To British Columbia's indignant fooderati, 2012 will be remembered as the year that enRoute magazine failed to name a single regional restaurant in its list of top 10 best new restaurants. How dare they! (Perhaps because there were no restaurants interesting enough to nominate.)
Every culinary field goes through a fallow period. But will 2013 reap an award-worthy harvest?
Looking ahead, The Dish has created a fictional restaurant review based on up-and-coming trends we expect to see much more of in the next 12 months. Please note: Café Trendy is not real. Any resemblance to local restaurants, thriving or bankrupt, is purely coincidental.
000 Main Drag, Vancouver
Cuisine: Whatever will impress the editors of enRoute's best new restaurant awards
Welcome to Café Trendy, the hottest new bistro in Vancouver. Why are all the cool cats dying to come here? Because they can't get a reservation. Ever.
Like many new restaurants (Flying Pig, Espana, Nicli Antica, Sardine Can), reservations are simply not accepted. Old-fashioned diners may moan about this increasingly common first-come, first-serve policy. I don't understand their whining. Seriously, when does the average Vancouverite ever make plans more than 24 hours in advance? (Ask anyone who works at the box office for a local performing arts company.)
We do, however, appreciate that Café Trendy will jot down your cell number and call when a table is free instead of forcing everyone to wait in line.
Hop up and take a seat. Yes, these are indeed hay bales covered with cowhides. What an ingenious way of pushing urban-farmhouse chic forward now that every last scrap of splintered barn board from here to Coquitlam has already been reclaimed (blame Oakwood Bistro, Fable, Wildebeest, etc., etc.).
Looking for a printed menu? How quaint. At Café Trendy, the menus are custom iPad programs with nifty interactive features. Wondering about the provenance of the pork tenderloin? Tap on the links to watch a video of the daily special when it was still a living, snorting Berkshire pig feeding on milk and molasses.
Café Trendy could have gone the other way, with handwritten menus scrawled across their tables' brown butcher paper. If anything, 2013 promises to be a year of polarized extremes.
May we suggest a cocktail? Yes, it is meant to be swigged from the bottle. Glasses are so 2012. Ripped off from, er, inspired by Jamie Boudreau, the self-proclaimed Cocktail Whisperer at Canon Whiskey and Bitters Emporium in Seattle, Café Trendy's premixed craft cocktails are individually packaged in 375 ml mickeys. No, you can't take the bottle to go.
Dinner begins with raw turnips – wilted leaves and dirt-encrusted roots still attached – buried in foamy skyr, sprinkled with milk-wafer crumble and hazelnut soil, presented on a bed of smoking fir tips.
Haven't heard of skyr? You will. This thick, strained sheep's milk (first seen locally at Wildebeest) is just one of many Scandinavian-style curds and whey borrowed from new Nordic cuisine, the big culinary trend in Vancouver this year.
Next up is bone marrow, naturally. If you haven't yet heard, bone marrow is the new bacon. The gelatinous tissue spooned from large bones has recently appeared on so many menus (Uva, Wildebeest, Le Parisien, Flying Pig, Oakwood Canadian Bistro, Pourhouse, among others) it has been difficult to keep count.
This being Vancouver, where no soup, salad or dessert has ever been spared an Asian-flecked tweak, Café Trendy serves its panko-breaded, pan-seared marrow between soft, squishy bao buns with a squeeze of sriracha mayo.
I advise you to steer clear of the steak. Not just at Café Trendy, but at any restaurant that doesn't specialize in premium cuts. After last fall's E. coli outbreak at an Alberta processing plant, many Canadian food sellers have voluntarily stopped needling their steaks for tenderization. The result? Tougher meat.
For dessert? A carrot. But not just any old carrot. This garden-fresh heirloom baby carrot is caramelized, served on a bed of hazelnut praline with dollop of white chocolate mousse. As seen everywhere from Copenhagen's Noma (Jerusalem artichoke ice cream) to Wildebeest (chocolate sorbet with diced celery root), vegetables are taking centre stage in the final course.
If you don't enjoy this new sweet veggie trend, you could always order an appetizer at the end the meal (refer above to skyr) and your dessert as a salad.
Don't even bother asking for an espresso. Espresso beverages are so grungy Third Wave (which, according to serious coffee connoisseurs, peaked in Seattle about the same time that Kurt Cobain died and Starbucks went mainstream).
At Café Trendy, the coffee is a single-origin Kenyan peaberry – aged, lightly roasted and steeped in a four-minute pour-over. Yes, it is supposed to be the colour of weak tea and taste slightly sour with a blueberry finish. Don't like it? Go to Blenz.