Area chefs dish trends, predictions for 2014
Cronuts, gluten-free foods and tacos took over the food scene in 2013. Some big-name chefs even said 2013 was "the year of the taco." And it seems those favorites won't be disappearing anytime soon. John Ferguson, head pastry chef at Dakota Harvest Bakers said he's getting ready to roll out some more of his popular cronuts, or croissant donuts, in February. The last batch he made was in October. He stopped making them because he said they're very time-consuming to make. But, he's never had to thrown one out.
"They were really popular," he said, adding that he expects last year's favorite to still be popular this year.
But, some new foods and flavors are making a name for themselves in 2014, as well.
Wholesome Midwestern dishes
"The latest trend is Midwestern food," said Heather Schneider, store manager of Amazing Grains in Grand Forks.
Living in North Dakota, Schneider said she's pretty excited about the new trend, which she said includes "a lot of that from-scratch home-cooking, farm-to-table based food."
"That's what we make here," she said of Amazing Grains. "Our soups, we make in house from scratch."
Other Midwestern dishes which might become more popular in 2014 include hearty dishes like roasts, casseroles, scalloped potatoes and even seven-layer bars for dessert.
"It's just back to the good stuff," Schneider said, "keeping it simple with good ingredients."
Al's Grill has already been seeing a rise in popularity of its red potatoes and cream sauce.
Manager Kelli Roche said, almost everyone is choosing the baby reds for a side with their entrée.
Part of the trend is that people are becoming more concerned with what they're eating, Schneider said.
"People want to eat more healthy, cook more healthy, learn more about the ingredients that they're using," she said.
As a result, people are looking to locally grown and locally made ingredients such as honey, eggs and meat.
"They're looking at where it came from, where it was produced, who made it," Schneider said. "The less ingredients, the better."
With a start toward eating healthier in 2013, Schneider said she expects this trend to just keep growing, along with more gluten-free options. "We thought we had reached the height of it, but it just keeps going up and up," she said.
Al's Grill and O' For Heaven's Cakes N' More in Grand Forks have both been receiving more requests for gluten-free products.
O' For Heaven's Cakes co-owners Karlyne Kovar and Cheri Randel said they currently offer gluten-free cupcakes but only by special request as they are more costly to make and don't last as long. But, they're now working on a line of gluten-free cookies and muffins, so they always have some gluten-free options on-hand.
Roche said Al's Grill is working on incorporating more gluten-free options into their menu as well, and if they ever get a specific request for a gluten-free meal, they'll do their best to fulfill it.
"Our reds and cream sauces are now available with gluten-free and a lot of our soups ... as we just switched a few ingredients," Roche said. "We're just trying to be accommodating as more people are going gluten-free."
Aside from local ingredients, a big player in the Midwestern trend is walleye.
From catered bite size walleye nuggets to the walleye fillet platter, to a Cajun walleye sub, Roche said a lot of her customers are asking for walleye.
"We started offering the Cajun walleye sub because people wanted something with a little more spice," she said.
The fresh water fish can be served a number of ways from breaded or crusted walleye to walleye sandwiches and burgers, to a simple fresh walleye served with vegetables.
Kim Holmes, owner of Sanders 1907 in Grand Forks, said other types of fish are rising in popularity as well.
"Exotic fishes, tuna, opah, all kinds of Hawaiian fish or ocean fish are becoming popular," he said.
Along with the various fish, Roche added that Al's baked ham and stuffed chicken breast are also becoming more popular.
While 2014 is looking good for local Midwestern style restaurants, local coffee shops might be threatened by a different trend this year: Keurig coffee makers.
Although the single cup coffee makers came out several years ago, they're now becoming a staple in many home kitchens.
Sarah Sand, owner of Coffee Company in Grand Forks, said she's a little concerned about the increased popularity of at-home coffee brewing systems. But, Sand has an unexpected solution.
"We're actually bringing a Keurig into our store," she said, adding that she hopes to show customers how to brew Coffee Company coffee at home with their one-cup system.
"I want to ... teach them and give them a little more knowledge on how to use our coffee beans in their system," she said. The company's bean sales already account for 30 percent of their gross revenue, but Sand said she hopes to raise that number even more.
"I'm kind of excited about that," she said. "People don't really realize that you don't have to buy those expensive teacups."
As far as the specific drinks and flavors, she said nothing's changed. Everyone still loves their same old drinks caramel lattes, mochas and various flavored cappuccinos.
Specialty cakes, cupcakes
On the other hand, where dessert is concerned, people want something new. Cakes and cupcakes are all about specialty orders in 2014. Kovar and Randel said everybody is doing their own thing.
"You see anything from zombies to baseball, to black and white," Kovar said.
"And flavors aren't just the traditional anymore," Randel added. "Now, you see three to five flavors."
They've done everything from traditional white and chocolate, to strawberry, to peanut butter.
It's whatever they like and whatever they want, Kovar said.
Dakota Harvest bakery worker Michael McCullough said his customers haven't been asking for any new flavors, but he said the bakery's red velvet and carrot cake cupcakes are always a favorite.
Kovar and Randel added that many customers are bringing in pictures from Pinterest or conceptualizing their own custom design.
"People are doing more in-depth and fancy things," Kovar said. And, many are adding an element from the past.
"In wedding cakes, years ago there were pillars between tiers," Kovar explained. "That's coming back. It's not so much a pillar, but there are spaces between the layers again."
Along with custom order cakes, the co-owners also said their specialty cupcakes are growing in popularity as people enjoy picking one of all their favorites instead of buying six of one kind. The specialty cupcakes each have a different flavor, frosting and filling.
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