Many people found themselves embracing new ways to shop for, cook, eat and even think about food over the past year. Issues such as food waste and food insecurity were top of mind but on the positive side of things, a resurgence in home food preparation and a full-blown love affair with takeout meals balanced things out. So what trends are likely to impact Ottawa’s food scene in 2021? Here are some possibilities.
Plant-based proteins, favoured by vegans and omnivores alike, will be increasingly easier to find on restaurant menus and at local food shops. A standout example is Farm Boy’s new flagship Trainyards store, which has a large stand-alone display of plant-based proteins adjacent to its meat department. Innovation continues: Guelph-based Neophyto Foods just followed up on the success of its Neocheese (a dairy-free cream cheese made with non-GMO soybeans) with the launch of NeoKit, the first-ever shelf-stable plant-based ground meat kit. Cornwall’s Plant Prepped has also launched an innovative plant-based meal kit service. Look for Canadian-made vegan Noble Jerky at Natural Food Pantry locations and MEC.
Industry group Restaurants Canada notes that comfort food will continue to be a best-seller, with both humble and fancy versions of staples like macaroni and cheese and fried chicken remaining extremely popular. Locally, find great crispy chicken at restaurants like Union Local 613 and GoGiYa Korean Fried Chicken; note that the mac ‘n cheese at Tennessy Willems and Big Rig both garner consistent rave reviews.
At-home global culinary adventures
With travel reduced or eliminated for at least the first half of 2021, local culinary adventures will have to satisfy a hunger for exotic flavours and ingredients. This will have many people reaching for new cookbooks like the award-winning Coconut Lagoon cookbook by Ottawa chef Joe Thottungal, which offers a great introduction to preparing authentic Indian food. Others will want to augment their spice collections to experiment with international cuisines. The Social Market, run by young student entrepreneurs participating in the Parkdale Food Centre’s Thirteen Social Enterprise offers great spice blends, as does local teenaged entrepreneur Lily Bond, through her Spyce Girlz online shop.
Proof that environmental impact-based eating is gaining traction can be found at global chains such as Chipotle (where you can calculate the environmental footprint of your order via its Real Foodprint tool) and Panera Bread (which is now providing its menu items’ carbon footprint). But one of the easiest ways to reduce one’s dietary carbon footprint is to shop locally – especially from famers’ markets or by purchasing a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm share. And in case you think local produce is just a three-season endeavour in Ottawa, many farmers are turning to technology such as hydroponics to make fresh vegetables available year round. Locally, great producers include Suntech Greenhouses and Backyard Edibles; there’s also Cornwall’s new Fieldless Farms, growing delicious greens available through the Burrow Shop and Farm Boy.
Evolution and revolution
Many restaurateurs have adjusted or expanded their menus to not only offer great takeout options, but also food specifically designed for home cooks (along with beverages). There are countless possibilities, such as pizza kits from Heartbreakers, cookie dough and bread making kits from Corner Peach and the Wellington Gastropub’s house-made meal components. More revolutionary is the new format for Atelier restaurant where chef Marc Lepine is bidding adieu to his longstanding 12 course blinding tasting menu format in favour of a new, interactive 44 course tasting experience.
Healthier drinking habits
If you found your alcohol consumption pattern was different in 2020, you’re not alone. Expect to see a shift to healthier habits in 2021, supported by some great new products that are fun to sip, but don’t pack a punch. A great example is the City Seltzer line by Dominion City Brewing Co., with its great tagline, “all bubbles, no troubles”. Flavours such as cool melon, city citrus, bumbleberry and more are delicious and refreshing.