Before the holidays I touched on 2018 food trends in Door County, pointing out the growth of international cuisine offerings, a presence of new food establishments that don’t conform to traditional eateries, and the fact that delicious, high-quality food is no longer relegated to tables with white linen. Now that the new year has come, it’s time to look ahead and see what may be in store for Door County foodies in 2019.
Rotating Specials, Themes & Pop-Ups
Food as a one-of-a-kind (and perhaps fleeting) experience is climbing the ladder of diners’ wish lists. If a food establishment can offer a new approach to eating or a limited-time experience, it will bring curious consumers in the door. A handful of places in the county have discovered the appeal of “one-night-only” style dining. Door County Underground had a successful first season serving up a unique, local-focused menu weekly at Savory Spoon Cooking School and Roots Inn & Kitchen. The La Cena series serving Oaxacan food at Heirloom on Friday nights in December was often sold out. And Trixie’s Monday night pasta nights and Whistling Swan’s casual nights draw in new and returning customers each week. Shaking things up from the normal menu encourages loyal and unfamiliar customers to stop by and sample the latest flavors. The shift toward the “experiences over material items” frame of mind has visitors looking for dining experiences that stand out; diners want something different and exciting they can recount later to friends or share on their social feed. Of course, the concept isn’t totally new (Al Johnson’s goats are well aware), but it might now be the gold standard for success.
A Continuation of Healthier Indulgences
The field of nutrition is ever-evolving and has been helped along by food scientists, food bloggers, podcasters and athletes who are all looking for the best, most healthful way to pursue a diet while also allowing food to be an enriching and tasty experience. The good news is that this movement has changed our attitudes toward eating indulgently. Eating indulgently and with great enjoyment doesn’t have to mean eating something that is bad for your health or a catalyst for post-meal regret. Door County farmers markets, CSAs and local farm stands are working hard to put local, fresh produce in your kitchen and on local menus. Chefs around the county are sourcing fresh, high-quality ingredients; looking for organic options; and finding ways to make super delicious dishes using unprocessed, real and raw food. As an example, Brussels sprouts don’t often fall high on favorite food lists, but the roasted Brussels sprouts at Whistling Swan were one of my favorite dishes this past fall. In the summer, an appetizer of cheesy, spicy potatoes from Parador topped my list. Both dishes were savory and indulgent, but also fresh and made from scratch.
The Resurrection of ‘Fast Food’
The term fast food has been banished to the exiles of most foodies’ vocabularies, but it may have a chance to redeem itself. Hear me out. If the term can be pivoted from its ties to traditional fast food (preservative-filled, nutrient-lacking, drive-thru meals) to describe establishments serving up quick, fresh options, then, perhaps the new fast food can come to mean delicious, nutrient-dense and freshly made food served outside the traditional model of a formal meal service. Places such as Culinaria, Cloud Nine and Heirloom Cafe are focused on crafting high-quality, grab-and-go cuisine that is leaps and bounds above the grocery deli counter selections. When time is of the essence and the sun is shining, I see this new version of fast food being a popular option for many visitors and locals who are hungry for quality food, but more eager to hit the beach or trails.
And A Dash of Nostalgia
Have you noticed how some things get to be trendy simply because they’ve been around long enough to go from being benign to suddenly a fixture of foodie culture? (Take LaCroix for example). The same is set to happen with the supper club crowd. While most establishments are quick to evolve, some places benefit from never having changed at all. These fixtures of the food industry are cozying up to the millenials (and predictably the Gen Z diners one day) who are discovering they enjoy a bit of nostalgia. No, this audience isn’t about to make it their Friday night tradition, but it’s certainly high on the hit list during a weekend getaway. While fish fries and Old Fashioneds never really fell out of favor, they are definitely signed up for the long haul of foodie favoritism.