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Top 11 Food Trends of 2011

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Jun 02, 2011

Following are 11 trends Custom Culinary® culinarians see as on the rise for 2011.

ASIAN ON THE RISE

Photo - Sweet & Spicy Szechuan (no background)There’s a new interest in Asian now, from the modern-day “fusion” concepts of such influential chefs as David Chang (Momofuku) and Zak Pelaccio (Fatty ‘Cue), who are forging a new cuisine by blending influences and ingredients from around the region, to entrepreneurs like Chipotle founder Steve Ells, who has opened an Asian fast-casual concept called ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen.

TECHNIQUE, FROM RUSTIC TO HIGH TECH

With the number of skilled, ambitious chefs on the rise (and consumers savvy enough to appreciate their creations), it’s no surprise that technique has become more obvious on menus. What is surprising is the spectrum: On the one hand, the old-fashioned “nose-to-tail” approach of using every scrap in such products as housemade charcuterie; on the other, the increasingly mainstream use of sous vide to experiment with new ideals of texture and flavor.

NEW FRONTIERS IN BREAKFAST

As consumers continue to fall back on the comfort and value of breakfast foods, chefs are stepping up the game with innovative egg dishes, über a.m. sandwiches, artisanal pork products, serious baked-good programs, creative brunch libations and other examples of the breakfast arts.

FARMER'S MARKET CHIC

The focus on fresh, local and farm-raised has given rise to a new respect for fruits and vegetables, heirloom proteins, artisan cheeses and various kinds of preserving, leading to an attendant rise in both intensely seasonal menus and the elevation of sophisticated, produce-based options (just don't call them “vegetarian”).

THE NEW AMERICAN TAVERN

Casual, affordable but creative concepts that pay equal attention to approachable food and highly profitable cocktail/beer/wine programs are the strategy behind some of the hottest new tickets in town (i.e., Tyler Florence’s new Wayfare Tavern).

Photo - Berries with creme anglaiseDESSERT MARCHES ON

This seemingly recession-proof menu bright spot continues to benefit from a more creative approach: pies make a comeback; ice cream and gelato go year-round; “standalones” like cookies, doughnuts and cupcakes proliferate; and mini-portions and samplers make it increasingly hard for consumers to say “no”.

CREATIVE TRAFFIC BUILDERS

The Great Recession taught operators how to offer less expensive and more repeat-friendly options without resorting to discounting, through special programs like Sunday suppers, new-wave rotating “plats du jour”, communal specialties (whole suckling pig for the table, anyone?), guest chef dinners, value-oriented prix fixe, tasting menus and more.

STREET FOODS COME INDOORS 

The popularity of food trucks and other street food venues has made global street food totally on-trend, from brick-and-mortar versions of mobiles like Kogi BBQ’s new permanent location, to Rick Bayless’s experiments with Mexican tortas and empanadas at XOCO.

AS THE SEGMENTS BLUR

The one-two punch of the recession and an increasingly demanding and quality-oriented consumer has given rise to some interesting cross-segment concepts: Thomas Keller is doing burgers and fried chicken, while quick-casual concepts like Le Pain Quotidien are sourcing organic lettuce and producing European-style menu items. “Basics” like sandwiches, hot dogs, salads, pizza and mac-and-cheese will never be the same again.

SPECIAL DIETS DON'T UPSET US

Gluten-free, meatless, low-calorie, anti-allergen, fat-reduced, lower-sodium, antioxidant-loaded or sauce on the side: there are a plethora of specialized dietary concerns out there, and restaurateurs are doing their best to answer them. Just remember that “balance” and stealth health have replaced that old exclusionary heart symbol.

Photo - Chicken Pot PieBACK TO THE FUTURE, FOREVER

Retro comfort foods and American classics are more popular than ever, and probably won’t be going away any time soon. One of the latest new wrinkles: the return of serious fried food. Driven in part by the popularity of bar foods and Southern regional, everything from gourmet French fries and fritters to fried chicken, oysters and beignets are new and delicious again.