Each year brings a new wave of restaurant trends inspired by local produce, diner experimentation, and the economic drift. From new comfort foods to gluten-free meals, here’s what to expect in 2010, according to a few chefs already working with these trends.
1. Simple Sells: "People like simple, classy comfort foods," Robert Sanda, chef of Tally's Restaurant and Bar, said. "Simplicity and cleanliness are very important - recently people have been very aware of how clean the establishment is that they're eating in."Sanda pointed to Tally's yellowfin tuna dish ($22.95) served with a wonton basket, julienne veggies, wasabi, sweet soy sauce and ginger rosette - as a great example of how a meal can be beautiful and interesting without being overwhelming.
2. Bacon is (still) king: Bill Overdyk, executive chef at Centro, said bacon will remain a big menu item. "It's going to show up in more unexpected places, like desserts and coursed-out dinners focused around bacon." Overdyk is currently planning a menu for Centro focused around bacon.
3. Cured meats: Prosciutto, pancetta, and other artisan cured meats are being used in and on everything. One secret to awesome-tasting procuitto? Feed free-range hogs a diet of acorns.
"It's an old-world way of fattening up pigs, and it produces the best proscuitto you've ever tasted," said Overdyk, who uses La Quercia's cured meats in many of his dishes at Centro, from the chicken saltimbocca ($19.99) chicken breasts with marsala wine sauce, sage La Quercia proscuitto, mushrooms and fontina served with fettuccine alfredo) to the sea scallops ($24.99).
4. Eggs. They're what's for dinner: Or lunch, or in an appetizer. Eggs are everywhere.
"A trend I love and welcome," W.E. Moranville, Datebook and The Des Moines Register's food critic said. "The white adds texture, while the yolk, when softly cooked, works a little like sauce that oozes out over the dish. It's been a favorite French trick in simple bistros for years. I love that it's catching on here - eggs are just such a yummy food."
Centro's sweetbreads ($9.99), made with La Quercia prosciutto, peas, red onions and mushrooms, are topped with a Foxhollow Farm egg, as is their pork tenderloin sandwich ($12.99).
5. Gluten-free options: Much like vegetarian menus popping up everywhere, more choices for gluten-free lifestyles are also appearing. "The gluten-free population has been out there, but not until recently have they had places to go. Now they have more then one option," said Sanda, who serves a popular gluten-free cheesecake at Tally's.
6. Premium burgers: Moranville said last year was the "year of the gourmet burger," and luckily for us, it's getting even better this year.
"Expensive cuts are out," she said. "So chefs are showing us what they can do with a hamburger. Good stuff, in fact." Try the Burger Rossini ($16), with foie gras, truffles, demi glace and Swiss cheese at Django for the epitome of a premium burger.
7. Inexpensive cuts of meat: "The economy is continuing to pinch people in the pockets," Andrew Meek, chef at Sbrocco, said. "We'll continue to use less-expensive cuts of meats, such as veal tongue, brisket and lamb shanks instead of rack of lamb because we can get it for a much more reasonable price. It tastes great, and I'd love for this to be a reality check and continue for a long time. We don't need to be snobby with our cuts of meat." Try Sbrocco's beef brisket lettuce wraps ($9) with sambal, soba noodles, pickled onions and kimchi.
8. Big plates: Instead of doing the "salad, main course, dessert" routine, or small plate tapas-style meals, diners are ordering large plates and spending more time eating.
"I don't think it's so much an economical thing, it's more of people wanting to have a good time and socialize," Jason Simon, chef at Alba, said.