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Food trend predictions for 2019: Kelp, oat milk, fermentation, chocolate hummus and more

Let's do a little prognosticating about what we will all be eating and drinking in 2019.
JENS MORTENSEN | New York Times Oat milk. A debate raging among dairy industry representatives, federal regulators, makers of “alternative milks” and neighborhood baristas all boils down to one seemingly-existential question: What is milk? (Jens Mortensen/The New York Times
Published Jan. 2

Let's look into our crystal ball, shall we? I spent a little time talking to restaurant industry folks, reading prognosticators online and just cogitating on what 2019 might hold for restaurant fare and grocery store goodies.


Whole Foods gathered 26 subject experts, from produce field inspectors to master sommeliers, and they predict we will see more exotic Pacific Rim flavors — think Filipino flavors and cuisines that haven't yet had wide purchase in the United States. That, plus more probiotics functional foods and nutrition bars that cater to the keto, paleo and grain-free eaters (I regret to inform you I've received a lot of news releases for grab-and-go bars made of chicken and beef), and more savory ice creams. Now that hemp is legal, we'll see more hemp-product items (and heck, CBD oil is the "it" ingredient of the moment), and plenty of people anticipate the sea vegetable kelp and other sea greens will make a bigger showing. This was one of my predictions for last year, but maybe I jumped the gun.


The National Restaurant Association has some of its own visions for this new year, based on a "What's Hot" survey it does annually with members of the American Culinary Federation. They anticipate more plant-based meat alternatives, veggie-carb substitutes for traditional starches and globally inspired menu items (especially for breakfast, things like shakshouka, the egg-and-tomato-sauce dish). And they're making the bold claim that different or innovative cuts of meat will rise in popularity. I went to a couple of Niman Ranch events this year and this seems like a reasonable prediction to me.


Here are a couple of things I predict that are stone-cold awful: Have you seen those new lines of chocolate hummus? What is it — a dessert? a weirdly sweet-savory snack? — we're going to see more of that. Snack foods that straddle the sweet and savory divide. This next one may sound paranoid, but as restaurants have more data about us from Open Table, Yelp, email lists and more, they will monitor consumers more carefully. It's in their best interest to know their customers' tastes and proclivities as best as possible. So, don't think you're being all anonymous with that Yelp burn. Next time you go into that restaurant, they may know precisely who you are.

Oh, and oat milk. We're going to see a lot of oat milk.


And some good things: Fermentation is going to continue its rise as we realize how good fermented foods are for the gut biome. But also because they are delicious. We may see a backlash against phones at the table, Instagram-bragging dishes and so forth. Or maybe that's just my wishful thinking.

It looks like plastic drinking straws are on the outs. Same goes for foam to-go containers. Let's hope plastic grocery store bags are next in line. Plastic water bottles, we're gunning for you.

Here's hoping for a healthy and happy New Year to all the diners of Tampa Bay!


  1. The designs for Starbucks' 2019 holiday paper cup. Starbucks
    The coffee chain is offering the deal Thursday from 2 to 7 p.m.
  2. A citrus turkey surrounded by side dishes. Associated Press
    For the first time this year, a celebrity guest will answer phone calls on Nov. 14.
  3. Chive and Cheddar Buttermilk Drop Biscuits LORRAINE FINA STEVENSKI  |  Special to the Times
    They’d be a great addition to your Thanksgiving meal.
  4. Roasted acorn squash MICHELLE STARK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Consider a big pile of roasted veggies for your holiday table.
  5. The crowd lining Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa celebrates during this year's Gasparilla parade on Jan. 26. Times
    The weekly dispatch of things to do in Tampa Bay is better tailored to your interests.
  6. Kenny Lawson performs in 2016 as Juno Vibrantz during a drag show at Hamburger Mary's in Clearwater. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times (2016)
    Hamburger Mary’s rolls out its new Clearwater digs and drinks, plus Hernando Untapped, Rapp Brewing and Marker 48 Brewing celebrate milestones and Taste of Tarpon.
  7. Holmes Beach restaurant Eliza Ann’s Coastal Kitchen will serve a three-course, pre-fixe Turkey Day menu. Courtesy of Waterline Marina Resort & Beach Club
    In search of a holiday spread you don’t have to cook? Here’s your go-to list for Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Dunedin and more.
  8.            LORRAINE FINA STEVENSKI  |  Special to the Times
    It’s a hearty one-pot meal for the season.
  9. Cipresso is the modern Italian-American trattoria that recently opened at Tampa's Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Seminole Hard Rock Tampa
    Aloha to Go, Kobe and Apple Spice also expanded locally, plus St. Petersburg’s Burrito Boarder has closed and a food hall is coming to Sundial.
  10. Death By Pepperoni Pizza. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Get ready for some dinner theater at this pizzeria. | Restaurant review