As another culinary year approaches, it's time to once again gaze into the crystal ball to predict the Valley's food trends for 2013.
It's no secret that our food scene is slow to hop aboard the rest of the country's gastronomical trend train, but that doesn't mean it can't surprise us every once in a while. I've looked at trends, ingredients, and food news to compile this list for the coming year -- and I've cited a few examples of Valley chefs, restaurants, and food artisans who already are making the future happen now.
Have a few predictions of your own? Feel free to share what food trends you think the Valley will see in 2013.
Small Plates, Please The days of parking our bums in chairs for hours to get through a multi-course tasting menu are as over as waiting for Netflix to finally send a "Very Long Wait" disc to the mailbox. Instead, it's all about instant gratification: small plates. They can be served all at once or staggered, sized for those seeking more frequent but less-hefty meals, or available for sharing or used to construct a one-person meal. And they can be the perfect solution for a diner to fix a craving without committing to a large dish.
Who's Already Doing It: Matt Carter's new restaurant in Scottsdale, The House, offers more shared plates and sides than entrees.
Eat Your Veggies Overfishing our oceans. The mistreatment of animals in commercial agriculture. Thanks to more and more stories like these, diners are demanding to know where their food comes from and going local for their next meal. With more farmers markets in the area and restaurants growing gardens on site, diners can expect more than just an extra salad or two on the menu. Think seasonal veggie plates, entrees like a spicy cauliflower "steak", squash noodles, and vegetable juice cocktails. Oh, and (bonus) it's good for you, too.
Who's Already Doing It: Mother-daughter chef duo Marlene and Cassie Tolman of Pomegranate Cafe in Ahwatukee have been promoting vegan, vegetarian, and raw dishes made from 98 percent organic fruits and vegetables sourced locally since they opened in 2009.
Comfort Food Inspired by Asia While many Valley diners may not be ready to take the plunge into unfamiliar Asian dishes such as a bowl of spicy Korean bibim bap or rich Vietnamese pho filet dac biet, they have seen Lucky Peach, know what ramen is, and are curious enough to try a few bites -- as long as there's a little bit of America on those plates, too. For the Asian-cuisine curious looking for a bit of comfort, expect restaurants to serve up dishes such as bulgogi hamburgers with Sriracha, Vietnamese chicken sandwiches, and pork ribs with a Korean glaze. It's diner-style food by way of Asia.
Who's Already Doing It: Culinary duo Keenan Bosworth and Joshua Riesner (formerly of Scottsdale BYOB Atlas Bistro) at their new Scottsdale restaurant, Pig & Pickle, serve up dishes such as pork shoulder tostadas made with ginger aioli, and kimchi and braised duck leg on a mung bean cake with radishes and sweet soy.
Collaboration Kings Restaurants, like diners, are still very much feeling a recession hangover. What better way to combine marketing and advertising dollars than by forming alliances with like-minded eateries in town. Shared spaces, events, regular gathering sites -- thank the food trucks for those gems. In addition, look for more guest chefs cooking at a colleague's restaurant, chefs switching restaurant spaces for a few days, and even pop-up restaurants inside other restaurants.
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Who's Already Doing It: At Squash Blossom, downtown's breakfast and lunch spot that opened this summer, chef Patrick Boll (Roaring Fork, El Chorro) and bread baker Jason Raducha started a "permanent pop-up" inside the restaurant in December. Called the P. Joseph Project, it's open for happy hour and dinners of upscale comfort food.
Food Artisans are the New Rock Stars What does the word artisan mean, exactly? Who cares? This year, the true experts in the Valley who focus on a particular food specialty will be the most sought-after. A natural pairing with the local trend, restaurants and chefs will be just as anxious to feature locally sourced ingredients in their dishes as they will home made artisan goodies such as honey, jams, beer, bread, and sauces.
Who's Already Doing It: In December, Gina Buskirk, of Gina's Homemade in Northeast Scottsdale, was named a finalist in the 2013 Good Food Awards for her ricotta. Buskirk's ricotta was selected from a pool of 1,366 entries from 31 states.