Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2010 Restaurant/Dining Trends

I love trends. Let me clarify that. I love the study and forecasting of cultural trends. Staying ahead of all the latest trends seems like a fascinating occupation. And a powerful one at that, since forecasters who are privy to the inside scoop on upcoming trends are also influential in igniting those trends.

What we had before we had the modern phenomena of cultural trends, was, well, survival. When man first discovered that dropping a hunk of mastodon rump into the fire pit rendered the meat more palatable and easier to digest, he made an important contribution to the advancement of our species. This discovery did not, however, incite a culinary trend involving seared meat preparation. That came later with the invention of the Coleman Charcoal Grill and the beer belly.

As a sophisticated, modern society, we have access to more food and more varieties of food than any previous generation. For the first time in history we can choose to eliminate entire food groups from our diets based on how they reflect our political, religious, social or personal beliefs and yet we still have enough food choices left over to ensure our survival. These days, our sense of hunger factors vaguely into the personal decisions we make regarding the food we eat. 

Trends might appear to exist on their own as naturally occurring phenomena, but that isn’t how it works. Trends are too powerful to be left to develop and grow on their own. Like gremlins after dark, a trend must be carefully tended to by experts within the industry that stands to benefit most from its survival. Culinary trends are the manifestations of the restaurant industry’s ongoing attempt to satisfy the ever changing demands of a savvy consumer culture.

Why the long-winded introduction you ask? Well, I originally set out to find and regurgitate a simple list of food trends for 2010, but there was so much information on the subject that I’ve had to resort to aggregating this huge, disparate volume of information into a condensed version of only the most essential findings. A lengthy introduction was my way of illustrating to you the weighty importance of this incredible work of genius on my part. You‘re welcome.

Let’s start by exploring the underlying themes that are popping up everywhere in America right now.

Economic survival
Intimacy & friendship
Feeding their knowledge
Feeding their emotions
Artisan, hand-made
Neighborhood, local
Authentic, real
Comfort & safety

These themes are pervasive and affect most behavior by American consumers, but especially decisions that involve dining out.

According to a study by Joseph Baum and Michael Whiteman Co., the country’s leading experts on the restaurant industry, consumers have grown weary and somewhat skeptical of the overuse of words like organic and all-natural, which is why next year’s trends will be defined by the following three words:


The hottest restaurant trends for 2010 include trends that are already well-established by Austin area restaurants. Such trends include: onsite culinary gardens; upscale versions of humble menu items; dining out, in; classically simple dishes; regional ethnic cuisine; communal/shared dining; and food as entertainment and education.

Some of the more interesting items that you’ll find on next year’s table will be:

Culinary Cocktails
Such as  Lara Nixon‘s winning entry in Edible Austin’s drink local event, the 
“We’re In it for the Corn” cocktail

Food Preparations  
Will include more techniques like liquid nitrogen, braising, sous vide, smoking and oil-poaching/confits

Bite Size Mini Desserts

Small Plate/Snacky Menu Options and Flexible Portion Sizes

Fried Chicken  
Using inventive spices and ethnicity, particularly Korean.

Upscale Comfort Foods 
Kobe beef burgers, house-made sausage dogs

Newly Fabricated Cuts of Meat

Creative Interpretations of Nostalgic, Feel-Good Foods like PB&J, Cookies & Milk or Coffee & Donuts (a la French Laundry)

Lots of weird Umami

Breakfast Round the Clock

More Offal!  
Look for more tongue, beef and pork cheeks, chicken gizzards, tripe, etc.

Tart Flavors
Lots of pickled veggies

Super fruits  
Like Mangosteen and durian

Made-to-Order Ice Cream

Bahn-Mi Vietnamese Sandwiches

Unusual Vegetables
Because funny-looking food tastes better?

No trend report would be complete without a list of trends that will soon be fading into the ether, such as:

Unlikely Ethnic Fusions like Asian/Latin 
Bacon and Pork Belly I‘ll miss you guys 
Flavored water
Energy drink cocktails say goodbye to the classic oxymoron Red Bull & Vodka
Cupcakes I think we all saw that coming
Sea Urchin 
Bottled water
Couscous Finally!
Typical Mexican appetizers like quesadillas and nachos 
Miso Miso not like miso

and finally...

 Because, seriously, who would want to eat this?

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