Lemon tops the list of 2014 menu trend predictions

Brand development company Sterling-Rice Group has identified its top 10 food trend predictions for menus and supermarket shelves in 2014.

SRG said consumers will continue to seek healthy options, but with an occasional indulgent splurge in the coming year. These food trends are expected to go mainstream:

Lemon: As a brightener of dressings and sauces, lemon will move to a main ingredient in its purest freshest juice or preserved form. "Lemon is pure. Lemon is versatile. Lemon is nostalgic. For those reasons, it — and not other citruses — will be the flavor of next year. It ties into the cuisines of the Mediterranean, which are growing in popularity. Plus, it brings back memories of lemonade afternoons, Grandma's lemon bars, and summer desserts with lemon meringue pie," said Kazia Jankowski, associate culinary director at SRG.

Tea leaves: Black, green, and other leafy brews will bring a twist to dinner, desserts and more.

The Middle Eastern Mediterranean: Middle Eastern seasonings such as sumac, za'atar and marash will expand the flavor profile of traditional Mediterranean cuisine.

Nut dairy: Milk made from cashews, almonds and peanuts bring dairy-free flavors to sauces, drinks and dinners. "As chefs began to experiment with nut milks in order to meet the needs of dairy-intolerant diners, there was a realization that almonds and cashews, in particular, yield amazing milk and, by extension, sauces, ice creams, and bases," said David Berenson, founder and product developer at Real Food Matters.

Yolk: The creamy yolk will add richness previously provided by cheese, dairy and sauces. For example, Josephine House in Austin, Texas, offers a chicken panade with a sunny-side-up egg, and Blackbird in Chicago features an heirloom tomato salad with cured egg yolk.

Refined classic American eats: Wedge salads in creamy Caesar and other upscale classics will take center plate.

Poaching and Steaming: Wine, coffee, beer and smoky liquids replace water for more flavor.

Seaweed: Nutritious and full of salty flavor, seaweed shows up as a snack, umami-rich seasoning and more.

Non-traditional pastas: Noodles made of alternative flours, seasoned with global spices, and formed into new shapes of all sizes, will move into the spotlight.

New farm-to-table flavors: Exotic meat — goat, rabbit and pigeon — raised by small-scale producers offer new protein choices. For example, Bar Ama in Los Angeles sells a slow-roasted Cabrito, and young Boer goat. Le Pigeon in Portland, Ore., features jerk pigeon on the menu, and Berbician Royal Foods sells rabbit ravioli.

The 2014 Top Ten Food Trends were compiled by SRG's culinary council — a team of more than 100 chefs, restaurateurs and foodies.

Read more about food trends.

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