We find out the theories behind food fads

By Lenore Skenazy

Okay, I did it. I actually gave my head a pitying shake when a friend told me she had just discovered a fantastic restaurant in Jackson Heights that sells the giant Indian crepes called dosas.

“It’s so great!” she said. “It’s called — ”

Dosa Delight,” I interrupted, as condescending as if she’d just discovered a great fast food restaurant called McDonald’s.

But food pride goeth before a food fall. Just a day later I found myself speaking with Katie Sutton, of the food trend-watching company (yes, there are such things) Food and Drink Resources. I’d read some of its predictions—egg pizza from Georgia (the country), Japanese cuisine by way of Peru, and even fried Brussels sprouts—in an industry newsletter called Restaurant Hospitality. Could these eats truly be coming our way?

Turns out they’re already here—and I’m one of the last to know.

But possibly, so are you.

For instance, Katie said, both coasts are now obsessed by Poke, and it isn’t a virtual reality game on your phone. It’s a Hawaiian dish consisting of cubes of raw fish marinated in sauce and served in a bowl, sometimes with rice.

There are already several poke (poh-kay) shops in our city, some so popular that long lines form at lunchtime. Having once been absolutely positive that sushi was going to prove a flash in the pan (or, more accurately, a flash in the plate since it’s raw), I feel reluctant to predict a quick demise for this new fad. But really how many Hawaiian creations have made it to the big time and stayed there? Besides Obama, I mean.

For now, though, poke is so ubiquitous that New York eateries are already cross-pollinating it with other popular foods, leading to items like the poke burrito. Meantime, the “phorrito” is another rising star. That’s a burrito filled with Vietnamese pho, a soup of braised meat, herbs, and noodles. All of which leads me to my Food Theory No. 1: Wrap a burrito around anything that’s already delicious and it will be a hit.

Theory No. 2 is: The gloppier the better, which is why we’re talking about eating a wrap filled with soup. But you can also see this trend with egg sandwiches. Katie pointed to a West Coast restaurant called Eggslut, famous for the runniest eggs around.

Another big trend she’s seeing is fruit soups.

“It’s like taking a smoothie and dumping it into a bowl and putting chunks of fruit into it,” she said.

So here’s my Food Theory No. 3: Anything chunked and put into a bowl is going to be a hit.

One particular ingredient finding its way into these soups is dragon fruit, which I’ve seen at Asian fruit stands for years but have always been too intimidated to try. They’re pink and green and look straight out of Dr. Seuss. But to catch up with the trends, I finally got two in Flushing, sliced them open and: Total shock! One was white inside with poppyseed-like seeds, but the other was ruby red, same seeds. So gorgeous!

And so incredibly bland! Yecch. They tasted like giant kiwis, minus the flavor. And the fact that they cost about $5 apiece just makes me wonder how popular this fruit can ever be. But I’m the gal who bet against sushi, so let’s move on.

Another counter-intuitive trend is dark food on dark plates. After what feels like a century of ever lighter cuisine, Katie says the trend has gone 180. Charring, once known as “overdone,” “burnt” or “ruined” in my family, is now one of the two hippest methods for preparing vegetables. (The other is deep frying.) Katie says she has started charring her salad greens on the grill, which I could understand if they got kind of pleasantly caramelized. But I tried charred broccoli recently and simply cannot understand why my own, equally unhip method of broccoli prep—steaming till it is bendable, soft and slightly gray—lost out. Douse really soft broccoli in melted butter and I say yum.

Of course, I say that when you douse almost anything in melted butter. (I’m convinced that’s why lobster made it big: The shameless butter-dipping made it chic.)

And speaking of dipping, the last food trend we’ve got time for today is deconstructed ramen called tsukemen. The noodles are separate from the broth. You dip them in and slurp them down.

Slurping, glopping, chunking and wrapping are clearly the order of the day, so here’s Food Theory No. 4: Any obscure cuisine that we haven’t discovered yet will burst onto the scene in 2018.

And in 2019, it will be wrapped in a burrito.

Lenore Skenazy is a keynote speaker, founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids, and a contributor at Reason.com.

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