Benchmark Hospitality International just released its Top Five Dining Trends for 2011 based on dining habits at its 40 properties located around the country from coast to coast.
“The U.S. will continue to lead culinary innovation by embracing international flavors and preparations, converting these into contemporary dishes that elevate the dining experience,” says Giorgi Di Lemis, vp of food/beverage. “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
With our upcoming September issue themed around sustainability, we’ve heard a lot about what’s keeping groups coming back to eateries that pride themselves on offering farm-to-table dining experiences.
Benchmark reports that there’s been a remarkable increase in individuals, especially in the West, who have developed a keen interest in farming. What’s most interesting is that we’re talking about lawyers, doctors, and corporate executives.
Di Lemis suggests the popularity of today’s celebrity chefs are a factor behind the fascination with artisan farmers. Picking up on the trend, event and meeting planners are now taking their groups to community gardens to help plant and harvest ingredients for their next meal.
Trend #2: Advanced Mixology
Forget canned fruits, syrups and other bottled mixes. Organic cocktails are hot, using fresh fruits from daily farmer markets. This trend is a big hit among groups, especially during smaller events when bartenders give impromptu mixology lessons while creating tasty concoctions.
Di Lemis says that better bars and lounges have eliminated bitters, juices and mixes from the “guns” and bottles. These unique drinks are often created to match a color-coordinated event, too. It isn’t about just coordinating flowers and tablecloths anymore.
Trend #3: Nose-to-Tail Dining
Planners are giving their attendees more and more options of experimenting with new dishes. The exotic, unusual and maybe even downright scary are all the rage, says Di Lemis, including: “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
The health-conscious don’t have to skip dessert. Chefs have been creating fat-free, sugar-free, glutton-free, zero-calorie, you name it, desserts for all tastes. No one is left behind.
Di Lemis notes that those watching their waistline don’t have to deny satisfying their sweet tooth. That might be something as simple as homemade low-fat vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberries, or a totally guilt-free strawberry salad with lemon syrup and a dollop of creamy nonfat Greek yogurt.
Trend #5: The World of Wine is Flat
The wine industry continues to expand across the global map, says Benchmark’s chief sommelier, Mary Watson. Wines from China, India, Russia, Georgia, Moldova, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, etc., are competing for shelf space in the United States alongside the usual suspects.
It boils down to a sense of adventure and saving a buck. Watson says, “A greater number of wine drinkers today are looking for good but less expensive selections, and they’re willing to explore varietals from countries not familiar to them to achieve taste coupled with value.”