Food trends to watch for in 2016

One of the fun parts about wrapping up a year and reminiscing about what made it so awesome, is looking forward to what the next 12 months might bring.

Local microbreweries and brewpubs are booming, with craft distilleries hot on their heels

Pigeonhole, the latest restaurant from chef Justin Leboe, is tapping into share menus for the whole table. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

One of the fun parts about wrapping up a year, and reminiscing about what made it so awesome, is looking forward to what the next 12 months might bring.

Food trends have defined each decade, with new ingredients, dishes and techniques influencing the home cook and restaurant diner alike. Here are a few things we (probably) have to look forward to in 2016.

Eating more veggies

We're finally realizing our parents were right — it is a good idea to eat our veggies.

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

High in fibre, vitamins and minerals and low in fat and calories, vegetables of all kinds are finally being recognized as the nutritional powerhouses they are. Everything from rapini to parsnips are being more highly regarded for their potential in the kitchen. 

No longer the supporting cast, vegetables are becoming the main event — and more interesting in their starring roles.

Taking more pulses

2016 is the official International Year of the Pulse — and unofficially the year they're finally being recognized — as people become familiar with the term pulse and appreciate the nutritional benefits of humble, inexpensive lentils, peas, beans and chickpeas.

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

Pulses are incredibly high in fibre and an affordable source of protein. They're also accessible, grow in the Prairies, store well (canned and dried) and help keep our land healthy too (since they fix the nitrogen in the soil).

Pulses fit well into an increasingly multicultural diet, as well suited to an east Indian curry as a Mediterranean dip or a hearty Italian soup.

A focus on food waste

Rising food costs and shocking reports that Canadians throw away close to 50 per cent of the food we buy are making home cooks more aware of what they have, and how to use it before it winds up in the compost bin.

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

Restaurant chefs are paving the way, expanding the nose-to-tail movement to the entire kitchen.

For example, chef Joao Dachery of Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse boils and steeps the pineapple skins that would otherwise wind up in the trash with sugar and spices to make a delicious chilled tea.

Food is for sharing

In generations past, eating out was a more formulaic experience, with diners ordering their own (often predictable) appetizer, main course and dessert.

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

These days, restaurants are starting to cater to those who want to experience a wider variety of dishes. It used to be mostly appetizers and desserts that were intended "for the table." 

Now restaurant menus (like CharBar, Anju and Pigeonhole) are being designed to share.

During the first year Model Milk was open, 90 per cent of the orders were coming in as "seat nine" — restaurant speak for sharing, as there is no seat nine — which made chef/owner Justin Leboe wonder if they were on the cusp of a new way of eating out.

Pigeonhole became a destination for those looking for more of an experience, whether it was just a drink and an interesting nibble or an evening around the table with friends.

Fermenting is still a thing

From truck-made kimchi tucked into a crisp and comforting grilled cheese from the Cheezy Biz food truck to fermented squash on the menu at Rouge, fermenting is being explored as a way to bring dishes and condiments to a whole new level.

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

Over at Sidewalk Citizen they have a homemade ambah — a complex, brilliant orange fermented mango chutney served with the traditional Israeli street food.

Cocktails and gin bars

With more mixologists approaching cocktails from an innovative culinary standpoint by introducing ingredients from the kitchen into their concoctions, there's no reason to order a rye and Coke anymore.

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

Classic cocktails (think Manhattans, sours and old-fashioneds) are being given a leg up with house-made syrups and bitters, and new creations are putting the focus on drinks, with a little something to eat on the side.

Gin is the base of many a cocktail, and bars are starting to stock up on a wide variety of them — a change from the usual brown liquors and if you fancy yourself a gin snob, check out the selection at Whitehall in Bridgeland.

Local spirits

Thanks to newly relaxed AGLC laws, local microbreweries and brewpubs are booming, with craft distilleries hot on their heels.

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

Pick up some uniquely Alberta spirits like gin and vodka from Eau Claire Distillery in Turner Valley, Last Best Brewing and Distilling in Calgary, Park Distillery in Banff and the brand-new Big Rig Craft Distillery in Nisku.

Whisky must be in barrels for a minimum of three years so it looks like Eau Claire will win the race with the first single malt being released in time for Christmas 2017.


It's finally here! Pie Cloud and the newly-opened Pie Hole lead the way last year, and existing bakeries (and even restaurants) are bringing back old-school, pastry-topped diner-style pies, whole or by the slice.

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

It will never replace the cupcake, but it might try.

Cooking with animal fats

With our focus collectively swinging to whole foods versus processed, and a better understanding of the nutritional profile of animal fats (for example, lard contains 40 per cent less saturated fat than butter), we'll be picking up tubs of beef lard and duck fat and saving our drippings for the finest pie crusts, crunchiest roasted potatoes and crispiest fried eggs ever.

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

About the Author

Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.


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