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Archive for the ‘Trends’ Category

2010 Food Trends

Last year’s food trends included fried chicken, grits and just about any dish with an egg on it. This year, people are craving comforting, “home-cooked” foods not only at home, but in restaurants as well.  In 2010, it’s all about the meatballs. They are easy to prepare, affordable, and diverse. You can find them just about everywhere around the world. Spaghetti with meatballs and meatball subs tend to be common dishes, but the potential for them is endless. From frying, to baking, slow cooking and broiling, meatballs can be prepared a number of ways and still taste delicious. Cultures around the world use meatballs, made from a variety of meats and prepared in numerous ways!

A related trend emerging from the economic conditions is the use of basic ingredients. This doesn’t necessarily mean we’re preparing gravy from flour and water alone – on the contrary, Americans are redefining the staple ingredients in a kitchen. The days of dinner specific grocery shopping are gone for now, and we are buying in bulk, preparing for several dishes using the same ingredients. As chefs and restaurants are also feeling the effects of the economy, we will see this trend spill into our restaurant dining experiences, too.

Even with the down economy, our health concerns will continue in 2010. It’s no longer enough for a food not to have “trans-fats” or “processed sugars” – these have come to be expected options among mainstream grocery items. Now we are also demanding the foods actually become proactively beneficial. Although “gluten-free” and “allergy-free” are still growing in popularity, many food producers are also turning to additives, like Omega-3’s and other vitamins, to make their foods more appealing, and better for us. With nutrition education increasing all the time, it’s as important as ever for manufacturers to be aware of the ingredients and nutrition facts behind their products. Even in this economy, many are still willing to pay a little extra for their health.

Our last food trend may be familiar, but probably not at the top of many consumer’s lists. Sardines are taking hold in the cuisine of many California-based seafood restaurants. During the 1950’s sardines were over fished (yes, people ate them that much!), but the fish are making a comeback. Fresh sardines are usually served fried, bones and all of course. If it’s any consolation to the “acquired” taste, sardines are packed (no pun intended) with nutrients and omega oils, without the mercury content of tuna!

Small Plates: A Trend or Newly Refined Dining?

What started out as a trend in big cities like Los Angeles and New York has begun to trickle down and is becoming more mainstream.  The idea of smaller portions is turning into a growing preference of many restaurant patrons, due mostly in part to the convergence of four trends.

  1. The success of tasting menus – Today’s society encourages indecisiveness.  Consumers want to sample multiple dishes and not be confined to one entree decision.  Tapas and other types of tasting menus are becoming increasingly popular.
  2. Broader knowledge of food – Food TV, food magazines, newspaper sections are dedicated to educating the average consumer about cuisine.  These consumers have become more interested in trying or sampling some of the ideas they have seen or heard about.
  3. Desire for variety – Sometimes having just one dish is boring, but sharing a few smaller dishes with friends makes your restaurant experience more fun!  Everyone can comment on their likes and dislikes, sparking easy conversation over dinner.
  4. “Less is more” – The age old saying applies to most situations and food is no exception.  Health concerns and the economy have both contributed for consumers wanting to lessen their portion sizes.  Although many times tasting menu’s end up being more filling, the idea of having a little of everything puts many consumers minds at ease.

Although some research on this topic has pointed toward the term “recession dining,” I don’t feel this is the case.  The fact is, the revolution of small plates is not an economic trend and is here to stay.  Small plates are on the menu at all types of restaurants, fine dining and corporate alike.  From TGI Friday’s “Right portion right price” menu to Seasons 52’s menu; two very different establishments with different target markets, but both adapting their business models toward smaller portions that encourage continuous ordering.

Whatever the reason for the change, smaller plates are changing the dynamic of casual and fine dining.  These plates are meant to be shared, so get together with a group of friends, order a few small plates, and try some different things.  Best of all, if you try something you do not like, move on to the next plate!

Here are a few great “small plate” recipes you can try, too!

Summer Food Trends

The smell of the steaks on the grill, the taste of lemony sweetness in a cold glass of iced tea, and a tan in your own backyard – it doesn’t get any better than a summer afternoon grill out with family and friends!  So dust off your grilling utensils or buy some new ones for Dad, but instead of the same, old grilled meals, why not try something a little different this year?  Go ahead, impress the neighbors!

Gas grills are a common staple in many homes and most people are handy when it comes to them, but there’s something new to try this season:  smoking.  No, not the smoking that relieves stress from your nephew running in circles – smoking meat and poultry in a slow cook method to give it a naturally smoky flavor and fall-off-the-bone tenderness.  You can buy a smoker or even put your grill on a low heat and just leave it all day.  The “smoke” actually comes from smoldering wood chips, not the food, and they come in all sorts or flavors (you can even create your own flavored chips by soaking them in a liquid of choice).  We suggest trying a variety of chips to find out what flavor you like best.  Apple wood chips will give you a sweet, mild effect and is perfect if you’re not looking for anything exotic, mesquite chips are always a favorite and will work with most meats.  Keep in mind that these are just ideas, and there is no right or wrong way to smoke your food.  Mix and match, experiment and have fun with it.

With the economy on the rocks, Americans are less likely to travel abroad, but that doesn’t mean the taste buds have to suffer.  Bring a little bit of international flair to your next dinner party by adding jerk to a basic chicken dish and it’s Caribbean dining at its finest.  Is Mexican more your style?  No problem – add some jalapenos to a salad.  Subtle additions to a dish can really add to your cuisine and give an entire theme to your event if you choose to.

No summer meal is complete without a signature drink to go with it.  Try mixing yogurt with your favorite fresh fruit, and throw it in the blender with some ice for a refreshing cool drink.  Want  a twist on an old favorite?  Mix lemonade with honeydew and kiwi for a refreshing drink on a hot day, or try grenadine with seltzer and a cherry for an adult-style Shirley Temple.  If you’re having an evening event or want a party to really hop, add vodka to taste for any of the above and watch smiles form!