Seemingly everyone is writing about food trends from 2000 to 2009, but I was struck by how much I agreed with the list put forth by the The Food Channel. I’ve included only their top 10 overall trends here, you can read about their full take on all kinds of trends on their site.
This is part of what I personally call the “Decadence in Small Doses Movement.” It’s a remedy to an ongoing conflict about weight and diet. Sure, cake with frosting is bad, but this is so small, it’s just a serving size, right? Hey, it’s going to keep me from eating an even-bigger slice of cake, right? And I deserve it. That’s how people end up forking over $4 for a cupcake. But NPR recently reported that a large 6.5 ounce “designer” cupcake (from New York’s Crumbs Bakery) had 780 calories, 107 grams of carbs and nearly 36 grams of fat. From a dietary standpoint, that’s much worse than a Big Mac, which contains 576 calories, 32 grams of fat and 38 grams of carbohydrates.
In the wake of the 9/11 disaster, comfort food took on a major theme in American cuisine, hence the firm interest in all things pork, notably bacon. It got so much attention that it even ended up on pizza and in desserts. It’s hard to dismiss the power of pork; I have a jar of Baconnaise in my fridge. I’m so ashamed, but I think that says everything.
It’s rare to see a menu these days without sliders. From a production standpoint, any kitchen monkey can produce them. They’re fast to get to a table, since even the meat can be pre-cooked and reheated. But the big reason is that they’re a good cost point for restaurants. After all, you often pay roughly the same price as a full hamburger, and for about half the protein.
•Gourmet Burgers made with Kobe or Angus Beef
Yes, cried restaurateurs, a new wa y to get diners to pay up to $30 for a hamburger! The most disgusting thing that I ate in the past three years was a Kobe beef burger; both greasy and bland, it left an unpleasant mouth feel that took a full day to get over. As a steak, Kobe beef is tricky to prepare, which is why it often gets ground into hamburger, something that mocks its delicate flavor and texture. Personally, I think this is a huge waste of carefully produced meat.
•Superfruits such as Acai, Pomegranate and Blueberry
Once Oprah says she trusts it, there’s no going back. But be warned: don’t buy any processed foods (think: blueberry Eggo waffles) with the notion that you’re getting any kind of benefit. Most “blueberries” in processed foods are actually dyed pieces of apple.
Amazingly, cold raw fish truly caught on the U.S. in the past decade, to the extent that even my local grocery store has a sushi bar. And that’s a problem. Big supermarket chains could care less about sustainable sushi fishing practices, and it’s one of the many reasons for over-fishing of tuna.
•Oils, such as olive oils and truffle oils
I’m pleased with this trend. Olive oil is one of my favorite souvenirs from traveling to Italy or Spain, but in the U.S., my favorite supermarket brand is Lucini. But be warned — most truffle oil is crafted using synthetic thioether, an odorant found in truffles.
•Artisan foods, particularly in breads, cheeses and dark chocolates
This is so true that the word “artisan” has become horribly abused. “Artisan” means that it’s been hand-crafted by a skilled crafts person. If you buy bread that’s been mechanically made in bulk at the central location of your supermarket by a high school dropout earning $8 an hour, it’s not “artisan” anymore.
Once Starbucks got everyone used to paying $3 for a cup of coffee, the flood gates opened. Blooming teas and artisan coffeehouses, it all goes hand with the Decadence in Small Doses movement. Hey, I work hard, I deserve to spend $14 a pound on this special whole bean coffee, right? I am fine with $4 for a small pot of rose petal tea.
Go to FoodChannel.com to see their thoughts on the past decade’s biggest food influencers, restaurant trends and more.