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Top Five Dining Trends for 2011

Benchmark Hospitality International, a leading U.S.-based hospitality management company, has just released its Top Five Dining Trends for 2011. The trends were observed by its 40 properties coast to coast and off shore, and were announced by Giorgi Di Lemis, vice president of food and beverage.

“The U.S. will continue to lead culinary innovation by embracing international flavours and preparations, converting these into contemporary dishes that elevate the dining experience,” said Di Lemis. “Today, there are many culinary trails being blazed by extremely creative chefs, farmers and mixologists. Those that lead the way through the next year and beyond will do so with a profound understanding and integration of the dynamic, global marketplace.”

Trend #1 Rebirth of the Gentleman Farmer

The innovative growers today, especially in California, are increasingly individuals who have developed a passionate love of farming as a second career: Lawyers, doctors, corporate executives in life’s second act. This has created an unprecedented, dynamic growing environment as these professionals turned farmers have the goal of achieving true personal satisfaction by making the world of farming and animal husbandry a better place through understanding artisanal methods, questioning old processes and enhancing methodologies.

Never in the history of farming have so many individuals from other industries fallen in love with the trade. And never before have the results been so dynamic.  Does the popularity of today’s celebrity chefs foretell a coming fascination with artisanal farmers?

Trend #2 Omakase, with a Mixology Twist

The current addition to a mixologist’s beverage arsenal is on-the-spot-creation of customized drinks, based on specific requests from the customer. The better bars and lounges have eliminated bitters, juices and mixes from the “guns” and bottles, and are creating freshly prepared juices and proprietary mixes for use within exotic combinations and garnishes. Salts from around the world, now widely available, are rapidly being embraced as a main ingredient in today’s cocktails.

Colour coordinating customers’ drinks with their favourite hue or creating a colour-coordinated wedding -- from linen to flowers to wines and cocktails, is the latest beverage trend. Today’s celebrity bartender impresses his customers with a lasting memory through new and customized cocktails, often created on the spot – and not just with his or her winning personality.

Trend #3 Nose-to-Tail Dining

Today’s culinary trendsetters stem from a group that as teenagers returned home after school to an empty house, and had to fend for themselves by opening cans, microwaving frozen dishes and consuming a lot of soda. So where did they acquire their taste for exotic cuts, offal and more?

Gen X (and increasingly Gen Y) is much more sophisticated than its parents imagine. These are generations that were raised to be eco-sensitive and frown on waste. So they’re game for experimenting with delicious combinations, unusual cooking techniques, and unique preparations of what some might consider exotic selections previously left off the plate: Sautéed kidneys, cured tongue, head cheese, tripe! No matter how unusual the protein or the preparation, today’s eco-minded culinary trendsetters are saying “bring it on!”

Trend #4 The Finish: Torn Between Two Lovers

When it comes to choosing desserts, customers today are swinging wildly between two ends of the continuum: The renaissance of sumptuous pies and miniature guilt-free desserts.  How can a restaurateur and pastry chef respond?

Offer both and leave it up to the customer to decide between rich decadence and attending to the waistline. Either way, the best finishes will offer spectacular flavour and lingering memories.

Trend #5 The World of Wine is Flat

The wine industry is now completely global, says Benchmark’s chief sommelier, Mary Watson. Wines from China, India, Russia, Georgia, Moldova, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, etc., are competing for shelf space in the United States along side the more familiar wines of France, Italy and the U.S.

As global economics change, so goes the wine industry.  A greater number of wine drinkers today are looking for good but less expensive selections, and are willing to explore varietals from countries not familiar to them to achieve taste coupled with value.  Somewhere Bacchus is toasting the world’s more adventurous yet economically-minded wine palates!