What’s Trending for 2018? Kimpton Reveals Culinary & Cocktails Trend Forecast

SAN FRANCISCO—Chifa and Nordic-influenced cuisine, nut-based spreads, visual filters, sour beers and upcycling of ingredients are among the top dining trends of the new year according to Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants’ fourth annual Culinary & Cocktails Trend Forecast. From dishes like Choereg Bread with Za’atar to Vadouvan Curried Carrots, the trends of 2018 will spark imaginations from the kitchen to the bar.

This year’s forecast not only covers the culinary and cocktail flavors and ingredients chefs and bartenders plan to experiment with in 2018, but also showcases what’s next in culinary and cocktail philosophies, experiential dining and design, as well as new and innovative trends in beer, wine and coffee. The forecast findings were uncovered via an extensive survey of leading chefs, sommeliers, general managers and bartenders from more than 80 Kimpton restaurants, bars and lounges across 37 cities in the U.S. as well as Kimpton properties in Europe and the Caribbean.

“Kimpton chefs and bartenders pushed the envelope with their exploration of international spices, regional influences and unexpected flavor profiles, as well as the social and cultural drivers transforming today’s dining experience,” said Alex Taylor, SVP of restaurants & bars. “We’re excited to see these trends brought to life everywhere from five-star establishments to food trucks and home kitchens.”

These trends are reflected on select Kimpton menus around the globe. These are the palate-expanding trends that will capture the hearts and minds of culinary, cocktail and dining enthusiasts in 2018.

Top Culinary Trends:

Meat Alternatives Going Mainstream

A majority of Kimpton chefs said plant-based proteins such as tempeh or beet burgers will disrupt menus and win the hearts of vegetarians and omnivores alike.

Thirty-one percent of chefs think vegan and nut- or seed-based spreads like sunflower butter and cashew cream cheese will give avocado toast a run for its money.

Regional Influences

Expect to see more Nordic food influences, featuring fresh and colorful ingredients like carrots, cabbage and beets, and the embrace of alternative berries including juniper and lingonberries. From beet-cured salmon with dill cream cheese, cucumber, shaved fennel and pickled mustard seeds to pan-seared arctic char, Nordic flavors and techniques will be in full swing in 2018.

Reimagined Mexican cuisine and creative twists on classic Mexican dishes will find their way onto menus in 2018. Try the trend with chorizo-stuffed dates or octopus tacos.

Emerging Spices

Spices like Za’atar, a traditional Middle Eastern blend of familiar and obscure flavors from sumac to thyme, and Vadouvan, the French interpretation of Indian curry and Kampot pepper—an elusive spice found only in the Kampot Province of Cambodia.

Dessert Flavors

Thirty-eight percent of chefs agreed that sweet dessert flavors such as Meyer lemon, strawberry, blueberry and blood orange will infiltrate savory courses to create dishes like crispy artichokes and Dungeness crab with ember-blistered lemon curd or an avocado parfait with yogurt and cucumber.

Visual Elements

Instagram culture is here to stay. A majority of Kimpton chefs said their 2018 menu planning will include consideration of full sensory dishes that treat diners to socially shareable moments, incorporating imaginative and artful visual elements.

Leading Cocktail Trends:

Variations on a Classic

Ninety-one percent of Kimpton bartenders say they plan to use vegetables in a cocktail in 2018—and, we’re not just talking garnishes. Bartenders are embracing nontraditional vegetables like beets, carrots, green beans, butternut squash, corn and radishes.

Nine out of 10 Kimpton bartenders say they’ll go beyond traditional Irish coffee to create coffee cocktails with a twist, from a Turkish espresso with aged rum and agave infused with cacao nibs to a surprisingly sophisticated cardamom-coffee vermouth Manhattan.

Regional Influences

Nordic influences will find their way onto drink menus with Scandinavian ingredients like bramble shrub, dill, rhubarb and aquavit. For a classic sour with Scandinavian and traditional fall flavors, try the Aurora Kiruna, featuring Brennivin cask aged aquavit, Absolut Elyx, spiced cranberry syrup and lemon, topped with candied rosemary.

There will be a growing interest in Japanese whisky, popular with whisky drinkers looking for a lighter, cleaner, floral alternative to American whisky. There are cocktails inspired by Japanese highballs with influences of soft fruit and spice all the way up to herbaceous and smoky.

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