UPPING THE ANTE: AIRPORT CUISINE
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.
Airports are getting in on serious food options, too, finally bridging the gastronomical divide between first class service and the anemic food court options of the Blimpie’s ilk. JFK’s Terminal 5 boasts Mark Ladner’s rustic Italian menu at Aeronuova, the sushi stylings of former Buddakan Chef Michael Schulson at Deep Blue, tapas at Piquillo by Alexandra Raij (NYC’s Tia Pol), and French fare at Brasserie La Vie (lovechild of Pastis and Balthazar chefs). And it’s not just the East Coast that’s eating right between flights. You can get a Baguette Burger at Boudin Bakery at Terminal 3 at SFO or a Martha Stewart Dog (really) at Pink’s outpost at LAX. (Longtime chef duo Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Fenniger have plans to bring their modern-Mex Border Grill stylings to a Cali airport sometime soon.) Tired of navigating the interminable ATL airport? Drop into One Flew South for sushi. And if your plans next year find you airborne in a westerly direction, stop in at SFO’s upcoming Terminal 2 for authentically San Franciscan (local, seasonal) cuisine. Or else just drink in the 10,000 square feet of its Cat Cora Cocktail Lounge.