by Alex Palmer | December 08, 2017
Unusual spices, Nordic-inspired dishes, and Instagram-worthy cocktail presentation are among the trends event planners can expect to see in food and beverage this coming year. Those are among the predictions laid out in the "Culinary & Cocktails Trend Forecast" from Kimpton Hotels & Restaurant. Drawing on the input of the chefs, sommeliers, general managers, and bartenders at the brand's more than 80 restaurants, bars, and lounges across 37 cities in the U.S., as well as properties in Europe and the Caribbean, the forecast lays out a handful of trends that planners may want to incorporate into their own gatherings.

According to Kimpton's chefs, plant-based proteins like beet burgers and tempeh are even appealing to meat-eaters, with 31 percent of those surveyed expecting vegan options and spreads such as sunflower butter or cashew cream cheese to become increasingly popular. 

New spices, such as the Middle Eastern Za'atar (blending flavors from thyme to sumac) as well as the French interpretation of Indian curry known as Vadouvan, and the Cambodian pepper Kampot can all be expected to become more familiar to diners.

Scandinavian and Nordic influences are likely to grow, according to Kimpton's culinary team, with ingredients such as bramble shrub, dill, rhubarb, and aquavit making their way into cocktails. Colorful produce like carrots, cabbage, and beets, as well as more exotic berries such as juniper and lingonberries will be more popular -- not to mention dishes such as beet-cured salmon or pan-seared arctic char.

"Kimpton offers elevated food and beverage options for meetings and events that challenge preconceived notions of what catering can and should be," says Alex Taylor, senior vice president of bars and restaurants for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. "Our culinary and bar teams are immersed in our markets and has a strong pulse on the changing landscape of dining and drinking trends. They're constantly coming up with new concepts that push the envelope and draw fanfare from locals and visitors alike. We're excited to be able to share these trends with our groups in 2018."

The brand is encouraging people to keep their eyes out for these trends, taking photos when they see them at a restaurant or cocktail bar (including at a Kimpton property), and tagging it with #CCTrends. For further details on the trends and where diners and drinkers can spot them, at Kimpton properties or otherwise, visit kimptonhotels.com/culinary-trends-2018.

Another growing trend only likely to accelerate is the focus on the visual presentation of a dish -- not just for the person eating it, but for all his or her followers on social media who will see it. A majority of Kimpton chefs said their 2018 menu planning will include consideration of "full sensory dishes that treat diners to socially shareable moments," ensuring that meals are not just delicious, but look great on Instagram.

The chefs also anticipated a return to classic dishes, with new takes and revisits to fine-dining staples such as French onion soup, pork chops, and steak tartare. Sometimes, predicting the future means looking back into the past.