Food trends: What’s hot for 2017

Chefs are putting extra emphasis on the freshness of their produce. Produce Plus supplies Truckee and Tahoe chefs with fresh, local produce in winter from farms in Yolo County. Nevada City is debuting a winter farmers market the first Saturday of each month. Tahoe Food Hub is building “growing domes” to grow food in the mountains year-round.

Ethnic foods and global cuisine is booming in popularity, driven by adventurous millennials and international travelers. Our region has authentic Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Italian and Cajun cuisine. The owners and chefs often come from their native countries, such as Sopaworn Savedra at Sopa Thai in Nevada City, Kazuhiko Mukai of Kaido Japenese Restaurant in Grass Valley, or Delia Gutierrez of Casa Las Katarinas in Grass Valley.

Heirloom produce has seen increased attention recently, with chefs and restaurateurs seeking out varietals of everything from tomatoes, to beans, to apples. Examples include Jardin del Rio, which offers 83 different varieties of tomatoes in summer (most are heirloom), 38 different peppers, 12 varieties of eggplant, and exotic melons. Boorinakis Harper Ranch has been growing pears and plums in Auburn since 1918. “We’re also growing a variety of heirloom fruits,” says Julia Boorinakis Harper.

Eating food from bowls, including breakfast, acai and poke, will become more popular. There are many benefits. “You’ll stand a better chance of catching all the flavors and textures with every bite,” says Michael Whiteman of Baum+Whiteman, a leading food and restaurant consulting firm. One example: Roasted Garlic and Beef Bowl, a special at Matteo’s Public in Nevada City. It includes roasted garlic, thin-sliced strip loin, sorghum, sauteed mushroom, carrots, celery and onion, all simmered in a savory veal broth.

More chefs, restaurateurs and consumers are interested in learning about the fish they buy, cook and consume. They want to know where it’s from and how it’s sourced, raised or caught. Our region is home to The Little Fish Company. “We use our commercial fishing vessel to bring the ocean’s bounty directly to you,” says owner Brand Little. “We catch and source wild caught seafood and deliver it to local farmers markets direct from the boat.”

Pop-up restaurants are springing up, creating a buzz and generating more market share and extra revenue. Like food trucks, pop-up restaurants allow restaurateurs and chefs to hone their skills and test new food ideas. Examples in our region include the pop-up dinner series at Stella restaurant at the Cedar House Sport Hotel in Truckee. Themes include “Nordic Adventure,” “South for the Winter,” and “Basque Country.” Emily’s Catering & Cakes in Grass Valley offers a delicious pop-up bakery.

More chefs want to offer children nutritious meals that taste great: salads, fruit, and lean proteins—not just burgers and fries. Our favorite children’s menus include Summer Thyme’s Bakery & Deli in Grass Valley, and Ike’s Quarter Cafe in Nevada City. Kids’ breakfast at Summer Thyme’s includes a piece of French toast with organic maple syrup and fruit. Ike’s menu for kids includes vegan French toast for breakfast, and PB&J (with organic peanut butter and house-made strawberry jam) for lunch. Drinks include fair trade cocoa topped with fresh organic whipped cream.

Recent studies linking dark chocolate consumption to positive health benefits may en- courage more consumers to indulge in the a.m. “We predict that breakfast might start seeing amuse-bouche chocolate,” says Liz Moskow, culinary director at Sterling-Rice consultants in Boulder. Cello Chocolate in Nevada City makes superb hand-made chocolate bars from from single origin cocoa beans. When available, Cello purchases fair trade and organic beans. We could imagine nibbling a small piece at breakfast.

The third wave of coffee is a movement to produce high-quality coffee and consider coffee as an artisanal food, like wine. National coffee chains are now becoming back-up options, as coffee enthusiasts seek out local, independent coffee houses. Some favorites in our region include Temple Coffee Roasters in Sacramento, Carolines Coffee Roasters in Grass Valley, Depoe Bay Coffee Co. in Auburn, and Dark Horse Coffee Roasters in Truckee. For coffee enthusiasts, Carolines blog is one of our favorite food blogs at

Impossible Food’s plant-based burger is one of the biggest food stories. It is made from simple, all-natural ingredients such as wheat, coconut oil, and potatoes. Heme protein from plants makes it look and taste more like meat. The Impossible Burger is served at Jardinière in San Francisco, among other places.

At the same time, butchers have their own ideas, with artisan butchers joining up with restaurants, so diners can truly experience “butcher to table” dining. One example is Belcampo Meat Co. in San Francisco. In addition, artisan butchers are booming. Favorites include Mountain Valley Meats in Truckee, and Longhorn Meat Co. in Auburn.

(Photo: Akim Aginsky)

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