What will we, should we, do we want to eat in 2012? What are the current food trends? The answer is more like, "What do you want to be eat?" In researching this article, I visited several sources with predictions - The Food Channel, ABC News, Fox News, Forbes and Esquire Magazine to name a few. Of those visited, I literally found 10 different "trends" at each researched site. I did, however, find a universal theme: The term "diversity" just about covers the whole of what we will be eating. We want fun, different and interesting food, but we want that food to be recognizable. I will extend that idea to conclude there is a trend toward eating many different old and new types of food, but this food will be selected with thought to health, affordability and the environment.
Some of the more interesting trends I think we might see:
American comfort food classics with a twist. Whether you eat crabs or not, 2012 will be the year of the potato. Look out for make-your-own mashed potatoes with sundae-style add-ons. We will see unusually shaped potato chips with side dips. The grilled cheese sandwich might actually replace the hamburger on restaurant menus. The sandwiches will have a definite twist with the addition of items such as sourdough bread, sauted leeks, avocados, shredded cabbage or ground hazelnuts! Oh busboy.
Breakfast will take over dinner. Waffle sandwiches and hollandaise sauce aren't just your average diner food. Round-filled pancakes will be served as appetizers, lunch entrees, soup sides and desserts. Offspring of the Danish Aebleskiver, these tasty treats can be made as spinach and feta hors doeuvres' or as strawberry shortcakes.
Hamburger look-alikes. Round hand held anything. Here the sky is the limit. The reason for the hamburger's popularity for 50 years has been due, in large part, to its convenience. We will see more and more slider-type foods, but this year the emphasis will be on health, buying local or organic. The items will trend towards affordability.
Savory sweets and sweet savories: Horseradish or basil ice cream? Strawberry meatballs? It's out there and it's coming here.
Restaurants will use new ways to add to sales. With little dramatic fuel being added to the economy, I suspect restaurant sales will not increase by much. Restaurants will use creative ideas to compete with the home meals. Simple satisfying entrees, loyalty rewards, family nights, fine dining delivery, partially prepared take-home meals, etc. I saw one clever idea where a hometown restaurant offered a discount each night to a different neighborhood or street. A great way to get together with the neighbors. Restaurants will offer items for sale such as their own infused olive oil, packaged cookies, and frozen pies. More restaurants will offer cooking classes and put out their own cookbook.
More menu items for different diets or healthy eating. The trend towards low-fat, fat-free, vegan, gluten-free, is established but still growing fast. Expect to see more attention and advertising here. Americans know what's good and good for them.
Not-so-fancy formal food. Casual dining will become the norm as waiter service becomes limited. I'm not really thrilled this is happening, but extra service costs money and we just don't care to pay for it. More and more diners are looking to "get their money's worth" and don't care about the extras.
Fresh, locally grown and chemical-free food. This trend is alive and well and going nowhere.
New but cheaper French wines will be available. This will drive the true French-only drinkers crazy. The trend is to capture a cheaper wine drinking audience. French wine is lowering some standards to save its industry.
What will 2012 really look like? Well, one trend is we really don't know. Never in our history have there been so many eateries, so many different types of eateries, so many people eating at eateries and so many different foods to eat. At any given time, one could invent a food trend and it could possibly happen anywhere. I picked these few because they make sense. What makes sense for your future dining?
Restaurant watch: What trend do you see happening in your favorite restaurant?