Food Predictions for 2017

Check out our forecast of food trends that will shape what you order, eat, watch and read this year.

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The Flavor of 2017: Surprise Me!

Whether it's hidden flavors or textures, jolting temperature shifts, or cultural crossovers, surprise is poised to be the flavor of the moment. This plays to our sense of adventure and toys with our expectations. It charts a new direction in novelty: a move beyond the mash-up to something both more subtle and exciting. Surprise plays it close to the vest, offering one thing to the eye or the mind but another to the palate.

Look for:

• Sweet-savory flip: savory funnel cakes,

fish sauce caramel

• Inventive fillings: creative Juicy Lucys,

modern tamales

• Crossing cultures: mapo ragu, tofu caprese

• Mass market: cauliflower rice (Green Giant)

Meat Me with Vegetables

Vegetable butchery, vegan charcuterie, veggie burgers as juicy as the iconic beef — these days it seems vegetables are getting downright carnivorous. It is a move beyond the mock meats of old and the plant-based trend of recent. Chefs are experimenting with vegetables with the same intent once reserved for animal proteins, blurring the line between meat and veg. And this meatier approach to vegetables is already showing up in books and retail food stores.

Look for:

• Blended (veg-and-meat) burgers

• Plant butchers

• Porkless chicharrones

• Vegetable meatballs

• Upgraded mock meats

Counter Culture

With fine dining on the rocks and the economics of restaurants ever more dicey, what’s an ambitious chef to do? Open up a counter! Nationwide, many chefs will embrace this form of cost-cutting minimalism that strips away the trappings of table service and instead puts the focus on food and the connection between cook and diner.

Look for:

• An upscaling of counter service

• Counter service by day, reservations by night

• Smaller, focused menus

• Micro spaces

• Omakase

All Eyes on Modern Filipino Cooking

From San Francisco to D.C., the culinary zeitgeist is tilting toward the Philippines and its porky, pungent and pucker-y synthesis of East Asian, Spanish and Pacific flavors. Filipino chefs, long the backbone of the restaurant industry, are stepping forward and opening some of the most-exciting restaurants in the U.S., bringing into broader view a cuisine long hidden in home kitchens.

Look for:

• Adobos (chicken, pork ribs, squid)

• Lumpia

• Longganisa

• Pancit noodles

• Calamansi

• Kinilaw

• Bagoong

The New Home-Based Restaurant

How do you hack the restaurant? A decade ago: with a food truck and a Twitter following. Today: Your home kitchen and an Instagram account will do. We’re seeing the emergence of a diverse underground of home-based chefs who are using the photo-sharing service to sell directly to customers. In LA, ground zero for hyper-connected home-based entrepreneurs, several such chefs have risen to cult status on the back of nothing more than good food and savvy hashtag marketing.

Look for:

• Social media-driven delivery

• Parking-lot pickup

• Self-taught culinary stars

International House of Porridge

With frumpy now fashionable and Grandma food hip, porridge — yes, porridge! — is suddenly the coolest thing in bowls. Barley with almond milk and caramelized apples, savory spelt with sausage and grapes, grits cooked in the style of risotto, congee topped with carnitas — porridge is offering a broad canvas for chefs to paint. It’s being name-checked on menus across the dining spectrum, featured from breakfast to dinner and even entree to dessert. Porridge is bowl food at its most substantial: a cheap, filling format rife for customization and capable of jumping dayparts.

Look for:

• Amaranth, buckwheat, millet and brown rice porridges

• Ollebrod

• Curried porridge

• Savory oatmeal

• Dessert porridge

• Haute porridge

• Grain bowl/porridge

"-ish" Eating

With "-ish" eating (as in "veganish" or "healthyish"), dietary pragmatism coalesces into a semidevotion to healthy eating — really, a sexier rebranding of moderation. It's a rejection of all-or-nothing diet imperatives in favor of a more forgiving, big-tent approach to eating for health and pleasure; "-ish" prioritizes the practical, accommodates indulgence, emphasizes wellness over weight loss, and welcomes the vegan curious and conscious carnivore alike. Ultimately, "-ish" is an understanding that eating is social and sometimes it's better to just say thank you and eat up.

Look for:

• Better baking: coconut oil cookies, rye flour brownies

• Dark chocolate for breakfast

• Grass-fed tallow, pastured leaf lard

Coffee Breaks Out

You thought coffee was just a beverage. Think again. In 2017 coffee will be that and so much more: a major flavor, a much-copied format (think matchaccinos), a functional ingredient, even a lifestyle. Coffee is winning the beverage wars, and a wave of innovation is spreading it to the far aisles of the supermarket (snack, candy, ready-to-drink) and beyond (beer and cocktails).

Look for:

• Instagram-friendly technicolor lattes and macchiatos

• Explorations in iced coffee (Vietnamese, Thai)

• Barrel-aged coffee

• Ready-to-drink cold brew and nitro coffee

Cooking Goes Live

Live-streaming video is changing the game across media, and food is uniquely poised to seize the opportunities of this new technology. If the videoization of food media has tended toward short-form "snackable" content, the rise of live-streaming is revealing a hunger for a different kind of experience: an interactive, one-to-one connection between creators and fans that exists in real time and embraces messiness, playfulness and unpredictability.

Look for:

• More event coverage to fill "always-on" programming

• Co-cooking (viewers cook along and interact with a host) and "shows" that make the viewer a key player

• A return to the idea of "tuning in"

Dinner, Relaxed

Goodbye, Norman Rockwell. Extreme informality is the cardinal rule for today's family dinner: sheet pans stand in for serving platters, paper towels for napkins, bowls for plates and spoons for full flatware. Dinner hews to a casual mix-and-match, help-yourself format. And everyone, not just Mom, is in the kitchen cooking. The end of civility? Not at all. This is how millennial families connect and break bread — with all the focus on food and family, and little use for the old rituals of the table.

Look for:

• Less "eat your peas," more "help yourself"

• Condiments galore

• The table to look more like a salad bar

• Next-gen multifunction cookers (e.g., Instant Pot)

• Smart appliances that take the grunt work out of cooking — and also stocking your kitchen

Tomorrow's Pantry