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Rick Coates - January 3rd, 2011
2011 Food & Drink Trends
In 2011 the economy and healthy eating are the two primary factors
expected to impact food and drink trends. Positive economic
projections for 2011 are already having an impact as consumers are
flocking to higher end liquors and restaurants. Better real estate
values are allowing more people to enter the restaurant business, in
particular the small “mom & pop” operations.
Last March, new federal health care legislation mandated calorie
posting on menus for chain restaurants nationwide beginning this year.
The idea is that when consumers go to a fast food or major chain
operation they will receive “sticker shock” with certain menu items
and move to “healthier” selections.
Every five years the Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and
Human Services (HHS) jointly issue The Dietary Guidelines  for
Americans. This several thousand page report concluded that obesity is
one of the top health issues facing our country. Almost 60 million
Americans are considered obese; 80 percent of Americans over the age
of 25 are considered overweight; and 75 % of Americans are not meeting
a basic weekly physical activity level. There has been a 76% increase
in Type II Diabetes in those over the age of 30 since 1990. It is
estimated that 20% of children ages 6 - 18 are obese and one third of
all American children are considered overweight.
The Dietary Guidelines also concluded that on average, Americans
consume too few vegetables, fruits, high-fiber whole grains, low-fat
milk and milk products and seafood, and they eat too much added
sugars, solid fats, refined grains, and sodium (SoFAS).
We will have to wait and see if Americans who do not listen to their
doctors or their waistlines will heed the advice of their government
and change their dietary habits.

Okay, now for the fun trends for 2011. According to restaurant
consulting firm Andrew Freeman & Company the number one trend at
restaurants this year will be pies.  “If I had one trend — one trend —
of the year that I could predict, that’s why it’s in the No. 1
position, this would be the trend for pie,” said Freeman. “I think
that we’re going to make room for pie shops in the next year.” Freeman
is a little behind on that trend here in Northern Michigan, as the
Grand Traverse Pie Company has been on top of this for several years.
Small restaurants (mom & pop joints) with less than 30 seats are
starting to pop up all over the country, focusing on local and fresh
foods. This trend has been big in Europe and Latin American countries
and is gaining popularity here.
The Cooks‘ House in Traverse City has proven this works, though
Michigan will need to change its laws to allow a BYOB wine for these
establishments to survive in the long run.
The “ultra-niche” restaurants are on their way; these specialize in
one type of food; for example, hot dogs, meatballs, fried chicken.
These establishments are opening up in food-centric places like New
York and San Francisco. Trend watchers are predicting that
establishments specializing in peanut butter (peanut butter soup is
awesome) and cheese (grilled cheese, mac & cheese) will be among the
new ultra-niche restaurants opening in 2011.
“Meatless Monday’s” and a stronger focus on vegetables will be a part
of menus this year. Some restaurants are going with a Meatless Monday
concept by not serving any meat one day a week, while others are
giving vegetables equal billing with entrees on their menu. Chef Mario
Batali has a new cookbook coming out in 2011 focused solely on
Less is more is on the way, it started with the small-plate craze and
now that has been replaced with “mini-plates,” essentially a couple of
bites. The French have been doing this for years with their “Ami
Bouche” (one-bite appetizers).
Last year Mario Batali and his partners opened Eataly in New York, a
50,000 square foot emporium of of all things Italy
with several stores, restaurants, a microbrewery on the way, a cooking
school and more. This “multi-purpose” space of Batali’s is also one of
the hot trends of this year. In fact a group of local entrepreneurs
contacted me with their concept of a multi-purpose food, drink, market
and nightclub space for Northern Michigan in the works.
What is the hot ethnic trend? Scandinavian foods are popping up on
menus all over the country.  Also look for chefs to get “dirty” this
year by using fewer sauces and preparing entrees with dried, crumbled
and powdered ingredients. So do not be leery when you see “grilled
salmon with toasted malt dirt” on the menu.

As for drink trends in 2011, going healthy is sort of where it is at.
Experts predict seasonal fruits and cocktails will be big. Top fruit
for this year is going to be the cherry, so that should make Northern
Michigan the cocktail capital of the world.
Whiskeys and bourbons are back. Look for the Manhattan and other
whiskey based classic cocktails to gain in popularity. Oddest trend
for this year: the cocktail popsicle. Look for for frozen drinks on
sticks to replace jello shots, and for beer lovers even the beersicle
is available.
Speaking of beer, local microbrewed beers and local wines are expected
to increase in popularity, another great sign for us in Northern
Michigan with 40 wineries, and a dozen craft-brewery operations and
more on the way.
Finally, look for “Culinary Tourism” to be big in 2011 and beyond.
Michigan is having its first “Culinary Tourism Conference on January
10 at Michigan State University. The conference, with 200 attendees,
sold out immediately.
Northern Michigan should be a prime candidate to be a leader in this
initiative, with our wineries, breweries, rich agricultural base,
great restaurants and many culinary events.
When you package in the year-round events, from what Porterhouse
Productions is doing with the Summer and Winter Microbrew Festivals
and The Paella in The Park along with the many wine events and
festivals (The Global Wine Pavilion hosted by Matt Sutherland and The
National Cherry Festival) and the return of popular Epicurean Classic,
Northern Michigan is truly the culinary tourism capital of the
In all 2011 looks to be a great year for food and drink in Northern
Michigan as we embrace the hot trends and create our own. Happy New
Year! ---Rick Coates

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