Into the wild: 2012 food trends, part 2

HOTELS presents part two of a 2012 food trends forecast from New York City-based restaurant consultant Michael Whiteman.

Among many other things, Michael Whiteman of Baum + Whiteman International Food and Restaurant Consultants said the popularity of Peruvian food is gaining a lot of momentum, that upscale chefs are rushing to harvest dinner from the underbrush and under rocks, and he predicts the expansion of the ultra-long dry aging of meat.

After publishing eight trends on Wednesday, here are eight more, as well as a list of F&B buzzwords for 2012.

9.  Beer Gardens. Outdoor or indoor/outdoor, beer gardens will boom around the United States, especially from restaurants and breweries with unused backyards, oversized parking lots or available rooftops. The bigger the better. Good, cheap beer, often at five dollars a pop, and unchallenging food like pretzels, hot dogs and burgers, draw crowds seeking a fresh air alternative to indoor bars or lounges. Movable roofs and warmers make them year-round businesses. Topping them all, there’s Birreria, a Batali/Bastianich 10,000 sq. ft. rooftop extravaganza in New York with its own microbrewery, wine from barrels, operable roof and terrific “Alpine” food.

10.  Wheels come off food trucks. Dozens of food truck operators in the United States will open brick-and-mortar shops in 2012. Many will put their vehicles on the block; others will attempt to run both businesses. The reason is clear: There’s more money to be made in storefronts now that food trucks – pioneering in social media marketing – prove that eccentric menus have great market potential, and after the trucks create strongly branded identities that attract customers and satisfy wary landlords. If they open two or three storefronts, the trucks act as moving billboards. Only danger: They may lose menu focus in trying to keep their new places filled; then they become like the big chains.

11.  Chocolate dirt. The foragers are coming. A few years back, an unknown chef at restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, created a strange series of tableaux on his dining room tables, using tree bark, pine needles, lichens and other things normally grazed by reindeer. So it was that in 2010 the Nordic forager Rene Redzepi displaced the Spanish chemistry wizard Fernan Adria (for whom he once worked) as the world’s numero uno chef.

Molecular gastronomy hasn’t exactly evaporated, but now you might get trampled by dozens of upscale chefs rushing to harvest dinner from the underbrush and under rocks – or assembling dishes that looked like they might be untamed gardens.

In the United States, “wildcrafting” is largely, but not entirely, a West Coast trend. Forerunner Jeremy Fox composed beautiful plates at Ubuntu in Napa, California, several years ago (salad on carta de musica by Chuck Eats, prior page); John Sedlar at Playa and Daniel Patterson at Coi, both in Los Angeles, and David Kinch at Manresa in Los Gatos, California, are masters of the style. You’ll find similar efforts at McCrady’s in Charleston, South Carolina, and Toque in Montreal. Perhaps the most “florid” exemplar is Dominique Crenn at Atelier Crenn (subtitled “poetic culinaria”) in San Francisco, with bonsai-like garden presentations.

These chefs’ horticultural foodscapes appear to have been assembled by gnomes with tweezers and dental instruments. They’re sent to your table on slabs of slate, miniature rock slides, primordial wood shapes and thrown glass instead of plates. Their dishes come with lyrical names such as Ocean Creatures and Weeds, A Walk in the Garden, Into the Vegetable Garden, or Le Jardin d’Hiver.

Watch for these kinds of items slipping onto upscale menus: White acorns; tips of fir needles; “dirt” made of dried and crumbled mushrooms, black olives, bulgur wheat, or sprouting grains; eucalyptus leaves, chickweed, wild ginger, wood sorrel, yarrow, and sumac. Dirt is so hot that Crenn cooks her potatoes in the stuff before washing them clean. Next up: Dessert assemblages growing out of chocolate “humus” (as in dirt, not as in chick peas).

Read more about this trend in our Culinary Director Rozanne Gold’s blog on the subject:

12.  Japanese craft beers will gain a following. They’re already making inroads on beer-centric menus and Asian-inflected restaurants, and they give lots of local artisan brews a good run for their money.

13.  Forget skyscraper architecture. Chefs are shifting from stacking food as high as possible to stringing out ingredients in caterpillar-like lines along oblong or rectangular plates. This may looking like “dribble art” but at least it keeps the flavors separated. Ceviches, tartars, sushi and sashimi, primarily with salads, is the next frontier.

14.  Peru gains momentum. Peru’s food is cross-pollinated by Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, Italian and Andean flavors and cooking techniques. It is the source of the world’s most exciting ceviches and tiraditos (another raw fish dish), and it is where pisco sours come from. This past September saw many of the stellar chefs noted above – Redzepi, Patterson, Adria, along with Dan Barber (U.S.), Michel Bras (France), Massimo Bottura (Italy), and star chef Gaston Acurio, a major promoter of self and of Peru – in Lima for a conference that put Peruvian cuisine and ingredients into the spotlight.

Acurio in September opened La Mar Cebicheria in New York, following a success in San Francisco, where the food goes from high note to high note. Mo Chica in Los Angeles and Limon in San Francisco are creating their own Peruvian stirs. We predict that this is the next cuisine, so you need to know about causas, lomo saltado, aji amarillo, anticuchos, cuy (you know … whole roast guinea pig, legs, head and all) and tiraditos, along with vibrant, acidic fruits and juices that go into their unique raw fish preparations. Better get to Lima and Cuzco before they’re overrun by foodies!

You can read more about Peru and its trendy food in our Culinary Director Rozanne Gold’s article in the Huffington Post at

15.  Wrong on hamburgers. We predicted last year that “gourmet burgers” would peak in 2011. But they haven’t and we may be premature. Seems that a new burger chain launches every few weeks in the United States without regard for the growing density of competition. We think they’ll outrun the available demand; they’re selling a product that’s available everywhere; creativity is running amok as newcomers strain for differentiation; and there’s a low barrier to entry. We see a bubble. So wait until next year.

16.  Three cautionary trends. (1) Misuse of words like “artisan” and “heirloom” and “local” will pollute their meaning, especially as chains co-opt them for marketing slogans. Adding a whole grain to factory bread doesn’t make it “artisan” and not all misshapen tomatoes are “heirlooms” from “local” growers. “Green” and “sustainable” are in this category, too. (2) There’s a looming oversupply of farmers markets. (3) Too many chefs are smoking too many foods.

Buzzwords for 2012.  Fresh sardines. Ultra-long dry aging of meat. Uni. Yuzu. Tamarind. Ox tail. Duck will make a comeback but not slathered with orange marmalade. Hand-made ricotta and burrata. Kalbi, bibimbap, bulgogi. Huacatay (better look it up). Bone marrow. Flowers re-appearing on dinner plates. Hibiscus. Arepas. Coconut oil. Goat meat crosses the border from ethnicnabes. Shiso. Nordic cooking and ingredients. Upscale restaurants re-tenanting shopping center food courts. Lamb ribs and belly. Bao. More entries into the tossed salad restaurant business, using ever better ingredients. Nduja. Micro-distilleries. Bacalao. Large displays of exotic bitters on the bar. Crazier taco fillings migrating from food trucks to restaurants. Green papaya. Seaweed in non-Asian dishes.

Baum + Whiteman International Food and Restaurant Consultants create high-profile restaurants for hotels, restaurants companies, museums and other consumer destinations. Among its projects are Windows on the World and the Rainbow Room in New York City, Equinox in Singapore, and the world’s first food courts.

Peruvian specialty: Halibut ceviche with mango and tomato
Peruvian specialty: Halibut ceviche with mango and tomato