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2014 Food & Beverage Trends That Define the Nation’s Capital

December 4, 2013

In 2014, dining around the nation’s capital will make a return to the past with an innovative, contemporary spin.  Key food trends surfacing as 2013 comes to a close, include regionally-inspired meals from the city’s top toques, innovative vegetarian and gluten-free offerings, and new protein-focused compositions.  Linda Roth Associates, Inc. predicts these and other dining trends will be the focus of metropolitan diners, with the region becoming a showcase for modern twists on classic techniques.

Regional Influences Enter Quick Service

Location will be an even more significant factor when it comes to food, driving not only ingredients, but the inspiration and technique that shape menus.  In 2014, regional influences will spread to quick service concepts as well, as sophisticated diners look for affordable alternatives.  On Capitol Hill, DC-3 offers classic takes on regional American hotdogs like the Cincinnati Coney and Cincinnati style chili. Similarly, Smashburger’s arrival in the capital region brought the Capital Burger and Capital Chicken Sandwich, both exclusively offered in the DC area, with local favorite, applewood-smoked bacon.  One of the first local QSR chains to advocate for healthier options, sweetgreen has a menu chock-full of organic and locally-sourced ingredients as well as specials to reflect current seasons.  Chef Ris Lacoste, a longtime harbinger of mid-Atlantic cuisine, continues to source from farmers markets, but brings her hands-on relationships with purveyors to Union Market with her new RIS at Union Market, offering pantry staples and seasonal ingredients alongside quick take out RIS Bowls and fresh bakery items.  While American cooking continues to evolve and variety remains sought after, regional menus will become commonplace across all segments of the local industry.

No Meat? No Bread? No Problem.

As more and more people choose to dine out rather than cook at home, the need for greener, healthier options has become imperative for chefs and operators.  Locally-sourced has become a mantra, as restaurants are creating systems for regular delivery of fresh farm products, as well as visiting farm markets which now reach nearly every sector of the metro area. Food allergies may be a catalyst, as a growing awareness of food allergies has become apparent in every restaurant sector as well as every cuisine. Server training of food allergies is now mandatory is most restaurants, for health and dining reasons.  Vegetarian tasting menus are offered not only at the fast casual and casual sectors but also in fine dining, such as Chef Eric Ziebold’s  CityZen. Dupont Circle’s Café Dupont offers a dinner menu with a selection of vegetarian options for appetizers and entrees.  For the celiac or gluten shy, Chevy Chase hotspot Mi Cocina adapts traditional Tex-Mex dishes like fajitas or tacos del brisket to join the growing trend towards gluten-free dining. 

A Return to Simplicity

Through simpler ingredients and uncomplicated recipes, the New Year brings a fresh look on beloved favorites.  Ovvio, in Merrifield, Virginia is a classic Italian osteria that defines its “obvious” name with simple, satisfying foods like buttercrunch lettuce salad with dates -- highlighting the simplicity of today’s healthy dining options.   In 2014, Cafe Deluxe debuts updated straightforward American offerings like a house-made whole wheat flatbread topped with roasted grapes, tomatoes and creamy feta.  RIS continues to define delicious simplicity every day of the week with daily specials that range from classic meatloaf on Mondays to Sunday’s roast chicken with turnips, carrots, and kale.  As next year unfolds, more and more dining experiences will embrace ease in ingredients, design and service.

Spain & Virginia Ripen

Spain and Virginia emerge in 2014 as the new faces of finer wines in Washington restaurants.  Expect to see a swell of interesting varietals and new growers represented on heavily Spanish and local Virginia wine lists.  Doi Moi, in the heart of the 14th Street restaurant renaissance, already teams Asian cooking with the robust spice of Spanish grapes like Jerez de la Frontera, Ribera Sacra and Penedes. In Reston, Vinifera’s updated wine list features Spanish wines from the Rias Baixas and Rueda regions, as well as Virginia wines from Monticello and Barboursville, proving Virginia’s growing base of fine wine producers.  Although the wine list at Le Diplomate boasts many options from France, Virginia also has a strong presence representing growers in Charlottesville, Middleburg, Crozet and Linden.  A force to be reckoned with, Virginia is the nation’s fifth largest wine producer and is here to stay as winemakers continue to improve their volume and market share.

Adapting Concepts for 2014

Restaurant owners are adapting their concepts in 2014 to better fit new consumer demands.  David Kelly and Ciaran Sheehan plan to bring traditional Irish cuisine to Georgetown with Ri Ra Irish Pub.  The new location embraces its new expansive Irish whiskey bar, which complements the enhanced culinary program and chef-developed menu.  Ripple owner Roger Marmet will debut a more casual dining experience, Roofers Union, in DC’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, showcasing the full range of Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley’s repertoire, including house-made sausages.  As restaurateurs bring subtle changes to time tested favorites in 2014, they add a new dynamic to the local restaurant landscape.