Topping our list:
The magic of mushrooms: Not only will these woodsy gems continue to grace dishes during every time of day, you’ll see mushroom teas and coffees as well as flavor-rich broths, mushroom powders, and mushroom cocktails — made with all of the aforementioned preparations. We are excited to see how some of our city’s foraging all-stars, like Superior Motors‘ Kevin Sousa, Vivo‘s Sam DiBattista, and fl.2‘s Julio Peraza, work the mushroom in 2019.
Middle Eastern flavors and shared-table experiences: Mezze is everywhere and not just in the form of delicious shared platters of food. The action of sharing and grazing is the new focal point of the dining experience. Word on the street is that a hot new rooftop concept is coming to Lawrenceville in 2019, filling exactly this void.
Far Eastern Europe / Western Asia / Mediterranean: Last year’s obsession with Israeli foods is still very real and this exploration is now broadening to neighboring countries and cultures. There will be heavy focus on Syrian, Turkish, and Lebanese cuisine — especially the sauces. How many times have you seen Labneh on menus recently?
Dim Sum and then some: Dim Sum crosses cultural lines this year and becomes another trend that seeks to connect us. No longer just for the dumpling, expect to see restaurants serving small plates and baskets of everything from fried chicken to peel’n eat shellfish.
Subscriptions/ off-premise dining: Special foods from special chefs delivered to your door or picked up as a monthly, weekly, or quarterly delight. There’s something about the exclusivity and mystery of it all! If Salty Pork Bits by Cure‘s Justin Severino and Snuggle Pack by Black Radish‘s Kate Romane sell-out subscriptions are any indication, this one has some staying power.
Bubbles bubbles everywhere: From carbonated coffee to the sparkling water craze, to spiked seltzers and a renewed love for Champagne, effervescence is everywhere.
Champagne cocktails: Speaking of bubbles, Champagne cocktails are popping up on cocktail menus in 2019.
The total sensory experience: Visuals have topped the last three years of trends, thanks to Instagram. The increased use of video on the social media platform has spurred even more competitive action in kitchens everywhere. Interactive cocktail garnishes, glittering croissants, and fantastic cheese pulls fill our feeds — and we’re not mad it. Alex Dando, of The Commoner, and Dave Anoia, of DiAnoia’s, are the current market masters.
Whole vegetable entrees: Vegetarians, rejoice! Main courses are here to stay, and in fact, are giving way to preparations usually reserved for the “whole animal” variety, like vegetable steaks and caviars. Look to the magicians at Apteka and other vegetable-forward chefs like Lorelei‘s Jamilka Borges to woo the most cantankerous carnivores to the veg-side.
Tea please: Pinkies up! Tea is continuing to have a moment: used in desserts, cocktails, and as a savory seasoning, as well as a food coloring. People are starting to appreciate teas as they appreciate fine wine. Take a cue from Ace Pittsburgh and Whitfield‘s Casey Renee, who has been partnered with madcap designer and TABLE contributor Thommy Conroy in throwing wild and wonderful tea parties since the end of this year. We’re predicting (and wanting) more!
Actionable sustainability: Chefs are taking a larger leadership role in their kitchens and beyond and when it comes to sustainability. One to watch: Spirits & Tales‘s Jessica Lewis’s efforts collecting and recycling oyster shells.
Dieticians are the new culinary rockstars: As health-based trends become more and more mainstream, so do the experts behind them. Western PA is blessed with a few total rockstars, and Leslie Bonci is certainly one who comes to mind. Bonci is the sports dietitian for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Kansas City Chiefs, and Carnegie Mellon University and the former sports dietitian for the Toronto Blue Jays, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Pittsburgh Steelers. She’s a regular on Pittsburgh TODAY Live, so you can catch her on Pittsburgh’s favorite morning show.
Unexpected takes on comfort foods: This is always on the list it seems. We happen to think that few cities compare to Western PA Chefs in this category. Curtis Gamble, at Station, is a master of this here in Pittsburgh: Try his Kim Chi Bolognese. Trust us.
Toast in town: Avocado toast is so two years ago, but stacking beautiful ingredients on warm crunchy bread is not going anywhere any time soon. Strawberries, tossed in balsamic and sprinkled with pepper and Pecorino, witha thick slather of housemade ricotta and honey? It’s all about the toast. The best toast game right now? Mediterra Cafe in Sewickley.
More to explore:
Powders: From egg white protein powders to punches of gold with finely ground turmeric, you’ll definitely see this dust-up on plates near you.
Bugs are back: High in protein, in whole form, roasted, in powders and desserts. Paging Don Mahaney at Scatch F&B!
Puffed and popped: Puffed quinoa and other grains are making for delightful and unexpected textures in dishes. One of the first in Pittsburgh in our memory was Scott Walton at Acorn this past year with popped sorghum incorporated into dishes.
Carry-out: Netflix and chill and fine dining are apparently on the menu.
Orange wines: Early carriers of this funky vino are Bar Marco, The Commoner, and the bar Ace Hotel Pittsburgh.
Not going anywhere:
Limiting food waste
Plant-based movement, meat substitutes, and more whole veg
House pickling and fermentation
Old school cocktailing featuring gins, vermouths, and sherries
What we’re most excited about:
Experiences with people and places top our list. From shared meal traditions that cross cultures and borders, we are loving the idea that the biggest food trends are about sharing an experience to bring us closer together.
Pennsylvania. PA was ahead of the ‘shroom trend all along. Our chefs are forever foraging, even pre-Instagram. Pennsylvania is the No. 1 producer of mushrooms in the country.
Hole-in-the-Wall Haunts: Diners seeking a more authentic experience has breathed new life into our beloved local mom and pops. From Chaya to Nak Won Garden to Josza’s Corner, Pittsburgh is full of these incredible restaurants. Go forth and explore!
What surprised us?
Spiked seltzers: As long-time bubble lovers, we’re intrigued but not convinced.
Sources: Revive Marketing Group, Restaurant Business, Whole Foods, National Restaurant Association, Fortune