What’s Hot in the Metro?

Locals Weigh In on 2014 Midlands Food and Drink Trends

By April Blake
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Seafood is becoming a big part of the holidays with people turning away from their ham and turkey.
Columbia may be generally late to the game in picking up on national trends, food and otherwise — though sometimes savvy entrepreneurs pounce.

(Hello, cronuts craze that spread through the country like an Internet meme). To give us an idea of what we’ll be putting in our gullets in 2014, local experts, chefs and industry professionals give us their predictions for what’s going to become or stay red hot through the next year, in no particular order.

(1) Ethnic restaurants are on the rise throughout the metro area. “There are a few dozen really good, mostly ethnic restaurants in the Midlands that most people don’t know about,” says Emile DeFelice, owner of Soda City Market. “You’ll start hearing about them more, discovering new food, and realizing you live in a cool city. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Columbia’s first Ethiopian restaurant recently opened on Main Street; we have more Thai places than can be counted on one hand; and German, Mediterranean and Indian restaurants all thrive in this city, speaking to a growing appreciation for authentic world cuisine.

(2) Lighter beers are back on the scene, but these craft styles aren’t the same ones you played beer pong with in college. Drink. Blog. Repeat. beer blogger Nick McCormac says, “I think there’s going to be a resurgence of low-ABV session beers. I’ve seen more breweries put out restrained brews that won’t knock you on your ass after just one.”

Sours like Westbrook’s citrusy, lightly salty Gose will also continue to grow in popularity and appeal, McCormac predicts, due to the room for variety within the style. Breweries are continuing their experiments to see what sticks when it comes to what they are crafting.

(3) Forget the turf — it’s all in the surf as people learn more about the health benefits of seafood. With high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, fish will be the flesh upon which many will continue to feast, and oysters will continue to be the pearl of a menu.

“We are getting a lot of orders for lobsters and oysters, also scallops and crab meat,” says Lucius Moultrie, owner of Palmetto Seafood. “Seafood is becoming a big part of the holidays with people turning away from their ham and turkey.”

For those concerned about mercury levels, Moultrie cautions against eating predatory fish like sharks and mackerel, which absorb higher amounts of the poisonous substance — that’s why he doesn’t offer them in his market. But as for the rest of the school, if it’s local, sustainable, ecologically friendly or all of the above, this trend won’t be going out with low tide anytime soon.

(4) Inventive fusion desserts are on the rise. People are after the newest and most inventive fusions and flavors, because if you’re going to be consuming the dessert calories, they had better be damn worth it. Executive Chef Trevor Nickel of The Kraken twisted the gastropub’s traditional savory gravy fries smothered with cheese into a dessert poutine. Featuring sweet potato fries seasoned with salt, pepper, cinnamon and sugar and topped with mini marshmallow “cheese curd” and a caramel “gravy,” this isn’t something you’ll see on just any menu around town.

Meanwhile, cronuts, the flaky multi-layer pastries cut into circles with a hole in the center, were the obvious hit fusion dessert of 2013, and seeing how wild people went for them, the minds of pastry chefs are hard at work coming up with the next big craze that can inspire hundreds of knock-offs and their claim to fame. What we’ll see next, no one yet knows — but count on it being a sweet success.

Let us know what you think: Email food@free-times.com.

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