While food writers and industry professionals cast the net for this year’s Canadian culinary trends, let’s take a look back at some 2012 food predictions and see just how right (or wrong) we all were. Below, a round-up of which trends came true and which ones were just fetch:
A resurgence of childhood comfort foods (read: junk food) was expected for 2012, and manifested itself in places like Johnny Jackson’s, the house-made sodas at Dr. Augusta’s Samitorium and Hawthorne Food and Drink, and that pop-up dinner in which chefs took over the Toronto Star cafeteria to cook a candy-themed meal. But, then again, when was comfort food ever not popular?
FETCH: Birch syrup
Offering a much more tart and acidic version of its more popular maple cousin, birch-syrup producers hoped that chefs and home cooks would use it in vinaigrettes and marinades. It got some mention in the press last year, with the Huffington Post claiming it was “being touted by foodies as the latest unique flavouring.” Perhaps they didn’t tout loud enough, because chefs in Toronto aren’t serving up birch-glazed pork bellies—probably because birch syrup is considerably more expensive. About a hundred litres of birch sap has to be boiled down to produce a litre of syrup, compared to 40 litres of sap from maple trees. But if you want a really fancy and old-fashioned cure for scurvy this winter, there’s always…
The banchan of choice was picked by many to be popular in 2012 as chefs created their own versions of the fermented cabbage dish that’s a staple in Korean cuisine. Banh Mi Boys introduced kimchi fries last winter, Fusia Dog and Fancy Franks feature kimchi hot dogs, a food truck started serving kimchi quesadillas on the west coast last summer, Momofuku’s Noodle Bar brought theirs to Toronto when it opend last September, and Yakitori Bar boasts kimchi dumplings and poutines. That sound you hear is a jar of sauerkraut weeping in jealousy that it never got to grace a quesadilla.
FETCH: The end of bacon
Some hoped to see the bacon-hype die down in 2012. But, in Toronto alone, we got a bacon-sandwich shop in Leslieville last month, peanut butter-braised pork and bacon-jam sandwiches, a bacon festival, and a Bacon Nation. And in the United States of Pork, Burger King launched the bacon sundae, fast-food chain Jack in the Box introduced a 773-calorie milkshake made with bacon syrup, and another burger place created a ground bacon burger. Here’s a comprehensive 2012 Bacon Report that first of all, actually exists, and explains why, despite fears of rising costs, bacon continued to populate menus. On top of that, the supposed bacon apocalypse turned out to be hogwash. (Nostradamus dropped the ball on that one.) Let’s just accept the fact that loving bacon has become as ubiquitous (and banal) as loving chocolate or booze so that it won’t be such a novelty anymore.
FETCH: African cuisine
The Canadian Restaurants and Food Association (CRFA) surveyed hundreds of chefs who ranked African cuisine to be the top up-and-coming trend for 2012. (Fufu seems like a great counterpart to the steamed bun.) Although Toronto already has great, established African restaurants like Nunu , Nazareth, and Baba Geddo, there weren’t any new entries for 2012 (that we’re aware of, anyway). However, harissa—the spicy North African chili sauce—made an appearance here and there on menus at places like the revamped TOCA at the Ritz-Carlton, which is serving mini Tunisian sandwiches with tuna and harissa. How do you make a cuisine more popular in Toronto? Put it in a taco. (Other items on the CRFA list that didn’t quite make a splash: black garlic, vegetable cerviche, red rice, game-bird appetizers, and savoury ice creams—unless you count bacon sundaes.)
Guaranteed trends for 2013: cake will continue to be delicious, some exotic fruit from the Amazon will be the newest supposed cure for everything from farts to fugliness, and people will demand healthier food—and the line-ups at McDonald’s will still be long.