As 2019 winds down I’ve been doing a lot of reading about what the big global influences on the culinary scene will likely be in 2020. Overall, I expect there will be an increased focus on healthy ingredients, international flavour elements and mindfulness when it comes to both preparing and eating food. Here’s a taste of what I think we can expect in Ottawa in the year ahead.
This ancient method is hotter than ever, thanks to great gadgets like the ooni wood-fired outdoor pizza oven or the high-end, made-in-Ottawa Oven Brothers line. For those who prefer to let others do the cooking, wood-fired ovens can be found in some of Ottawa’s best pizzerias, including The Grand, Tennessy Willems, Anthony’s, Roberto and more. Bar Laurel uses its wood-fired oven to turn out delectable vegetables, seafood and more. There’s even Pizza all’Antica’s mobile wood-fired oven available for events!
Top food psychologist Charles Spence created the concept of Gastrophysics as an approach to dining that links food and mood. It’s now driving a trend where menu items are curated based on the moods they may inspire. In his book Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating (available at the Ottawa Public Library), you can learn about the sounds, sights, and tastes that influence us as we eat.
North Africa rising
North African influences are sure to find their way to more menus in the year ahead. Harissa – a hot chili pepper paste used extensively in the region – is becoming more mainstream in North America. Locally, discover North African cuisine at Le Casablanca and Kasbah Village in Ottawa and Chez Fatima in Gatineau.
Ketogenic craze continues
The ketogenic (‘keto’) diet continues to grow in popularity. The rise of this high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate way of eating is leading to more prepared foods ideal for keto diets becoming available. Ottawa’s Miss Keto offers a range of delicious products ideal for those on a ketogenic diet, stocked at a number of local retailers.
Cruciferous vegetables holding strong
Watch for Brussels sprouts to take a turn in the spotlight, following on the heels of its cousins kale, cauliflower and cabbage. Members of the Brassica family (also known as cruciferous vegetables) are rising in popularity as they’re loaded with nutrients and antioxidants. I wonder how many of them will be featured at Arup Jana’s new Westboro eatery, Brassica, when it opens early in the New Year? And keep your eyes peeled for caulini or coralflower; it’s a crunchy new hybrid that’s delicious raw or cooked.
There’s something delightfully interactive and communal about welcoming platters of food to a table then sharing them amongst a group of diners. Most traditional Chinese restaurants have always served food family-style and it’s catching on in fine dining establishments. I think we’ll see more restaurants offering this in Ottawa; it’s been a big hit at EVOO Greek Kitchen and North and Navy, to name just two.
A fresh look at kids’ menus
Many of today’s kids have been exposed to a diverse range of food experiences from a young age so when visiting restaurants they will likely be far more interested in fish tacos or sushi than chicken fingers and fries. Many of Ottawa’s best restaurants make families feel welcome without feeling the need to publish a kids’ menu. Instead, they will happily make smaller portions, divide portions among two plates, or even whip up something special to accommodate the little ones in your party. Just ask!
Many people have been reducing or eliminating refined sugars for years in their cooking and baking, often choosing alternatives like agave syrup, honey or maple syrup. New options are allowing for even more flavour possibilities – everything from coconut sugar to pomegranate syrup to sweeteners made from sorghum and dates. Monkfruit syrup is another rising star; find it at the Natural Food Pantry.