There aren’t many people who can honestly say that they didn’t bake banana bread or sourdough in a baking frenzy during one of the many lockdowns of Covid-19. Thankfully, both Covid and banana bread are behind us now and we can go a little bit farther afield to see some slightly more inspiring food trends for 2021. We have done a bit of digging to root up the most exciting (and some slightly whacky) trends that are starting to develop and will probably be the next “new normal” before we know it.
Think charcuterie, but from the sea. Thinly sliced, ultra-fresh fish served on a big platter with a few little dressings and extras to go with it. Seafood charcuteries were first developed in the 1980’s by a Brooklyn chef who wanted to create salmon pastrami. Initially, the aim was to make service easier for restaurants by being able to prepare the fish enough in advance and take the stress out of service.
Why is it suddenly bursting into popularity? Just like the most amazing cheese board, seafood charcuterie is extremely shareable and sociable and paired wonderfully with a glass of wine. After spending so much time confined to our homes this past year, there’s not much that can compete with friends coming together over shared food.
Sticking to the seafood, another trend we should expect to become very popular is plant-based fish. Vegan ZeaStar is a UK based business producing products such as salmon and tuna sashimi made from tapioca starch that slices just like real raw fish, and also battered vegan calamari and vegan shrimp. The Plant-Based Seafood Co is a US company who are producing delicious crab cakes and bay scallops that they bundle up together to create seafood platters that can be ordered to your door. Ocean Hugger are raising the sushi game by replacing raw fish with delicious alternatives such as “tuna” made from tomatoes and “eel” from aubergines, all packed with amazing umami flavour.
With the world making such a conscious effort to reduce the harmful effects of over-consuming meat products, it is amazing to see alternative options being put in place in the seafood sector too!
Move over tequila, you’ve got competition.
Mezcal is a traditional, batch-made Mexican spirit made from oven-roasted agave to give it a distinct intense smoky flavour. Tequila is actually a type of mezcal, but mezcal is not tequila. How? The production process is largely the same, but this lesser known spirit is made from 50 different varieties of agave, whereas tequila can only be made from one specific type. The bottle of mezcal can be left to ferment and allow the flavours of the agave to come forward, or fruit and spice such as plums, pineapples and cinnamon can be added to create alternative flavour profiles.
The bit you might rather not know, a “mezcal worm” is added to the bottle during the bottling process. There are conflicting reasons as to why, some say it is a marketing ploy, others say it adds flavour and there is the argument that if a worm is able to live in the bottle, then it is safe for human consumption. Traditionally, the drink is drunk straight in Mexico, often garnished with a little bit of orange, worm salt, and served with, you guessed it, fried worms.
Mezcal is becoming increasingly popular in the US, Europe and Japan as it is being swapped out for tequila in classic cocktails to give more smoky and creative flavours. It will be no surprise to see it on Irish bar shelves in the near future, but the question is, now that you know how it is made, will you be trying it?
2020 saw the year of make-at-home kits as our local restaurants gave us a taste of our favourite cocktails from the comfort of our homes. We were able to purchase pre-made cocktail mixes and sets and recreate the classics with loved ones.
However, the UK got a little more creative with their cocktails by post trend. Companies such as Send a Negroni allowed people to send a singular, vacuum-packed Negroni to a friend or family member that was compact enough to fit in through their letterbox. Shop Cuvee allowed UK consumers to directly order cocktails from their favourite high-street restaurants straight to their door. Cocktail deliveries like this aren’t something we have seen yet in Ireland, but we have our fingers crossed that the trend will catch on!
A cocktail trend we have seen in Ireland, however, is the rise of pre-made cocktail cans. Calling them canned cocktails doesn’t do them enough justice as they are still expertly crafted and designed and packaged into colourful cans for convenience. These cocktails can be nitro brewed for a smooth and velvety mouthfeel, and when served cold, are the perfect picnic guest to go incredibly with any picnic dishes you bring (if you decide to bring any). Gin in a tin is most certainly a trend we are glad to see and hope stays!
Ghost and Hybrid Kitchens
Covid-19 has proven the necessity for restaurants to be resilient and reactive. This has led to the crafty invention of “ghost kitchens” which are basically solely kitchens with no seating or capacity for customers. These kitchens can be opened in quieter locations, allowing restaurant owners to pay less rent for prime street space, and lets them put the money back into great quality food. What the coolest thing is about this, however, is that multiple companies can share a kitchen. For example, if I want a pizza, and you would like a burger, and we would both like ice cream afterwards, we can put our whole order for three different restaurants under the one bill and have it all delivered at the same time from the same kitchen. Delivery-only restaurants are becoming far more prominent for all the cost-savings, and we are so here for it!
The pandemic also brought about the popularity of hybrid kitchens, where they went from being dine-in only to also offering takeaway, at-home meal kits and kitchen essentials. Many incredible top-class chefs such as Tom Aikens and Dominique Ansel offered weekly online cooking classes, demonstrating how to recreate their famous dishes through the meal kits, allowing for consumers to experience meeting and cooking with the famous chefs. This gave chefs an amazing opportunity to continue working and sharing their skills and passion for food, and for what will most certainly be a booked-out busy summer for them as restaurants reopen, we hope we will be able to continue experiencing their food from home!
So, there you have it, some very Covid-19 influenced trends that we think the restaurant world is all the better for! We are of course delighted to have our favourite restaurants back open and running and are extremely excited to see if any of our trends will be popping up on menus. If you know of any trend that you expect or would love to see in Cork, get in touch via Instagram or Twitter and let us know!