Consulting with a team of restaurant industry experts, Flavor & The Menu's editors forecast, among other menu trends, a French-cuisine comeback in the form of more approachable (and affordable) bistro and brasserie fare, an "urban" expansion of traditional, widely-accepted barbecue flavors and formats, and beer informing a new culinary evolution of restaurant concepts and menus.
Flavor & The Menu magazine is a foodservice publication acclaimed for taking a flavor-focused approach in its original coverage of flavor trends and menu-development strategies. Most culinary trends originate in restaurant kitchens, and Flavor & The Menu editors select the leading menu influencers they predict will have the broadest appeal and the most influence on menus in the years to come.
"With restaurant visits and check averages in decline, restaurants are looking to tap into new growth opportunities," says Cathy Holley, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief. "As chefs explore ways to differentiate their menus and create craveable offerings, especially in an unsteady economic climate, many of these trends will factor into their menu-development strategies."
Flavor & The Menu's Top 10 Trends for 2009:
Top Culinary Trend - Tapping Beer's Potential: Now that beer is the new wine, thanks to a flood of new craft beer products and imports, chefs are creating menus that match beer lists in their complexity and casual-yet-sophisticated approach to pub food. Beyond the usual pretzels and peanuts, these post-modern pub menus present hearty food that's designed to pair with beer.
Top Concept Trend - Barbecue Branches Out: A wave of new barbecue restaurants is introducing consumers to more sophisticated interpretations of classic barbecue-shack specialties with a difference - upgraded with signature sides, more interesting preparations and full wine lists and cocktails. This "urban barbecue" approach will offer chefs opportunities to bring barbecue's flavors, techniques and presentations beyond its established boundaries.
Top Comeback Trend - French Bistro: After years of being overshadowed by Asian and Latin fare, classic French bistro cuisine is being taken up by leading chefs looking to bring their culinary vision to a more approachable and moderately priced style of dining. These new-generation bistros sport a bustling energy and broadened appeal to bring a new generation back to French food.
Top Menu-Making Trend - Snack Attack: The appetizer-entree-and-dessert meal progression will never be the same, from small plates and wine-bar menus to fast-food "fourth meals" and handhelds, snacking offers an affordable way for consumers to sample and share interesting new foods.
Top Ethno-Cuisine Trend - Asian Noodle-Mania: From Japanese ramen and soba chains establishing beachheads in the U.S. to Asian-American chefs like David Chang offering upscale takes on classic noodles, and a proliferation of blogs dedicated to the quest for the perfect bowl of noodles, there's a whole lot of slurping going on.
Top Sauce Trend - Fruitful Finishes: From simple salsas to classic reductions, chefs are turning to fruit as a base for signature sauces. These include chunky compotes and smooth coulis, infused vinegars, gastriques, jams and fruit butters. These inventive sauces are becoming a great way for chefs to better utilize fruit in savory dishes, while intensifying flavor profiles in desserts.
Top High-Impact Ingredient - American Artisanal: After a wave of interest in European cheeses, American chefs are turning their attention to the growing domestic cheese scene. American cheesemakers are coming into their own, crafting Euro-style adaptations and their own signature creations.
Top Buzzword - Farm: "Farmers market" is the new mantra, as chefs seek to distinguish their menus and establish a culinary connection with customers. A farm-focused approach complements back-to-basics cooking styles, including pickling, curing and other artisanal crafts, while ingredients like natural beef and cage-free eggs satisfy cravings for wholesome foods and simpler times.
Top Beverage Trend - Latin Refreshers: Thanks to an interest in all things Latin, restaurants beyond the South American and Mexican niches have started serving licuados (fruit shakes), aguas fresca ("fresh water," or juices) and cheladas. Even sangria is experiencing a renaissance, with new fruits and distinctive presentations.
Top Dessert Trend - Italian Inspirations: With Italian restaurants holding a larger share of the American heart, it stands to reason that dessert menus would expand beyond predictable mainstays like tiramisu. And they have: We're seeing custardy panna cotta, indulgent gelato, soothing budino (Italian-style pudding), homey polenta cake, and semi-frozen specialties known as semifreddo.
Based in Tigard, Ore., Flavor & The Menu is published five times a year, and distributed to chefs and menu-development professionals nationwide. Flavor & The Menu also partners with BSI, Inc., to present the annual Flavor Experience, a flavor-focused event for culinary professionals.
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