It’s hard to believe, but 2011 is nearly coming to an end. (Nuts, right?) And so we’d like to take this opportunity to look at some of the more notable food trends that have graced our plates and enlightened our palates this past year. Here’s a list of our five favourite food trends from 2011…
One Hit Wonder Restaurants
Restaurants specializing in just one dish or ingredient have flourished all over Canada this year. In Toronto, recently opened hits like Hey, Meatball, Wvrst, and the soon-to-open Cheesewerks have all focused on one tantalizing ingredient/style of dish to draw in the crowds. Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Meat and Bread specializes in fresh sandwiches, and they have just four on offer daily (usually built around delicious porchetta). The Mac Shack also opened recently, serving up the ‘ultimate mac and cheese’ delights. And Montreal restaurant Le Comptoir‘s focus on amazing charcuterie is totally laudable.
Canadian Comfort Food
Canadian comfort food has been rejuvenated by a number of notable restaurants throughout Canada. Of late, Keriwa Cafe in Toronto has gained a great deal of attention for using locally-sourced and seasonal ingredients on its Native-inspired menu. In addition, Oliver and Bonacini’s Bannock restaurant pays homage to traditional Canadian comfort foods, similarly L’Ouvrier Kitchenbar has a focus on updated meals from our nation’s earlier days. Cafeteria in Vancouver serves up childhood faves and nostalgic dishes, while Calgary’s The Big Cheese Poutinerie is delightfully sinful.
Gourmet Food Trucks
While the gourmet food truck craze looks to be leveling out in the US, it’s really just gearing up here in Canada, and countless food trucks are making names for themselves in the industry. In Calgary, Alley Burger is wildly popular with locals – it’s come to be known for having some of the city’s most flavoursome burgers – as was Perogy Boyz this summer and Jojo’s BBQ. Montreal – Canada’s culinary wild card – has embraced the gourmet food truck industry with Grumman 78, one of la belle ville’s first taco trucks, and it provides some visually appealing TexMex alongside a range of drinks. The food truck craze has also caught on in Toronto and in particular El Gastronomo, Caplansky’s and La Carnita have got people talking around the city. People are demanding more of street food vendors (and the municipal governments that slap red tape over the fad) thanks to shows like Eat St. and The Great Food Truck Race.
Up in Smoke
Smoked foods is a trend that has taken Canada by storm this year. Whether it’s smoked fish, smoked meat or even smoked butter you’re after, you should have no problem finding it in igloo country these days. Barque Smokehouse is a relatively new addition to Toronto’s scene, and it boasts an assortment of classic southern barbecue, crafted cocktails, and seasonal desserts. Stockyards and Hardy’s are two other worthy culinary spots in Hogtown. Laurier BBQ in Montreal has transformed into Laurier Gordon Ramsay and has tons of the good stuff, and Charcut in Calgary is awesomely delicious and has extra attention paid thanks to Chef Connie, a former contestant on Top Chef Canada.
While the days of macarons and cupcakes are not even close to being numbered, 2011 for a lot of spots was really about reverting back to the old-style classic desserts. In-house bakers and pastry chefs started going the route of sticky toffee puddings, apple pies, tarts, loaves and blackout cakes, many now ubiquitous in Toronto and in other parts of Canada. NOtaBLE Restaurant in Calgary has an amazing warm banana bread pudding, while Cafe du Lac in Toronto serves up a delectable poor man’s pudding. Montreal’s Les 400 Coup has an otherworldly chocolate pot-de-creme, and The Flying Pig‘s Quebec maple sugar pie is mesmerizing Vancouverites.