Last year, I got hooked on Starbucks' salted caramel mochas. I'm salivating right now just thinking about them. But all that whipped, sweet and salty goodness tips the scale on the plus side of 500 calories and thus I've pledged to wean myself off them in 2013. My belly and pocketbook - if not my tastebuds - are sure to thank me.
Salted caramel was a huge trend in the world of food and beverage in 2012. That, and bacon. Bacon was everywhere - in your marmalade, in your protein shake, in your martini. Yup, bacon martinis, made possible by bacon-infused vodka, glass rimmed with bacon grease and garnished with crispy fried bacon bits. Who could resist?
I'm sure the consumer love affair with bacon will continue, but what else will be "in" at the table for 2013?
- Digital menus
Expect your food, wine, beer and cocktail lists to start going new age by being presented at the table on tablets in bars and restaurants. There's already new iPad and Android applications in place, including E-Menu, EasyMenu and Menuative, that are revolutionizing the way diners preview and order their food and beverage. Using the tablet, diners can swipe, and tap through the menu, look at pictures of food, read nutritional information, and get suggestions for wine pairings. It's easy for restaurateurs to update their menu and offer daily specials without worrying about a print run.
Hand-mixed skinny cocktails
A plethora of "skinny" pre-mixed drinks and even wines hit the shelves in 2012. Most of them, especially the wines, left me flat. Mixologists have caught on to the hype and shaken up a stunning range of recipes that will deliver on taste while cutting way back on calories. One only has to Google "skinny cocktails" to find hundreds of options
- Artisan spirits
A couple months ago, I attended a tasting at Okanagan Spirits and was impressed with the range and quality of their products. It was an experience to sip the smooth house-made vodka, sample high-end caviar and see the large copper still at work making cherry brandy in their downtown Kelowna shop. In addition to the vodka and brandy, Okanagan Spirits produces absinthe, aquavit, grappa and a variety of liqueurs. It is set to release its first single malt whisky - all using locally-sourced ingredients. Like it has done with wine, B.C. is poised to become the premiere region for the distilling of artisan spirits with producers in the Okanagan and the gulf islands.
- Wine and food "stations"
Group sit-down dinner parties are fussy and tiresome to organize and few people have the time or inclination to do so. They're just as tedious to attend and don't allow for comfortable socialization and natural flow of conversation. Thus, most private soirees have been reduced to cocktail parties to which people schlep their beverages in brown bags and are fed uninspiring store-bought
A new trend is emerging, where hosts forgo the formal dinner and set up food and wine tasting stations, modelled after popular public wine functions. The food stations usually consist of one bite samples of a particular cuisine - prepared and portioned in advance. Next to them are the wine stations, featuring bottles complementary to the food. To keep costs down, hosts can still request BYOB, but make suggestions on what wine each guests should bring.
I have a small library of notebooks I've filled with wine tasting notes and a binder full of product sheets. But since getting my iPhone, I've pretty much set aside my pen and now record my thoughts on the wines I sample with a voice application. It's particularly useful in situations when carrying a pen and notepad around would be awkward, such as at festivals or wine dinners. I also have an app for keeping track of my wine cellar inventory, one that provides wine and food pairing suggestions and a silly one that simulates a glass of wine. Our increasingly mobile world, not to mention social networking options, such as blogging, Twitter and Facebook, have revolutionized how we learn about and share our experiences wines. These are no passing trends - they're only going to get bigger.
Painted Rock 2009 Red Icon
Savoury nose of peppery, leather, black office and baking spice with black cherry and plum. A meaty wine with dark chocolate, black fruit, coffee bean, vanilla flavours and spicy, hot, herbal finish. The tannins are pretty chewy.
Winery location: Skaha Bench south of Penticton
Van Westen 2006 Voluptuous
Lovely dark floral petals and baking spices up front with dark cherry, chocolate, butterscotch aromas. The palate is packed with ripe black fruits, dried cranberry, vanilla bean, mocha, leather and some savoury herbal flavours. Tannins are a bit grippy on the finish.
Winery location: Naramata Bench
Julianna Hayes' Grape Expectations runs weekly in The Okanagan Sunday. Reach her at