From ambient lighting to the functional purse hook and the curation of the music selection, it’s all about the holistic dining and drinking experience.
Chifa and Nordic-influenced cuisine, nut-based spreads, visual filters, sour beers and upcycling of ingredients are among the top dining trends of the new year according to Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants’ fourth annual Culinary & Cocktails Trend Forecast.
This year’s forecast not only covers the culinary and cocktail flavors and ingredients chefs and bartenders plan to experiment with in 2018, but also showcases what’s next in culinary and cocktail philosophies, experiential dining and design, as well as new and innovative trends in beer, wine and coffee. The forecast findings were uncovered via an extensive survey of leading chefs, sommeliers, general managers and bartenders from 80+ acclaimed Kimpton restaurants, bars and lounges across 37 cities in the U.S. as well as Kimpton properties in Europe and the Caribbean.
“Kimpton chefs and bartenders pushed the envelope with their exploration of international spices, regional influences and unexpected flavor profiles, as well as the social and cultural drivers transforming today’s dining experience,” said Alex Taylor, Senior Vice President of Restaurants & Bars. “We’re excited to see these trends brought to life everywhere from five-star establishments to food trucks and home kitchens.”
Leading Culinary Trends
Meat alternatives are going mainstream. A majority of Kimpton chefs said plant-based proteins such as tempeh or beet burgers will disrupt menus and win the hearts of vegetarians and omnivores alike. Thirty-one percent of chefs think vegan and nut- or seed-based spreads like sunflower butter and cashew cream cheese will give avocado toast (the reigning darling of healthy brunches) a run for its money.
Expect to see more Nordic food influences, featuring fresh and colorful ingredients like carrots, cabbage and beets, and the embrace of alternative berries including juniper and lingonberries. From beet-cured salmon with dill cream cheese, cucumber, shaved fennel and pickled mustard seeds to pan-seared arctic char, Nordic flavors and techniques will be in full swing in 2018.
A rise in Chifa cuisine, the fusion of Cantonese and Peruvian food, provides more evidence of South America’s growing influence on the global culinary scene. Reimagined Mexican cuisine and creative twists on classic Mexican dishes will find their way onto menus in 2018. Try the trend with chorizo-stuffed dates or octopus tacos.
Spices like Za’atar, a traditional Middle Eastern blend of familiar and obscure flavors from sumac to thyme, and Vadouvan, the French interpretation of Indian curry and Kampot pepper – an elusive spice found only in the Kampot Province of Cambodia.
Thirty-eight percent of chefs agreed that sweet dessert flavors such as Meyer lemon, strawberry, blueberry and blood orange will infiltrate savory courses to create dishes like crispy artichokes and Dungeness crab with ember-blistered lemon curd or an avocado parfait with yogurt and cucumber.
They expect a throwback to classic dishes. Think French onion soup, bone-in steak, tartare and pork chops. These dishes bring nostalgic food memories to the table but with a fresh perspective.
Leading Cocktail Trends
Ninety-one percent of Kimpton bartenders say they plan to use vegetables in a cocktail in 2018 – and we’re not just talking garnishes. Bartenders are embracing nontraditional vegetables like beets, carrots, green beans, butternut squash, corn and radishes.
Nine out of ten Kimpton bartenders say they’ll go beyond traditional Irish coffee to create coffee cocktails with a twist, from a Turkish espresso with aged rum and agave infused with cacao nibs to a surprisingly sophisticated cardamom-coffee vermouth Manhattan.
2018 menu planning will include consideration of full sensory dishes that treat diners to socially shareable moments, incorporating imaginative and artful visual elements.
Nordic influences will also find their way onto drink menus with Scandinavian ingredients like bramble shrub, dill, rhubarb and aquavit. For a classic sour with Scandinavian and traditional fall flavors, try the Aurora Kiruna, featuring Brennivin cask aged aquavit, Absolut Elyx, spiced cranberry syrup and lemon, topped with candied rosemary.
A growing interest in Japanese whisky, popular with whisky drinkers looking for a lighter, cleaner, floral alternative American whisky. There are cocktails inspired by Japanese highballs with influences of soft fruit and spice all the way up to herbaceous and smokey.
Eighty percent of Kimpton bartenders said they would create a cocktail in part for their visual appeal on social media with vibrant colors, unique vessels and inventive garnishes ranging from elegant (a flowering herb bouquet) to eclectic (a miniature rubber ducky).
Health conscious consumers will increase demand for cocktails with healthy add-ins like turmeric or ginger that provide alternatives to sugary drinks and minimize the extra liquid calories. An emphasis on sustainability has led to creative upcycling of ingredients and reduced waste, with 71 percent of Kimpton bartenders noting sustainability as a key consideration for cocktail design in 2018. Examples of sustainability in action include making citrus stock from used citrus peels, using compostable straws, and using whole fruits and vegetables in cocktails – from the juice to the pulp to the skin.
Rosé will continue its rise with increased interest in dry rosé, sparkling rosé and the emergence of new single-vineyard unique rose varietals. “The art of the blend” — taking the art of mixology to the world of wine by creating new exciting flavor combinations as well as personalized blends for every palate.
Alternative wine packaging for small batch and unique varietals – we’ll see interesting ways to enjoy these special wine experiences through the exploration of nontraditional vessels such as edible glassware and repurposed household items like teapots, mini flower pots and vases.
An upswing in German-style Gose beers, or other sour beers, which offer adventurous beer drinkers a crisp beer with a touch of tartness and herbal sub-tones (typically from the coriander added to most Gose beers).
The Latest in Philosophies, Experiential Dining and Design
Pop-ups and chef takeovers are still going strong with creative new executions.Honest materials and earthen ceramics will add authenticity and warmth to dining experiences, such as a salad with local lettuces and flowers served on an earthen plate, or solid wood platings.
Today’s diners expect more out of a restaurant than just the food itself. From ambient lighting to the functional purse hook and the curation of the music selection, it’s all about the holistic dining and drinking experience.
Instagram culture is here to stay. A majority of Kimpton chefs said their 2018 menu planning will include consideration of full sensory dishes that treat diners to socially shareable moments, incorporating imaginative and artful visual elements.