The American diet and individual food preferences are hugely subject to change and reimagining as health reporting, fitness fads, and the cyclical nature of culinary sensibilities visit their collective influence upon the public consciousness. Carbohydrates are at turns rejected and embraced by the community palate, raw food perpetually enters and exits the proverbial national menu, red meat is either in vogue or disparaged for any number of questionable reasons, and eggs have rendered many a health conscious individual manic depressive on account the scientific community’s uncertainty as to said food’s nutritional value.
Taking all of this into account (and contributing a thing or two here and there), the nation’s big caterers list the menu trends for 2016 in unabashed and optimistic fashion. These trends call upon the collective consciousness of food artists and culinary thought leaders of appropriately diverse and informed backgrounds, ensuring a list quite commensurate with an increasingly discerning, curious, and shamelessly picky American public. For this reason, when the big caterers list the menu trends for 2016, they are doing so with both adventurism and quality in mind. Neither element is compromised herein.
1. Ice Cream Insanity
A list of this sort is best headed by a remarkable dessert trend. Conventional ice cream flavors, though forever beloved in their own right, will be increasingly difficult to find on the menus of respectable dining establishments. Everything from meat-and-vegetable-infused dairy treats to herbal tea gelato is now populating the sweet carts of restaurants from coast to coast. The combination of sugar and frozen cream still holds up as a welcome meal closer, but the “safe bets” housed within a carton of store-bought Neapolitan have failed to keep pace with increasingly sophisticated entrees. Speaking of which…
2. Fermentation…of a Great Many Things
Probiotic ingestion has gained cultural traction in recent years, as many a consumer and restaurant patron looks to correct years of gastrointestinal mismanagement with sustained doses of healthy bacteria. Of course, fermentation for the purpose of yielding alcoholic beverages is far from novel…but therein lies only the tip of this bacteria-rich iceberg. In particular, fermented vegetables are occupying the spotlight on many a dinner plate, as such dishes provide the diner with both favorable doses of beneficial bacteria and the vitamins/minerals unique to the vegetable in questions. Prime your eyes for the presence of fermented vegetables and the like when next you are perusing a caterer’s menu.
3. Grilled Cheese (and whatever else one can imagine)
Despite, or perhaps because of, its charming simplicity, the grilled cheese sandwich is a culinary case study in comfort food. Bread, butter, cheese, heat. The ingredients and preparation border on being frightfully simple, which is a chef code term for a blank canvas of sorts. Grilled cheese trucks (another trend all its own), have helped usher in a sustained fad which has the aforementioned comfort food being reimagined on a near daily basis.
Add peanut butter and bananas to the cheese and bread equation? Certainly. Toss in bacon, egg, and a squeeze of syrup? To be sure. Swap out the bread for two cinnamon rolls? Provided you’ll be administering your own insulin shot, okay. In short, the grilled cheese is essentially a menu movement unto itself.
4. Cruciferous Vegetable Entrées, Snacks, Beverages
The term “antioxidant” is effectively a byword for “health,” “vitality,” and any number of words associated with clean living and responsible dietary choices. Antioxidant-rich broccoli and kale, among others, are enormously healthy in their raw state and perfectly acceptable in salad form. However, inventive chefs and restaurateurs are evermore accustomed to incorporate these preposterously nutritious but taste-hindered greens into dishes which will both benefit from the antioxidant augmentation while masking the taste of said antioxidant’s source.
Broccoli Danish, kale smoothies, and so on; the masses of cruciferous vegetable disciples will soon find their taste buds satiated while populating their bodies’ with kale goodness.
Sushi has long been ranked highly in the pantheon of exotic dishes about which Americans pride themselves for so bravely ingesting. However, sushi has been a widespread staple of Western diets for over 30 years’ time and is on the cusp of seeing its throne usurped by…
…poke. Yes, poke. A salad dish of Hawaiian extraction, poke provides the diner with a flavorful combination of raw tropical fish, nutrient-dense vegetables, filling rice, and any number of accompanying sauces. Expect to see poke on a caterer’s menu in your neck of the woods within calendar year 2016.
As big caterers list the menu trends for 2016, bear in mind that menus both reflect cultural change and contribute to evolving tastes and dining proclivities. Expect more of the latter as caterers and menu authors continually explore culinary libraries throughout our ever-shrinking planet.