Chifa and Nordic-influenced cuisine, nut-based spreads, visual filters, sour beers and upcycling of ingredients are among the top dining trends of the new year according to Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants' fourth annual Culinary & Cocktails Trend Forecast. From dishes like Choereg Bread with Za'atar to Vadouvan Curried Carrots (pictured), the trends of 2018 are sure to spark imaginations at your next meeting or event.

Kimpton said its forecast not only covers the culinary and cocktail flavors and ingredients chefs and bartenders plan to experiment with in 2018, but also showcases what's next in culinary and cocktail philosophies, experiential dining and design, as well as innovative trends in beer, wine and coffee.

The Culinary & Cocktails Trend Forecast findings were uncovered via an extensive survey of leading chefs, sommeliers, general managers and bartenders from 80+ acclaimed Kimpton restaurants, bars and lounges across 37 cities in the U.S. as well as properties in Europe and the Caribbean.

"Kimpton chefs and bartenders pushed the envelope with their exploration of international spices, regional influences and unexpected flavor profiles, as well as the social and cultural drivers transforming today's dining experience," said Alex Taylor, Kimpton's senior vice president of restaurants & bars.

Here are Kimpton’s palate-expanding trends that will capture the hearts of culinary enthusiasts in 2018.

Top Culinary Trends:

Meat Alternatives Go Mainstream

  • A majority of Kimpton chefs said plant-based proteins such as tempeh or beet burgers will disrupt menus and win the hearts of vegetarians and omnivores alike.
  • Thirty-one percent of chefs think vegan and nut- or seed-based spreads like sunflower butter and cashew cream cheese will give avocado toast a run for its money.

Regional Influences

  • Expect to see more Nordic food influences, featuring fresh and colorful ingredients like carrots, cabbage and beets, and the embrace of alternative berries including juniper and lingonberries. From beet-cured salmon with dill cream cheese, cucumber, shaved fennel and pickled mustard seeds to pan-seared arctic char, Nordic flavors and techniques will be in full swing in 2018.
  • A rise in Chifa cuisine, the fusion of Cantonese and Peruvian food, provides more evidence of South America's growing influence on the global culinary scene.
  • Reimagined Mexican cuisine and creative twists on classic Mexican dishes will find their way onto menus in 2018. Try the trend with chorizo-stuffed dates or octopus tacos.

Emerging Spices

  • Spices like Za'atar, a traditional Middle Eastern blend of familiar and obscure flavors from sumac to thyme, and Vadouvan, the French interpretation of Indian curry and Kampot pepper—an elusive spice found only in the Kampot Province of Cambodia—will rise in popularity.

Dessert Flavors

  • Thirty-eight percent of chefs agreed that sweet dessert flavors such as Meyer lemon, strawberry, blueberry and blood orange will infiltrate savory courses to create dishes like crispy artichokes and Dungeness crab with ember-blistered lemon curd or an avocado parfait with yogurt and cucumber.

Throwback to Classic Dishes

  • Think French onion soup, bone-in steak, tartare and pork chops. These dishes bring nostalgic food memories to the table but with a fresh perspective.

Visual Elements

  • Instagram culture is here to stay. A majority of Kimpton chefs said their 2018 menu planning will include consideration of full sensory dishes that treat diners to socially shareable moments.

Leading Cocktail Trends:

Variations on a Classic

  • Ninety-one percent of Kimpton bartenders say they plan to use vegetables in a cocktail in 2018—and we're not just talking garnishes. Bartenders are embracing nontraditional vegetables like beets, carrots, green beans, butternut squash, corn and radishes.
  • Nine out of ten Kimpton bartenders say they'll go beyond traditional Irish coffee to create coffee cocktails with a twist, from a Turkish espresso with aged rum and agave infused with cacao nibs to a surprisingly sophisticated cardamom-coffee vermouth Manhattan.

Regional Influences

  • Nordic influences will find their way onto drink menus with Scandinavian ingredients like bramble shrub, dill, rhubarb and aquavit. For a classic sour with Scandinavian and traditional fall flavors, try the Aurora Kiruna, featuring Brennivin cask aged aquavit, Absolut Elyx, spiced cranberry syrup and lemon.
  • A growing interest in Japanese whisky, popular with whisky drinkers looking for a lighter, cleaner, floral alternative to American whisky. There are cocktails inspired by Japanese highballs with influences of soft fruit and spice all the way up to herbaceous and smoky.

Visual Elements

  • Eighty percent of Kimpton bartenders said they would create a cocktail in part for their visual appeal on social media with vibrant colors, unique vessels and inventive garnishes ranging from elegant (a flowering herb bouquet) to eclectic (a miniature rubber ducky).

Responsible Practices

  • Health conscious consumers will increase demand for cocktails with healthy add-ins like turmeric or ginger that provide alternatives to sugary drinks and minimize calories.
  • An emphasis on sustainability has led to creative upcycling of ingredients and reduced waste, with 71 percent of Kimpton bartenders noting sustainability as a key consideration for cocktail design in 2018. Examples of sustainability in action include making citrus stock from used citrus peels, using compostable straws, and using whole fruits and vegetables in cocktails.

New Wine, Beer and Coffee Trends:

  • New ways with rosé—Rosé will continue its rise with increased interest in dry rosé, sparkling rosé and the emergence of new single-vineyard unique rose varietals.
  • "The art of the blend”—taking the art of mixology to the world of wine by creating new exciting flavor combinations as well as personalized blends for every palate.
  • Alternative wine packaging for small batch and unique varietals—we'll see interesting ways to enjoy these special wine experiences through the exploration of nontraditional vessels such as edible glassware and repurposed household items like teapots, mini flower pots and vases.
  • An upswing in German-style Gose beers, or other sour beers, which offer adventurous beer drinkers a crisp beer with a touch of tartness and herbal sub-tones (typically from coriander).

The Latest in Philosophies, Experiential Dining and Design

  • Pop-ups and chef takeovers are still going strong, with creative new executions.
  • Honest materials and earthen ceramics will add authenticity and warmth to dining experiences, such as a salad with local lettuces and flowers served on an earthen solid wood plate.
  • Experiential—today's diners expect more out of a restaurant than just the food itself. From ambient lighting to the curation of the music selection, it's all about the holistic experience.

For more information on this year's Culinary & Cocktail Trend Forecast including survey findings, recipes, infographics and more insights from Kimpton chefs and bartenders, visit the Kimpton Hotels website.