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Hot on the menu: Chefs’ 2017 forecast for foodies

Lisa Neff, Staff writer

How would you like your Merlot cut cooked? Medium-rare?

New cuts of meat — the Merlot cut, shoulder tender, oyster steak and Vegas Strip — rank No. 1 on the list of top 20 food trends for 2017.

Each year, the National Restaurant Association surveys about 1,300 professional chefs — members of the American Culinary Federation — to compile its series of “What’s Hot” in restaurant food. For the new year, the association predicts menu trends that will be heating up include poke, housemade charcuterie, street food, food halls and ramen.

Menu trends that are cooling down? Quinoa, black rice and vegetarian and vegan cuisines.

Here’s the restaurant association’s list of top food trends:

New cuts of meat. Chefs will beef up their menus with new and often affordable cuts like shoulder tender, oyster steak and Vegas Strip Steak.

Street food-inspired dishes. Chefs are creating their versions of street food, so diners can discover the flavors of local foods from faraway places — dishes like tempura, kabobs, dumplings and pupusas.

Healthful children’s meals. While burgers and fries will remain tops with children, salads, fruit, whole grains and lean proteins will be showing up on menus with increasing frequency.

Housemade charcuterie. This cured-meat answer to the cheese plate is popular with chefs and diners alike. Plus, using all parts of the animal to prepare it can lower food costs.

Sustainable seafood. More chefs and diners say they’re paying attention to the environmental impact of seafood consumption. People increasingly want to know where the seafood is from, how it’s sourced, raised or caught, and how its removal affects the ecosystem.

Culturally rich breakfast items. Think chorizo scrambled eggs, coconut milk pancakes or dishes featuring Asian-flavored syrups.

Housemade condiments. Chefs expect to see consumers clamoring for made-from-scratch sriracha or even the old standbys of ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise.

Authenticity. Consumers’ sophisticated palates — driven by international travel and access to a wider variety of food items — will inspire chefs to create dishes true to their home culture.

Heirloom fruits and vegetables. Diners want to know everything about the food they eat: where it comes from, how it’s grown and who grows it. To answer that first question, heirloom produce will get increased attention, with chefs and restaurateurs seeking out venerable varietals of everything from tomatoes to beans to apples.

African flavors. Relatively under-explored in the United States, African flavors and ingredients will increasingly pop up on menus.

Coming in at 11–20 on the “What’s Hot” list are ethnic spices (e.g., harissa, curry, peri peri, ras el hanout, shichimi); housemade sausage; housemade pickles; ancient grains (e.g., kamut, spelt, amaranth, lupin); housemade/artisan ice cream; whole grain items in children’s meals; protein-rich grains/seeds (e.g., hemp, chia, flax); artisan cheeses; savory desserts; and gourmet items in children’s meals.

Dining trends

The restaurant association also offered a list of top concept trends in dining. A sampling:

Hyper-local sourcing. Chefs will put extra emphasis on the freshness of their produce. For some, that means growing produce on the premises. Others will start indoor hydroponic gardens.

Chef-driven fast-casual concepts. Chefs will increasingly explore the quick-service space. Menus will focus on fresh, high-quality ingredients as chefs create fine-dining versions of burgers, pizza, sandwiches and more.

Natural ingredients. Chefs will continue to pay more attention to the quality and provenance of the raw ingredients they use.

Environmental sustainability. More diners, especially millennials, are searching for restaurant brands that share their beliefs and values. They want businesses they frequent to recycle, manage their food waste and source locally.

Food waste reduction. Restaurants will serve up smaller portions, donate unused food to those in need, and recycle or compost food.

Meal kits. Around since 2012, the meal-kit business is growing and more will restaurants will sell them in 2017. These packages of pre-measured and prepped ingredients offer consumers the option to prepare meals that bridge the gap between takeout and scratch cooking at home.

Nutrition. Consumers are getting smarter about the food they eat and more attuned to their own bodies. Chefs are expecting to see increased demand for low-carb dishes, more produce and more whole grains.

Trending in 2017

Hey bartender
  • Craft, artisan spirits
  • On-site barrel-aged drinks
  • Locally produced spirits, wine and beer
What’s for breakfast?
  • Avocado toast
  • Overnight oats
  • Breakfast hash
For the sweet tooth
  • Artisanal ice cream
  • Doughnuts with non-traditional filling
  • Smoked dessert ingredients