Drinking and dining trends 2019 – NorthJersey.com


Gin and veggies? NorthJersey.com’s food team talks about the food trends to watch for in 2019. Esther Davidowitz and Rebecca King, North Jersey Record

I don’t have a crystal ball to predict the dining trends for 2019. I¬†have something better: local¬†restaurateurs and chefs who don’t need any fortune-telling objects to forecast the¬†dining scene food lovers¬†can look forward to. After all, who’d know better¬†what’s to come out of professional¬†kitchens than the men and women who toil in them?

Here are 10 dining trends to look for in the new year. 

CBD-infused eats and drinks

While marijuana may not be legal in NJ … yet, CBD ‚ÄĒ the non-intoxicating, non-“high” making but supposedly healthy compound in hemp ‚ÄĒ¬†is. It is said to have a myriad of¬†health benefits, including relief from pain, anxiety and inflammation. Any wonder then that chefs are beginning to use CBD (short for cannabidiol)¬†in foods and drinks.

Chef-owner John Vitale of Caffe Anello and Sogno Coffee in Westwood (11 Madison Ave., 201-786-8137;¬†caffeanello.com) has begun using CBD oil in his coffee shop’s lattes, other coffees and teas, and perhaps down the road, he said, he’ll add it to¬†some baked goods.¬†“There’s tremendous health benefits in it,” he said. “I suffer from anxiety disorder and CBD is part of my daily regimen¬†now. It helps tremendously.”¬†

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It’s¬†popular. The CBD-laced latte, Vitale reports, sells very well, though admittedly it’s not cheap: $8. “But neither is CBD oil cheap,” Vitale noted.¬†You can get your tea with CBD¬†for $5.

About two months ago, Luciana Gencarelli, owner of Zest in Fairfield (418 Fairfield Road; 973-439-9378¬†zesteats.com) began offering a drop of CBD oil in the shop’s juices, bowls and coffees ‚ÄĒ for an extra $2. The shop also sells bottles of CBD oil. “In the beginning, we couldn’t keep the bottles on our shelves,” Gencarelli said.

For those who want to learn more about CBD, Canna Pop-Pp, a Livingston company launched in May, hosts cannabis pop-ups where guests can taste food and drink beverages infused with CBD. The first pop-up was held last month in Livingston; the next one is scheduled for Jan.¬†31 at 18 Label Studios in Montclair. “There’s a great deal of entertainment¬†possibilities with cannabis,” said John Allen, co-owner of Canna Pop-Up.¬†“There’s a natural conduit with the culinary world ‚ÄĒ it’s a natural association.” For more information, visit¬†cannapopup.com¬†or call¬†856-454-3622.¬†

Big multi-purpose restaurants

Small plates may be in fashion, but when it comes to restaurant size, big is increasingly in.

A slew of restaurants have opened recently that can seat 100 or more. Among them: Montclair Social Club in Montclair (499 Bloomfield Ave.; 973 436-4200 montclairsocialclub.com); Somos in North Arlington (185 River Road; 201-621-0899 somosnj.com); Felina in Ridgewood (54 E. Ridgewood Ave.; 551-276-5454 felinarestaurant.com), Lefkes in Englewood Cliffs (495 Sylvan Ave., 201-408-4444; lefkesnj.com) and, set to open later this year, Faubourg in Montclair (544 Bloomfield Ave., 646-522-7109; faubourgmontclair.com). 

But these restaurants aren’t just big, they are compartmentalized, designed to target more than one kind of diner, offer more than one kind¬†of dining experience. Felina, for example, has a rooftop bar, the first in Ridgewood. It also has a private dining room in its wine cellar, a big bar area, and an open kitchen with a chef’s counter.¬†Somos has “The Plaza,” a bright front¬†room; “The Taverna,” a¬†cozy bar area with banquettes; and “The Mercado,” a section of music and private events.¬†

Faubourg too will have different areas. “We’re not building a small restaurant,” said Dominique Paulin, co-owner of Faubourg. “It’s a pretty big project that can be used for private dining, as a cocktail restaurant, and¬†as an outdoor get-together for a quick meal.” And of course as a place to enjoy French food cooked by Paulin’s partner, chef Olivier Muller. Both are Daniel Boulud alums.

Open kitchens 

Transparency is apparently not only desired in governments but restaurants. John Vitale of Caffe Anello and Sogno Coffee in Westwood, predicts that more and more restaurants will install kitchens that can be seen by the public.

“I think the open-kitchen concept is the future,” he said. “I think it’s an important key to the dining experience.” He noted that Caffe Anello always had an open kitchen,¬†“from the day we opened six years ago.”

Among the¬†restaurants with open kitchens: Turtle & the Wolfe in Montclair, Gayeon in Fort Lee, Common Lot in Millburn, MishMish in Montclair, Erie Coffeeshop¬†& Bakery in Rutherford,¬†Jockey Hollow¬†in Morristown, Pasta Shop in Denville; Viaggio in Wayne; Mr. Crabby’s in Randolph and¬†From Scratch in Ridgewood,¬†

That open-kitchen dining experience, said Vitale, “is the one thing you’re not going to be able to get from Amazon.”

Protein, protein, protein

Low-carb diet. Paleo diet. Atkins diet. Keto diet. Bet you’ve heard about these low-carb/high protein diets? Maybe you too have cut back on carbs and upped your protein intake.¬†According to local chefs, diners certainly have and will continue to in the year ahead.

“Protein¬†is always going to be the star,” said Vitale of Caffe Anello, “especially now that carbs are the enemy.” He reported that his Italian restaurant sells “way more protein dishes¬†than pasta and we make fresh-cut pasta.”¬†He added that all proteins sell more: chicken, steaks, duck, lamb.¬†“There’s a way larger uptick in protein.” But, Vitale¬†admitted, he hasn’t cut back on his carbs. “You’re not taking my carbs away,” he said.¬†

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Veggies, veggies, veggies 


Like so many chefs, Ariane Duarte, chef-owner of Ariane Kitchen & Bar in Verona (706 Bloomfield Ave.;¬†973-744-0533;¬†arianekb.com/kitchen) has seen more and more diners do¬†what mom always said to do: “Eat your vegetables.” More diners are looking for greens to help maintain their health and to, let’s face¬†it, assuage our¬†guilt about all our unhealthy choices.

“I’m ¬†working on my winter menu right now¬†and it’s got a lot of vegan and vegetarian dishes,” Duarte said. She¬†is, for example, swapping out her crab dip for a white bean dip. She is also offering a vegan beet dish with hummus and adding a “Latin” wedge salad that isn’t smothered in a blue cheese dressing “but a much lighter dressing.”¬†

Duarte is also planning on replacing¬†garlic fries with¬†fried zucchini sticks. “People still love fried foods,” she said. “They’re not going to feel guilty if it’s fried zucchini rather than fried potatoes.”¬†¬†

Leia Gaccione, owner/chef of South + Pine in Morristown¬†and Central + Main in Madison, adds that because her job is “to eat,¬†she tries to cook “very consciously,” that is make her food healthy. Which is why her restaurants have a ton of fresh salads on the menu that are delish, but two of my fave vegetarian options are the spaghetti squash and the rice bowl, which is the underdog. The rice bowl has sriracha,¬†tahini, pickles carrots, cucumbers, a heap of fresh cilantro, and can be topped with a fried egg.

More Middle Eastern and Asian restaurants

Renee Faris, chef-owner of Erie Coffeeshop¬†& Bakery in Rutherford and an avid food lover,¬†says “Middle-Eastern and Asian restaurants keep popping up in more and more places.” She, like many other chefs and restaurant industry insiders, expects more such restaurants to open¬†in the future.

Whole Foods too predicts¬†that Middle Eastern¬†spices like harissa, cardamom, and za’atar will¬†likely¬†show¬†up on menus more often. And what home¬†cook couldn’t¬†help but notice the aisles of Asian foods ‚ÄĒ kimchi, soba noodles, soy sauce, sushi ‚ÄĒ in nearly every supermarket.

Among Middle Eastern and Asian restaurants that have recently popped up in our area: Pelicana Chicken in Dumont; Pho Today in Fort Lee; Beijing Noodle in Fort Lee; Gogo Galbi, Paramus; SGD Dubu, Hackensack; Takaichi Ramen in Ho-Ho-Kus; Tojo’s Kitchen in Paramus; Naru in Franklin Lakes; T & Thai in Cliffside Park; and Marinade in Norwood. 

More faux meats

Heard of “The Impossible Burger”? It’s a burger made entirely using plants ‚ÄĒ primarily wheat, coconut oil and potatoes. It looks like meat, even has a slight red center. And many swear that it tastes like meat too.

It’s gone nationwide, being served at chains such as White Castle and BareBurger. The Barrow House in Clifton (296 Van Houten Ave.;¬†862-336-7070;¬†thebarrowhouse.com) serves it as well.¬†¬†And experts predict that¬†you will¬†see more of it and other types of meat substitutes in restaurants this year.¬†

More casual restaurants and casually dressed diners

George¬†Georgiades, chef-owner of Eons, the fast-casual Greek restaurant in Paramus and soon¬†Montvale too,¬†predicts that diners will continue to seek more casual dining spots and continue to dress down, no matter the occasion. “I¬†don’t¬†dress up for Thanksgiving anymore,” he said.¬†“My uncle showed up in a suit and tie this year.¬†He was the only one.”

Georgiades said that the other week he made a food delivery at St. John’s University in Queens (there’s an Eons in Fresh Meadows, Queens, too) and “everyone was in pajamas.”

He predicts that along with more casual wear there’s¬†going to be an increase in casual dining spots. “People want convenient, affordable and good quality food,” he said. “It costs at least $300 for a family of four to go dine in a fine-dine restaurant. Who can afford that?”¬†

According to a recently released report by Technomic, a company that surveys the food and beverage industry, fast-casual chains grew by 5.4 percent, more than any other sector of the restaurant industry. 

Less vodka, more gin and tequila 

Ahh, poor gin. For some time it was overlooked by vodka, that other colorless alcohol. But no more. Not according to bartenders and other industry experts.

Today gin is back in fashion.¬†Kathy Mahon, mixologist at Park West Tavern in Ridgewood, said that in the past, when diners ordered a martini, the tavern’s bartenders¬†always assumed it was vodka and asked, ‚ÄúWhat kind of vodka?‚Ä̬† “Now we ask, ‘Vodka or gin?'” she said. “Even younger people are drinking gin. It is¬†is more flavorful.” At Park West Tavern, Mahon offers a gin drink, dubbed Apple to Apple, using artisan gin Corgi from England as well as hard apple cider, filtered cider and lemon juice. “The artisan gins don’t taste like the old gins. They’re mild and flavorful.”

“People are getting away from vodka,” agreed chef Duarte of Ariane Kitchen & Bar. Besides drinking more gin, she said, they’re also drinking more tequila. “We have a¬†huge line of¬†tequilas,” she said,¬†adding that AKB’s signature jalapeno pineapple margarita continues to be a bestseller.¬†

Asked for her favorite cocktail, Mahon¬†admitted: “I’m a vodka drinker. I still haven’t found my way to gin.”

Forgotten classic cocktails 

Cocktails are the rage nowadays. And while new and sexy cocktails keep being created, classic cocktails are growing in popularity and bartenders predict will grow even more this year.¬†Especially those drinks that just haven’t gotten lots of love of late.

“There are more restaurants¬†offering a classic cocktail list apart from just a¬†seasonal list,” said NJ award-winning mixologist Carlos Ruiz, who is currently North Jersey craft specialist for¬†Fedway Associates. It’s a¬†trend that Ruiz applauds.

“This is great,” he said, because classics are simple enough to recreate at home and classics are a “good training for new bartenders.” Since they are the foundation of good cocktail making, classic cocktails will help mixologists¬†create seasonal and specialty cocktails too, he added

Mixologist Mahon of Park West Tavern said that one classic cocktail making a big comeback is the Negroni, which happens to be my cocktail of choice.

Happy to know I’m a trendsetter.

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