Just like fashion, food is always trending and it’s up to the experts to decide what’s “in” and what’s “out.” We’ve scoured the internet to see what food trends the experts are predicting for 2019 but who better to weigh in on this than our chefs at Lettuce Entertain You. Here they drop some knowledge on these culinary crazes and give us a glimpse of some things we can expect to see on their restaurants’ menus in the new year!
TREND #1 – TAHINI DESSERTS
Tahini is a Mediterranean condiment made up of ground sesame seed typically used in hummus and baba ghanoush. Expect to see this savory ingredient incorporated into dessert menus. Ema and Aba’s Executive Chef / Partner CJ Jacobson is already using tahini in The Triple Chocolate Torte at Aba.
“Tahini is decadently rich, nutty and it has a mature bitterness. For these reasons, tahini was a perfect match for our triple chocolate torte.”
TREND #2 – MEATLESS MOVEMENT
Vegetarian dishes just keep getting better and better and the forecast for 2019? These satisfying, veggie-forward dishes are certainly not going away. This past year we were introduced to new plant-based meats that look and taste just like the real thing. Lettuce Entertain You’s M Burger was the first Chicago restaurant to offer the Impossible Burger.
“We weren’t looking to put a veggie burger on the M Burger menu,” says M Burger Executive Chef Tim Hockett. “But the Impossible Burger has incredible flavor, texture and is so close to our meat burger in quality that we often have guests questioning if it is really vegetarian.”
TREND #3 – FOOD SWAPS
Overall people are making smarter food choices and with this new movement, we expect to see restaurants swapping out unhealthy ingredients with more nutritious ones. From replacing pasta with zucchini, potatoes with chickpeas and just about everything with cauliflower, we see these food substitutions continuing to get more creative in 2019. Wildfire is keeping up with the trend with their newest menu item, cauliflower-crust pizza.
Wildfire’s Executive Chef/Partner Joe Decker says: “Our new gluten-free cauliflower crust has peaked the interest not only of our allergy sensitive clientele, but to our regulars, new diners, and anyone who is carb-conscious but still crave comfort foods like pizza.”
TREND #4 – GOOD FATS OVER LOW FAT
Forget trying to reduce the consumption of fat altogether in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle! Now it’s all about incorporating good fats into one’s diet like nuts, oils and avocado. Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants like Summer House Santa Monica know how much their diners love healthy options, especially avocado.
“Avocados have been a menu staple since we opened,” says Summer House Santa Monica’s Executive Chef Ben Goodnick. “We have seen a significant uptick in guest interest recently. Diet trends like the Keto diet have really made people aware of how important good fats are.”
TREND #5 – LARGE-FORMAT WINES TAKE OVER WINE LISTS
Magnums and larger bottlings have infiltrated our restaurants; the sheer size of them adds so much conviviality to a table.
“While a small collection has always been a staple of great wine lists, guests are now regularly looking for these,” says Richard Hanauer, Wine Director, RPM Restaurants.“Plus, wines are actually better out of magnums – the wine to air ratio is perfect for the wine’s development – and many collectors exclusively look for their favorite bottles in large format. The wine that shines best as a magnum (or bigger) is Champagne. At RPM, we do tableside pours of Champagne by the glass out of large-format bottles to celebrate with our guests.”
TREND #6 – UNIQUE RUMS ARE PIQUING OUR INTEREST
Take it from the man behind one of the best tiki bars in America, unique rums are getting noticed.
“I think there will be continued growth in the availability of high-quality rums. This migration towards rums of better quality is influencing bartenders to utilize rum in both classic and modern cocktails. Now more than ever, consumers are interested in the lesser-known, but incredible styles of rum, such as Martinique Rhum Agricole and high ester Jamaican rum,” says Kevin Beary, Beverage Director at Three Dots and a Dash.
TREND #7 – FROZEN TREATS GET TASTIER
Get ready to see a creative variety of popsicles and frozen treats in 2019. Be on the lookout for these unthinkable flavor combinations like avocado popsicles, hummus ice cream and coconut water soft serve. Being passionate about popsicles is what inspired Chef/Partner Ozzie Ocegueda to create Ozzie Pops & Pretzels at Navy Pier.
“This holiday season, I created an eggnog, s’mores and peppermint candy dipped in chocolate and there are more seasonal surprises to come. I’ve been experimenting with a Sprite soda base and fresh fruit wheels to create clear paletas, with pops of bright colors.”
TREND #8 – NO BOOZE REQUIRED
Turns out, you don’t need booze to make a creative drink. The sophistication of a cocktail is no longer dependent on its alcohol content and for those looking to do dry January, our bartenders are mixing up some fun zero proof cocktails that won’t make you miss it.
“Whenever creating a zero proof cocktail the goal is for the drink to have similar flavor profiles of one that we would be proud to put on our cocktail menu. We want to satisfy someone’s craving they may have for a cocktail and be able to re-create in a zero-proof drink,” says Christina Smith, Beverage Director, Quality Crab & Oyster Bah.
January is the time to start new habits and abandon old ones. Click here to see our favorite mocktails to go with your dry January resolution.