The future. It's there in our culinary crystal ball, barely visible through the "steam" of liquid nitrogen, somewhere underneath those pearls of agar agar and gelatin, and fried mayonnaise cubes. As the final days of 2011 tick off one by one and the new year approaches, it's time for the inevitable, flawed, futile yet fun annual food prognosticating — which everyone knows will mostly end with the fortune-teller wearing pie, or whatever the "next cupcake" turns out to be, all over his face.
Food will power flying luxury cars with beer and banana peels pulsed in a quasi-Cuisinart! Black & Decker will come out with a home hydrator to rehydrate a delicious Pizza Hut pie right in your kitchen! Wait, sorry, none of that happens in the 1989 classic, Back to the Future II, until 2015. But it's always instructive when looking forward to take a quick look back — review last year's predictions, and the trends that actually panned out (or didn't). So what were 2011's top food trend predictions? How did they turn out?
Last year, The Daily Meal's editorial director, Colman Andrews, thought hard on the subject, and tapping the collective unconscious of the site's staff, used "hive mind" to see if the trends for 2011 couldn't be determined. There were 17 predictions, ranging from Nordic and Portuguese food taking hold to whole animal feasts and the rise of the celebrity vegetable farmer. Reviewing them alongside the actual 25 top food trends of 2011 reveals a pretty good track record.
Undoubtedly, chef René Redzepi's rise to glory spurred the spike in popularity of Nordic cuisine. Did Portuguese cuisine follow suit? Peruvian, sure. Portuguese, maybe not so much. Cardoons? Wild greens and roots? Offbeat grains? Peripherally maybe, but not enough to make this year's trend list. Whole animal feasts were a trend. Farmer Lee Jones won a James Beard Award, but organic vegetable farmers didn't necessarily storm our tables. Grant Achatz's Next opened in April with a pioneering new restaurant reservation system. 2011 didn't really mark the return of the pot or the regular pie or guerilla takeout. But rooftop and private restaurant gardens proliferated; pop-up dining was huge; and more big-name chefs ventured into airports, stadiums, and even bowling alleys. Similarly, there were completely homemade cocktails and lots of fast-food gimmicks. Eight for 17 isn't bad — almost 50-50.
Place your bets that those Vegas odds carry forward with food predictions for 2012, but don't count Sin City as the next place that star chefs feel they need to flock to. Instead, look for that city to be Miami. Some other predictions involve doubling down on last year's prognostications — so wild greens stand a good chance and you can expect to see many more special reservation systems.
Expect burger migration, alternative round fingerfoods, and celebrity chefs duking it out Ron Burgundy-style over food halls. Forget goat; look to fish. X will be the new cupcake, and perhaps there will be an election-year surprise... wait, is that President Batali? But now we're giving away all the fun. So view the accompanying slideshow to discover trends that will be big, and what's in store for the food world in 2012.