Food predictions for 2017

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This dish, called "Alicha," shows a sampling of popular African spices. —Itzuvit/Wikimedia Commons

Food guides us. It’s the reason we travel to faraway places, seek out our family’s recipes, and feel such a deep emotional connection to what we eat. If we pay attention, we can discover trends in food every year, whether they originate at restaurants or on food blogs. To welcome the new year, here are some of my food predictions for 2017.

Ethnic cuisines that are making their trendy debut include African, Filipino, and Portuguese dishes, all bringing delicious recipes and techniques to the global table. African food hasn’t quite hit the U.S. yet, but culinary wizards predict 2017 is the year it will. Thanks to the spice-loving audience we have here, we are bound to see African flavors surface. I’d love to see restaurants offer soup specials like Creamy African Peanut Stew this winter.

Filipino food is also appearing more and more in the States. Its Spanish influences will make it welcome in the mainstream, although I’m most excited to see chefs develop recipes with purple sweet potatoes and banana ketchup, two staples of Filipino cooking. Maybe Rico Hosena, sous-chef at the Port Hunter, who is of Filipino descent, will satisfy our cravings for this trend.

Portuguese food is also one to watch. The travel sector has named Lisbon, Portugal, as the hottest destination for 2017. One ingredient I’m looking forward to seeing more of is salt cod, a staple of Portuguese cooking. And with Portuguese food’s heavy focus on seafood, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be popular on the Island.

Buddha bowls are going to be an extension of 2016’s obsession with bowls. They are hearty, typically vegetarian, dishes packed with greens, vegetables, beans, healthy grains, and toppings of nuts and seeds. This trend is already developing on Island at Not Your Sugar Mamas cafe in Vineyard Haven. Maybe more Island salad bars will follow suit and develop a “build your own bowl” option.

We can all agree that avocado toast was one of the most popular dishes in 2016, and even on-Island, the toast offerings were quite tasty. This year, say hello to sweet potato toast. Instead of bread, roasted sweet potato slices are used as the vessel for toppings such as avocado. As a sweet potato lover, I couldn’t be happier!

Have you heard of jackfruit? If you haven’t, you soon will. It’s been a meat alternative for hundreds of years in Asia, and it’s making its way to the U.S. as an alternative to pulled pork. The fruit’s stringy texture, when drenched and cooked in barbecue sauce, lends itself to a mock “pork” even meat eaters will adore. I’ve seen it canned at the Caribbean Market in Vineyard Haven, but wonder if other groceries will carry fresh jackfruit this year.

Love a good drink? Well, your cocktails just got healthier with trendy kombucha cocktails! Kombucha, made by fermenting sweetened tea with a culture of yeast and bacteria, has become a hit in the healthy-living community the past year or so. This year, I think the fermented drink will hit the cocktail menus in bars and restaurants. You can find a variety of kombucha to experiment with at Cronig’s Market: Try an elderberry kombucha with your gin tonight!

I never thought I’d write these two words next to each other, but it seems like vegan cheese is a reality, and increasing in popularity. With more and more people on plant-based diets, cheese platters are becoming more diverse. That includes these dairy-free creations made with almond, cashew, hemp, macadamia, and hazelnut. I can eat a “regular” cheese platter in under 10 minutes, but look forward to a lighter, healthier substitution as well.

I’ve kept this list pretty healthy, not because I tried, but because that’s where the market seems to be heading. But one delicious, worth-every-calorie trend I predict is churros. Those warm, fried sugary treats usually served alongside chocolate sauce are sometimes seen on dessert menus on the mainland, but I pray to see them on Island menus soon. Pinterest has been blowing up with churro cakes and coffees. How could you not get behind a restaurant serving up freshly fried churros, either as a sit-down option or take-out-and-walk-around option?

I hope this list gets chefs and restaurateurs thinking of new additions for their upcoming menus, and gets you discovering new foods and trends. What do you predict? Tweet us @goodtastemv!