This past year was all about alternative milks and nut butters.
Cannabis and/or CBD-infused food and beverages.
Flower flavors and bitter plant fronds in your cocktails.
Salads, collagen-pumped foods, prebiotics, avocado toast, açai bowls, and antioxidants.
- File Photo Courtesy Of Cured And Cultivated
- GRAZING Say so long to digging through your purse for oyster crackers and hello to grazing tasty curated boards at wineries and events. This was the year of the cheese and charcuterie trend, like this gorgeous spread at Halter Ranch Vineyard and Winery made by Paso-based Cured and Cultivated.
Real butter is back and we all seem to be comfortable cooking with ghee and coconut oil. That's 2019.
I scoured Bon Appetit, Forbes, VinePair, Pinterest, and Global Food Forums for their biggest predictions and trend watches for 2019 and thought about how SLO County had kept up with the rest of the country. It's interesting what our food industry caught on to, such as local sourcing, zero-waste cooking, fresh produce, healthy kids meals, and global flavors. What I love about SLO County is that no matter how healthy we are, we still have long lines for donuts topped with pink and white animal cookies.
1. Eating at home
Forbes predicted 2019 would be a year of eating at home. The evidence was all over Pinterest: Low-prep, foil pack dinner recipes became the thing for busy cooks. Looking at the latest SLO County data, this makes sense economically. The statistics show our estimated median household income in 2017 is about $72,000. The majority of the population are three to seven person households, and data aside, we know the cost of living in California doesn't leave that much left for eating out and working doesn't leave much time for cooking time-intensive meals. Crock pots, one-pan bakes, and foil packs it is.
2. Health and wellness
According to the market research company Mintel, "anti-aging" was out this year and "healthy aging" was in. In stores, co-ops, and markets, and on menus countywide, we saw more products that support health from the inside out, targeting the brain, bone, joint, muscle, heart, and eye health, as well as reduced inflammation. Interest grew in "nootropics," such as chocolate and coffee, now infused with turmeric and medicinal mushrooms to improve cognitive function.
Alternatives to milk, flour, and anything else people have decided is "bad for you" abound, including oat milk—a new non-dairy favorite—and tapioca and cassava flour. Maybe you can thank the pegans out there for all of these fabulous alternatives. The new hot diet is both paleo and vegan. Pegan! Get it?
In SLO County, these healthy trends became evident at the co-ops and small market grab 'n' go sections. Locally-grown, organic produce from farmers you know was on every menu, and entirely organic storefronts popped up, like Sheila Kearns Chocolate & Confections, Pagnol at 3rd Street Bakery, and Etto Pastificio.
2019 was the year of the noshing table. Charcuterie board classes were wildly popular, and wine tasting and food events around town all began serving entire spreads of artistically curated "grazing" tables with imported and local cheeses, cured meats, olives, baguettes, and crackers. It's always been a thing in highfalutin circles, but these bites became a mainstream phenomenon. A highlight from the New Times' holiday party was a delicious large spread from Cured and Cultivated in Paso.
4. Nice fats
- File Photo By Beth Giuffre
- NEIGHBORS IN FOOD Knowing your local farmer, rancher, butcher, chocolatier, baker, beekeeper, and winemaker has been a trend in 2019, particularly in SLO County. Rock Front Ranch off Highway 166 gives out tastes of its honey at the Talley Farm Stand opening over the summer.
Fats made a comeback this year. The keto, paleo, grain-free, and pegan diets infiltrated conversations so much, some of us couldn't help but roll our eyes. We saw these new integrations of fat sources in every local store and in the employee fridge, including keto-friendly nutrition bars crafted with MCT oil powder; coconut butter-filled chocolates; fat bombs; and a new wave of ready-to-drink vegan coffees inspired by butter coffees.
5. Next level hemp and cannabis infusions
What happens when you legalize it? Hemp hearts, seeds, and oils are from Cleopatra's time, but this year the cannabis craze evolved into everything from waffle mix to dried pasta. A new interest in the potential benefits stemming from other parts of hemp plants had many new storefronts looking to explore the fruitful cannabis biz, while local laws permitted empty buildings in some towns to sell the stuff.
6. Make-believe meat snacks
Plant-based foods took on the meat-based snacking world of jerkies and pork rinds. Mushrooms played a key role in jerky snacks. You may have seen vegan jerky at House of Jerky and Whole Foods. I have no authority to write about this because I have yet to try it. Yuck (I think?). Though with all our vegan love, we also live in a place where Wagyu beef and Templeton Hills grass-fed, grass-finished cuts are on restaurant menus, and most days, I see bumper stickers reminding me to eat more meat, so I'll take that advice.
7. Frozen treat power-ups
This was the year of Tesla popsicles. Even the classic Otter Pop was replaced with a healthy alternative. Innovative bases, such as avocado, hummus, tahini, and coconut water transformed regular ol' vanilla ice cream. Specialty frozen aisles now offer plant-based frozen desserts and ice creams with savory swirls of artisanal cheese, and here in SLO County, lactose-friendly Negranti sheep's milk ice cream has longer lines at wine festivals than the wineries.
8. Drinks without straws
- File Photo By Beth Giuffre
- YEAR OF HYBRIDS AND SOURS Firestone Walker Brewing Company Head Brewer Dustin Kral pours Rosalie, a rosé/beer hybrid that led to one of the biggest drink trends in the nation.
They call it "zero-waste" cocktails. But let's call it what it is: an extra step. If you haven't weened your children off straws, this has also been the year of ordering your kid an apple juice and having to remember to ask for a straw when your server comes back.
VinePair lists sour beers as a top drink trend this year. Do our local craft breweries have it? Yep. Our brewers were on it before 2019. And they're also part of the hybrind frenzy: from beer/wine hybrids such as Firestone Walker's Rosalie to bourbon-barrel-aged wine like James Foster makes at Stave & Steel, Paso. Let's not forget spiked seltzer waters and hard kombucha. And just as stylish this year in SLO County are low and no-proof "mocktails," perfected by Paso's Yes Cocktail Company.
Winemaker Doug Minnick, who co-founded the Garagiste Festival in Paso, said this year in wine was all about the hard-to-grow, rebel varietals such as the arneis.
Many of you have noticed an ocean-themed stand at the Templeton farmers' market. Sea greens came in with the dinner tide this year, from seaweed butter to kelp noodles. Consumers are exploring varietals of algae and kelp with superfood properties. Puffed snacks made from water lily seeds, plant-based tuna alternatives with algae ingredients, crispy snackable salmon skins with omega-3s and kelp jerkies are other ocean-based foods. Oak Creek Commons in Paso even hosted a kelp cooking class this year, which included lots of Pacific Coast seaweed from a local company called Kelpful.
10. Upgraded snacks
Portable snack packages feature more ambitious bites, such as prosciutto and aged mozzarella and artisanal versions of classic snacks. New packaged snacks take us back to our treat-loving childhoods but with higher quality ingredients and alternative flours and oils. And keeping with the new diet fads, we now have cassava chips, macadamia nut butter, freeze-dried dark chocolate covered strawberries, and açai bowls. Even the cafeteria food at our elementary schools have caught on. Thanks to San Luis Coastal Unified School District, students are snacking on homemade chocolate hummus and organic Kandarian grain salads. They can even meet their farmer in the food lines. Δ
Flavor Writer Beth Giuffre is a snacker. Send tasty noshables to firstname.lastname@example.org.