With apologies to all the hipsters and economists out there, nowhere do people love to be ahead of the latest trends more than in the food world. Food bloggers practically make their livings off of it, and in an industry where diners' tastes change faster than you can say "quinoa," it can feel like a fool's errand trying to predict the next big thing.
But one thing is for certain: the North American palate is growing more adventurous by the year, with the average person's knowledge of food and nutrition as expansive as it's ever been.
So this is by no means a scientific conclusion, but an educated guess come to after poring over some of the industry's top food writers and chefs predictions for the year, as well as taking stock of what took hold of our taste buds in 2014.
It's safe to say we've been in love with smoke ever since our cave-dwelling ancestors first discovered fire. What does that mean in 2015, though? Well, expect to see foods you never imagined hit the smoker — cheese, chocolate, even cocktails will be given that extra sizzle thanks to this smoking hot food trend.
The tea takeover
We remain a society with a serious coffee addiction. I don't see that changing anytime soon. But as more and more people learn of the potentially harmful impacts heavy java drinking can have on your health, coupled with the rise of boutique tea shops, the tea takeover is bound to happen sooner rather than later.
Just look at a Canadian Food Trends report that predicts tea consumption will rise 40 per cent by 2020, and the market for quality, sustainable tea is only beginning to take off.
Ever since Sriracha became an essential tableside condiment at everything from your local dingy Thai place to your favourite trendy brunch spot, the industry has been on the lookout for the next hot sauce to take the food world by storm.
Look no further than harissa, a flavourful paste popular to North Africa made from dried chiles, garlic, tomatoes, caraway, paprika and coriander. Like Sriracha, it's a highly versatile condiment with a flavour profile that should be familiar to most North American spice lovers.
The rise in fast casual dining
This is a trend that's been on the up and up for a few years now, especially in the U.S. With less time spent in the kitchen than any other generation before us, and an increasing awareness of what we put into our bodies, fast casual eateries like Chipotle and Freshii, which serve up gourmet-quality dishes at an affordable price, are a bright spot in an industry still feeling the effects of 2008's global recession.
While fast-food joints remain king in Canada, growth at fast-casual restaurants far outpaced the industry in 2013, enjoying a 13.9 per cent sales jump. As more diners look for that middle ground between value and quality, expect the fast-casual sector to take an even bigger piece of the quick service pie in 2015.
Even today, mention ramen and memories of raging heartburn and dorm-room squalor dance in one's head. The sad truth is it's taken far too long for Western foodies to catch on to the mind-boggling diversity and otherworldly umami goodness of this Japanese staple.
Iconic chef and restaurateur David Chang has likened ramen to American barbecue — each region has its own distinct version of the comfort food. It all starts with the broth, which often takes days to make and can be composed of everything from short rib to seafood to brisket.