Benchmark Hospitality Reveals Top 10 Food Trends of the Year


Benchmark Hospitality, based in the Woodlands, Texas, has compiled its annual list of food-and-beverage trends. 

"Chefs from Benchmark Resorts & Hotels and the Gemstone Collection are not just tracking culinary trends; they are setting them with a commitment to sustainability, quality and creativity," said Todd Parmelee, the company's new vice president, food and beverage. "Our chefs are forging new paths and listening to our guests and suppliers in creating a holistic and sustainable approach to the dining experience we offer." The following have been identified as hot for 2017.

1. Millennials are making it happen. Food trends are being driven by informed and open-minded Millennials, who are dining out more than previous generations and want healthy, sustainable and original dishes based on natural ingredients, responsibly sourced. They have been exposed to a variety of ethnic foods and are far more likely to try new dishes.

2. The farmer is in the kitchen. Custom farming is the new path to sustainability, according to Benchmark, and chefs are taking the farm-to-table movement to new levels by becoming more involved in the growing of the food they serve, right down to helping choose the seeds that will be planted. Some chefs are partnering with local farms or purchasing plots of land for growing produce for hotels and restaurants. And some of these outposts can host events on-site, moving dining to the farm.

3. What's old is new again. Consumers long for the foods they grew up with, but with less fat, fresher ingredients and greater depth of flavor, leading to creative updates of old classics. Sandwiches like the BLT, Reuben and grilled cheese now feature homemade bread, artisanal cheeses, smoked meats and food produced in-house by fermentation, pickling and curing.

4. Incredible edible eggs are in vogue. Eggs are appearing well after breakfast and brunch in frittatas, in soups and atop meats, rice and grains. Quail eggs, a delicacy in many part of the world, are appearing on American tables in canapés, in salads and with smoked fish. Duck eggs are increasingly available at farmers markets and offer a heartier, more flavorful option than chicken eggs. Guests increasingly demand eggs that are organic and free-range.

5. Innovative dishes come with onions. Cooks today are realizing that in their infinite variety, onions can be presented in an array of new ways -- even in jams and desserts. Showing up on menus are items such as sage and nutmeg onion gratin, corned beef and onion sweet jam, onion and cockle chowder, and balsamic and onion ice cream.

6. Doughnuts are not just for dunking. Some new ways to use the sweet treat include glazed doughnut cheddar burgers; jalapeno, pork BBQ po' boys, and raspberry Bismarck Reubens. 

7. Eat your veggies. Plant-based diets are all the rage; "exotics" like chard, kale and daikon are now staples on menus and grocery shelves, and new varieties of squash, tomatoes, cabbage and potatoes are becoming available. Chefs are replacing animal proteins on menus with ingredients such as sea vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and whole grains. Diners are sampling delicacies like roasted cauliflower steak with sweet-pea-hazelnut pesto and fricassee of foraged mushrooms.

8. Good libations pair well. Consumers of all demographics are driving cocktails trends with a resurgence in Prohibition-era drinks, such as French 75s, whiskey sours, Manhattans and Southsiders. Fresh and often more exotic fruits, a variety of tonics and garnishes, and top-of-the-line liquor combine to revitalize these cocktails. 

Meanwhile, microbreweries are transforming their offerings into beer cocktails, mixed with a distilled liquor or other style of beer. Mix beer with a soft drink and you have a Shandy, or try a Michelada (a Mexican combo of beer, lime juice and assorted sauces, spices and/or peppers), a Raspberry Snakebite (featuring a raspberry lambic) or a Dublin Iced-Coffee (stout, Irish whiskey, iced-brewed coffee and heavy cream). 

9. Fish brought fresh to fork. Sustainable fishing is gaining new importance. Chefs, fishermen and fisheries are looking to encourage consumers to look to farm-raised fish and less pricey and more plentiful seafood.

10. Welcome to food theater. Driven by Food TV in all its incarnations and the prevalence of social media outlets that are ideal for everything F&B, restaurant kitchens today offer a front-row seat at a dining performance, with guests crowding around to take in the aromas, flavors, cooking tips and high energy of the stars of the show -- the chefs. The visual and sensual spectacle entertains, nourishes and satisfies everyone in the room.