Dan Murphy: Ruler of the Restaurant

Wondering what the 100 Hottest Food Trends for 2018 might be? Wonder no more. Despite the media’s salivation over alt-meats and veggie eats, meat and poultry still dominate foodservice. ( . )

The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator.

Nothing says “It’s the End of the Year” like every publication and trade group on Earth rolling out its “Top Trends of ______ [fill in the year]” round-up story.

Thus, as the calendar turned to December, behold: The Hottest Food Trends in 2018, as presented by the website TheStacker.com.

Spoiler alert: There’s a whole heck of a lot more variations of America’s favorite red meat and poultry foods being created by trendy chefs nationwide than there are pseudo-swanky vegetarian creations with fancy names and exotic ingredients.

Plus some that feature truly off-the-wall preparation methods only a dedicated vegan could love.

For example: Overnight Oats.

What are those, you ask? They’re an entrée made by soaking oats all night in the fridge, and then eating them cold the next morning. And then you get stuck in traffic on the way to work, arrive late, get chewed out by your boss, spill coffee on your new shirt and find a Notice of Audit from the IRS when you open the mail upon arriving home that evening.

In which case, yeah — those Overnight Oats would qualify as the best part of your day.

Rest assured, the meaty items on the Hot One Hundred list are way more appetizing. That’s because at the end of the day, restaurants serve what sells; all those veggie concoctions that are the Millennials’ social media guide stars are merely the culinary equivalent of what department stores used to call window dressing.

Back when there used to be department stores.

Meaty and mouthwatering

I’ll just highlight a few of the many animal foods on the list, because unlike all the high-priced faux-meat creations vegans love to tout as evidence of some tidal wave of consumer-driven change, the 100 Hottest Food Trends are loaded with more meat and poultry foods than a chef could slice with a serrated knife.

#100: Egg White Omelettes. I realize these are a thing, but I thought they were one of those nostalgia trends from the 1990s. Apparently not. My only question: What are chefs doing with the yolks? What, no “Rocky” Road protein drink?

#95: Bone Marrow. Along with slurping down Bone Broth (#69), sucking the marrow out of bones is now officially trendy. It’s certainly nutritious, but I would think some clever marketer could come up with a trendier name.

#87. Comfort Foods. Trendy? Seriously? No offense to such totally comforting choices as meatloaf and chicken pot pie, but the items grouped under this category have been around so long that they were in, then they went out, then they came back in — never really left, in fact — and now they’re back and as popular as ever.

#84 Bacon. I was shocked that bacon barely makes the list — until I realized that it’s all about what’s new and trendy, not what’s popular and virtually ubiquitous. Using that rubric, I have to ask: There are chefs out there just now, in 2018, getting on the bacon bandwagon?

#81 Gourmet Mac and Cheese. Hey, foodie trendsetters: Drop the “gourmet.” Mac and cheese by definition is gourmet food.

#80. Goat Meat. Although goat cheese has been popular for decades, I guess America’s only now ready for the rest of the animal.

#68 Underused Meats. Since this category includes chicken feet and pig’s ears, I’ll acknowledge that these items are most definitely trendy — if your name is Fido or Rover, that is.

#56 Gourmet Burgers. Again with the rebranding of a staple food item that chefs love to fancy up with unusual additions and topped with a hefty price tag. But so-called “loaded,” or specialty burgers, have been a big deal in foodservice since Dick Nixon was in the White House — as VICE president.

#52 Grassfed Beef. Along with free-range pork and poultry, this category is obviously one that chefs have embraced as a menu item that can be positioned (and priced) as a premium product. The description declared that grassfed beef has an “entirely different nutritional content than traditional grain-fed beef, making it much more desirable.” Um, no it doesn’t. Different texture, mouthfeel? Sure. Nutritional profile? Pretty much the same.

There are plenty more trends tied to animal foods, like heritage pork, artisanal cheese and seafood charcuterie, but let’s cut to the top three — again, based on how many chefs have started menuing these items, not how widespread their popularity might be.

#3 Street Food. This category (allegedly) includes tempura, kebabs and dumplings, although I’ve yet to see a human being strolling down the street noshing on a dumpling.

#2 Ethnic-inspired Kids’ Foods. Hot new trend? Getting kids to eat tacos, teriyaki and sushi? Well, that last item might be a little challenging for Junior to chow down, especially after watching a video of Finding Nemo.

#1 New Cuts of Meat. The hottest among the hot new trends are such items as the shoulder tender, oyster steaks, the Vegas strip steak and the merlot cut. According to the savants at Stacker.com, seven out of 10 chefs surveyed are finding creative ways to add these meats to their menus.

Chew on that for a while, veggies.

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