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Tastiest food stories of 2013 & 2014 predictions

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As we clear the table from 2013, there are a number of issues and trends that will stay put for 2014. What we eat, how it grows (or is raised) and what is in it, points to one overriding issue – transparency with a capitol T. Have you heard of Carmine Cochineal, who cooks with the red beetles that are in your strawberry yogurt or red sports drink? More than 200,000 people watched her video Cooking with Carmine's Cooking with Bugs in 2013. Or do you know what is really in your wine glass? Beverage Grades can tell you. "Consumer's found a larger megaphone in 2013 to register their displeasure with what is in their food," says Doug Lynch, Vice President of Business Development for LycoRed, the company behind the popular Carmine's Cooking with Bugs video. LycoRed provides a vegetarian and vegan-friendly alternative to beetle-based food coloring.

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These are questions and issues raised by Americans in 2013 as they demand to know more about their food and drinks.They are not likely to go down the disposal any time soon. Here are a heaping handful of food trends from 2013 this food writer predicts will spill over in to 2014.

1. Uber-Local

Local meats and poultry, local seafood, local produce, hyper-local (restaurants that own farms) and local beer/wine/spirits is no longer a fad; it’s a trend that is here to stay. Local foods, similar to organic foods, have now evolved from a once quirky niche into a mainstream trend with further growth potential over the next five years,” (Local Foods: Shifting the Balance of Opportunity for Regional U.S. Produce,” a report produced by Rabobank’s Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory Group).

2. Better For You

Move over meat, vegetables, fruits and healthy grains are gaining prominence and taking up more of the plate. A kale salad is as common today as iceberg lettuce in the 70’s. Kid-friendly menus include fruits and vegetables, as well as baked not fried. And, gluten-free is no longer just about taking wheat off the menu but adding ancient grains like quinoa, red and black rice and freekeh. See more at Restaurant News.

3. Powerhouse Proteins

As carbs continue to stay backstage, proteins remain the headline. Got Milk?” is now “Got Protein?” and umami is the new flavor rage. Savory is a flavor theme for restaurants like Los Angeles Umami Burger and the Protein Bar® in Chicago, which offers vegetarian and non-veg proteins in all it’s food and drink items (new location opening in spring 2014 in Boulder, Colo). Local, heirloom pork remains the superstar, whether American BBQ, or trendy Asian and Peruvian ethnic cuisine. The unabashed roasted chicken is still a favorite for its value, though unless you are from the southeast United States, local sourcing remains a challenge for many restaurants.

4. Do No Harm

While the Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to ban large-size soft drinks gained national attention, another truth in labeling issue that called out ingredients like cochineal and carmine (ground up beetles in red food coloring) is gaining a frenzy of attention, particularly among vegetarians and vegans (see the video here,). FDA also called for a voluntary ban on the use of antibiotics in meat and poultry production. It’s all part of a bigger trend for food companies to think about the health and consumer choice implications of what is in food.

5. Truth in Labelling

Do no harm leads to truth and transparency in food, which overlapped from the plate to politics in 2013, with a number of ballot measures calling for labelling of Genetically Modified Foods (GMO). Expect more of this in 2014. Chipotle announced they will become the first restaurant to take GMO ingredients off the menu and Whole Foods is working toward in-store labeling of GMOs. Smaller independent restaurants say they too plan to remove all GMO ingredients from their menus. Since 2012, Chef Bradford Heap in Boulder, Colo has been removing all GMO ingredients from his pantry for both SALT and Colterra Restaurants. Expect to see more on this in 2014, as Boulder was named the city of choice of the Chef's Collaborative annual summitt for chef's seeking sustainable solutions in their kitchens and communities.

Lastly, for shoppers who wonder what is in their wine, in mid-December 2013 Beverage Grades launched. It’s a science-based tell-all website that uncovers what is in your wine glass – such as pesticides and sulfites – and even whether the quality of the wine is worth the price. I’ll drink to that for 2014!

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