Each year, as we kiss a fond farewell to our gastronomic past and look toward all the delicious possibilities, culinary crystal balls appear to forecast the food trends of the year. Overexposed zeitgeists like bacon and cupcakes begin to fade and newcomers take the stage. What’s does 2011 have in store? Here are some top picks inspired by what’s happening locally, social media rumblings on Twitter and Facebook, and national input from restaurant consultants like Andrew Freeman & Co. of San Francisco and Brooklyn-based Baum + Whiteman.
Pies are the new cupcakes: Though perhaps not as Kewpie-cute as cupcakes, the homier pie is set to have its moment in 2011. Made with seasonal ingredients (persimmon, Meyer lemons), local butters and organic, all-natural ingredients, these are the kinds of pies great-grandmas used to have cooling on the windowsill. Branching off are myriad ethnic versions (savory curry pies, English hand pies), mini pies baked in Mason jars and southern-inspired, pecan and fried pies. Petaluma Pie Company, 125 Petaluma Blvd N. (behind Starbucks), Petaluma, 347-9743; fried pies at Fremont Diner, 2660 Fremont Dr., Sonoma, 938-7370. Best pies in SoCo.
Market Eateries: More than a grocery store, less than a restaurant. Multi-purpose, European-style food halls offer gourmet prepared foods; meats, cheeses & groceries along with sit-down service. One of the most anticipated market halls was Mario Batali’s Eataly in New York City, a 50,000 square-foot space with several boutique eateries as well as fish, meat, pasta and bakery goods for sale. Locally, Fresh by Lisa Hemenway (5755 Mountain Hawk Way, Santa Rosa, 595-1048) pioneered the local market eatery with a combination of locally produced foods, an extensive prepared foods deli and in-store eatery. On a smaller scale is Woodruff’s Artisan Foods & Cafe in Sebastopol, a recently opened specialty foods market with it’s own restaurant, Cafe Marcella, inside. (966 Gravenstein Hwy S., Sebastopol,)
Southern cooking & Gulf seafood: The South is rising again. Although Sonoma County has long been a home to southern transplants, nouveau southern cooking will get its due in 2011. Grits, pimento cheese, fried chicken, Spam, red velvet, barbecue, gumbo and scrapple are showing up on local menus with increasingly regularity. Chefs are showing support for the hard-hit fishermen of the Gulf by showcasing seafood (most notably shrimp) from the area as well. Top spots for Southern hospitality: Rocker Oysterfeller’s & Sonoma Coast Fish Bank (buttermilk fried chicken, gumbo, Gulf seafood) 14415 Coast Hwy 1, Valley Ford, 876-1983); Zin Restaurant and Wine Bar (cassoulet with Andouille sausage): 344 Center St., Healdsburg, 473-0946; Rotisserie & Wine (duck confit and waffles, scrapple) 720 Main St., Napa, 254-8500); Sarah’s Forestville Kitchen (jalepeno grits, gumbo) 6566 Front St., Forestville, 887-1055; Pimento burger at Brick and Bottle (55 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, (415) 924-3366).
Haute Dogs: The lowly wiener has become more than just ballpark fare. Hot dogs and their encased-siblings, sausages, are getting a makeover, with white tablecloth toppings (wine reductions, caramelized onions) and unusual ingredients (feta, cranberries). Using their own meat grinders and natural casings, chefs are getting into the action as well. Roy’s Chicago Doggery (peach habenaro hot sauce, blue cheese) 84 Corona Rd, Petaluma, 774-1574; Tap’s Petaluma (organic sauerkraut, deep fried bacon dog) 205 Kentucky Street (beneath the historic Petaluma Hotel), Petaluma, 763-6700; Chicago Style Hot Dogs (pinot dog), various locations Twitter: dogsfromchicago; Yanni’s Sausage Grill (Greek, chicken limoncello) 10007 Main St., Penngrove, 795-7088;
“Free” Foods: Elevating Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-free dining: Formerly fringe-y food ideas are going mainstream as our collective waistlines expand. Meatless Mondays, a one-day-a-week-meat-free movement started in 2003 as a public health awareness program, is gaining momentum as restaurants and schools cut back on animal protein in favor of grains and vegetables. Forward-thinking chefs are lavishing attention on vegetarian and vegan options — highlighting pristine produce. Eateries devoted to raw, vegan and gluten-free foods are getting thriving, as are restaurants that offer limited protein choices. The Garden (90 Mark West Springs Road, 829-1410); Bliss Bakery (gluten-free dining) 463 Sebastopol Ave., Santa Rosa, 542-6000; Cyrus’ haute vegetarian tasting menu, 29 North St., Healdburg, 707.433.3311; Cafe Gratitude, 206 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg. 707.723.4462.
Dessert First: Heck with dinner, why not just eat dessert? Dessert bars, bakeries and superstar pastry chefs are emerging as equals. Top Chef Just Desserts on Bravo helped to shine a light on the sometimes overlooked craft of pastry. With a new emphasis on exotic flavors, savory influences along with updated spins on traditional treats, desserts are becoming an integrated part of the meal. Or the meal itself. Sift Cupcakery has shed its cupcake-only mantle to become Sift Cupcake and Dessert Bar (Santa Rosa, Cotati, Napa) featuring unique takes on the whoopie pie, cream puffs, profite rolls, macarons and ice cream sandwiches. Haute restaurants are recruiting top pastry talent, including the recent move of Nicole Plue to Cyrus.
More trends for 2011:
– Smaller Portions/Mini-sizing: Gut-busting plates of food will be replaced by more thoughtful, reasonable portions. Sliders, mini-burgers and other micro-sized bites pack in flavor, but satisfy with less. Continuing to remain popular are tapas and small plates restaurants where ordering multiple dishes and sharing are encouraged.
– Calories in our face: More and more menus are actually listing calories in places other than hidden away on some pamphlet hung near the bathroom. Fast food giant Wendy’s is putting calorie counts right on the ordering menu…and frankly, it’s not all bad. Yes, there are times when you just don’t want to know. But a dose of realism is also a pretty good thing sometimes.
– One-thing only eateries: Shifting away from the Chinese menu approach are restaurants and pop-up eateries that just do one thing really well. Chef John Ash experimented with a grilled-cheese-only farm-market stand called “Hot Cheese” over the summer.
– Feeding our children better: School lunch programs continue to evolve, though many still pay mostly lip-service to meaningful nutritional change. Over-ambitious parents pack tweezer perfect Bento-boxes with nutritious yet adorable rice balls, fruits and vegetables.
Still Trending from 2010
The hottest food trends of 2010 will continue to extend their influence into the mainstream throughout the year…
Food Trucks: Santa Rosa’s Munch Mondays begin on January 10 as a collection of mobile kitchens converge near downtown. In Napa, trucks converge on the first Friday of the month near Oxbow market.
Food buzzwords also include: home canning and preserving; collective gardening as entire neighborhoods share in the bounty; the waste-less whole animal eating; Korean cuisine; exotic spices and spice blends in the kitchen.
Your 15 minutes are officially over
The bacon zeitgeist: At last bacon can just be bacon again. The wacky days of bacon mayonnaise, bacon candy, bacon t-shirts and bacon cocktails are winding down, which is actually good news to folks like John Stewart of Santa Rosa’s Black Pig Meat Company. Although the frenzy was initially good for biz, serious pork-o-philes can now just get back to the task of enjoying their smoky goodness in peace.