Many of last year’s major culinary trends were responses to the big bad economic wolf. It was a year of comfort food; DIY; mobile restaurant concepts (how better to flee angry investors?); tech-savvy, in-house PR; and marquee star mixology programs—the profit margin lifesaver of struggling operations. And we’ve seen growth within those trends. Social media outlets continue to diversify communication between chef, purveyor, and diner; the Asian concept restaurants of 2009 are evolving, with hopeful franchises like Sensebowl and concept-driven spots like Bill Kim’s communal urbanbelly; and house-made, hands-on, bare-knuckle prep (e.g., 2009’s ubiquitous canning and pickling) has transitioned from the professional kitchen to consumer shelves, courtesy of gourmet retail.
Strong as those veins of ingenuity are, this year in food was not a reaction to the recession. The culinary trends of 2010 illustrate what the industry learned about itself through the lens of necessity—from ingredients and service to the fundamentals and fantastical. We’ve seen locavore and DIY values progress toward high-concept naturalism, with a strong emphasis on terroir. We’ve watched as comfort food, culinary darling of the recession, morphed into a more distinctive, ambitious expression of soul and local character. We’ve seen mixologists marry doggedly authentic cocktail puritanism with sleek, next generation technologies, shedding the skins (and costumes) of hospitality-historicism for a more idiosyncratic bar menu. And we’ve witnessed the sphere of industry influence expand, from the cuisine on the plate to the welfare of a school, an environment, and even a nation.
2010 was a year of rededicated focus and renewed freedoms. And it wasn’t because of any magically resuscitated financial health. It was because the industry learned to trust itself, its strengths, and its special influence in the (ever-so-slightly tattered) fabric of modern culture. Here’s a recap of the outstanding culinary trends of 2010.
Click here to view a printable version ot the 2010 Culinary Trends Report.
Comfort foods of the junkier variety also are going under the culinary knife. New York is already littered with high-concept hot dogs: there’s rustic refinement—we’re talking house made sauerkraut at Bark; baguette-cradled, locally sourced franks at Dogmatic; and edgy speakeasy meat-aperitifs at PDT front Crif Dog’s. And more cities are beginning to seriously relish gourmet dogs. Order a Belly Dog at Belly Shack (CHI) for fusion fast food with kimchi salsa and egg noodles. For an upscale wiener, try the Hot Doug at Jack’s Bistro (MD), where Ted Stelzenmuller pays homage to the eponymous Chicago gourmet hot dog haven with a Pretty Woman-worthy makeover, featuring duck and fig sausage, black truffle aioli, foie gras mouse, and fleur de sel. If you want to catch a show, head to one of the monthly “Dawg Competitions” at Franks n’ Dawgs (CHI) for a gourmet dog fight between two chefs (this month Michael Fiorello’s pork sausage and sherry-braised pork belly combo battled Jared Van Camp’s “triple ducker” with duck confit, pickled shiitakes, and shaved foie gras). Not fiending for a frank? Adam Fleischman’s Umami Burger in LA is still topping the savory-charts with glutamate-rich ingredients like beer-infused cheese. Or try David Schneider’s Duck Gyro at Taxim (CHI), where house-made mint yogurt and pomegranate reduction are tucked in with spit-roasted, farm raised, pastourma-spiced duck.