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Sunday, December 26, 2010

2011 Food & Dining Trends

2011 Food Trends
I love reading trend reports and like a horoscope I scan to see what I agree with and what I don't. I hope you enjoy my predictions for what and how we will be eating and drinking in 2011! Agree or disagree, let me know your predictions and opinions in the comments section.

1. Farmers and other producers are stepping further into the limelight as we grow weary of celebrity chefs. Did I just say that? Without naming any names, let's just say some chefs seem a bit overexposed. Lots of cookbooks in 2010 featured farmers, farms and locally grown produce. Farmers markets and eating local continued to grow in popularity as people discovered how good truly fresh produce tastes. Some of the best cookbooks featuring farmers this year were Growing Roots: The New Generation of Sustainable Farmers, Cooks, and Food Activists, Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods, Eating Local:The Cookbook Inspired by America's Farmers and my favorite, Harvest to Heat: Cooking with America's Best Chefs, Farmers, and Artisans.

2. Wild ingredients. This might be the next big thing after eating "local." Some are calling it "forest to table." Foraging won't be limited to mushrooms, but will include all kinds of unfamiliar ingredients from sea rocket to miner's lettuce and cucumber root. Haut cuisine chefs are already seeking out obscure but local wild ingredients. Daniel Patterson and Noma chef Rene Redzepi captivated their audience in San Francisco earlier this year when they spoke on the subject and handed out samples. Look for classes on wild ingredients and foraging expeditions.

unorthodox dining
3. Unorthodox dining options. Pop ups, food trucks, market stalls, underground supper clubs. It's not new, but the phenomenon just keeps growing. The difficult economy has inspired great creativity when it comes to tweaking traditional food business models. In San Francisco the restaurant within a restaurant took hold in the form of Mission Chinese Food, in residence at Lung Shan. Both entities seem to be thriving under the new arrangement. And pastry chefs have been branching out beyond restaurants to offer all kinds of exciting treats including ice cream, candy and cookies, find them at farmer's markets, pop ups, ice cream shops and more. A good example? William Werner's Tell Tale Society that offers a CSA-like monthly package of assorted sweets.

4. More interesting cocktails, beyond just vodka drinks. I think whisky and gin will continue to gain in popularity, but also the full range of browns--bourbon, rum, rye, tequila, and cognac. Rum in particular seems poised for a revival, punches and Tiki bars and tropical drinks are definitely back in vogue, examples include Smuggler's Cove in San Francisco and The Hurricane Club in NYC. Now will someone please let Miami know? Drinks there are stuck in the 80's!

5. Technology is making inroads into the dining room. Some examples include Qsine the Celebrity cruise line restaurant where iPads are used as menus for food and wine, location aware check-ins and online dining discounts being offered by start-ups like Groupon and BlackboardEats, and an OpenTable iPhone app for making restaurant reservations on the fly.

6. Fusion is back! Actually I'm not sure it ever went away, but right now, it's not a dirty word. It's not just high end cuisine that is combining French and Japanese, you'll also find it often with street food, and in more everyday restaurants too. David Chang makes bacon dashi and Dennis Lee of Namu makes Gamja fries with kimchee relish, teriyaki, and chopped short ribs. Other favorite bites in this category include Korean tacos, mole duck sliders, Japanese ceviche, ube red velvet cupcakes, Indian pizza.

7. Offshoots, gastropubs and burgers. Even the most high end restaurants need something to appeal to the masses. Look for more big name chefs and restaurants to open accessible restaurants, cafes and even airport kiosks. The tastiest food I bought in an airport this year came from Icebox Cafe in Miami, a trendy Lincoln Road favorite.

8. More ethnic fast casual. Call them chains or just multiple outlets, these restaurants have hit on a formula that resonates. Local examples include Out the Door, King of Thai Noodles, Papalote and Pica Pica. I can only hope we will see more Japan-based high quality ramen shops open up as they have in places in Honolulu.

savory sweets
9. Savory sweets. I'd love to tell you that cupcakes are going away. But they aren't. However they are morphing as are other trendy desserts, and taking on adult and savory profiles. Butch Bakery makes cupcakes flecked with bacon, and infused with everything from beer to brandy. Foie gras ice cream has appeared in San Francisco, LA and in Montreal, meanwhile soft serve vanilla ice cream topped with olive oil and salt is becoming a dessert menu standard. At last year's Winter Fancy Food Show Fabrique Delices was sampling savory macarons then at Boutique Point G. in Montreal I discovered crazy but delicious flavors including white truffle, parmesan and green olive. New York based Little Oven sells olive oil and balsamic macarons.

10. Sustainable meat. While offal has been trendy there often isn't that much of it available. With the concern over health, safety and the general nightmare that is concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO), I think there will be renewed interest in rabbit, animals that graze such as pasture raised lamb, bison, venison and goats as well as organic and grass-fed beef. I also think less used cuts will be more popular such as veal breast and lamb riblets.