Trends that have become established here over the past five to seven years—farmers’ markets, food and beer festivals, fusion cuisine—are being expanded and consolidated in more ways than ever. We want everything all in one place, and available more often. Instead of just going to the supermarket once a week retro-suburban style, we’ve moved toward European- and Manhattan-style shopping, where one ventures out almost daily to a market with a mesh bag to find individual purveyors—but here they’re often at supermarkets, gourmet stores, and festivals with an emphasis on craft and local choices. We’ve finally gotten the bag thing down—plastic bags have been banned recently in several places, and a countywide ban is being debated. (I still sometimes forget my shopping bag in the car, but that’s my bad.)
Here are the trends that caught our eye from the last year.
Festivals: Our festival scene grew by leaps and bounds. Westchester Magazine‘s own Wine and Food Weekend became Wine & Food Week. The Big Brew New York Beer Festival, with more than 250 craft beers, debuted at the Westchester County Center last year in February and returned in September, and October saw the inaugural Harbor Island International Beer Festival. All this is evidence not only of the county’s ever-hotter culinary scene but also the continuing rise of craft and local products. These fests give farther-flung businesses more exposure, expanding our idea of what constitutes “local.”
Fusion everything: Bet-hedging, overlapping of cultural boundaries, or both? Asian fusion restaurants try to please everyone who wants Chinese, Japanese, and Thai. “Mediterranean” restaurants straddle Middle Eastern, Italian, and Spanish. Latin fusion is big, not only because it’s fashionable and interesting, but also because serving several cuisines can bring in more business than one. Meanwhile, individual dishes continue to cross borders, so more types of restaurants have versions of hummus, tacos, rice bowls (different types of food “bowls” in general have become a thing), and especially pizza and pizzettes, playing outfield somewhere between starter and main course.
Prepared food takeout stores: Based on successful models such as June & Ho in Rye, more and more stores are selling a combination of cooked/prepared dishes and local/gourmet items (like the new John Boy’s Outpost in Bedford). This model offers customers an option that is classier than a supermarket, but faster and less expensive than a restaurant.
Blended beverages: Not only are we multitasking 24/7, now we’re asking our beverages to as well. Why have one or two power ingredients when we can have seven? Now that we’ve gotten a handle on the basics of coffee, tea, wine, and beer, blends are more approachable. And while they’re at it, can they be pre-made so we don’t have to wait for a human to mix them? Coffee mixed with other ingredients; bottled cold-pressed juice blends waiting on the shelf; Bedford resident Martha Stewart’s new ULIVjava made with coffee, tea, and herbs. More pre-mixed cocktails, beer cocktails, beer floats. More craft beer in supermarkets (e.g., DeCicco, where you can fill a growler, and the shrine-like, walk-in beer room at the new Whole Foods in Port Chester). More restaurants and stores with wine on tap. The newfound coolness of bottled and canned beer (The Parlor). Canned wine hasn’t quite made it here yet, but it’s probably just a matter of time.
The return of fat: After a week of working to fit into our skinny jeans, we can’t wait to bust out and have something fatty. The Paleo diet, more considered sourcing, and economic factors might be responsible for the current unapologetic fatty decadence. Pork belly is everywhere. The current “it dish” is Wolfert’s Roost’s $129 “dope effin’ steak” (steak in general is on the upswing). Duck confit is almost overexposed. Barbecue Night has become the alternative to Sunday gravy. And there seems to be no end to the growing number of top-chef burgers and outrageous burgers—we even had our first Bull Burger Battle.