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2011’s Hottest Food Trends

2011’s Hottest Food Trends

That ever-perceptive industry trend watcher Andrew Freeman is at it again. He’s back with his fourth annual list of picks for the food and restaurant trends with the most promise. His firm, Andrew Freeman & Company, advises restaurants and hotels on marketing and public relations campaigns.

Freeman’s latest list resulted from “a combination of close industry observation, coast-to-coast travel, discussions with industry experts, regular meetings with hotel and restaurant clients, conversations with press contacts, industry conference and extensive media research.”

Without further ado, here’s what Freeman & Co. see in their crystal ball for 2011:

The Pie’s the Limit: Move over cupcake, make way for pie, as pies in all sizes move from the state fair to seriously craveable fare. Decadence is endless with everything from savory, sweet, individual deep-fried pies, bite-sized minis and even pies blended into shakes.

New Mom & Pop Shops: Realizing the time is now, and if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it your way, partners are opening self-financed and self-built restaurants. These are small places with fewer than 40 seats, designed by friends or family.

You’re the One: Single-purpose restaurants are serving variations on one thing. Don’t be surprised to see the Peanut Butter Palace, French Dippity Dog or even the Big Biscuit, serving biscuit sandwiches and eggs Benedict, opening soon.

Shrink Wrapped: Traditional meals are going way of the fun-size snack. Smaller portions are perfect for smaller wallets and eating on the run. Look closely for mini pizzas and bagels, two-bite hot dogs, mini tacos or burritos, cake truffles, even pot roasts and pot pies, all downsized. Small is big.

Marketing 101 Night & Day: Restaurants and high-end quick-service operators are joining with farmers, artisans and specialty purveyors, reinventing the food hall. Restaurants are also expanding by opening quick-service windows—opening a “window” of opportunities.

Desert Menu: Restaurants are abandoning descriptive market jargon (like cooking method, sides or adjectives), instead highlighting only the key ingredients. You may not know exactly what you will be getting, but trust us, it’ll be good.

Talk Dirty to Me: In search of simplicity and pure flavors, chefs are abandoning sauce. Instead, they are using powders, crumbles, dustings and “dirt” crafted from cookie crumbs, dried mushroom powder, dehydrated beets, etc.

• Fire it Up: Extending way beyond wood-fired pizza, restaurants all over are roasting vegetables directly in embers and slow-roasting whole animals or large cuts of meat over wood-burning fires.

• Haute Dogs: Hot dogs are the new burger as chefs reimagine them with boutique-style sauces and gourmet toppings. Hot dogs will escape from specialty stands and venture into restaurants as chefs dress them up. This wiener is a winner.

• Ahhhh Veg Out: Even meat-minded chefs are vegging out as flexitarianism goes mainstream. Meatless Mondays and vegetable-based tasting menus are gaining traction as guests realize it’s not all about the meat on the plate.

• It’s Fry Time to Eat Your Veggies: It’s the revenge of the dreaded vegetable as we discover that veggies everyone loves to hate can taste really good—fried. New favorites include fried cauliflower, Brussels sprouts chips and kale chips.

• Chefs Are Going Soft: Soft serve plays hardball as chefs and restaurants dress it up in designer duds. Look for savory soft serve, soft frozen fruit, high-end interpretations and cocktail-driven creations.

• Press Junk-It: Munchies are moving to the forefront as chefs reinvent junk food in gourmet ways. We’re waiting to see what talented chefs come up with as they reinterpret favorite junk treats.

• Pop Goes the World: And chefs follow suit with spiked, salty, sweet and savory popsicles in exotic and alcoholic flavors. Pop rocks!

• Cultural Integration: Yogurt moves from snack to staple as it takes leading roles in sauces, dips, spreads and desserts. Expect to see it in new forms, including sun-dried, freeze-dried, smoked and pressed, as well as cultural variations like skyr (from Iceland) and labne (from Lebanon).

• Swede Inspiration: Thanks to Noma and Nordic innovation, northern ingredients and culinary trends are headed south.

• Our Daily Bread: chefs are reconsidering the bread basket and serving special house-made breads with intention and attention, including special plates and butter service.

• Going Belly Up: Goat and lamb belly gain on the ever-popular pork as prices rise and chefs and guests look for the next favorite ingredient. There’s no such thing as a belly flop.

Hot ingredients for next year include:

• Pimento cheese
• necks (lamb, beef, goat, pork)
• whey
• kumquats
• smoked oils, butter, cumin
• hay
• popcorn
• hummus
• pretzels
• honey

For other trends affecting the restaurant business, check this recent report: 2011’s Top Restaurant Trend: Affordability