Hindsight is always 20/20, but we’re hoping that our predictions for 2020’s food trends are at least close to accurate. Taking a look at last year’s predictions, I feel like we did pretty well. Filipino food has been tightly embraced, and sugar is still public enemy No. 1. The final nail may not be in Applebee’s coffin, but fewer chains are popping up and small business is getting big.
One of the projections that failed to meet our expectations was the pipe dream of ethical sourcing. While the ICE raids on local produce and meat processing plants masqueraded as attempts to move toward ethical labor practices, the acts themselves were just more swings at underserved populations. Small Omaha businesses and restaurants are willing to do the extra legwork to find fair-trade ingredients; yet, big businesses continue to rely on factory farms to supply them with cheap labor at any cost.
As small businesses occupy more of the landscape, their voices will become louder and sourcing practices will change. Until then, support small businesses and know that every time you buy from Walmart, you are doomed to stub your toe in the middle of the night, and you will deserve it.
And now, on with the guessing game!
With everyone from your favorite health guru to your family vet suggesting CBD, I expect to see restaurants, coffee shops and boutique bakeries finding unique applications for the cure-all.
Cannabidiol is the non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant and has been used throughout history to treat a host of ailments, from joint pain to seizures, anxiety to neuro-degeneration. Add that to the morning latte that fuels your day and many people expect to enjoy the benefits of caffeine without the jittery, anxiety-riddled morning and hard afternoon crash.
Maybe CBD oil is magic, maybe the benefits so many people seem to reap from it are psychosomatic, and maybe centuries of use by countless cultures around the world had its purpose after all.
I haven’t heard of any local chefs using CBD in any of their recipes yet, but the minds managing the Omaha culinary scene are sure to find innovative ways to add it to their menus.
The trend has begun, and I’m into it. While a few intrepid industries set out to offer sustainable options years ago, restaurants have looked to every aspect of their business to find ways to cut waste. Food waste is being separated into refuse and rescue, with the inedible portion being sent off to composting sites like Hillside Solutions, and the unused and still edible portion going to food rescues.
Saving Grace delivers the uneaten surplus from Omaha restaurants to soup kitchens and small shops, such as Table Grace Café, where it is made into meals that are healthy, delicious and attainable, even for the food insecure within our community.
The multiple E. coli outbreaks over the last couple of years resulted in numerous recalls of bagged salad, lettuces and spinach. While it is safe to say that contaminated lettuce is better off in a landfill than in your kitchen, it comes with an incredibly high methane gas output. While some of that methane is able to be converted to energy, post-recall the landfills were overwhelmed with produce.
That same produce in a composting situation doesn’t contaminate the soil with E. coli and directly reduces the methane gas released into our atmosphere. Hillside works closely with most of your favorite local restaurants to collect their compostables, and the list of participating business owners is growing every day. Hillside also allows homeowners to host drop-off locations, making composting accessible to as much of our community as possible.
In addition to reducing food waste, many restaurants are making the switch to compostable dishes, silverware and takeout containers. Every part of the food service process is moving toward sustainability. From ethical sourcing to ethical garbage, Omaha is becoming a leader in feeding the eco-friendly movement.
Kids Menu Makeover
While it was once common practice for children to live on a steady diet of chicken fingers and French fries, parents are getting pickier about how they fuel their families. Fries are forgone for fruit, yogurt bowls are replacing pancakes, and toddlers are developing more refined palates for the effort. As the demand for a more grown-up kids meal steadily increases, I expect restaurants will start to cater to their tiny clientele in increasingly creative ways. A kids menu can be healthy, and it should absolutely be fun. I have the greatest faith in local chefs to rise to the challenge beautifully.
Return of the (Big) Mac
The impossible burger had its moment in 2019, and I suspect that the first half of 2020 will see its share of restaurants adopting the trend … before it dies forever and ever and we’re all better off for it.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not the Grinch who stole your veggie burger, and I am all for finding sustainable ways to feed the masses. The problem with meat substitutes like the Impossible Burger is that people who switch to a vegetarian diet for the health benefits would not eat this hyper-processed sodium biscuit on bread. The factor in the burger that causes it to “bleed” is a genetically modified protein called Heme, which is derived from lab-grown yeast.
I’m also not one to panic every time I see the letters G, M and O in quick succession. However, when you make the health-conscious decision to become a vegetarian, you typically don’t jump at the chance to bite into lab-grown ground “beef.” Additionally, the reason we as humans are drawn to eat foods that “bleed” has to do with iron consumption. Tricking your body with a yeast patty when you’re promising it the blood of a once-living thing sounds like the start of a horror movie where your own body possesses you, and I don’t want a zombie apocalypse in my city, OK?
I see the impossible trend being just that, but in its wake I see the rise of better vegetarian solutions. A couple of years ago, cauliflower became pizza crust. Portobello mushrooms became burgers. I know that the right meat substitute is out there, growing in the dirt and not in a petri dish.
Low-calorie, fat-free, low-sugar, gluten-free, low-carb, vegetarian, low-sodium food. Restrictive diets may be the way to avoid dying, but let’s all agree that it’s not the most delicious way to live. But for every problem, a solution. While food allergies, immune responses and the awareness of the effects of food on our heart health continue to increase, the food answer is becoming clearer by the minute: texture. When meals start to become mundane, adding texture is a quick fix to a flat meal. From toasted seeds to popped sorghum, chia to chickpeas — if you can’t add taste, add texture.
No matter how many of our food predictions come true, one thing you can be sure of is The Reader will be here this year, bringing you the best in food reviews, booze news and what-to-dos in Omaha! Thanks for an excellent 2019! Onward.