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Food Writers and Experts on What's Hot and What's Over

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This year, like any other year, was filled with food trends that both delighted and irritated diners everywhere. Some are still lighting up the food world, while others proved to be a mere flash in the pan. Today, on the last day of 2013, Eater's ongoing series of year-end surveys continues with a look at what's hot and what's over. More than 30 food writers, industry experts, and friends of the site have weighed in on the question, predicting the fall of mason jars, wishing for an end to Cronut madness, and pointing out the proliferation of juice bars and thoughtful coffee programs in restaurants. They also disagreed among themselves on things like the hotness of chicken (both fried and roast) and the prevalence of kale. Here's the full list:


Greg Morabito, Editor of Eater NY:

A lot of chefs and operators in New York are trying to offer fine dining experiences in very casual settings, and the city is a greater place for it. That high brow-casual thing is hot, and I hope to see more of it in 2014.

There are a lot of new single menu item restaurants in New York, but nobody's really jazzed about any of them. I think this trend will peter out in the coming months.

Ryan Sutton, Bloomberg News Restaurant Critic:

What's Hot: Expensive ethnic food is crucial if we want food to move forward. And I don't mean let's add Japanese A5 Kobe beef to Lebanese kofte, I mean let's refine the techniques and use humanely sourced meats for Thai food, Russian food, Uzbek food, etc. That will all make these cuisines more expensive. And that's a good thing, because it means healthier eaters, happier animals and hopefully better lives for the people running those restaurants, whether they be highly-in-debt culinary school grads or immigrant chefs trying to put their kids through college (or perhaps both). As more and more Americans realize that it's in no one's interest for ethnic foods to be cheap like GROUPON, we're going to see much more diversity in our culinary world.

What's Not Hot: STEAKHOUSES, all of which are pretty much exactly the same, no matter what the press release tells you.

Zach Brooks, founder of Midtown Lunch and co-host of the Food is the New Rock podcast:

I'm probably the last one to finally admit this, but gourmet food trucks... I think it might be over. I'd say it's not you, it's me. But it's probably you.

Kyle Nabilcy, Isthmus food writer:

In Madison, craft brewing is as hot as anywhere in the country. We host the Great Taste of the Midwest every August (27 years and counting), and 2013 has witnessed a legitimate brewing boom within the city limits. Karben4 and Next Door Brewing opened, joining 2012 arrivals One Barrel and House of Brews; if you want to make a beer pilgrimage, come to Madison during May's Craft Beer Week. And I'm not one to say something should stop being popular because it's been popular for a while, but I think the shoehorning of bacon into everything — as wonderful as bacon is, it doesn't belong everywhere — has finally slowed. At the very least, it's no longer viewed as novel.

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Chicken of both roast and fried varieties is simultaneously hot and over, per these experts. [Photo: McCarthy's PhotoWorks/Shutterstock.com]

Joshua David Stein, food writer and New York Observer restaurant critic:

Hot: Rotisserie chicken, Over: Fried chicken.

Marie-Claude Lortie, Columnist at La Presse:

Non-vegetarian vegetable dishes (like cauliflower with chicken skin chips as an entree at Papillon or many of the dishes at In De Wulf in Belgium or Noma) are still strong, and hopefully they will be for a while. Meat-intensive meals (as in charcuterie as amuse bouche, then foie gras as a starter, and then braised pork as a main) are becoming just too...meaty! Charcuterie could lose steam in 2014. Oysters also, [are] too often badly served.

Matt Buchanan of The New Yorker:

There's an interesting mini-trend — if two places count — with cocktails. Both Michael White's the Butterfly and Golden Cadillac harken back to the dark ages of shitty cocktails, the post-Mad Men era of Old Fashioneds stuffed like a fruit bowl, but have revived that style of cocktail with high-quality ingredients. It's maybe some dimension of a counter-trend to the continuing march of a certain kind of cocktail hegemony that eschews vodka for being an uninteresting ingredient, for instance.

Simultaneously, you're seeing high-end coffee places like G&B in Los Angeles begin to revive drinks that had been an anathema in the upper echelons of coffee, like a peppermint mocha, with super-high quality house-made syrups paired to their lovingly harvested, processed, roasted, and prepared coffee.

Together, if they're really a trend, it points to a revival of a certain kind of food that was discarded as being tasteless by arbiters of taste; they're now being re-imagined with the kind of care that has been applied to the other foodstuffs deemed worthy of the upmost attention to detail. That's probably a good thing, as long they don't begin to reify the narrow structures of taste that had led to them being looked down upon in the first place. I mean, if something's delicious, it's delicious.

I wish that people waiting in lines for food for more than then thirty minutes would be over in the most serious way possible.

Alyssa Shelasky, Writer and Author of Apron Anxiety:

Over: All the roast chicken and rotisserie chicken stories, hopefully. They make me nauseous. I hate chicken.

Elizabeth Auerbach, food writer and blogger behind ElizabethOnFood:

New Nordic Cuisine has definitely had its day. The fermentation/preservation trend that emerged from the Nordic movement will continue to rise, however, and become more mainstream in 2014.

Two ingredients that will probably find their way onto your plate next year are birch sap and woodruff.

The revival of traditional French food is unstoppable. We are rekindling our love with old flames such as cassoulet, snails, Côte de Boeuf (or de Porc), Rhum Baba, and profiteroles. Lots of restaurants are putting classic dishes and ingredients back on the menu; modern restaurants are incorporating classic and almost-forgotten sauces into their dishes. In uncertain times we're looking for comfort, tradition, and authenticity.

Oh, before I forget, Buddha's hand is the new yuzu, steaks are bigger and better than ever, and I'm praying for a carb renaissance.

Kat Odell, Editor of Eater LA:

Hot: Arts District, third wave coffee, juice bars, chia seeds, omakase sushi (this has always been a thing in LA but for whatever reason New Yorkers are just picking it up), dishes for two, savory cocktails.

Cold: Food Trucks.

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Are Cronuts over? [Photo: Raphael Brion/Eater.com]

Sharlee Gibb, Melbourne-based writer and restaurant expert:

Hot—Savory desserts like Michael Meredith's Jerusalem artichoke, pineapple and coconut and Blue Hill Farm's vegetable yogurts. Yotam Ottolenghi — who doesn't have one of his cookbooks? Practiculture — all credit goes to Rohan Anderson for coining the term, which refers to living in a practical DIY way with a sense for reducing impact, rather than being just a consumer. Quirky video teasers for upcoming cookbooks like Mast Brothers and Tartine No. 3.

Over—Fried chicken, slate plates, Cronuts or any other dessert hybrid.

Charlotte Druckman, Senior Editor at Medium and Skirt Steak author:

WHAT'S OVER are these annoying what's hot/not memes. Pass.

Robbie Swinnerton, Japan Times restaurant reviewer and Tokyo Food File blogger:

What's hot: Casual Gastronomy. It's all about the food, not the ZIP code. Prime exemplars: Anis (in Hatsudai); Hommage (Asakusa); Ata (Shibuya/Daikanyama); and Girogiro (Kagurazaka).

Also: Restaurants serving "gibier." The French word has been co-opted into Japanese to signify for all game meats, especially wild venison and boar from the Japanese uplands.

Also: Gourmet popcorn. Following hard on the heels of the American pancake boom, it has now become essential (for some, at least) to wait in line over two hours just to be able to buy popcorn in exotic flavors.

What's not: Fads die as fast as they are born in Tokyo. For several years, Belgian beer was everywhere. Now it's getting well overlooked in favor of craft ale, mostly locally brewed.

Peter Meehan of Lucky Peach:

Like a person with nerve damage in his fingertips, I can no longer sense "heat." Things seem hot that were hot 10 or 15 years ago. I think I am just getting old?

Helen Rosner, Executive Digital Editor of Saveur:

Please, no more: Beet salads with yogurt and nuts; weird grains for weird grains' sake; unpalatably bitter bigger-dick-than-thou cocktails; conversations about gender in the kitchen in which the only examples of female chefs are April Bloomfield, Anita Lo, and Dominique Crenn.

Please continue: Tacos; vegetables; restaurants being open for breakfast; fancy vermouths; cookbooks designed for home cooking; conversations about gender in the kitchen in which people are thoughtful and willing to acknowledge and explore the systemic disequilibrium; conversations about race and class in the kitchen; restaurants posting really pretty pictures to Instagram.

Alexandra Forbes, Food Writer and Columnist of Folha de São Paulo:

Brooklyn is definitely as hot as it's ever been, with a rapidly increasing number of notable new restaurants, led by Daniel Burns' Luksus and Paul Liebrandt's The Elm. It has become its own "food capital," and any serious foodie wouldn't think to skip it when visiting New York (reservations at Blanca and Brooklyn Fare are some of the highest prized in the city).

What's definitely over is the tasting-menu dish containing 15 different elements, countless minicubes and dots and brushstrokes of sauce, which takes a waiter three minutes to explain — and then instruct how it should be eaten.

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Restaurants stepping up their coffee is hot. [Photo: Smith Canteen/Facebook]

Adam Goldberg, blogger behind A Life Worth Eating:

I've had enough of wine pairings in tasting menus. I love wine, but the idea that a glass of wine will enhance the flavor of every single dish is absurd. More often than not it's just a socially acceptable excuse to drink a lot, which of course can be fun; but I'd rather order a single great bottle for the same price.

Chefs are also moving past the rigid "white with fish, red with meat" framework for pairings. Some beers and ciders couple wonderfully with meat; the subtle effervescence cuts through the fatty mouthfeel nicely, and I think more chefs and sommeliers are starting to embrace that. I had one pairing at Saison, San Francisco, without a single glass of red wine; it felt fresh and original.

Drip coffee with freshly roasted beans is starting to make its way into restaurants, and coffee is starting to receive the same attention as the other courses in a tasting menu. It always seemed strange to me that a 3-star Michelin restaurant that spends tremendous resources on ingredient quality would overlook their coffee program. Now, instead of a waiter pulling a shot from a Nespresso pod, Chemex and V60 pour-overs are becoming an integral part of restaurant tasting menus. Stumptown and Parlor Coffee are supplying to nearly as many New York restaurants as cafes; this wasn't the case last year.

Ben Leventhal, Eater Co-Founder:

Lo-fi as aesthetic may have had its last stand in 2013. Charlie Bird and Rotisserie Georgette, both thoughtfully elegant: this is where restaurant design is going. Obviously, there's going to be couscous, wheat berry salads, and shakshuka on every third menu in 2014.

Ian Froeb, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Restaurant Critic:

Maybe it's because I just read The Prophets of Smoked Meat and also keep seeing that Chase ad with Aaron Franklin, but 2013 very much felt like the Year of Barbecue. I see that continuing in 2014, with the areas of focus and fetish spreading outside Texas. (With all due respect to Texas, of course; I married a Texan.)

Is kale salad over? Can it be? Please?

Ari Bendersky, Director of Content/Editor-in-Chief of AbesMarket.com:

For me, what's hot is a great meal that focuses on the food and not the show. I'm tired of people trying to outdo the next guy with some ridiculous trickery. Let the food speak for itself. Some of the best meals I've had this year — and continue to have — are those that showcase local ingredients prepared more simply with a lot of love. Sounds cliche, but it's true. Whether it was the completely in-season heirloom tomato bruschetta at Balena in Chicago or the gnocchi bolognese at Animal in LA that made my eyes roll in the back of my head with each bite, plates with extreme flavor and a few ingredients really are what's hot.

As for what's over? Concepts of making hybrids out of food, like the Cronut, that make people wait in line for hours and look like assholes just so they can post a photo to Instagram. It's dough, people. Get over it.

James Casey, Founder of Swallow Magazine:

Independent food magazines are meant to be hot. I fear they might just be over. Also, any amateur who feels the need to dispatch an animal to gain some sort of gastronomic insight and satisfaction — à la T Magazine's story — should be jettisoned into space.

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Mason jars just might be over in 2014. [Photo: Jeff Wasserman/Shutterstock.com]

Mike Thelin, Feast Portland Co-Organizer:

Food markets and re-imagined food courts (a la Gotham Market) are going to be huge this year. With a more buoyant economy, that DIY Depression era look is dying a quick death. There are going to be lots of mason jars to recycle in Austin, Brooklyn, Silverlake, and PDX.

Kerry Diamond, Editor of Cherry Bombe:

Well, the Bloomberg administration is over. I'm shocked Mayor Bloomberg didn't do more to support the New York City food world, especially given how it exploded during his three terms in office. He served from Jan. 1, 2002, til now. Think about how many restaurants have opened and how many food happenings have occurred. Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, Roberta's, Smorgasburg, food trucks, Brooklyn, Shake Shack's expansion, Heritage Radio, Eataly, Chelsea Market, artisanal booze, rooftop farms, the coffee revolution, Crack Pie, the Cronut, Eater. Bloomberg could have been a cheerleader for the industry and helped boost food tourism; instead, his legacy is letter grades, calorie counts and soda wars.

I'd love to see Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio take an Ed Koch approach to the New York food scene. Koch loved restaurants, loved food, loved dining out. Gov. Andrew Cuomo deserves a shout out too. He has been doing a lot to support the New York State wine, yogurt, and apple industries. Heck, he even held a "yogurt summit." I'd love to de Blasio take cues from Cuomo in that respect.

Edmund Tijerina, San Antonio Express-News Restaurant Critic:

I know kale is supposed to be done, but I still see a lot of it. Even though I like kale, I'd like to see some other greens emerge. Mustard green, collards, turnip greens, beet greens, etc.

Although I haven't experienced dining in the dark, the very idea just seems silly. Please let this trend die an unmourned, unlit death.

One trend that I hope sticks around for a long time is the cross-pollination of ideas among chefs throughout the country. Time was that a city such as San Antonio was at least a decade behind the trends. Now, sometimes it's on that edge and occasionally leading it. That's thanks to chefs in different cities talking and working with each other, and exchanging ideas. As diners, we all benefit.

The Gurgling Cod:

I enjoy some of the personalities on Top Chef, but they need to make it less like Double Dare again.

Kat Kinsman, Managing Editor of CNN Eatocracy:

I can't pretend I'm not a little tired of jars — or rather things in jars that don't necessarily have to be contained within. A rilette, I get because it's potted by nature, but with desserts and most smearable meats just lead to an awkward point in the evening where everyone's fighting (and losing against) the urge to stick their fingers in to get the last swipe. Just give us a little heap on a plate or in a bowl and we'll figure out what to do.

Also, with a few exceptions (I bow down before you, Terroir Park Slope Locker Pickles), most restaurants' house-made pickles are just kind of okay. We will likely not miss them if they're left off the menu. And if your pimento cheese is there just to have it on the menu, either make it special or take it off.

I'm feeling all kinds of great about honest, buttermilk-brined, no-frills, grandma-style fried chicken, and people are starting to up their biscuit and deviled egg game — in and away from the South — as well.

And fancy-ass, classic dining is alive and well in NYC, and I'm tickled to see it. It's not like I can afford to hit up Daniel, La Grenouille, Jean Georges, or Le Bernardin on an average Tuesday night, but I'm thrilled to know it's there (and still simply marvelous) when I have occasion to celebrate.

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Juice is hot. [Photo: allylondon/Shutterstock.com]

Adam Roberts, Amateur Gourmet blogger and cookbook author:

What's hot: Juice. It's everywhere. I just went to New York and couldn't believe how many juiceries (is that what they're called?) have popped up all over the place. There's juice in cocktails, there's juice in sauces, there's juice in juice. It's getting ridiculous. Though maybe that means this is the thing that's lost its steam and the thing that's hot needs to be something that people are just discovering? I'm really bad at this sort of thing. Cronuts.

Janice Leung Hayes, blogger behind e_ting in Hong Kong:

Seven-second microwave cakes. I can make it at home, stop telling me it's a shiny new thing. "Molecular mixology" — both words, as well as the combined phrase, need to die.

Andrew Zimmern, Host of Bizarre Foods:

Still Hot: Anything Asian. Be it technique, ingredient, restaurant, chef, utensil…you name it…Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Viet, it just keeps growing.

Whats Over: Raw foods. Paleo is fine, vegetarian restaurants are better than ever, and more numerous. But who the fuck wants an inedible and thoroughly unenjoyable mock pizza made out of nut paste and seeds topped with pretend cheese? If I want something raw, I will eat an apple.

Kate Krader, Food & Wine Restaurant Editor:

I'm way over complicated food. I want simple simple food.

I'm also in love with the ongoing trend of having chefs serve their food, whether it's at the sushi bar at Nakazawa, or at Trois Mec or at the new incarnation of Torrisi Italian Specialties.

Joshua David Stein recently called out the nice trend of reasonably priced tasting menus at places like Contra and Luksus. I love that.

I'm also afraid of a trend that Ryan Sutton reported on — cocktail places that don't list their very expensive drink prices.

Bonjwing Lee, photographer and blogger behind the Ulterior Epicure:

I'm usually focused on finding quality cooking and quality ingredients. I don't pay a lot of attention to food trends, and I'm usually pretty skeptical of them when they become apparent to me. So, I'm not sure I'm informed-enough to answer this question. But I'll tell you what I hope is no longer hot in 2014: tatted hipsters wearing tank tops with armpit hair hanging out serving up dishes of sarcasm and attitude. That trend needs to be over.

And, in general, I hope that chefs devote more time to cooking than riding that circuit of culinary congresses and conferences, on which they basically regurgitate the same material to the same audience.

Per-Anders and Lotta Jorgensen, Editors of Fool Magazine:


Vegetables/Bone marrow;
Cartoons/Coffeetable cookbooks;
Larvae/Ants.

· All Year in Eater 2013 Coverage [-E-]

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