I just received the food trend predictions for 2017, as determined by the august palates at James Beard Foundation. JBF does tons of great stuff aimed at promoting American cuisine, but face it: Like the organization’s namesake, the point of view is what we’re now politically calling ‘coastal.’ It’s a truism that Utah is 8 or 10 years (sometimes, decades) behind the trends, but judging from this list, we’re mostly right there with the big guys, if not a little ahead. Take a look:
1. French food is back. Unlike many cities, where focaccia shoved croissants out of the spotlight, French food never left SLC. Eric Debonis has stubbornly championed French food since he opened The Paris Bistro. He and Emanuel Levarek revisit the mere-land frequently to stay au courant.
2. Whey. Not the stuff in protein powder, but the byproduct of yogurt making. Okay, Utah has not fully embraced whey yet, but with more and more restaurants making their own yogurt and fresh cheeses, it’s just a matter of time until this acidy liquid is marinating our meats.
3. Cauliflower is the new kale. Something is always becoming the new kale, but cauliflower’s glamorous turn is in full swing in SLC. Table X serves cauliflower in a beet curry, and Briar Handly has made General Tso’s cauliflower (at HSL) and Buffalo cauliflower (at Handle Park City) into menu stars.
4. Baby kale is coming. We haven’t seen the star in the sky for this baby, but as much as Utahns like to garden, there’s no doubt it will on our plates soon.
5. Sorghum. Not so much—we’re seeing the syrup (hello Tupelo) but not the grain. Yet.
6. Fry bread—JBF says it’s “jumped from state fairs to fine dining.” Are you kidding??? In Utah, we call fry bread “scones” and eat them all the time. At Black Sheep in Provo and at the new Black Sheep Annex in Sugarhouse, Navajo tacos made with fry bread are a menu staple.
7. Less beef. Absolutely. There is usually a steak or short rib on the menu, but beef doesn’t dominate the way it used to, and it hasn’t in SLC for some time. Lamb is more popular here than in many cities (thank you Morgan Valley and Aristo), and seafood is a favorite— strange for a landlocked state, maybe, but not for a culture obsessed with the outdoors.
8. Delivery only restaurants. Not yet—I wish.
9. Fermentation. “I can pickle that” became a punchline years ago, and the Downtown Farmers Market pickling class is always sold out. Kimchi, sauerkraut.
10. Vegetables rule. Replacing or downsizing the traditional center of the plate has been a Utah restaurant trend for several years. Almost every restaurant offers no-meat options, and when there is meat, it may not be the main source of umami. Again, Briar Handly and the guys at Table X are the trendiest examples of this, but Ian Brandt has been making great meat-free food for years.
11. Sprinkles and other rainbow sweets. Chocolate is still Salt Lake City’s most beloved sweet, probably because we have such a variety of excellent chocolate—Solstice, Amano, Ritual, etc., and I haven’t noticed any other crayola-colored sugar except the neon macarons still lingering from a decade ago.
12. Less waste. Generally,
13. Tataki. This is a trend? This is a Salt Lake mainstay, probably because of our sushi mania fed on high-quality raw fish from the likes of Takashi and Naked Fish. Okay, I’ve made a bunch of broad statements and sweeping generalizations, but I think I’ve made the point that a lot of experienced foodies do when they return from travels outside Salt Lake—the chefs and restaurants here are contenders on the national table.