Updated 6 yearss ago
The first taste of the new year may well be a small plate of thinly sliced octopus with slivers of jalapeno and tangerine.
Next could be a monster tomahawk ribeye or a butter-poached lobster. More likely however, it will be more small plates, lamb meatballs and polenta, artichoke/fennel hash, lobster sliders, gator hushpuppies, warm olives and almonds.
Call them starters, apps, bar food, antipasti, mezze, sushi, antojitos or tapas, small plates now often outnumber and outdo traditional entrees 30 years after Americans were introduced to “the little dishes of Spain.”
In some restaurants, the entire fare is small plates, or as one menu has it, small and “slightly larger.” In that case not a big plate, but a $16 bowl of house-made pasta with pancetta, arugula, Crotone cheese and lemon parsley breadcrumbs.
If food plates are smaller, some prices can get larger. More fine restaurants offer tasting menus at $100 and up, and trendy cocktails will take most of a $20 bill.
Large or small, the plates increasingly hold corn, greens and eggs from Florida’s growing farm-to-table purveyors — with more local catch like rock shrimp and hometown craft beers, too. Latin flavors are the other culinary pole pulling Florida taste buds, from Peru and Central America as well as Mexico and Spain’s Catalan and Basque regions. In Asian cuisine, Korean accents are showing up.
Good news for vegetable haters: The kale moment may have passed. Bad news? Cauliflower is on the comeback. And we can all welcome sweet parsnips.
As chefs stock up on produce, they’ll have more and better vegetarian and vegan entrees and offerings.
That’s good, because beef will remain dear. Look for trophy cuts to top $50, which makes lamb, veal and buffalo more competitive, from burgers to porterhouse. Look for affordable beef in short ribs, teres major and hanger steaks and still more pork in monster chops and osso buco-style shanks.
Diners can fill out their plates with a range of pasta shapes and sizes and bushels of quinoa, farro, spelt and other grains.