How You'll Stuff Your Face This Year
Caron Streibich's compendium of hot menu items in Northeast Florida in 2014
If you're like me — and you are, right? — you spent your New Year's Day deep in thought, pondering the eternal mysteries of our existence. And if the cronut thing is here to stay. (Answer: Yes!) For my fellow foodies out there, here's a quick list of the things and trends I'm betting will go off this year. Get your taste buds ready:
Donuts. Cupcakes seem soooo 2012, right? The popularity of the donut has steadily risen (no pun intended), with even Jacksonville offering the highly sought-after cronut, a hybrid of a croissant and donut born in NYC. Cinotti's Bakery in Jax Beach does a limited run of pumpkin donuts that we all go crazy for each fall, and The Donut Shoppe on University is a Jacksonville institution. Its Apple Ugly, a misshapen donut-like fritter made from leftover dough, is worth every single delicious calorie. And at newcomer Sweet Theory Baking Co. in Riverside, the options are endless. Its unique vegan (no eggs or dairy) donut offerings include varieties like dreamsicle, root beer, banana French toast bacon and eggnog.
Biscuits. Even carb-conscious Southerners enjoy a great biscuit every now and then. (It's in your genes, people. Deal with it.) With the addition of a second Maple Street Biscuit Co. in Jacksonville Beach, the biscuit frenzy is here to stay. The Blind Fig in Riverside recently offered a spin on chicken pot pie, placing a flaky biscuit on top. Look for biscuits used in unique ways — incorporated into dishes and topped with both savory and sweet concoctions.
Unusual ingredient pairings. There's been national uproar over the arrival of the ramen burger — a burger sandwiched between a "bun" of fried noodles — and here in Jacksonville, local chefs are combining unusual ingredients, too. Five Points' Sun-Ray Cinema offers a pizza topped with a fried egg and spicy Korean kimchi, a blend of fermented cabbage and vegetables. Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails at St. Johns Town Center features popped kettle corn with bacon and spiced cashews. On The Fly food truck touts the El Diablo, a sandwich with a crunchy layer of cheesy Doritos. And for dessert? Baymeadows spot Three F(x) offers homemade ice cream with a variety of flavors including wasabi, tomato, sweet corn and jalapeño.
Increased gluten-free offerings. Gluten-free isn't exactly new, but expect it to stay red-hot this year. As awareness about gluten continues to grow, and as more people are diagnosed with celiac disease, look for restaurants to offer more menu options with the "GF" label. Wheat-free dishes will be replaced with other non-wheat flours like rice, buckwheat and quinoa. Corn tortillas will replace flour tortillas. Pizzerias will feature more gluten-free options; already, Tommy's Brick Oven Pizza on the Southside offers more than a half-dozen gluten-free pie creations, and Your Pie in Tapestry Park and Fleming Island gives you the chance to create your own gluten-free pizza.
More emphasis on sustainable/local/organic ingredients. Again, not new, but look for this trend to further solidify its mainstream lock in 2014. Folks have begun to shift the way they think about food and its sources. This includes locally grown produce, locally sourced meats, sustainable seafood and food free of pesticides and chemicals. Also, consider cows that eat a grass-fed diet and free-range chickens that are not confined to a small area in unsanitary conditions. Expect more chefs to use fresh herbs from on-premise gardens, as does Scotty Schwartz of Fernandina Beach restaurant 29 South. Riverside spot Black Sheep uses eggs from Black Hog Farms in its truffled egg toast.