Cauliflower as Main Course? Restaurant Trends for 2015

JENNIFER JUSTUS | The Ledger

To know where we’re headed, as the adage goes, we must first understand where we’ve been. And in Nashville, where we’ve been is eating at restaurants. Many, apparently.

A slew of new restaurants opened their doors in 2014, including showpieces like Prima in The Gulch and a few celebrity chef spots that made a stir, such as Adele’s from Jonathan Waxman, Sinema with Top Chef star Dale Levitski and Chauhan Ale and Masala House from Maneet Chauhan of Food Network.

Meanwhile, our love for hot chicken hasn’t yet flamed out with a new Hattie B’s outpost off Charlotte, as well as new spots Party Fowl, Helen’s Hot Chicken and Keke’s Hot Chicken.

This dish flew the coup, too, with former Husk chef Morgan McGlone opening a hot chicken restaurant in Melbourne, Australia, called Belle’s Hot Chicken, and Nashville native chef Carla Hall of ABC’s The Chew announcing plans for a hot chicken restaurant in New York City.

But along with traditions, we welcomed more diverse flavors with Epice, Thai Esane, Two Ten Jack, Love, Peace and Pho, Chauhan Ale and Masala House and POP as host for Otaku South and many other collaborations and pop-ups from West African to Spanish cuisine.

We have a better chance of getting good food while listening to live music thanks to City Winery, The Sutler and Acme.

We can drink a beer at the Nashville Farmers’ Market thanks to The Picnic Tap.

And we no longer have to drive to Nolensville or Mt. Juliet for Martin’s Bar-B-Que.

The new year holds plenty more promise too with Biscuit Love’s brick-and-mortar, opening in January, and chef Deb Paquette involved with a new restaurant in Sylvan Park.

So what else can we expect by way of trends?

A few of the following forecasts from various sources could fit nicely in Nashville. If we can sustain the growth – and that’s definitely an “if” ¬– then perhaps the creative juices, new business plans and current menus will be flowing in the following directions:

– The focus on seasonal eating, even more so than local, will carry on along with continued focus on cauliflower as not just a favorite vegetable side dish but as main dish.

However, restaurant consulting firm Andrew Freeman & Co. (AF&Co) predicts the rise of the radish on plates, and the National Restaurant Association’s Chef Survey indicates we might be seeing more vegetarian appetizers on menus in general.

– Food and restaurant consulting firm Baum + Whiteman also suggests oysters will increasingly take the place of chips and pretzels at happy hours. “They’re cheap because bays, inlets and tidal basins are being detoxed ... so farmers are reseeding old oyster beds and discovering new ones,” Baum + Whiteman concludes in their comprehensive report on trends.

“Not a few here and there, but dozens around the country.”

– Sour flavors, AF&Co concludes, will take center stage in main dishes, but also in desserts and drinks (see Yazoo sour beer program for an example that has already made its mark here.)

And speaking of drinks, AF&Co also predicts a simplification of cocktails with just three or so ingredients and quicker preparation times.

– When it comes to the morning meal, the National Restaurant Association’s Chef Survey predicts ethnic-inspired and more traditionally ethnic breakfast items such as shakshuka or ashta.

– A rise in Spanish cuisine is expected with many major markets welcoming Spanish restaurants. Modern Mexican was the “it” cuisine this past year, but I’d still like to see more of that here. (Karla Ruiz from Karla’s Catering would make a great candidate for the job.)

– Cuban food, too, will surely – and hopefully – see a resurgence as relations with the island country improve.

Sources: CNN Money, AF&Co, National Restaurant Association, Baum + Whiteman