2016 Trend Predictions

By: Stephanie Goldfarb, Produce Alliance Corporate Chef

December 29, 2015

2016 menu trends are heading in a really exciting direction with big flavor profiles and inspiration from North Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. In addition, street food has been emerging on menus all over the country, and fine dining restaurants are no exception. Excitingly, these flavors and applications embrace both staple and unusual produce and emphasize natural sweetness and texture. Below is a little inspiration for incorporating these ingredients with new applications:

Mini Korean crispy scallion pancakes make a perfect blini base for toppings such as black garlic-spiked crème fresh topped with Sumac-marinate red onions. Gochujang, a sweet and spicy Korean chili paste is incredibly versatile because of its viscosity, sweetness, and palatable heat. Try elevating quesadillas by adding a spread of Gochujang sour cream and a little quick kimchi to the mix for a Korean twist, or incorporating it into your favorite marinades and barbeque sauces. Swirling a spoonful of harissa oil into just about any pureed soup automatically makes it more remarkable, and French fries with Japanese Togarashi spice blend are irresistible. North African Dukka sprinkled on garlic bread revolutionizes this menu staple, and herb paste made of fresh mint, coriander, lime zest, and tamarind stuffed into Salvadorian papusas fuse Latin and North African flavors beautifully. 

Meats and fish are not the only hugely popular smoked items right now. I love smoking mushrooms, like Portobellos and shitakes marinated in soy, ginger, and miso. After 40 minutes or so, the mushrooms become deeply complex in woody flavor and dehydrate almost to the consistency of bacon. And pulses (like lentils, beans, and chickpeas) are emerging as menu highlights as well. My favorite chickpea dish uses chickpea flour to make Socca flatbread, cooked until crisp in a screaming hot cast iron pan and then topped with fresh chickpeas, Zaatar, and fresh cilantro.