on multiple cultural contexts. There is a new confident, savvy attitude towards remixing seemingly contrasting elements and ingredients in food. Eager to discover the next culinary treasure, foodies are looking for truly genuine and authentic foods that go beyond known staples, diving deep into different regions of food cultures.
Global flavors are here to stay: in the US global flavors have continued to grow on menus as well as permeate QSR’s and packaged foods for years now. 2019 and beyond is all about accessible Asian flavors. Thanks to culinary stars like David Chang and Danny Bowien, many Asian flavors that were once considered unfamiliar are quickly reaching mainstream. Miso has made itself prevalent in a multitude of culinary categories, proving its vast use in dishes well beyond soup. From marinades to dressings to spreads, miso paste is an incredible flavor enhancer. The versatile ingredient has sweet takes, too, such as the Miso-Cherry Ice Cream courtesy of Sam Mason at NYC-based OddFellows Ice Cream Co.
Yuzu, another ubiquitous Asian ingredient, is a citrus fruit used to complement anything from hot sauces to sparkling drinks. At Bar Moga, a popular Japanese cocktail bar in New York, the menu features an array of signature drinks incorporating yuzu as well as other Asian flavors, such as Sleepwalk; a cocktail with lemongrass shochu, coconut, ginger, lime, rose and yuzu-infused sake.
Due to a higher acceptance of ingredients, an array of Asian-inspired dishes, sauces and condiments – such as XO Sauce, a Cantonese staple – and desserts are more easily found at grocery stores and restaurants. One New York bakery has made a name for itself by offering a visually stunning Japanese “bouncy cheesecake.” Keki Modern Cakes has taken social media by storm with the trendy delight, known for its light and fluffy texture, taste, and jiggly bounce. The tiny Manhattan hotspot also flavors their cheesecakes with additional Asian ingredients, such as ube.
Combining culinary opposites and fusion is an everlasting trend in North America. Chefs are constantly experimenting with ingredients that, at first, don’t seem to belong, but are combined to create an unexpected, flavorful profile. The biggest Opposites Attract trend of 2019 may be that of “high-brow/low-brow.” High/low regards the mixing of exclusive, sometimes expensive, high-end ingredients with simpler food. A prime example of the trend comes in the pairing of potato chips and caviar at The Plum Cafe in Cleveland. Served with gold leaf and champagne on the side, the briny and salty combo is an indulgent snack that perfectly encapsulates the intermingling of high/low brow ingredients into a new level of “gourmet.”
The melding of varying culinary regions has gained favor as well. Chefs are frequently fusing flavors and techniques from different cultures – such as Japan and the Mediterranean – to create innovative new concepts and reimagined dishes. At Bombay Bread Bar in New York, Chef Floyd Cardoz reimagines Indian cuisine with riffs on classic street food mixed with traditional southern USA concepts. With the recent revival of the restaurant “snack bar,” dishes include offerings such as Kerala Fried Chicken, as well as southern-inspired sides like Indian mac and cheese as well as potato salad.
Unsurprisingly, comfort food remains a major culinary staple across all cultures. As a contrast to troublesome everyday lives and exhausting social norms, people look to feel-good foods that are simple, familiar, and heartwarming. So what are the latest comfort food twists and tweaks from 2019?
90’s Back, Alright!
Restaurants are in the thick of nostalgia, and are throwing it back to the 90’s era, with twists on highballs and classic dessert cocktails. At New York’s world-renowned cocktail bar, Dead Rabbit, the drink menu sports all sorts of remixes on well-loved classics, such as their Smoked Cuba Libre and the Yuzu Caipirinha.
Chicken is reclaiming its spot as the king of protein, as culinary leaders across the country are bringing their signature takes to one of our favorite comfort foods – fried chicken. The fried chicken sandwich is not just a menu staple at fast food joints anymore. At New York’s Taiwanese hotspot, 886, owner Eric Sze channels his childhood memories of growing up on McDonald’s in Taipei to create 886’s massive, spicy fried chicken sandwich, topped with hot sauce, chiles, and housemade daikon slaw.
Breakfast foods are transforming as they are more widely accepted as a meal at all hours of the day. Think reinvented IHOP – chicken and waffles for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This trend will continue to grow beyond brunch, as millennials are not as strict with routine hours for eating -- consumers are snacking more at different parts of the day, and eating breakfast at varying hours.
Bread, the glorious staple in many consumers’ diets, is proving its worth as more than just a vessel for holding in sandwich meat. Instead, bread is making its way to the inside of a dish in many creative ways. From cornbread to sourdough, chefs are using specialty breads as add-ins to their dishes. At ice cream shop, Morgenstern’s, the team serves up Strawberry Sour Cream Streusel - fresh strawberry ice cream blended with chunks of high-quality sour cream pastry.