De gustibus non est disputandum (in matters of taste, there can be no disputes). Although this Latin maxim likely was a left-handed description of noisy face-offs between Roman philosophers and patricians over the artistic merits of Etruscan urns, Greek damsels, and horses, it’s still an appropriate one to describe this year’s crop of food and beverage trends. Mindful that one man’s Top 10 list is another’s laundry list of dining woes, following is a tasteful report of what the restaurant industry is currently cooking up and, well, cooking for what remains of 2013:
Low sugar. Everywhere you look it seems it’s: Hold the sugar. And for good reason, too. Too much of it, this sweetest of sinful treats is poison. Sure, it’s not going to kill you right away, but you can bet your sweet tooth it’s going to get you one way or the other, sooner or later. Think cavities, heart disease, cancer (yes, cancer), diabetes, and that suddenly politically incorrect word, obesity. And it doesn’t have to be the sugar that you dump into your cocoa every morning. “Sugar” in that slice of bread or pizza or that corncob or that can of Coke is as bad as the sugar in its commonly recognizable form when taken in excess. That sugar is what makes high-glycemic foods and beverages high-glycemic—and restaurants and other food establishments this year are very publicly trying to chuck them from their menus.
This year, low-glycemic (read, low-sugar) foods and beverages are causing major changes in menus, dining tables, and, even, in local policies (notwithstanding NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s monster heartburn implementing his soda ban) as Americans take to healthier diets and lifestyles. Popular low-glycemic foods on menus today are sorghum, brown rice, and whole-wheat breads and pasta.
Fast forward to fast-casual dining. It has taken a long time coming, but this year the dining public and the restaurant segment are finally realizing that there’s a middle (and better) ground between fast-food and full-service restaurants—the fast-casual options. Until recently, fast-cas restaurants, as the new establishments are collectively called, were represented by Chipotle Mexican Grill, a restaurant that’s famous for its super-sized burritos, fresh natural ingredients, and its use of assembly-line production. This 2013, other food chains and restaurants—Panera Bread, for instance—are following its lead and following it into the money as Americans all over discover that healthy, good dining experience can also be served up fast-food style.
Bar none. Ryan Berman, writing in newrecepiesishere.blogspot.com, reports that 2013 looks to be the year when bar offerings get a major spiffing up. It’s a virtual barhopping trend and it has gotten watering holes down the street or up Main Street conjuring up a carnival of fizzy extras (sensual syrups and benighted bitters in pretty cocktails anyone?) and bubbly novelties. The specialty drinks are such a hit with barflies and social drinkers that even the big chain restaurants—TGIF, for instance—are cashing in on the merry barhopping. This year, don’t be surprised if your favorite shake or smoothie has that familiar jolly zing.
Organic gone wild . Organic has been a hot-button topic in health circles for a few years now and 2013 will only see it continue being so, what with the consumption of organic foods expected to grow even more until 2015. Some 54 percent of Americans have already dipped into organic foods, reports beverage-development.net, and 29 percent have said that they are consuming more organic foods and beverage now than they did last year. This seems to be the case across the organic-food industry, with one survey showing that sales of “100 percent certified-organic products” are increasing at a rate of 21 percent per year, and another survey reporting that organic products such as ready-to-go goods, packaged goods, and snacks grew in the past year.