Last year it was bacon with anything (including chocolate) and gluten-free foods. This year, food industry watchers are talking about gourmet hot dogs and “discomfort” foods—among many other trends. Read on to learn what you can expect in 2011, as forecast by foodchannel.com and food trends expert Andrew Freeman, whose company advises restaurants and hotels on food-related marketing and public relations.
From Freeman:

Pie High. The cupcake craze may be winding down to make way for pies any which way you want them: savory, sweet, round, square, mini, baked or fried.

Homespun Goodness. Small restaurants (fewer than 40 seats) financed and built by normal folks in your family or neighborhood will pop up. Maybe we’re finally sick of corporate chain restaurants?

Gimme Your Best Shot! Like street food vendors who specialize in one item or dish—done to perfection—specialty-item restaurants that do just soup, or noodles or, well, pies will become more popular.

Snack Packs. Full meals are being downsized into individually wrapped servings. Maybe this will help with portion control issues? Just don’t eat two!

Just the Facts, Ma’am. Menus have jumped the shark in recent years with all the adjectives and over-the-top descriptions of cooking techniques. Expect to see plain talk that focuses on ingredients.

Saucy vs. Dirty. Chefs will be striving to bring out natural food flavors rather than showcasing fancy sauces. “Instead, they are using powders, crumbles, dustings and ‘dirt’ crafted from cookie crumbs, dried mushroom powder, dehydrated beets, etc.,” reports Restaurant Hospitality.

Roast ’Em If Ya Got ’Em. Chefs are throwing veggies right onto embers and are slow-roasting large cuts of meat over wood-burning fires, just as our ancestors did.

Buh-Bye Burger, Hello Doggie! Burgers had their heyday; now it’s the hot dog’s turn on the grill! These dogs won’t be ballpark weenies boiled in water, though. They’re getting a first-class upgrade and toppings galore from creative chefs and cooks around the country.

Meatless Mondays, Fish Fridays. You’ll see vegetarian days at local restaurants to accommodate not just vegetarians but any healthy-minded people who don’t think eating meat every night is necessary.

Yogurt Evolution. Yogurt is already a go-to ingredient, but look for it to take on new forms, such as sun- and freeze-dried, smoked and pressed. Expect to see global variations like skyr (from Iceland) and labne (from Lebanon).

From foodchannel.com, other trends to look for include the canning comeback; men in aprons; support for local ingredients; calorie splurges (we’re already sick of our food being labeled with calories and trans fats); the increasing popularity of food apps; interest in cultivating relationships with our butcher, baker and fishmonger; chefs in school cafeterias; functional eating (eating to enhance health, longevity and performance); and exposure to “discomfort” foods (think of Andrew Zimmern’s adventure eating on the Travel Channel).

Also according to foodchannel.com, trendy ingredients this year include pimento cheese, necks (lamb, beef, goat, pork), whey, kumquats, smoked oils, butter, cumin, hay (yes, you read that right), popcorn, hummus, pretzels and honey. What food and ingredient trends are you seeing? Please share your thoughts with me at [email protected]