Looking forward to 2012 food trends
In a way, making trend forecasts for Hawaii is easy; if, as people say, we're 10 years behind the Mainland, all we need to do is look at the Mainland's past food trends. Still, we have our own quirks, our own flavors, and there are things that may never arrive here: i.e., Nordic cuisine. (Although chefs, if you want to prove me wrong, please do!)
Pop-ups will take over food trucks as the "it" trend. One, there's the lure of a real kitchen versus a stove in a metal box on wheels, and two, if trucks have low overhead, then pop-ups have even less. If small plates are a sign of diners' commitment phobia, then pop-ups are chefs' manifestation of the same fear.
Rosé is shedding its stigma of a too sweet wine, an inferior wine. For 2012, I expect (hope) to see more pink wines on wine lists, like the Le Poussin Rosé, delicate and floral, dry and palate cleansing, effortlessly food-friendly.
Throwback trend in food and drink
While culinary cities like New York and LA war between modernist cuisine and rustic, Honolulu will continue to lean heavy on throwback food and drink. What this means: more of what Hawaiians ate, like paiai and reef fish and feral pig, as well as the comfort food from other cultures, say Italian handmade pastas, Japanese ramen, American grilled cheese, meatballs, and chicken and waffles. While throwback, for food, means comfort food, accessible to almost everyone, in cocktails, it can mean spirit-heavy cocktails that are more challenging to some palates.
If the influx of Japanese tourists and investors elevated Japanese cuisine in Honolulu, the same phenomenon with the Chinese will raise the bar for Chinese food in Honolulu. What that means: a showcase of Chinese food that goes beyond Cantonese and Panda Express.
Hunting and gathering your own is the new local.
Cooking at home
Ferran Adria and Heston Blumenthal, A-list chefs that "cook" dishes you wouldn't even think about recreating at home (think "tapioca" of Iberian ham, quail jelly with oak moss), have each written cookbooks geared toward the home cook, indicating that in 2012, when it comes time for dinner, more people will look to their own kitchens. The final proof I need? My boss who previously only had a cut lemon in the fridge and packets of shoyu, cooked a Thanksgiving dinner (well, he reheated a ham and baked a canned yam and marshmallow casserole, but still).
(AKN: And it was awesome!)
What I don't think will be a trend in Honolulu: donuts
Yes, I know donuts are all the rage on the Mainland, and we ourselves featured Regal Bakery's donuts on our December issue. But I don't think they'll catch on here the way cupcakes did, mainly because of the overhead cost—namely, liquid waste handling for used fryer oil—that's required to sell donuts. In addition, we bake at home, but rarely fry. Hobby bakers are a dime a dozen, hobby fryers? Not so much.