The National Restaurant Association has released its annual What's Hot Culinary Forecast, predicting the booms and busts for food and beverage across the country in 2016. The forecasters polled more than 1,600 members of the American Culinary Federation and detailed the rising and falling trends in categories ranging from breakfast and dessert to global flavors and preparation methods.
So how do Phoenix restaurants stack up to the culinary forecast? While we're remarkably on-trend in many categories, there are a several holes we could fill next year.
Here are our suggestions for how Phoenix eateries could bone up on their trend-setting practices.
1. Regionally Sourced Meat
Number one on the “Top 20” list of 2016 food trends is meat from regional and local sources. Phoenicians are no stranger to local meat – Matt’s Big Breakfast has been buying bacon from Queen Creek’s Pork Shop since its inception – but there’s definitely room for more restaurants to get on the meat wagon. While some upscale eateries like Quiessence, The Breadfruit, and Atlas Bistro source meat from purveyors such as Brad Payne and Dave Jordan of Two Wash Ranch, the more restaurants that demand local, sustainable meat will increase our meager supply.
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2. Environmentally Friendly Practices
We’re a little surprised at how little attention has been paid Valley-wide to developing sustainable practices. It's no secret that restaurants produce an enormous amount of waste, and we would love to see more restaurants engage the community in adopting practices that are more sustainable. Many restaurants neglect to recycle glass and paper waste, let alone install low-flush toilets, adopt efficient light fixtures, or donate their leftovers to food banks.
3. Housemade Sausage
Number 17 on the top 20 list is sausage made in house. Chefs in culinary hubs across the country are exploring the wonder of shoving unique meats into casings and serving them to guests. Although specialty restaurants like Brat Haus and Romanelli's Deli make some sausage, we would love to see more Phoenix chefs following suit.
4. Regional Signature Cocktails
Moving away from the Top 20 list, number three in the cocktail trend category is regional signature cocktails. It seems that only highly competitive mixology bars are using ingredients that taste a little like home. Agave-based spirits such as tequila, mezcal, and sotol can add a southwestern flair to craft cocktails, while more specialized ingredients like Ancho Reyes, creosote bitters, mesquite amber syrup, and prickly pear also make some appearances, but could be more widespread.
5. Out with Kale Salads and Quinoa
When it comes to movers and shakers – the trends that have risen or fallen compared to last year’s poll, we’re disappointed to say that Phoenix seems to be clinging onto the kale salad and quinoa trends which have both fallen by 10 percent and 8 percent, respectively. We still see them on menus everywhere, Phoenix. Stop, please stop with the kale fetish.