This is the inaugural installment of "Eat This List" - a regularly recurring list of things chefs, farmers, writers and other food experts think you ought to know about.
As managing editor of Eatocracy, I'm lucky enough to get to travel and eat all over the country, both for work and because it's what I love to do. I've seen some trends (in addition to the ubiquitous charcuterie, pickles, aged cocktails, salted caramel desserts, and foraged tidbits) start popping up in restaurants from coast to coast, and in 2013, here are a few I'm hoping will catch on.
1. Lots and lots and lots of tater tots
Just have fun with great house-made sauces, toppings, herbs and flavorful oils. The Company Burger in New Orleans (tots pictured above) hand-makes a bunch of different flavored mayos, ketchup, mustard and other toppings every day, and they're insanely delicious. Restaurateurs - please consider hopping on the tot train.
3. Southern dishes with actual ingredients from the South in them
4. Grain and vegetable-based entrees that aren't an afterthought
5. A nutria in every pot!
Nutria, for example, is a giant water-born rodent – but many chefs compare the taste to that of a succulent rabbit. It's all about consumer perception. "You start to stretch our food imagination, we can take it in sorts of great directions," says Zimmern. Other chefs, such as New Haven, Connecticut's Bun Lai, are putting seafood like the predatory lionfish on their menu in an attempt to acclimate diners' palates to foods that make a minimal - or negative - impact on the environment.
Honorable mentions: barrel-aged hot sauces, house-made vinegars, a rash of radishes and Tokyo turnips by the bushel - but we'll talk about that when Spring rolls around.
Got someone you want to hear from? Let us know in the comments and we'll try to track them down. Shoutout to Sarah LeTrent who did the heavy lifting on our invasive species investigation.