Now that Canadians have had ample time to recover from their epic holiday hangovers and abandon those pesky New Year's resolutions to finally hit the gym, it's time to return focus on what's truly important: All the cool new things we're going to eat and drink in 2016.
Thankfully Chicago-based Technomic has done the legwork for you. After interviewing chefs, restaurateurs and diners across the country, the research firm has released its predictions on what will hit Canadians' plates and fill their cups in the coming year. Whistler being the hyper-active, super-fit community that it is, I've also included a couple predictions from the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) on the natural food trends it's looking for in 2016, as well as some local perspective from Alta Bistro Executive Chef Nick Cassettari.
Who said the comforting flavours of Germany should only be enjoyed in the month of October? According to Technomic, there's mounting Canadian consumer interest in the hearty dishes of Deutschland, with artisanal sausages, beer cheese soups and soft pretzels at the top of the list.
While Whistler lost its only German eatery when Bavaria Restaurant shut its doors a few years back, Vancouver's Bestie in Chinatown is serving up some of the best German street food around — their currywurst, all-natural sausage sliced over crispy fries drenched in curried ketchup, is the perfect hangover cure.
A Sea Change
Is kelp the new kale? That's the question the CHFA is asking in 2016 with more Canadians turning to sea vegetables as a sustainable and nutritious meal option. Low in sodium while supporting thyroid health, sea vegetables are high in naturally occurring iodine, which helps to regulate metabolism, weight and energy levels.
The slow coffee movement
With the West Coast's abundance of natural, fresh ingredients from sea to field, and a litany of chefs placing emphasis on serving farm-to-table fare, the slow food philosophy has trickled its way down to coffee shops and espresso bars, according to Technomic.
Expect to see continued innovation from artisanal-minded cafés promoting cold brews, single-origin coffees, limited bean batches and "pour over" techniques to meet the average java drinker's expanding tastes.
Hemp is the Swiss Army knife of the plant world, with innumerable practical uses. But the stigma associated with it has often prevented its full range of nutritional benefits from being recognized in the past. But, according to CHFA, that's starting to change.
"Canadians will find hemp as a raw seed, ground into flour, sprouted, as hemp milk or juice, in lip balm, as a protein or fibre supplement, and in other products including clothing and paper," the CFHA wrote, also highlighting its use as vegan protein alternative for those allergic to nuts.
What about Whistler?
As any long-time bubble dweller should know, what applies to the rest of Canada doesn't necessarily apply to Whistler. It's a challenge that every resort restaurateur and chef has to consider when devising a menu that will meet the needs of the local set along with an increasingly diverse international clientele. Do you cater to the lowest denominator with basic pub grub, or dish out elevated cuisine that pushes boundaries?
Alta Bistro's Cassettari hopes the latter option becomes more of the norm in Whistler's constantly evolving dining scene. "We are quite proud of what's going on in Whistler right now," he said. "A couple of new places have opened up and they're following along the trends of the modern diner with clever food and an emphasis on local produce, local meats and sustainable seafood."
But that doesn't mean there isn't room to improve.
"I would like to see the establishments that have been in Whistler for a long time and have real estate capitalizing on their location... getting on the non-GMO, local produce bandwagon," said Cassettari. "Wouldn't it be cool if all the restaurateurs (in Whistler) got together and said, 'We're going to support the local farms year-round, we're going to put food on our menu that we're proud to say is local, seasonable and therefore sustainable?'"