What are the flavors and trends that will permeate restaurants and home kitchens in the coming year? Some of these are already underway, and some might be wishful thinking. Others have made failed attempts, while many may take years to materialize. Let’s look at what may be in store for 2018.
2018 Food Trends
Bush tucker is the native cuisine of Aboriginal Australians. Ingredients like finger limes have already creeped onto many restaurant menus, but keep an eye out in 2018 for fruits like quandong and riberry, leafy warrigal greens and aromatic lemon myrtle, roast wattleseed flour and lots of kangaroo.
In our clamor for “new” herbs and spices like sumac, galangal and fennel pollen, the fresh, bracing flavor of dill can seem like a revelation. There’s also an unmined opportunity for this classic ingredient to showcase its essential, but lesser-known role in many Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines.
It’s becoming more widely understood that what we think of as a country’s cuisine is really a composite of assorted regional ones. We’re becoming more likely to find restaurants extolled for their Oaxacan, Sicilian, Fujian or Gujarati food, rather than the generic “Mexican,” “Italian,” “Chinese” or “Indian.” Greece also has regional cuisines as varied as its wines. Look for dishes from Crete, Macedonia, Epirus, the Peloponnese and the Ionian and Aegean islands.
This humble condiment of Scotch bonnet chiles and pickled vegetables is served with almost every Haitian meal, and more chefs are coming to appreciate pikliz’s versatility. Unlike its cousins, coleslaw and sauerkraut, the draw is as much about the spicy pickling liquid as the cabbage. It’s salad and salsa in one.
Tree sap is mostly water before it’s boiled down into sticky syrup, and in the wake of coconut water’s success, we’re seeing water derived from bamboo, birch, maple, and walnut trees. The hyperbolic health claims are dubious, the packaging negates any environmental friendliness and you have to watch for sweeteners or other additives, but some of them are flat-out delicious.
Think of chicken skin like a daintier chicharron (pork crackling). Indianapolis’s Crispy Bird has perfected the art with their chicken skins and Meyer lemon kosho aioli. It’s also showing up in increasingly creative ways, like at Bantam King in Washington, DC. The restaurant offered chicken-skin ice cream sandwiches from its pop-up summer take-out window.
Where “nose to tail” meets “vegetable forward.” Most plants are edible from root to flower, and waste-conscious chefs are taking advantage of this. Try whole straggly pea vines with roasted fish at Seattle’s Goldfinch Tavern. Detroit’s Lady of the House has featured crispy corn silk gilding lamb loin.
There’s a nostalgia aspect to crudités, and yet these days raw vegetables feel more “now” than ever. And in this Instagram world, look for restaurants to try and outdo each other with their vegetable choices and plating techniques in 2018. A great example can be found at The Loyal in New York City, where a rotating cast of veggies is arranged in a rustic mosaic and served with spinach green goddess dip and cashew hummus.
The End of Communal Tables
A dining trend, but how has this one stuck around so long? Some places can pull it off, but it usually feels stingy and it turns a restaurant into a cafeteria. It makes groups self-conscious and solo diners sad. Besides, most restaurants already have the best communal table of all—the bar.