2011: The Year of the Local

According to the National Restaurant Association, these are the Top 20 Trends for 2011. (The buzz word: local):

1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
2. Locally grown produce
3. Sustainability
4. Nutritionally balanced children's dishes
5. "Hyper local," such as restaurants with their own gardens and chefs who do their own butchering.
6. Children's nutrition
7. Sustainable seafood
8. Gluten-free food and being food allergy conscious
9. Simplicity/back to basics
10. Farm/estate-branded ingredients
11. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor
12. Locally produced wine and beer
13. Smaller portions for smaller prices
14. Organic produce
15. Nutrition/health
16. "Culinary" cocktails, for example ones that have savory or fresh ingredients
17. Newly fabricated cuts of meat such as the pork flat iron and the beef petit tender
18. Fruit and vegetables as children's side items
19. Ethnic-inspired breakfast items, such as Asian-flavored syrups, chorizo scrambled eggs and coconut milk pancakes
20. Artisan cheeses

There's a lot of emphasis on sustainability as well, especially with seafood. In the main dish department there's a push for the unexpected with the introduction of newly fabricated cuts of meat (ie. Denver steak, pork flat iron, Petite Tender) and non-traditional fish (ie. branzino, Arctic char, barramundi). Same is true in the realm of sweets -- expect more savory desserts and deconstructed dishes that push the envelop on tradition and foster creativity.

There's also a strong focus on ethnic-inspired cuisine across the board. Appetizers are expected to feature street food like tempura, taquitos, kabobs and hummus along with dumplings and dim sum. Traditional ethnic breakfast dishes like huevos rancheros, shakshuka (?), and ashta (?) are expected to be forerunners along with the usual suspects with an ethnic flair -- Asian-flavored syrups, chorizo scrambled eggs, and coconut milk pancakes. As for side dishes, black rice, red rice and Asian noodles are at the top of the list.

An interesting juxtaposition arises in the produce category -- with so much emphasis on local and organic produce (which remain at the top of the list), there's still a strong presence of by their global opposites: exotic fruits and superfruits. I guess our domestic soils just aren't cut out to be gogi berry and guava growing environments...

With regards to preparation trends, it is no surprise to me that sous vide is the winner in that category. It is such a haute method right now; many chefs are swearing by it as the best way to cook. I've been needing an excuse to slow-cook meats underwater in vacuum sealed bags...

A few other emerging ingredients worth mentioning: heirloom beans, black garlic, ancient grains (ie. amarenth, kamut, spelt), and ethnic cheeses (ie. queso fresco, paneer, lebneh, halloumi).

There's a lot to be inspired by here, much to experiement with, but first, I better start growing...

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