February 28, 2017
Think you know what’s hot on menus this year? Is kale still the “it” vegetable or has another green stepped into the spotlight? Will fine dining make a comeback?
Check it out:
1. Virtual Restaurants
Ahh, delivery and pick-up - the saving grace of long workdays and jam-packed schedules.
The options now are endless, allowing diners to customize and personalize meals according to diet or preference, without having to sacrifice the time it takes to shop, prep, cook and cleanup.
From raw vegan selections to everything deep-fried, virtual restaurants will continue to rise in popularity in coming years.
2. Vegetarian Dishes Go Mainstream
With the wild success of new plant-based restaurants Planta and Awai, and quick service chains Kupfert & Kim, Fresh, and Freshii, it’s clear you don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy the creative veg-centric plates coming out of the city's top kitchens.
Chefs of non-vegetarian restaurants are also focusing on local greens and roots throughout their menus:
- New resto Liberty Commons, headed by Oliver & Bonacini chefs Anthony Walsh and John Horne, features a main of Charcoal-Baked Acorn Squash with goat cheese, arugula, mixed pickles, pumpkin seeds, and multigrain salad.
- Another newcomer, East of Brunswick Pub and Kitchen, showcases trendy dishes of Smashed Avocado Toast, Buffalo Cauliflower Bites and Zen Bowl on their menu.
3. Butchers are Back
While an array of greens may be popular, meat is still king. Expect lots of off-cuts to make their way onto regular menus (truly nose-to-tail dining) and more restaurants providing info on where the meat came from and how it was raised.
This is popular from chains (b. good highlights which Ontario farm their beef was raised on) to small establishments such as Union Restaurant, who work with local farmers who provide seasonal, organic produce and meat.
4. Waste-based Cooking
With big event "Trashed & Wasted" taking place in March, and awareness being raised about "root-to-stem" cooking by using table scraps, "ugly" and imperfect produce, and underused cuts of meat, diners will see food in a new light this year.
5. Portable Power
"Take it to go" has long been a popular way to dine, but portable options reach new heights as we continue to eat while we walk, work, and multitask. Thanks to a growing millennial demographic which prefers "fast, healthy and complete meal choices," sushi burritos, poke and acai bowls, and other fresh options will continue to lead the scene.
6. Fermented Everything
No doubt you’ve already made one of these - yogurt kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha - a part of your regular diet.
Get ready for more pickled and fermented options such as fermented coffee beans, wines, teas and signature cocktails to make their way onto menus this year.
The U.S. recently introduced the first certified water sommelier, so get ready for your water options to soon expand from the usual, "Tap, sparkling or flat?"
While you’re probably already familiar with coconut water, expect new options to whet your whistle this year, including birch water, peach tree water and pine water.
New menu items are always a welcome change, and this year will see everything from locally grown cauliflower take over kale’s prominent position, and pulses and alternative grains such as pigeon peas, cranberry beans and black beluga lentils hit the mainstream.
You won’t have to be in a Japanese restaurant to enjoy sea vegetables and seaweed anymore. And edible bugs - and other forms of insect protein - will be more widely on offer. Want to get in on the bug craze? Head to Baro, El Catrin and El Rey Mezcal Bar to try the crunchy critters. Death in Venice Gelato offers Chocolate, Crisp Cricket & Mealworm amongst their vast selection, while you can purchase crickets and mealworms to snack on or cook with at Summerhill Market.
9. Edible Cocktails
Food items and flavours make their way into cocktails with inspiring concoctions from the city’s best bartenders.
Whether it’s a lobster claw, strip of bacon, or mini hamburger, garnishes are now full-on appetizers hinged to the glass.
Spirits also get a culinary infusion, so get ready to sip on oyster-infused gin and bacon-flavoured rum and enjoy dessert-inspired treats such as jelly shots and boozy ice cream.