Once a year, The Reader likes to take our best guesses about upcoming food trends from what’s hot to what’s, well – done. How do you think last year’s issue held up? You can check it out at https://thereader.com/dining/food-trends-and-predictions/

First, I think we can all admit that Omaha has only steadily improved as a place to eat and live in the last decade. From the ingenuity of the dishes to the sustainability of the ingredients, Omaha has a mindful menu no matter what your favorite flavor!That means it’s hard to find anything within driving range that one could consider a “fail”. We can, however, predict which trends are going to stick around and which will be nothing more than a flash in the pan.

For our first local stop, let’s go International!

Philippine Cuisine

With several Filipino restaurants making their Omaha debuts in late 2018/early 2019, I decided to take a closer look at the local culture.  I found the Fil-Am Organization of the Metro.For more than four decades, FilAm of the Metro has worked to bring a bit of the Philippines to local families. The organization hosts an annual beauty pageant, festival, and works to help families hold on to their heritage here in their new Homaha through celebrations of the traditions and cuisine of the Philippines.

For a taste of the tradition, try Masarap, Tayo, and Laura’s Famous Eggrolls at the seasonal farmer’s market for traditional Lumpia.

Sensory Exploration

Before I decided to start trading words for dollars, I spent a good amount of my time working in and with nursing homes, and specifically, the cognitively impaired. Some of my studies brought me to a research paper explaining the connection between walking barefoot in grass and mud and increased activity in previously “dead” zones in the brains of those affected by Alzheimer’s. What in the world is this paragraph doing in a dining column? Stick with me.

Any time we increase our sensory experiences, it works almost as calisthenics for the brain. That leads us to sensory eating. From events like Outlook Nebraska’s Dining in the dark, which forces you to use your sense of smell and touch to find and experience your food, to Tayo’s zero-utensil hands-on dining pop-ups, playing with your food is finally healthy. Tell your mom.

Look for more opportunities to experience more than just the flavor of your dishes. From magical musical pairings that ignite your amygdala, to visual art almost too pretty to eat. Almost. Expect to get all five (or six, we’re not Clair-exclusive here!) senses involved in upcoming dining experiences!

Zero Waste

It’s no longer enough to ensure that your food is sustainably sourced, all the cool kids want to make sure that even the ghosts of meals past won’t haunt our precious ecosystem. From food rescues like Saving Grace and Produce From the Heart, reducing food waste became the new “locally sourced”. This year, schools, businesses, restaurants, and homeowners took it a step further with Hillside Solutions.

Founded in 2015, Hillside isn’t your mama’s garbage collection agency. The company offers recycling for all manner of refuse, from glass to paper. But wait, there’s more! Hillside is home to Omaha’s only commercial composting farm.  Utilizing Hillside ensures that not only are you helping to keep waste out of landfills, but that everything you discard is turned into something new, from energy to new products, to nutrient rich soil.

On the Way Out
Rolled Ice Cream

This sweet treat is as beautiful as it’s meant to be delicious; but has proven to be more a feast for the eyes than the lips. Harder to prepare, more expensive, and lacking the texture that makes ice cream a staple comfort food, this fad is being put on ice.

It had all the makings of the perfect treat, and on paper (and by paper, I obviously mean Instagram) it should have been the next big thing. Countless add-ins rolled into layers of thinly spread fat and dairy?

What could go wrong? But it did and it is and it’s over now.

Speaking of Instagram…

It turns out you actually CAN over-saturate a market. Who knew?

Have you noticed your favorite food blogger’s posts aren’t showing up in your timeline lately? Is your brunch group failing to post weekly photos of their mimosas and frittata? It’s official. Every dish that currently exists has been photographed and hashtagged.

In 2019, we’re actually eating our food while it’s hot!

Am I a bitter food photography Grinch? Absolutely not. I’m personally a fan of opening my Instagram to see what my favorite chefs are dishing up. In fact, restaurants appreciate the advertising you do for them, tagging them in your food stories. It’s just, well. You can only post a picture of a kale omelet so many times before you start to bore yourself. Food photos are living in stories now, and their features on pages are growing fewer and further between. And… and that’s ok, guys. It is.

The Spawn of Saccharine

From the time I was able to read a food label, I knew to avoid fat. Then it wasn’t so much the fat that counted, but the calories! Just cut calories and you’ll be fine!

By the time I was a teenager, we learned that it wasn’t actually the calories, but where the calories were coming from that counted. Soon, everyone cut bread. And here we have stayed for the last 15 years or so, avoiding wheat, gluten, and the general culprit boiling down to “carbs”. Keto is still the new diet king, but for those seeking a simply healthier life, sugar is the four letter word du jour. While sugar substitutes have been available for generations, the health implications become only clearer as time rolls on. The latest versions of low-calorie sweeteners have been easier on the waistline and on the body’s essential organs, but in 2019 we aren’t numbing our addictions. We’re overcoming them. Sorry babe. We’re giving up sugar.

I mean, we’re obviously not.But we’re gonna try real hard.

Willful Ignorance and Inexpensive Produce

With the raids on local farms, disastrous trade policies, multiple outbreaks of e-coli due to runoff, and the countdown to irreversible damage speeding in the last year, the time for being able to say we just didn’t know any better is over. It’s time to educate ourselves on legislature that can provide a safe working environment for the people who grow and prepare our food. It’s time to hold the people in power accountable, using our votes and our spending power to ensure proper regulations and safeguards are in place. This year clearly demonstrated the power of the individual voice. Use yours.

Thank you for letting The Reader be part of Omaha’s culture for the last 25 years! We look forward to striving to bring you the best of Omaha’s alternative news in 2019!