Predicting 2011 Food and Dining Trends

ice pops

Photo:  Rhubarb & Raspberry Yogurt by Flickr user La Tartine Gourmande.

I recently wrote about 2011 food and restaurant trends based on the predictions from Andrew Freeman & Co. This time the forecasting comes from Joseph Baum & Michael Whiteman Co. Inc., international restaurant consultants based in Brooklyn.  I found myself comparing the two lists — there were some similarities (including the popsicle trend) as well as some contradictions.  For example, Freeman predicts big things for hot dogs, yet Baum & Whiteman think they’re on the downside.  They both agree that cupcakes have probably peaked, Meatless Mondays have gone mainstream, and ethnic influences are stronger than ever.

Here’s a summary of Baum & Whiteman’s food and dining trends in restaurants and hotels for 2011:

  • Artisan ice pops: Popsicles are taking on an upscale, global vibe bursting with exotic flavors.  In New York, La Newyorkina sells flavors like tamarind and passionfruit,  People’s Pops creates treats-on-a-stick like roasted red plum, blackberry-black tea and pear-ginger, and you can find pomegranate-tangerine, Mexican chocolate and orange-mango-ancho at Locopops in Raleigh and surrounding towns.
  • Meatballs. Old Italian is getting new respect. Meatballs are gaining momentum, along with other old-school Italian classics like eggplant parm and lasagna. The Meatball Shop in New York (five kinds, four gravies) has endless lines, and Disney opened a Meatball and Beer Bar (also four kinds).
  • Korean spicing and condiments. Kogi, the LA food truck that launched a thousand wheels, has propelled Korean cuisine into the big time.  Bulgogi, bibmibap and kimchee will enter America’s gastronomic lexicon. Publicity around the Momofuko chain will also give Korean a push.
  • Tacos with global and wacky fillings. Look for an outburst of outrageously creative mult-culti tacos, soft and hard, from fast food to haute cuisineries.
  • Grits are the hot new grain.  Expect grits to leap from morning food to an all-purpose starch.  It’s part of another trendlet: down-home southern cooking.  Shrimp and grits could be the dish of the year.  Grits are also gaining popularity because of its gluten-free status.  Look for more gluten-replacing starches like grits, quinoa and chickpeas on menus.
  • New-fangled sandwiches. Last year it was gussied up hot dogs and gourmet hamburgers, next year it’ll be sandwiches over the moon but they’ll be called something else.  There are Mexican cemitas, Vietnamese banh mi, baos (traditionally yeasty steamed buns with savory fillings that are now being formed as fluffy flatbreads to wrap around banh mi-like ingredients, tartines, and regional American sandwiches.  To me, it seems Banh mi (pronounced “bun me”) will be the sandwich that really breaks through. This Vietnamese street food that unites the flavors of France and Vietnam has sparked the site that allows visitors to search for and nominate their favorite banh mi shops by states, and includes recipes so you can make your own at home.

bahn biPhoto:  Banh mi by Flickr user Ric_W

  • Convenience store cuisine. Drug stores and convenience stores are ramping up their food departments with newly conceived fresh “grab-and-go” departments.
  • Popup restaurants. The recession created lots of empty restaurants and lots of chefs with no kitchens.  Now we have popup restaurants (like food trucks) with no location at all.  Impromptu  food places are popping up and customers are finding them via Twitter and word of mouth. Many popups are now treated in the media alongside major restaurant openings.
  • Food trucks 2.0. Expect to see more food truck “rodeos” where a dozen or more vendors turn an empty field or parking lot into a food fair on wheels. Look for more restaurant operators and big-name chefs to supplement their businesses by chasing after customers with their own trucks.
  • Snacks and multiple snacks replacing meals.
  • Breakfast all the time. More restaurants and chains are entering the breakfast biz, and soft slow-cooked eggs are appearing all over upscale restaurant menus.  They’re comforting, turning fancy dishes into homey offerings — runny eggs on pasta, pizza, braised meats and grits.
  • Going collaborative. Group couponing and location-based restaurant promotions — Groupon, Village Vines, Open Table.
  • A couple of nutrition trends: “Free-from” foods, especially gluten-free items on restaurant menus, and “gross is good.”  Baum & Whiteman say the recession has everyone so stressed that they’re finding refuge in the massive “calorie bombs” that are showing up on menus.

Buzz-worthy foods and ingredients:4482216155_883e4bb7ce

  • Coconut water, awash in a mythology of good health
  • Bourbon, for people who actually like booze
  • Cucumbers, lavender and  hibiscus, especially in cocktails
  • Burrata cheese
  • Umami along with stealth use of miso
  • Sangria with new twists
  • Peppadew
  • Macarons, not macaroons
  • Whoopee pie
  • Fregola, a pasta from Sardinia
  • Designer donuts imitating froufrou cupcakes
  • Pesto variations
  • Greek yogurt, even larger

Photo:  Kiwi Cucumber Cocktail, Flickr user Zespri Kiwifruit

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