2007: The Year in Food Trends

Warning: This post is filled with food punditry.

Everybody fancies himself a food pundit these days. And why not? We all like to eat, and we all like to think and talk about food. And there's plenty to talk about. Food is all over the news everywhere you look. The only thing we need is a cable network that would put us on the air to do all of the above. So until that day comes, you and I can do our food punditing and prognosticating right here, starting now.

Trends I'm in Favor Of

Small (Plates) Really Are Beautiful

Small plates mean we get to more carefully calibrate how much and what we eat. This is most assuredly a good thing. Plus, if we are hungry, we get to try a lot more dishes with small plates. Another really good thing. Note to chefs and restaurateurs: Just don't rip us off with your small plate pricing. A plate of pimientos de padron flash-fried and lightly coated in sea salt shouldn't cost $18.

Chefs Love Burgers Too

Unlike some folks I like the idea of chefs opening burger places. Chefs like Thomas Keller, Bobby Flay and Hubert Keller (Burger Bar in Las Vegas) know and love hamburgers, have high standards, and know what delicious is, so I for one am happy about this trend. Note to chefs: Take note of Laurent Tourondel's experience at BLT Burger in New York and learn from it. Tend to your burgers. It's a lot harder than you think.

Restaurants Dressing Down (But I Don't Need to Know That Constance Is My Server)

This is a continuation of a pattern of the last couple of years. I don't think that white tablecloth, fine dining restaurants are dead, but I don't think we're going to see many Per Ses, Daniels, or French Laundries opening up in the next few years. I am really curious to see what kind of restaurant Charlie Trotter opens up in New York.

Where Our Food Comes From Is Important

Though we may be reaching the breaking point in terms of menus identifying and lionizing their ingredient sources (sometimes a great steak is just a great steak. I don't need to know the cow's name) making farmers into heroes and promoting sustainable agriculture and humane animal-raising methods are never a bad thing. And when we see chains like Burgerville in the Pacific Northwest stressing and naming local sources for food, that represents progress. Even Burger King and McDonald's have taken some bigger-than-baby steps in the direction of more careful food sourcing.

Serious Pizza Coming to a Town Near You

In every town in America, from Des Moines to Philadelphia to Los Angeles, serious pie joints are opening. These pizzerias are installing coal or wood-fired ovens, using (and sometimes making) fresh mozzarella, and in general are trying to do right by a pizza-loving public that is clamoring for great pizza. That, my friends, is a good thing. But the road to pizza greatness is littered with potholes. Sometimes these would-be pizzeria-owner's reach exceed their grasp. Great pizzerias are the product of passion and an obsessive desire to make great pizza. Great pizzerias are never "concepts," or the "c" word as a friend calls it. They need to be owner-occupied to be great. Need hard evidence of this. Look no further than Chris Bianco (Pizzeria Bianco) in Phoenix, Anthony Mangieri (Una Pizza Napoletana) in New York, and Brian Spangler (Apizza Scholls) in Portland, Oregon.

Trends That Could Go Off a Cliff

Molecular Gastronomy—A Little Knowledge Is a Dangerious Thing

In the hands of super-talented chefs like Wylie Dufresne and Grant Achatz, molecular gastronomy works. In the hands of less talented, less disciplined, and less experienced cooks and chefs, it's an invitation to a series of failed chemistry experiments in the kitchen.

Herbacious Ice Creams and Savory Desserts

Pastry chefs, enough already with the herbacious ice creams and savory desserts. Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme do not belong in ice cream. They belong in roasted meats and Paul Simon lyrics. Serious pastry chefs in search of inspiration should look no further than Meredith Kurtzman at New York's Otto for inspiration. She is adventurous and forward-thinking without ever being silly, stupid, or needlessly provocative. One spoonful of her olive oil gelato is all you need to understand.