There are currently more than 260 million Instagram posts that have the hashtag #food, highlighting just how obsessed with cuisine the world has become. In America, fine dining is skyrocketing in popularity among posh Americans who enjoy the finer things in life. As with every other segment of the broader consumer market, fine dining is subject to a flood of changing trends. Last year fermented foods and vegan cuisine were two of many food trends that still continue to rise in popularity in 2019. While this year has already seen a number of trends come and go, a few, such as the following, do seem to have some staying power and will likely be around or some time.
An increasing number of fine diners are seeking out environmentally-friendly food options which include alternative proteins to meat. Due to this trend, fine dining eateries are making a concerted effort to find innovative ways to meet the demand. In many upmarket establishments, traditional proteins are making way for vegetable substitutes including lentils, nuts, and tempeh. Pea protein is also fast gaining popularity on the fine dining circuit with pea-protein burgers, pea milk, pea yogurt, pea mayo, and even a pea ice cream making its way onto some of the most indulgent menus in the country. Another, slightly more bizarre protein that is becoming more commonplace in fine dining is insects which chefs use either as a flour for baking, whole as an alternative to meat or fried for garnishing purposes.
Seaweed and other types of algae have long featured on Eastern menus and is now gaining popularity in the USA with consumption growing by approximately 7% a year. Sea vegetables on fine dining menus are, in fact, fast-evolving past cold seaweed salads and nori-wrapped sushi. Algae encompass a large variety of marine vegetables and can be used in countless ways. A delicate mint and seaweed jelly pairs exceptionally well with a slow-roasted lamb shank while risotto with sea vegetables has become a well-loved delicacy. When used in a thoughtful manner, algae can also be used in multi-sensory dining experiences that revolve around aromatic, visually gorgeous, and downright delectable dishes. Innovation is key in the restaurant industry and also the reason why new uses for readily-available ingredients such as seaweed give chefs a competitive advantage. Ryan Hibbert, CEO of Riot Hospitality group agrees, stating that it is always exciting to be first in the market, although others are bound to follow.
While smoked meat, cheese, and even vegetables are nothing new, the more subtle use of smoke in conjunction with spicy, salty, sweet, bitter, and sour flavors are fast becoming a hit on the fine dining scene. This year, more than ever before, subtle smoke will transform the way people perceive smoked foods. Gone are the days where huge chunks of meat were dropped in into large outside smokers and left for hours at a time. While smoked ribs and chicken will always be a hit at a barbeque, fine dining has taken a more delicate approach to smoking. Smoked beets, capers, oysters, scallops, and even truffles are finding their way onto the menus of the nation’s finest eateries. Also subtle smoke is still a somewhat-underrated flavoring technique it will be interesting to see to what extent it blows up in years to come.
As long as there is a market for fine dining, new trends will continue to surface every year. While not all trends may have enough staying power to make it into the next year, those that do will continue to impress diners for many meals to come.