Food trends in 2011

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 5, 2011

By Katie Scarvey
The end of the 2010 brought with it plenty of predictions about what we’ll be eating in 2011.
One thing that there seems to be some consensus on is that the cupcake is so last year.
The new year will be all about pie, humble or fancy, according to Marian Salzma, president of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR in North America. Pies can be sweet, savory, or even of the whoopie variety — though the whoopie pie seems to be flirting with the cookie category.
Pie started to gain some traction back in 2008 when Barack Obama showed the diner staple some love on the campaign trail in a memorable sound byte: “I like pie. You like pie too?”
You can even find the sentiment on T-shirts.
Of course man cannot live by pie alone, and there are other foods that will be attracting our attention in 2011. Andrew Freeman and Company, which advises the restaurant industry, has predicted that the following things will be popular in the coming year — though they might not be used in completely traditional ways.
• Pimento cheese (great news for McCombs and Company in Faith)
• necks (lamb, beef, goat, pork)
• whey (used in salads and sauces)
• kumquats (in salads, relishes and desserts)
• smoked oils, butter and cumin
• hay (for roasting or smoking)
• popcorn (even as a pie crust ingredient)
•hummus(in sauces, spreads)
• pretzels
• honey (in sauces and dresses, with emphasis on local)
Yes, hay. It seems that trendy kitchens both here and abroad are using hay to give a grassy flavor to even things like whipping cream.
And according to Andrew Knolton, restaurant critic for Bon Appetit, hay will be joined in other trendy restaurant kitchens by other “found” ingredients such as lichen, pine needles and seaweed.
Vegetables are also poised for a good year. In line with a growing concern with healthy eating, New York magazine has proclaimed vegetables the new meat, with today’s so-called vegivores not shunning meat entirely but giving it a subordinate role in meals, either as flavoring or condiment (i.e., brussels sprouts with bits of bacon).
The veggies-as-main-dish trend goes hand in hand with the local food movement, with farmers markets around the country growing and thriving. To many people used to only supermarket vegetables, the taste of truly fresh produce is no doubt a happy revelation.
The unashamedly carnivorous needn’t worry about being left behind in the new year — meat isn’t out by any means. Procuring quality, locally produced meat will be increasingly popular— with a particular interest in sausage, according to the Food Channel. Others are suggesting that hot dogs will go upscale this year.
A spice piquing much interest these days is nutmeg. That’s partly because nutmeg is said to be an aphrodisiac, particularly for women. Try buying whole nutmegs and grating your own for more intense flavor.
Another newly trendy food with a specific health benefit is cherry juice, something that Rachael Ray’s website predicts will increase in popularity. Cherry juice is said to alleviate sore muscles, sleepless nights and wrinkles.
While for plenty of southerners grits are always in style, the Food Channel forsees that this year, our friends up north will get the memo.
In a trend that should be welcomed in North Carolina, which is the number one producer in the country, the sweet potato is predicted to be hot by the Food Channel. And why not? It’s a nutritional powerhouse, and baked sweet potato fries are a wonderfully healthy alternative to french fries. Beans are another healthy food that made the “top 10 foods to watch” by The Food Channel.
They also predict that a Brazilian treat called brigadeiro will become popular this year. The confection is made with sweetened condensed milk, butter and cocoa powder, usually rolled in a ball and coated in sugar. I’ve actually had brigadeiro, made by our Brazilian exchange student a few years ago. I’m not convinced it will catch on, but then again, who would bet against butter, sugar and cocoa?
A renewed interest in food preservation (think canning tomatoes) has also been noted by the Food Channel. It seems a logical outgrowth of people growing more of their own food and getting back to basics.
Men in the kitchen. is also said to be a trend, although it’s old hat at my house. I count myself among the lucky women whose husbands take on their share (or more) of the cooking duties.
Another national trend that has some momentum locally is the movement toward promoting healthier food for our children. The Rowan-Salisbury school system has been taking steps in that direction, with new food choppers in cafeteria kitchens that will allow for vegetables to be more easily incorporated into menus.
Another healthy trend is downsizing. Restaurants are thinking smaller, for bigger profits, offering mini-meals and smaller portion sizes for patrons who are tired of gargantuan portions.
With food sensitivities a growing concern, the national Restaurant Association has reported that gluten-free cuisine will be a significant trend for the industry.
A trend spotted by is cooking up ethnic cuisine at home. The cooking website reported that consumption of ethnic dishes increased 29 percent in 2010, with a lot of interest in cuisines from South America, Japan and Korea.
They also report that consumers are doing more drinking at home, often to save money. And tequila, they say, is the fastest growing spirit.
Homemade margaritas, anyone?