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Food Trends to Watch in 2020

Menu Development

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SAGE Executive Chef Rob Coutu and Registered Dietitians got together to share their thoughts about 2020 trends from both the culinary and nutritional perspectives.

Cheese tea: You’ve probably seen this one on social media. The name isn’t terribly appealing, but it tastes better than it sounds. This beverage started as a street food served in Taiwan. It’s cold tea topped with a frothy mixture of cream cheese and milk, which is both sweet and savory. Move over, bubble tea — it's cheese tea’s turn to shine. It’s a great treat! Look for cheese tea to pop up in your dining halls.

Mushrooms: Mushrooms are turning up everywhere — from center-of-the-plate entrées to tea and coffee. They impart an umami flavor to recipes, making the dishes they’re in more rich and savory. As mushrooms become more popular, more varieties are showing up in supermarkets. Do your homework before you buy them, though, as preparation varies depending on the type. For instance, you don’t want to cook enoki mushrooms at all, but a king oyster mushroom is best when cooked, giving it a caramelized outside and a moist inside, like a scallop. When treated correctly, mushrooms can take on a meat-like texture and flavor for those trying to reduce the amount of meat they eat. While the nutritional profile of mushrooms varies depending on the type, they’re generally a good source of B vitamins, potassium, fiber, and antioxidants.

Authentic spices and condiments: You might be familiar with harissa, but have you tried vadouvan (a French derivative of curry) or togarashi (a Japanese spice blend)? The spice shelf is global now, and people are embracing these new flavors. They’re highly versatile and can be used on meats and vegetables. Although many are now available premade in grocery stores, you can try your hand at making your own blend. Spices have been linked to many health benefits, including heart health, blood pressure control, and reduced inflammation. Although the amount you would need to see any of these benefits is unclear, it’s clear that spices taste great!

Bowls: Buddha bowls, rice bowls, tater tot bowls — the convenience and flexibility of bowls add to the appeal of these recipes. Combining grains, proteins, vegetables, and condiments in one delicious dish seems to make everything taste better than it would if eaten individually. As a bonus, it’s a great way to get multiple food groups in a single meal and bump up the overall nutrient density of your meal. Bowls also help use up leftovers that might otherwise go to waste.

Foods with a story: Knowing the farmer or the history of the food creates a connection that’s bigger than just the taste. People want to know more about their food, whether it’s from the farm down the street or a generations-old family-owned company. SAGE runs a Meet the Farmer program in schools so that community members can learn about how and where their food is grown. When the items purchased from that farmer are the centerpiece of the meal, the community is able to understand the story behind the product.

Trends lead to new and exciting recipe ideas — if you see any of these items on menus, consider giving them a try!

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