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food/drink 2011's Top 11 Tastiest Food Trends

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It's that time of year again -- the time when people obsess about the next big thing in...well, everything. Of course, few things are more fun to obsess about than food. So, consider this your amuse bouche. And no, I'm not talking about whatever it is your dirty mind just associated with that term. I'm talking about the tasty tidbit that gets your palate primed for the meal to come.

So, without further ado, here are the 11 tasty trends I think you'll be hearing about ad nauseum in the food world next year, based on my extensive (yes, some would call it obsessive) consumption of food literature, food television and, of course, actual food itself. Better enjoy 'em now, before Food Network turns these perfectly palatable trends into something Sandra Lee would serve at her next theme party. Or worse, into a new catchphrase for Guy Fieri.

Pick A Pie, Any Pie

First there was the fro-yo. Then there were the cupcakes. Then came the macaroons. But in 2011, those desserts will be as played out as the Cake Boss's bad jokes. In fact, it's time to put away your frosting tips and send your fancy french cookies back where they came from. Because 2011 is going to be the year of the pie.

Yup, good ol' American pie. Of course, 2011's pies aren't quite the simple crust-and-fruit concoctions of yesteryear. Nope, in 2011, the pie (like most things that make an appearance in pop culture these days) is getting a makeover. From sweet to savory, supersized to pocket-sized, pie is the new cupcake. And, it's going to start showing up in just as many varieties. Not the least of which is this monstrosity -- yes, that is the turducken of pies. And yes, it was made right here in the good ol' US of A. Gives new meaning to the term 'as American as apple pie', don't it?

It's A Miracle!

Few things have food geeks more excited than synsepalum dulcificum, otherwise known as miracle fruit. When the fruit is consumed before eating, it causes sour things to taste sweet, thereby opening up a whole realm of newly-edible possibilities in a world that's rapidly becoming more and more concerned about the overconsumption of its food sources. Not to mention getting geeky foodies more excited than Paula Deen in a bathtub full of butter.

Look for miracle fruit to start popping up all over the molecular gastronomy map in 2011, and maybe even on the menus of some more mainstream restaurants too. Because once Wylie Dusfrene is talking about it, you know it's only a matter of time before everyone else is jumping on the same bandwagon...or at least deconstructing the bandwagon and blasting it with liquid nitrogen.

All For One

One is the loneliest number that you ever knew...

Unless you're a small restaurant trying to make your mark in an awful economy. Then, it turns out that focusing on a single thing can actually make you a bigger star than the big guys trying to do everything at once. From New York's Peanut Butter & Co. and Meatball Shop to Greenspan's Grilled Cheese opening soon in LA, it seems like restaurateurs are now picking their pleasure and sticking to it like white on rice. Which, come to think of it, is actually a great name for a rice-themed restaurant...

Take It To The Streets

From bahn mi to burritos, street food and its more sedentary American cousin, diner fare, certainly witnessed a resurrection in 2010. From trucks to taco stands, suddenly everyone wanted nothing more than to eat greasy goodness off of paper plates and plastic utensils. And, the trend is only going to get bigger and crazier in 2011, as the recession keeps eating people's paychecks and people keep eating comfort food to cope.

Forget fusion tacos, they're as overexposed as Lindsay Lohan's lady bits. Inventive street food purveyors are already plumbing the culinary classics of Vietnam, Korea, India and even America's own deep south in search of exciting new ways to tantalize your taste buds. And land themselves on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Great Balls Of...Meat

And, continuing in the comfort food vein, meatballs are poised to become pop culture's next big Italian-American infatuation -- at least as big as Snooki's hair. With entire restaurants opening up around these tiny balls of beef, it's only a matter of time before those balls become as ubiquitous in foodie culture as cupcakes are today. Look for chefs to start serving up truffle-topped, duck-stuffed, gourmet meatballs, and using them in everything from street food sandwiches to slightly ridiculous Iron Chef dessert concoctions. Because making savory ice cream is totally out. But making sweet balls of meat is totally in.

Stick Your Neck Out

In case you've been living under a rock -- or had your head so far up Daniel Bouloud's $150 truffle burger that you didn't notice -- we've been in a bit of a recession these past few years. Not to mention dealing with growing concerns about resource scarcity. Which is why chefs and foodies alike have been making a return to the frugal food practices of our less fortunate ancestors. From the aforementioned return to street food to the resurgence of the farm to table movement, the trend has definitely been to take food back to its simpler, more rustic roots.

In this vein (pun intended), 2010 also saw the rise of restaurateurs determined to make use of every part of the animal. From the aptly-named Animal restaurant in Hollywood to the growing popularity of shows like Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern on Travel Channel, offal has really taken off in 2010. And, in 2011, look for the neck to be the next big thing in gourmet butchering. From fish collar to lamb neck, everyone will want a piece of this extremely tender type of meat. So go ahead and start working on your necking jokes now...

Umami Dearest

Bitter, salty, sour, sweet...umami? Yes, umami. In case you haven't been watching your fair share of Food Network, or paying attention to LA's gourmet burger scene, umami means 'good taste' in Japanese and it refers to the fifth type of taste that your tongue's taste-buds can detect. It's been described as meaty, savory and -- I kid you not -- bacon. Yes, according to some people, umami is basically the flavor of bacon.

And, in 2011, that delicious flavor, which already took over the food world in 2010 in the form of good, old-fashioned, bacon itself, will be back in the tiny tube of yumminess known as umami paste. Look for it to show up in burgers (which it's already doing to great effect at LA's aptly-named Umami Burger), other meat dishes, and in anything else enterprising chefs can think of to put it in. Because in 2011, umami is will be the new bacon. Although, if umami tastes like bacon and bacon tastes like umami and umami is the next bacon...okay, now this is getting as confusing as Inception. Anyway, the point is, look for umami to start showing up all over the place in 2011.

I'm With Coco...Nut

Vitamin Water is out. Smartwater jumped the shark when it brought on Jennifer Aniston as its spokeswoman (I mean, how smart could she be if she couldn't figure out that Angie was doing the dirty with Brad). And specialty sodas are so 2010. 2011's beverage of choice will, undoubtedly, be coconut water. Coconut water comes from baby coconuts and the electrolyte-packed elixir is already being touted by celebs like Madonna and Jessica Simpson as a natural source of youth, energy, vitality and all the other things they really want us to think they get from $3 juice boxes instead of $300 juvaderm injections. Look for it to get even more popular in 2011...unlike Jessica's new Christmas album.