Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Don't let these gems slip past

In the roar of prognostication that erupts every year-end, some of the most intriguing predictions are lost in the din. Sadly, it’s even happened this year with the standout of the breed, the National Restaurant Association’s annual survey-based forecast of trends. Consider, for instance, the finding that 61% of chefs are considering the start-up of a food truck.

But that’s not the only jaw-dropper. One-third of the 1,791 surveyed chefs said their restaurants have a garden that supplies produce. A shift to vegetable and vegetarian options was forecast to be the hottest trend in appetizers during 2012, and No. 30 on the list of 223 expected shifts was increased use of “ancient grains” like spelt and amaranth (and, presumably, faro). That’s opposed to the proliferation of dishes made with quinoa, which dropped to Trend #40.

The spread of beer sommeliers was predicted to be the 58th hottest trend. No doubt they’ll be knowledgeable about gluten-free beer, No. 39 on the ranking.

It’s intriguing that North African or Maghreb cuisine was predicted by the canvassed chefs to be hotter in 2012 than Korean food, contrary to most of the other forecasts for the year. Indeed, I don’t remember another one that mentioned North African food. But they were certainly bullish on Korean and Nordic fare.

Perhaps they’ve been sipping once-banned absinthe, No. 138.

Similarly, pies have repeatedly been touted during Forecast Season as the treats that supplant cupcakes as the hot indulgence of the day. Yet pies finish last on the NRA list, right behind Italian cuisine, which I put high on my personal prognostication list.

The list of trends begins as you might expect, with variations on the local and sustainable boom (the shift to local or sustainable foods accounts for six of the Top 10). You can find a review of those expected currents anywhere. But treat yourself to a drill-down of the list. You may be very, very suprised.

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