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Good-bye to overexposed 2010 faves like bacon and cupcakes and hello to a bunch of new menu predictions from restaurant consultants like Andrew Freeman & Co. and Baum + Whiteman, as well as an ongoing scan of social media sites. We promise this will be the last menu crystal-balling for the foreseeable future.
Anyhow, here are some predicted big dining noises for the year:
• Pies are the new cupcakes. Not as cute as their little cup-cousins, the homier pies will descend from the sky, many with seasonal ingredients like persimmon and Meyer lemons, local butter, and all-natural ingredients. Ethnic variations will appear, as well, like savory curry pies and English hand pies, and there’ll be mini pies baked in Mason jars and Southern-inspired pecan and even fried pies.
• Southern cooking and Gulf seafood. Grits, pimento cheese, fried chicken, Spam (Spam?), barbecue, gumbo and scrapple are showing up on menus and the hard-hit Gulf Coast is being supported by showcasing seafood – mostly shrimp – from the area.
• Haute Dogs. The lowly weiner and its sausage relatives are getting a makeover with white tablecloth toppings like wine reductions and caramelized onions and unusual ingredients like feta and cranberries.
• “Free” Foods. With Meatless Mondays, started in 2003, gaining healthy momentum, forward-thinking foodservice folks are paying attention to vegetarian and vegan options, highlighting pristine produce. Eateries devoted to raw, vegan, and gluten-free foods are springing up, as are venues offering limited protein menus.
• Dessert First. Dessert bars, bakeries, and superstar pastry chefs are emerging with a new emphasis on exotic flavors, savory influences, and updated spins on traditional treats. Desserts are becoming an integrated part of the meal – or the meal itself.
• Smaller Portions/Mini-Sizing. More thoughtful, reasonable portions will replace belly-busting plates and sliders, mini-burgers, and other scaled-down items will step up, as will tapas and smaller-plate spots where ordering multiple dishes and sharing are the feature.
• Calorie-Listing. The related Editor’s Note in this e-newsletter deals with the new law vis a vis grocery store foodservice and calorie-listing, but it might not be a bad idea to do it anyhow to show customers that you care about their health.