In praise of craft beer and cured meats (survey)

Passion for suds puts craft beer at No.

The craft beer craze isn't going away anytime soon, according to a survey of nearly 500 Canadian chefs.

For the second year in a row, craft and micro brews have taken the top spot on the Canadian Chef Survey of the 10 hottest restaurant trends in the country.

Millennials and their taste for artisanal products have helped boost craft beer's popularity, according to Donna Dooher, president and CEO of Restaurants Canada.

"They want to know the story,'' she said. "They want to know the craft behind the beer, it's locally sourced water, all those things that are very important touch points for them and their decision-making process when it comes to purchases.''

READ: Grocery Gateway to deliver craft beers this holiday

Charcuterie and house-cured meats ranked second on the trends list released Wednesday.

"I thought it had peaked out a few years ago, but it's still going strong,'' she said. ``It's coming back to the use of the secondary cuts of meat so I think it is tied to the craft, the artisan, the secondary cuts and that's what's keeping it very fresh on the list.''

House-made condiments and sauces topped a separate list of top 10 up-and-comers and also ranked sixth among the top trends.

Dooher said chefs are honouring the roots of Canadian cuisine by experimenting with pickling and condiments as well as food smoking, the No. 5 hottest trend.

"A lot of those techniques are being brought back into the mainstream kitchen and smoking, of course, was a technique that was used and now we're seeing a lot of young chefs adapting this technique and bringing it to life on their menus,'' she said.

READ: Grocery stores dip a tentative toe into beer sales: report

Micro-distilled/artisan liquor is No. 5 on the up-and-comer list, but Dooher expects it to be one of the top three trends in 2017.

Those surveyed also cited inexpensive and underused cuts of meat, like beef cheek, brisket, pork shoulder and skirt steak, which ranked eighth on the hot trends list.

"We see these secondary cuts are actually packed with flavour and nutrition and people are recognizing there is a lot of value to them,'' said Dooher. ``That and also driven by the high cost of beef that we're experiencing today.''

Other items on the top trend list include ethnic sauces, locally sourced foods, gluten-free/food allergy conscious, organic produce and leafy greens.

The up-and-comers list features several first-timers: alternative pulse proteins such as pigeon peas, cranberry beans and black beluga lentils, chef-driven fast casual concepts, ethnic cheeses and house-made/artisan pickles.

Almost 500 professional chefs across the country participated in the survey between Jan. 11 and Feb. 1.

The survey, which was sponsored by Saputo, comes out ahead of the Feb. 28-March 1 Restaurants Canada trade show in Toronto.

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