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We were interviewed by the Philadelphia Daily News' April Lisante for a January 4, 2007, article on food-related trends for 2007 (see below).

We'd love to learn more about the trends that ChefTalk readers are predicting for the year ahead.

Karen & Andrew

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Foodie heaven in '07: Experts reveal the newest taste trends


CALL IT THE year of the foodie.

This year is expected to prove that now, more than ever before, food-savvy Americans are dining out, savoring wines and spirits, cooking at home -- and generally considering themselves experts in all things gastronomical.

Overall, we're expected to fork out $1.3 trillion to eat and drink out and at home in 2007.

And while some of last year's hot trends -- from steakhouses to citrus-infused vodkas -- seem to be here to stay, the industry is plotting some dramatic changes in 2007, from menu innovations to cooking techniques to new wines and foods.

So what should you look for this year?

We talked with husband-wife team Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, authors, sommeliers and industry watchers, to find out what's hot. The duo just published their seventh food tome, What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea -- Even Water -- Based on Expert Advice from America's Best Sommeliers.

They predicted a tasty year.

Pairing up

From wine and cheese to water and dessert, people now need to know they've got the best possible food and drink combinations in order to have a true restaurant "experience." Heck, even Olive Garden suggests wine pairings with its gargantuan Italian dishes.

"If you look at the list of books that have come out in the last year, there are more books about pairing food and drink than ever before: wine and cheese, fine water with food, sake with food," Page said. "People are much more interested. They want the next level of experience, not just some general tips. Plus people are better home cooks and all this is coming into their consciousness."

Exploding cocktails

Chefs and bartenders will increasingly be putting their heads together to create cocktails that match specific dishes on the menu. Blame it once again on Americans and their food savvy. Vodka will go beyond citrus infusions, adding cilantro, even Douglas fir flavors. Another new trend: chefs who bring the bar right to you and prepare the concoctions tableside, the same way some toss a Caesar salad or flambé a dessert.

"They will come up with custom cocktails to go with any dish," said Page. "There's a whole new generation of bar chefs who are taking the art of the cocktail very seriously...creating cocktails with elements of spirits mixed with fruit juices and herbs."

Sustainable cuisine

Many books will continue to address the environmental and health-related consequences of our diets, from debating grass-fed vs. conventional meats to fast food, antibiotics and organics. With the release of the movie "Fast Food Nation" last year, as well as dozens of other books that address food safety, animal rights and other hot-button food issues, Americans' eyes are open and "they can't go back."

"That is increasingly important as people realize their choices [of what they eat] do have strong political implications for the health of the country and our bodies," Page said.

Condiments aplenty

No, we're not talking about ketchup or spicy mustard. Chefs are like tots in a toy store with a deluge of new oils, vinegars and spices on the market.

Rather than stick a tired old sprig of rosemary or some chili peppers in oils to infuse them, chefs are opting for already-infused, more exotic types such as avocado, cucumber and tomato. Diners will start to see these infusions worked into menus at all types of restaurants, from chains to upscale eateries. Another hot item? BLiS, a maple syrup aged for six months to a year in bourbon barrels.

"Top chefs are buying it and going crazy with it," said Page. "It's like nothing you've ever had before. They'll use it as a brine mixture, or a glaze, not just as a topper."

Celebrate being single!

Chefs will take one specific food they are working with and intensify it. If pork is on the menu, you might see three versions of it combined onto one plate, in one serving, such as pieces of pork sausage, tenderloin and a chop. It's the next big thing: Chefs showing diners the whole animal.

"The idea is you get to taste them next to each other and see where [the meat] really comes from," said Page. "It's almost a meditation on the animal that once was."

Cooking a new way

Molecular gastronomy. No, it's not a new college elective, it's basically chefs testing their kitchen prowess by tweaking foods with modern techniques, from blasting desserts to sub-zero temperatures with CO2 containers to whipping vegetables into a foaming consistency to use as a garnish to freezing fruit.

"Avant-garde chefs continue to push the envelope," said Dornenburg. "People were concerned with ingredients, but now the pendulum has shifted and we are thinking about technique. They ask, 'How can we take this simple ingredient and make it look different like we've never seen it before?' "

Power to the people

Restaurant critics still have paying jobs, but the general public has some serious clout thanks to food blogs, which are expected to explode into the tens of thousands this year. All it takes is a Web site and a night out at a local restaurant to get these cyber foodies chatting. Why? People are feeding their passion -- and finding others who are just as gastronomically obsessed.

"For so long we were limited to a small number of critics, but the world of bloggers puts a lot of people out there," Page said. "There are more [dining-out] choices than ever before, so we need more information. People are finding other opinions in line with their own views."

Rose rush

For so long, people averse to drinking the cloying, sweet (and cheap) white zinfandel wines thought it was interchangeable with rose. Au contraire. Rose is a dry white wine that is far from sweet and actually pairs better with foods than many reds or whites. Look for a big rose rush this year -- people are starting to discover the versatile vino.

"People are finding it's so much more food-friendly than they thought, and it's light," said Dornenburg. "Champagne makers are even making rose champagnes now."

More bubbles

Because it's come down so much in price, sparkling wine is more accessible, making it super hot. This year, Dornenburg and Page predict Americans will be imbibing bubbly at dinner and at parties as frequently as they would wine or beer.

We'll drink to that.