Foodie trends for 2012

What’s cooking for 2012? Here’s a look at some of the top trends North American food experts are predicting we’ll see in our grocery stores, cookeries, restaurants and kitchens this year.

What’s generating buzz:

Specialty Meatballs
Traditional comfort food gets a global twist. Meatball madness was big in 2011, and the trend is expected to continue this year with the introduction of more specialty meatball shops and restaurants. Think along the lines of turducken meatballs with curry peanut sauce ala Dave Martin’s The Meatball Factory.

Exotic Fish
With the continued overfishing of traditional varieties, industry players are learning more about which fish are most successfully farmed. Expect to see lesser-known fish, including wild and otherwise, in your local fish market or restaurant. A few examples include paiche, fugu, and toadfish. Also generating buzz among fish lovers is barramundi, an Australian import that is low in toxin levels, but rich with healthy omega-3s.

Pickled Foods
Pickling began as a food preservation method, but pickled foods are becoming increasingly popular for their robust flavour and as an alternative for higher fat foods. And we’re not just talking about cucumbers and good old-fashioned pickles. Look for a variety of pickled fruits and vegetables such as shallots, peppers, garlic, star anise or leeks served, say, on top of steaks instead of the more traditional frites or onion rings.

Scandinavian Flavors
Foodies watched with interest when Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant cookbook became a James Beard Foundation award winner — and now, some are predicting that more chefs will begin using Scandinavian-inspired ingredients like sea buckthorn (a tart orange berry), wood sorrel (a plant with heart-shaped leaves), bark flour (made from real trees), and evergreens (such as Douglas fir). Since these ingredients are difficult to source, experts say this will play into another trend: using hyper-local ingredients that are grown nearby or even on the same premises of the restaurant or grocery store.

Jewish Food
Israeli-inspired food started generating buzz several years ago, and experts are predicting that traditional Jewish dishes will continue to be a food trend again in 2012. Think brisket, potato latkes, matzoh balls and gefilte fish for your next feast! Also look for fusion fare, such as Italian cooking but with a Jewish flare.

More Neapolitan and Funky Pizzas
Forget the simple slice: this year pizza will have even more pizzazz with crazier toppings and funkier presentations. Experts say to look for more pizzas made Neapolitan-style — and for other ethnic concoctions such as Turkish pizza as more chefs invent new twists on traditional fare.

Moroccan Food
Celebrity chefs such as Paula Wolfert and Mourad Lahlou are giving a modern and creative spin to traditional Moroccan fare. The food — flavourful, healthy and delicious – is expected to surge in popularity, and perhaps even become the next big thing.

Arancini Appetizers
When it comes to trendy finger foods, foodies are talking about arancini  — little fried balls of risotto, either plain or filled with items such as cheese or prosciutto. (Check out a recipe here.)

Top trends for healthier eating

Many of the anticipated food and nutritional trends for 2012 cater not only to our taste buds, but to our health as well. Here’s a look at some of the top chef trends that could give healthy eating a boost:

–Local Ingredients: The popularity of fusion dishes and globally inspired flavours — and with it, harder to find ingredients — means the trend for locally grown ingredients will continue to into 2012, experts say. (Some say the trend will go hyper-local with more grocery stores and restaurants actually growing their own food on site.) Not only does this have environmental benefits, but it also means savings on transportation costs and better quality control over the food. Rural foodies may also be inspired to supplement their gardens with backyard beehives, chicken coops and heirloom veggie gardens, as well as home brewing and at-home canning.

–In-Your-Face Nutrition: More front of the package labeling, nutrition disclosure on menus and calorie counting mobile apps on smart phones will put important food information at your fingertips.

— Beyond the Salt Shaker: More cooks are opting to use less salt and boost flavour with herbs and spices. Good news for people trying to lower their sodium intake! Expect to see more of  tumeric, for example. This bright yellow spice, contains high levels of antioxidants and touts anti-inflammatory properties. (Read more about healthy spices in Spices of life.)

–Healthful Kids’ Meals: Move over Happy Meals! With the global obesity epidemic also affecting children, experts say more restaurants will be offering child-friendly meals that are tasty but also nutritious.

Sources: The Daily Meal; National Restaurant Association; Publicis Consultants; Phoenix New Times;

Photo © Adam Booth

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