Hartman Food Trends of 2011

It's that time again! Time for HartmanSalt to look back on the past year and forecast the food trends for 2011. This practice, of course, is nothing new. Come January there are so many predictions floating around it can be more than a little overwhelming. Read on to discover the ingredients, edibles, drinks, places, and snacks that piqued our interest and have staying power for 2011.


PIMENTON DE LA VERA--The natural, earthy smokiness of Spanish-smoked paprika is like vegetarian bacon. 479 Popcorn puts it to good use as a CPG product. Expect to see more CPG products flavored with the smoky seasoning as it dethrones the chipotle chili for its imparting meatlessness; 00DDOUBLE ZERO--It's the finest grind of flour you can get in Italy. Look for more focus on how all types of grain are milled (think locally stone-ground wheat and finely ground flours of rye and buckwheat at restaurants and in artisan products); RICOTTA--Ricotta has become the go-to ingredient for elevated comfort food. From the home cook's DIY effort to the tangier Sardinian version made with sheep's milk, it's both honest and versatile. Look for more locally-made ricotta from the milk of Jersey cows as well as standard ricotta mixed into baked goods and filled pastas, as well as ice cream and breakfast foods; DUCK FAT--From a culinary perspective, duck fat is magical. From a health perspective, it contains a high percentage of mono-unsaturated fat and is closer in composition to olive oil than butter or lard. Plus, it has a high smoking point. Expect to see more novel fats on menus and in CPG products that were only recently verboten according to the USDA food pyramid. From coconut and lard to beef tallow, as long as the fat is well sourced, it's all good, and in small doses, good for you; MEATBALLS--Meatballs are in lock step with the resurgence of the red-sauce Italian joint at the heart of Italian-American cuisine. Due in large part to the Mediterraneanization of the modern American diet, i.e. lycopene-rich tomato products, cholesterol-friendly olive oil, and more recently a return to simple foods made with high-quality ingredients such as the sustainably sourced meatball. Look for old-timey Italian classics made with fresher, local and sustainably sourced ingredients in the coming year; OYSTERS--Oysters get much deserved attention in light of the desire for locale, or provenance. The notion of terroir has been gaining momentum for several years and being able to taste the origin of the oyster (from Totten Inlet to PEI) isn't too far off from the thrill of spring butter from cows that have grazed on fresh, new clover.  Look for more ingredients that foster a sense of terroir from local watersheds and chefs that skillfully highlight their subtle flavors; LOW-BROW CHICKEN--Winged or fried, low-brow chicken is on the rise. We are learning that (occasional) fried food does indeed feed the soul, particularly when the ingredients have been updated. Think heritage bred and brined chickens as an essential foundation to this classic American Comfort food. Look for the birds battered in ethnic seasonings (think Indian garam masala or Lebanese Aleppo pepper) for a global twist on this classic treat; KOREAN--The classic Korean comfort food of meat, rice or barley and vegetables in a super hot bowl. Stop and Bap, a 13-part series on PBS devoted to Korean cuisine and culture, debuts next spring starring Jean-Georges Vongerichten; UNDERGROUND TAKE OUT--Way beyond food trucks and street vendors, consumers prove they are willing to go to great lengths to try food with a reputation; BICYCLE CUISINE--Distribution and food production via bicycle. Gimmick or a new angle on sustainability?; Nordic --Skip the reindeer meat and expect an Americanized version more akin to the good stuff in IKEA's food section. Lingonberries, cloudberries, elderberries, open-faced rye sandwiches with funky cheeses and sweet piquant mustard will dominate; HYPER LOCAL: FORAGING--Head for the woods through use of old military survival guides. So what's forage-worthy? Morels, dandelion, fiddle head ferns, ramps, nettles, purslane, burdock, seaweeds, pine needles...The list goes on. Going beyond local and seasonal, the foraging trend will move from restaurant to kitchen table in the coming year as foodies take trowel in hand for some "wild crafting."; VEGETABLES EVOLVED--Vegetables are getting some respect from traditional chefs where meat-based protein has historically taken center stage. Chefs look to cultures where there is an inherent knowledge in vegetable preparation (i.e., Asia, Italy, France, India) using classical techniques with the addition of modern interpretations. The rules are fading and labels aren't as important. By focusing on vegetables, meat becomes more of an accent yet isn't necessarily verboten. Expect more consciously produced vegetable dishes at prepared food departments, food service, and in CPG products; PLAYFUL PORTION CONTROL WITH DIMINUTIVE TREATS--Teeny cupcakes at J'Chanceux Macaron NYC  (a mini macaron ice cream sandwich) offers 40 flavors from caramel to black sesame and the danish-inspired cream cheese cinnamon. Petite Bouche's wee salted caramels, Los Angeles (anise and espresso, red hot, ginger snap); NORISNAK--Not just for sushi! Originally considered a health food for treehugging types, the tasty, minneraly, salty umami goodness from Annie Chun and Sea's Gift brands is catching on as an addictive, salty snack with a host of healthy minerals. Expect more snacks and savory dishes seasoned with flavored nori for a Japanese/Korean flavor to hit shelves and restaurants in the near future; HANDPIE REVIVAL--Generations prior ate hand pies as adorable snacks when scratch foods were the norm. Bring on the high-quality portable food! In a culture where a factory-flavored energy bar for breakfast is fast becoming the norm, there has clearly been a movement towards the real, fresh and less processed. But sometimes, you've got to take that lovingly cared for treat to go. So three cheers for the hand pie! These portable delights can be made sweet, savory, fried or baked, filled with seasonal finds from the farmer's market or of crusts made with a variety of milled flours, from whole grain spelt to savory rye.