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Tastemakers: 2010 Restaurant/beverage trends

Rick Coates - January 11th, 2010
2010 Food/Restaurant/Beverage Trends
The world of food and beverage is changing quickly and with the start of a new year, and even a new decade, it is time to talk trends. Concerns over food safety and health-related issues (using your diet to combat influenzas, disease and new world viruses) are two driving factors in a changing food world that has consumers seeking out local and organic foods. Look for similar books to Dr. John La Puma’s popular 2009 ChefMD’s Big Book of Culinary Medicine: A Food Lover’s Road Map to: Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, Getting Really Healthy.
But with that said, the hot menu item is fried chicken. But look for healthier versions of this classic popping up on menus with free range—skin off—oven-baked fried chicken leading the way (traditionalists will beg to differ). Lamb dishes are also hot, pork is not, and burgers are getting mixed reviews (but does anyone think that a good burger will ever lose favor?).

Look for the small plates to get even smaller as “amuse-bouche” (bite size) appetizers make their way to menus.
Speaking of menus, another hot trend is offering both full and half portions of entrees as many look to eat less. Seeing “local” and “sustainable” on the menu will continue to grow in popularity. Despite tough economic times look for restaurants to get away from “giveaways” and “discounts” and instead focus on quality and homemade.
Speaking of homemade, more restaurants will make items from scratch from baked goods to desserts to soups; and the sexiest person in the industry right now is the butcher as fresh-cut meats will remain and grow in popularity. Don’t expect to see free range cows and chickens out back of area restaurants, but look for gardens as some restaurants are now growing their herbs and vegetables. Others are joining local CSA’s and I am seeing more and more chefs at area famers’ markets.
The “less is more approach” is taking off not only on the plate but on the table with less formalities, from table top decorations to white linens disappearing. Restaurants instead will look to create more “experiences” with guest chefs and bartenders and even yoga and massage offerings. Look for more special events at restaurants and taverns (The Loading Dock in Traverse City is having a classic cocktail party with a DJ spinning classic cocktail era jazz infusions and drinks will be made with artisan spirits from a Michigan distiller).
As for the home front, in tough times “the potluck party” is where it is at. Don’t be embarrassed to ask your friends to bring their favorite dish and beverage to pass. This is fun, a great conversation piece and it will take the stress off of your wallet. Buying local and organic will remain popular, just go into Oryana and the Grain Train and see how busy they are and even the major chains are touting the number of local and Michigan items they have on their shelves.

Beer is back, not that it ever went away, but beer sales have been flat as of late and the “young professional” is bringing it back in a big way.
Microbrews will continue to be hot, look for more of them to open and look for more eateries offering “Michigan Only” brews on tap. The classic cocktail is making a comeback. Sure, the martini madness of the ‘90s is still here, but there is a return to the pre-prohibition classic cocktail. The Manhattan, Tom Collin, Old Fashion, Side Car, Singapore Sling, Gin Fizz among others are hot in the toddy department. On its way out are the flashy “mixologists” and their Tom Cruise moves behind the bar; today’s cocktail seeker is looking for simplicity and sophistication.
As for wine, I will continue on the proverbial “local wine barrel” as the wines made in the region continue to grow in popularity and are now being featured on the best wine lists in Northern Michigan. I predict the wine critic will start to lose favor as consumer “palate” confidence grows and the opportunities to taste a variety of wines at restaurants through wine dinners and tasting events increases. Wines from Chile, Argentina and Spain will continue to grow in popularity. Value will be as important as varietals in the coming year.
“Artisan” will be the key word in 2010 whether it is food, drink or dining establishment, locally made, grown, bottled, small batches will be where it is at today. This positions Northern Michigan well for the future as few regions in the world boast the food, farm and drink diversity we have here. So here is a toast to a great year ahead; be sure to eat, drink and buy local. --Rick Coates

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