Robe and Wizard Hat Time: 2019 Food and Drink Predictions

The other day, a question that usually arrives around this time of year met my ears.

“So, do you have any predictions for 2019?”

What I’m supposed to predict doesn’t need verbalization. I know it’s about food and drink. It’s a fair question to ask. After all, it’s what I do, so I should have an opinion. But I must confess that every year, it always catches me off guard. Instead of replying with prepared answers, I tend to hem and haw for a spell before coming up with one or two off-the-cuff responses stemmed from meager seconds of forethought. You may want to bear this in mind if you run into me in early January.

However, I’ve had a few days to ponder the future state of eating and drinking since the question was initially proposed, and I have a few thoughts about what to expect in 2019. Some of these will be rendered worthless by June, of course, and that’s fine. That’s the way these things work. When I did this last year, the predictions ended up ranging from “Nailed it” (the Twin Cities did indeed emerge as a hip alternative travel destination) to “Did I really write that?” (Georgian wines haven’t exactly flown off the shelves). As you read this, expect to encounter at least one part of my Nostradamus act that will soon make me look like a Nostra-dumbass. Which one will it be? Only time will tell.

Let’s start with a layup. California’s foie gras ban will last throughout the year. The fattened goose liver delicacy is verboten in California yet again, and we should know what’s coming in the next few months based on what happened the last time it was 86ed in 2012. Passionate voices from both sides will grow louder. Animal rights activists will sue restaurants that dare violate the ban. Chefs will come up with clever ways to circumvent the law. Hardcore foodies will complain. Eventually, a motion to suspend the ban will get in front of the right judge and we’ll be allowed to eat foie like we were a few weeks ago. However, these things take time. It took two-and-a-half years to lift the last kibosh. If anything, any similar overturn will take longer. It sucks if you’re a foie fan, but look on the bright side: You can still enjoy pate.

Another trend that looks relatively easy to call is a backlash over the keto diet. You may not know what keto is, but you probably know at least one person giving it a try. It’s essentially a low-carb, high-fat diet that mixes in a modest amount of protein, a formula that apparently forces the body to burn through its fat with greater efficiency. It has the makings of the weight-loss trend that gets shoved down people’s throat at every turn, much like the Atkins diet many moons ago. You will get sick of hearing about it, if you haven’t already. If so, don’t fret – relief may be on the way. Keto already has some high-profile detractors, so its welcome may be worn out sooner than later.

2019 looks like the year cannabis will be fully embraced in the food and drink arena…sort of. As the stigma of marijuana lessens state by state, expect to see a similar level of acceptance take hold in restaurants and bars. The seeds of this trend were planted last year, as the cannabis extract CBD started to emerge as a legit ingredient in the kitchen and behind the stick. CBD will likely be hippest ingredient around this year due to the legislative process, but its usage also represents an early step in the concept of culinary cannabis. We are coming closer the day where cannabis dinners gain acceptance. However, that day will not be this year, despite the growing buzz surrounding the concept. (Disclaimer: the weed puns in this paragraph were completely unintentional. Honest).

Looking at travel, I have a hunch that Canada’s maritime provinces will end up being a trendy destination. The reason? Come From Away, the musical about the small Newfoundland town that hosted thousands of stranded post-9/11 travelers for a week, is currently touring the country. Theatergoers may leave the show wanting to pay a visit to the regional source of so much hospitality and kindness, a desire which would lead them to places like Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the play’s featured province if acted upon. I may be off by a year here, but that’s close enough. I scored victory points on last year’s travel prediction. I’m good if my aim is wonky.

Finally, look for a greater proliferation of unloved produce on the scene. I’m not talking about the kind of weirdo alien fruits and veggies you can find through a specialty producer like Frieda’s. I’m referring to mainstream produce suffering from imperfect aesthetics. Tons of delicious fruit and veggies get tossed every year because they’re not pretty for a grocery store’s display, and there’s been a groundswell of public awareness regarding this practice. It’s led to more people realizing that such behavior is stupid and wasteful, and rightly so – it is stupid and wasteful. Fortunately, a few grocery store chains are starting to reach the same conclusion.  More chains will – and should – follow.

So, there you have it – a proper answer to an annual question I’m always ill-prepared to receive. Will these predictions make me look like a moron by August? Probably. But there’s only one way to find out for sure.