There's a lot to digest at the National Restaurant Association (NRA) 2015 Show at Chicago's McCormick Place (through Tuesday, May 19).
With over 2000 exhibitors, celebrity chefs, food professionals and others vying for attention, it's easy to be overwhelmed. By taking a step back to see things in perspective, SMC was able to identify some obvious trends. Here's our top 10 along with some food for thought.
1. Pickle it
Pickling and fermenting food is huge. A host of nontraditional veggies along with cauliflower, onions, eggplant, zucchini, watermelon rinds and more are getting the pickling treatment. The pickling movement goes hand and hand with the eat local movement--as a fruit or veggie can be picked fresh then pickled (preserved) to be eaten year round.
Think: Pickled pigs feet.
2. Smoke it
Smoky flavors are everywhere. Smoked cheeses, turkey, even canned veggies are getting smoked. At the NRA Show Chef Matt Burton of Carlisle Food Service led a Foodamental Studio session on layering with smoke. Just like you layer seasonings, you can layer with smoke.
Coming on strong: Smoked dandelion leaves
3. Pot it
Marijuana as an ingredient is hot, hot, hot. At this year's NRA Show, a special session offered ideas on how pot can be used in cooking along with a discussion on the benefits of the herb.
Think: Spaghetti with pot pesto.
4. Oodles of noodles
You got to use your noodle when ordering pasta. There's literally hundreds of noodle dishes and types of noodles from which to choose including: black bean spaghetti, quinoa, rice or buckwheat pasta and more. At the NRA Show, Chef Takashi Yagihashi introduced some new ways to serve noodles including an Asian-inspired scallop soba gnocchi.
Think outside the pasta box: How about torcia, a torch-shaped pasta with squid ink.
5. Print it...
An amazing array of beautiful shapes turn food into an art form with 3D food printers. At the show, Printing Zone 3D Systems exhibited its ChefJet Pro, the world's first professional-grade food 3D printer.
The full-color ChefJet Pro produces a number of 3D printed confections including sugar, frosting, and sweet and sour candies.
6. Grind it...
Ancient grains are making a comeback. Health conscience eaters are downing farro, einkorn, kamut, spelt, amaranth and lupin among others. Claims for grains are easy to swallow, with believers saying they reduce the risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and help with weight control, gum disease and reduce high-blood pressure.
6. This Little Piggy Went to Market
Meat eaters are embracing the entire animal eating tongue, brains, tails and even eyeballs as part of the nose-to-tail movement that leaves nothing on the cutting room floor. Vegetarians are embracing the whole plant with root-to-stalk cooking.
7. Ethnic cheeses beyond Swiss
You may know queso fresco, but do you know paneer, lebneh or halloumi? Be on the lookout for these cheeses and others coming to a location near you--or check them out online.
8. Catch it...underutilized fish with a lot of sole
Lesser known fish are starting to make waves. Expect to see mackerel, bluefish, sea robin and redfish coming to restaurant menus and fish markets.
9. Just desserts
The donut/cupcake craze keeps getting crazier. Gaining momentum is the croissant-donut, the townie, ice cream cupcakes and the, oldie but goodie, kolache.
10. Drink it
The edible flower craze, that started with food, has moved to the bar. It seems instead of olives, onions or limes, a trendy a cocktail must have a flower essence such as lavender or hibiscus. Case in point, the "Star at the Bar" award for the best cocktail at the NRA Show went to Meaghan Montagano, from Extra Fancy in Brooklyn, New York, for her Banana Danza cocktail. The prize winning beverage features Casamigos Anejo with banana du bresil, dry curacao, lemon juice and chocolate bitters garnished with nasturtium flowers. The tonic water pictured here and featured at the show is made with hand-picked elderflowers from the U.K.
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