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A taste of the future: Food trends for 2007

By J.M. Hirsch

AP Food Writer

Serving up some foie gras and pomegranate spritzers sometime soon?

Prepare yourself for some serious eye-rolling from hipster foodies. As they’ll no doubt inform you, fatty livers and anything pomegranate are so 2006. Bury them alongside the long dead turkey fryers, chocolate fountains and gaudy wine glass charms.

For a taste of 2007, you’ll want to let your palate wander south, way south. But no matter where you go, don’t wander far. You’ll also want to spend some time studying up on the esoterica of meat. And be sure to avoid any food prefaced by “super.”

To spare you further food foibles, some thoughts from the trend-watchers and setters on what the new year will bring.

* If you thought beef — and steaks in particular — were big last year, brace yourself.

“We will see the unabashed growth in the steak craze. I thought it had peaked. I really did,” says Dana Cowin, editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine. “And then it turns out there is no peak to steak. It keeps going.”

And not only will people eat more steak, they also will know more about it. Whether for reasons of ecology or flavor, consumers want to know where their meat is from, how long it was aged, what the animal ate, how it was slaughtered.

“You can really educate to an extreme if you’re obsessive,” Cowin says.

As part of this growth, steakhouses will get a feminine touch, say the folks at the Food Network. The push will be for a more contemporary look that emphasizes romance and ambiance over wooing clients.

* Seafood will continue to confuse, but a few stars will swim to the top.

Seems like every other week, another eco- or health-minded group releases a new list of which seafood you should and shouldn’t eat. And the government’s efforts to clarify have been anything but clear.

But as the editors of Bon Appetit magazine say in their January 2007 issue (which touts “feel good fish” as a top new trend), there are a few fish that can be warmly welcomed to your table, including tilapia, mahi-mahi, sturgeon and striped bass.

* The natural foods industry will grow, but pay more attention to its offspring, the hard-to-define local foods movement.

Restaurants everywhere already use their menus to boast of which local farm or cheesemaker your meal began with. Now mainstream grocers — even the big chains — are picking up the trend.

* Speaking of local, the new must-drink wines won’t be. At least not for Americans.

For those, head south. As in, Australia (still hot, though starting to fade), New Zealand (getting hotter), South Africa (really hot) and South America (blazing). And as a bonus, Southern Hemisphere wines tend to be really affordable.

* For an exciting new taste, think Greek. We’re talking feta and dolmades and baklava and spanakopita.

“The interest in Greek everything has exploded,” says Cowin. And that means people not only have their pick of restaurants, but also a wide selection of ingredients and cookbooks.

Tourism to Greece has been growing, and there are plenty of cooking schools to cater to the many foodie travelers who want to return home with recipes in addition to snapshots.

“You can’t pronounce the names of any of the grapes down there, but once you get over that and realize pointing is OK, you can have some really great Greek wines,” Cowin says.

* The nation is overdue for a diet fad.

There are no contenders in sight, but it’s been a while since carbs were demonized. Anyone care to revive the grapefruit diet?

* Food TV will get real.

Well, not really. Having done everything possible from behind a six-burner island cooktop in a fab kitchen set, food television will push itself further afield. Prepare yourself for barely real reality television — as in dropping chefs onto barren islands.

* Superfoods won’t be quite so super.

Not because they aren’t super healthy, but because they’ve now been thoroughly myth-busted. Much as people want to believe otherwise, good health isn’t had by megadosing on blueberries or pomegranates or broccoli.

* For something different, consider the foods of Africa.

African foods are phenomenal, and Americans are catching on. Watch for Ethiopian foods, which are pungent with cinnamon and cloves, and so seductively blur the line between sweet and savory. And South Africans give cured meat a whole new meaning.

* It’s all about the provenance of the food.

It’s way beyond coffee, which can now be purchased with a little story about who grew it and where. You’ll also know where your chocolate and honey and even some of your sugar was harvested. You’ll know how it was harvested.

For a premium, you’ll probably even get to know who harvested it.

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