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Top 10 Food Trends for 2011

Butterscotch budino from Mozza2Go
Butterscotch budino from Mozza2Go
Photo credit: My Last Bite

Now that we've examined the Top 10 Bad Food Trends of 2010, we're looking to the year ahead.

As expected...bacon in everything. DIY molecular gastronomy. Gentrified hot dogs. The growing popularity of Korean food as it continues assimilating into the American palate (just as Italian, Chinese and Mexican cuisines previously did).

The biggest trend? The continued appeal of vintage foods as seen in the resurgence of home canning and pickling, savory pies, potted meats and whoopie pies.

1. Savory Pies

Pies, in general, have been a big trend over the past couple years, but when Yuichiro Sato (a.k.a. The Flying Pie Man) won Best In Show at the KCRW's 2nd annual pie contest with a beef and porcini mushroom pie, it sealed the deal.

2. Potted Meats

With its potted Berkshire pork and salmon rillettes, Palate Food + Wine helped launch this trend in Los Angeles a couple years ago. This past year, we started seeing more pâtés, rillettes and other variations of meat-in-a-jar popping up at L.A. restaurants, most notably at Waterloo & City but also at recently opened l'Epicerie, where it's available for takeout.

3. Canning & Pickling

The vintage food trend continues with the increased popularity of home-canning and pickling. Developed long before the cooling compression system was a gleam in Jacob Perkins' eye, these techniques for preserving food during the fruitless (and often vegetable-less) winter months have long existed in numerous cultures. In modern-day Los Angeles, Chicks with Knives has raised the pickling/canning ethos to an art-form, teaching pickling classes, peddling a popular bacon jam (which resembles the onion compote atop a Father's Office burger) and even launching a one-day pickle pop-up shop, melding two of our annual trends (see #10).

4. Whoopie Pies

With cupcakes not yet passé (aren't we behind schedule?), yet another retro dessert takes its turn in the spotlight. We've spotted whoopie pies appear on an increasing number of bakery counters over the past few years, our favorite being the craggy chocolate/peppermint combo at recently opened SimpleThings.

5. Butterscotch Pudding

Ah, Mozza's butterscotch budino, the pudding that launched a thousand desserts. By now, Mozza pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez's heavenly concoction has become the most imitated dessert in all of L.A., and we're fine with that. Call it pudding, custard, pot de creme, even flan. We don't care. We never tire of this dessert, either in its original and still transcendent form at Mozza or in its many credible imitators, our favorite of which comes from Platine in Culver City.

 

Food truck caravan
Food truck caravan
LA Weekly Flickr pool/ricardodiaz11

6. Upscale Sports Bars

Plentiful HD TVs. A good burger. Decent beer (note: we said "decent," we didn't even say "great"). Is that too much to ask? For the longest time, the answer was a resounding "yes." Hooters waitresses and peanut shells on the floor have their charm, to be sure, but we want as many options as possible where we can watch Notre Dame get their asses kicked.

7. Fast-Casual Salad Restaurants

With all the emphasis on image and body in supposedly health-conscious California, we can't believe it has taken this long for the fast-casual sector to exploit the salad market. Thank goodness for Tender Greens, Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop, Freshii, M Cafe de Chaya, et al.

8. (More) Farm-To-Table Restaurants

More organic, locavore, farm-to-table fare is a wonderful thing. We're just worried "market-fresh" will become shorthand for "lazy and unimaginative."

9. Food Trucks Closing

Every time we think this new breed of food trucks, the luxe loncheros, have saturated the market with colorful trucks, cutesy names and mostly mediocre cooking, we expect the whole trend to go belly-up. That it hasn't (yet) done so is a testament to the bad economy, to the way many neighborhoods, even restaurant-heavy enclaves, are underserved by bland, denatured, corporate eateries and, perhaps, to a yearning for a more widespread street culture.

10. Pop-Up Restaurants & Supper Clubs

Been there. Done that. Still going strong. With LudoBites, chef Ludovic Lefbevre made the pop-restaurant plausible, profitable and, above all, cool -- yet semi-accessible (unless the computer reservation system crashes, which it usually does). This year, Test Kitchen took the concept to new heights, transforming a middling neighborhood pizzeria into a nightclub with food instead of music. And new kid on the block Craig Thornton, a one-man band of fantastic and fantastical cookery, wowed the small crowds who could get into his coveted Wolvesmouth dinner parties.


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