Last year we wrote about VR restaurants, root to stem and technicolour desserts. 2018 is set to bring more new ingredients and theories to the ever-changing food scene, and we’ve compiled a list of the top trends to watch out for!
January always brings fresh waves of trend lists to watch out for in the new year. Fashion, travel, tech and of course food are hyper-dynamic industries that are continuously evolving and incorporating the new beliefs target audiences are advocating.
In years past we wrote about charcoal and nostalgic desserts, about reducing food waste and root to stem and, maybe the fastest evolving area in food, healthy eating, where the revolution has gone from vegetarianism to gluten-, lactose-, grain- and wheat free diets and juice detoxing, to name a few. And whatever trends you believe are set to take 2018 by storm, the health trend will keep putting its mark on how restaurants and venues shape their menus and procure their produce. So let’s take a look at what that means for 2018, and what other trends are being spotted!
Regionality, back to the Chef’s roots, hyper-local
We already had the regional produce and locally sourced ingredients focus hitting the restaurant scene a while ago. Now it’s going a few steps further, in a number of ways. There’s a focus on regionality – showcasing ingredients and dishes from the region the restaurant is in, and/or the region the Chef is from. Research says that one of the effects of our digital society, is that people look our for ways to ground themselves and go back to their roots, and this comes through in the dining scene. Chefs make an effort to use ingredients from back home, and provide creative twists on traditional, age-old recipes from their home town. Finally, locally sourced ingredients are now going to become hyper-locally sourced – meaning around the corner or down the street, not in the same province or county.
The search for new and creative ingredients reached flowers a while ago. But it wasn’t mainstream, yet. We predict that 2018 is the year of flowers in food. Both as beautiful decoration and as ingredients, as more and more edible flowers are being sourced and used for their specific flavours. We’re grateful, because nothing boosts likes and followers more than pretty foodporn pics and flowers are a sure way to get them. And let’s not forget all the infusions, it started with gin and tonics but now every self-respecting cocktail shaker uses flowers to add new, subtle flavours to signature cocktails.
Exotic seasoning and Timut pepper
Move over, sea salt and lemon pepper. Ground oyster shells, tree bark and insects are going to be sprinkled on your risotto, asparagus and lobster this year. It’s the year of exotic seasoning, and nothing is too wild or crazy. Part of it is flavour, part of it is also texture. We’ve seen an increase in focus on texture for years, so that in itself is not a new trend, but creating texture through seasoning and looking outside the box for those crunchy, slushy or crumbly tid-bits is what 2018 will be about. There’s one specific ingredient people are starting to talk about and that’s timut pepper. It’s from Nepal and is said to have a spiky, citrusy flavour to it. Perfect for a G&T we think. If you want a taste, Sahara Grill at The Mall on Jumeirah Beach Road has a lobster salad that is served with timut pepper and red wine gelee.
Gut health, medicinal foods and probiotics
This takes Yakult to the next level. Probiotics found in dairy products that have maintained certain bacteria cultures, found to be supportive of good intestinal health, are on the rise. Kimchi, miso and kefir are taking over as they are said to have probiotic effects. Probiotic powders are becoming available as an addition to your favourite smoothie or juice (move over, wheatgrass) at your neighbourhood juice bar. There’s also anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant, which typically means spices or herbs such as turmeric (hello, golden milk and latte) and ginger. Supplements like collagen, often found in powders that are supposedly good for skin, hair and nails, are also popping up like popcorn at every café and shop. And let’s not forget about nootropics – ingredients that are supposed to improve cognitive functions, memory and creativity, among other things. Wild & The Moon (Alserkal, Festival City, and DIFC) cover it all.
Mocktails and high-end non-alcoholic (sparkling) drinks
So far those on the health path have conveniently ignored cutting down on one of the worst health hazards – alchohol. But that may be changing, as more bars are starting to list mocktails, shakers are putting more time into coming up with non-alcoholic mixes that are just as exciting and tantalizing as alcoholic cocktails, and the market for healthy sparkling drinks is increasing exponentially. The selection of vitamin waters, low-calorie fruit infused waters and virgin, low sugar mojito mixes is on the rise at every supermarket. When will the first mocktail bar open? Bars that have a decent selection of mocktails in Dubai are: Asia Asia, Zuma, Mercury Lounge and Iris.
If you haven’t heard of poke bowls you’ve been living under a rock the last year. But poke is not all Hawaii has to offer from a culinary point of view. Less famous but similarly delicious is tako – same as poke but then made with octopus! We think lomi-lomi will soon hit the menus at poke shops – raw salmon made into salsa. Say what? Yes you heard us right, salt, tomatoes, onions, maybe a little chili and raw salmon. And it tastes even better than it sounds. We expect a few more Hawaiian favourites to cross the ocean, the mix of fresh seafood and vegetables is hard to beat in 2018! Check out Poke Poke in Umm Suqeim!
Craft and flavoured butters
Together with the mocktails, this is one of the trends we’re most excited about. The trend for restaurants and even consumers to make their own butter started a few years ago. Now it’s about mixing it with herbs. One of the most popular Pinterest topics, the simple options include terragon and lemon, smoked chili and goat cheese and chives, while the more advanced ones include maple and bacon, chocolate and orange ganache and Thai curry. And, as you may have noted, it’s not just savoury butters that are getting a face lift, a decent breakfast buffet at a hotel now also includes sweet butters for your croissant. The Westin Al Habtoor’s breakfast buffet at Seasonal Tastes has a few amazing choices.
We’ve written a little something about mezcal before. It’s often referred to as tequila’s smoky sister, and mixologists are buying in bulk. It’s refreshing, like tequila, but has a bit more earthiness and depth to it, which is why it’s being used in inventive, subtle cocktails, but also is getting its fair share of orders neat, on the rocks. Although we’ve never seen a huge surge in tequila bars (probably too many people shuddering at the thought of some of their worst tequila induced hangovers), we do predict a surge in mezcal bars, or bars that market themselves for having an extensive selection of mezcals. In Dubai, Tortuga and Maya have a good selection of mezcals.
The Fourth Meal
Some of you may remember a Taco Bell campaign that was not very popular, referring to a fourth meal, also known as snacking. That’s not what we are referring to. We’re referring to the second dinner, which is supposedly making a come-back. We can see why it may appeal to some – it offers the opportunity for working parents to eat with their kids and eat together, and also makes it easier to eat smaller volumes and break what is usually the most calorific meal into smaller chunks. However, there’s also research that says that you shouldn’t eat the 3 hours before you sleep as your body may not digest it as much or as well, potentially leading to weight gain and/or digestive issues. So we’re not sure if it’s really going to be a trend yet!
Glazed: been there done that, many times. Matcha donut: check. Bacon and maple donut: check. Boring. Bring on donut 3.0 – 2018 is the year of creative fillings and toppings for donuts. Not only at your corner shoppe, but also in haute cuisine (well hello foie gras donut, come on over). Stuffing the donut with a snicker bar is the simplest one of the lot for generation 3.0 (we’d ike to try one please), but we’re talking more along the lines of espresso cardamom, pulled pork and honey BBQ sauce, mojito and mint leaf, black licorice, lavender, berry and goat cheese, strawberry margarita and chorizo cheddar. Just to name a few. And of course the spaghetti donut, although we’d argue that’s so 2017. Places we think will pick up on this trend in Dubai are Common Grounds and Baker & Spice.
Where 2016 and 2017 were the years of the cheat days, 2018 is the year of fasting days and hours. There’s whole-day fasting – which sounds as difficult as it is. You’re allowed to have 500-600 calories on a fasting day which means that after your cappuccino and lemon water you’re almost done for the day, and you should probably not fast 2 days in a row. There’s also Time Restricted Feeding (TRF for those in the know) which limits fasting to certain hours, e.g. fasting for 16 hours and only eating during the remaining 8. Celebrities swear by it and there are studies that show improved blood sugar levels and fat loss.
Half of the Middle East can piggyback on this trend as they figured it out years ago. People love sparkly, shiny things and so why not incorporate it into food (and charge 500 times the normal amount)? But it won’t be about the cappucino’s and donuts anymore, now it will be about haute cuisine desserts but also soft serve, Kit Kat, risotto, sushi rolls, oysters, tacos, dumplings, pizzas and marshmallows.
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