Veggie-centric entrées and snacks are among the 2019 menu stars.
Laghman and lumpia, funghi and fermented fare, and yuba and yuzu are among the exotic, new and good-for-you dishes and ingredients that will be tantalizing palates this year. Following is a sampling of the leading food-and-beverage trends influencing group banquet menus in 2019.
1. Jackfruit hack. Plant-based proteins are making a big impact on menus. One source gaining traction is unripened jackfruit, a tropical fruit that soaks up flavor well and transforms into a stringy, meat-like texture when cooked, making it a perfect meat stand-in for barbecues. It’s a favorite element for John Janucik, executive chef of the JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes, who served jackfruit during the recent Financial Insurance & Conference Professionals’ annual conference.
2. Carb exchange. With so many people watching their carbohydrate intake, chefs are coming up with new starch alternatives, like cauliflower gnocchi, yuba (bean-curd skin) pasta, and chickpea and polenta crusts for pizzas.
3. Vegging in. Long relegated to side-dish status or vegan-only fare, vegetables are taking center stage, as chefs create all-veggie entrées for everyone, according to Kimpton Hotels & Resorts’ Culinary + Cocktails Trend Forecast, an annual report compiled by the company’s F&B team. Among all-plant dishes on current Kimpton menus are roasted eggplant with eggplant caviar and family-style “vegetable charcuterie.”
4. “Stan” cuisine. Dan Craig, executive chef of the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel in Toronto, predicts that a greater influence from the “stan” countries — breakaway republics of the former Soviet Union, such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan — increasingly will find its way onto menus. Among the crowd-pleasing dishes from these emerging destinations are laghman (pulled noodles, meat and vegetables), pelmeni (similar to Italian ravioli) filled with pork or lamb and lots of spices, and samsa, which is similar to spanakopita (Greek spinach pie), but stuffed with meats and spices.
5. Pacific Rim flavors. Lesser-known Asian cuisines are finally getting their due. Our aforementioned chef Craig is stoked that the Filipino dishes he grew up with are coming into the mainstream, including lumpia, similar to Chinese spring rolls; longanisa, a Filipino sweet pork sausage with garlic; and caldereta, a hearty meat stew made with peppers and a liver sauce.
6. Savory sips. There will always be a market for sweet drinks, but cocktails minus the sugary overtones are growing in popularity. Enter the vegetable cocktail, crafted with ingredients like corn, beans, beets, tomatillo, chayote, fiddleheads, jicama and sunchoke. At the same time, savory ingredients like pepper and cheese inspire cocktails like cacio e pepe martinis, while fresh basil is now being paired with gin, vodka and even bourbon to create fragrant, more sophisticated quaffs.
7. “World bazaar” fare. Other trendy ethnic specialties cited by chefs include Turkish shawarma (sliced meat sandwich), Polish bratwurst and pierogis, Indian chicken tikka masala, Spanish chorizo with papas bravas (cubed potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce), and, from the Yucatan peninsula, cochinita pibil (pork taco with pickled red onion).
8. Fermented feasts. The recently touted health benefits of gut-friendly foods have chefs adding fermented and probiotic-rich items like tepache (a drink made from the peel and rind of pineapples) and sauerkraut to dishes.
9. Creative citrus. Taking an exotic turn on tables this year are tangy citrus flavorings, according to global hospitality firm Benchmark. Chefs and mixologists are swapping out the juice and zest of stalwarts like lemon and lime for more esoteric flavors like citron, kumquat and yuzu.
10. Spicing it up. One overwhelming theme cited by chefs was the use of spices to up the ante on food and drink. Among those currently being played with are cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, curry, fenugreek, mustard seed, sumac, amchoor, tamarind and mugwort. Chefs also are venturing to a new continent, Africa, for spice inspiration. Among the discoveries are ras el hanout, a mix of flavors from North Africa; the South African herb rooibos or “red bush,” which is traditionally used to make herbal tea; and a berbere spice mix found in many Ethiopian dishes.
11. Trendy twofer. Frozen rosé and the Aperol spritz (Aperol, prosecco, club soda and a twist of orange), two of the most popular libations on the scene last year, have come together in 2019: Enter the “Aperol frosé,” a marriage of the two, which the Kimpton team expects to be a bar star.
12. Sauces to savor. Say bonjour to old friends, as classic French favorites — sauce supreme, Béarnaise, sauce Américaine, gribiche, bordelaise, albufera and pistou — come back into style, giving meats, fish and vegetables that certain savoir faire.
13. “Mellow” cocktails. With cannabis now legal in a number of states and Canada, hotels and bars in those areas are wasting no time creating concoctions infused with THC, a crystalline compound that is the main active ingredient of cannabis, or cannabidiol (aka CBD), a cannabis compound that relieves inflammation. One of the most popular CBD libations is the “Stoney Negroni,” made with gin, orange bitter aperitif and sweet vermouth.
14. ‘Shroom boom. Mushrooms are rapidly becoming the latest “it” ingredient in beverages like fungi Irish coffee, mushroom- and thyme-infused vodka, and mushroom tea.
15. Seltzer with a kick. Humble seltzer water is getting jazzed up with alcohol, as products like SpikedSeltzer and White Claw enter the market. The bubbly drinks hover at about 100 calories per serving, making them popular with waist-watchers; and with low alcohol content (about 5 percent), they could score big with attendees who would likely prefer to avoid a hangover.