From the Chicago Tribunes
Published January 2, 2002
Upscale goes down the market
On restaurant menus, look for some high-ticket ingredients replaced by less costly alternatives. For example, lamb shank instead of rack of lamb, or chicken instead of duck. Look, too, for more daily special items such as filled omelets and hearty soups that offer chefs an opportunity to recycle ingredients.
Antioxidants will continue to generate heat in nutrition circles as researchers in 2002 discover even more about the health benefits of these phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables. Many of these natural antioxidants have been shown to help against cancer, heart disease and other illnesses by neutralizing "free radicals," which can destroy healthy cells.
Phyllis Bowen, associate professor of human nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago, says that specific antioxidant vitamins such as C and E will be studied, as will the phytochemical anthocyanin (found in blueberries, raspberries and cranberries), which is thought to improve mental acuity.
Organic goes mainstream
Americans will increasingly "go organic"--but not where you'd expect. Organic products totaled $7.8 billion in sales in 2000, according to a report by the Food Marketing Institute, which found that 69 percent of shoppers surveyed said they bought their organic products at their primary supermarket. This was borne out by the Organic Trade Association, which reports that mass-market supermarkets accounted for 45 percent of organic sales.
With the recession officially under way, look for more meals to be prepared at home. But American diners, accustomed to the convenience of takeout meals and restaurant cooking, are even less interested now in spending a lot of time fixing dinner. That's why you'll see a steady growth in fix-it-fast meal kits and comfort food in stores, such as the new Stouffer's Slowfire Classics, Campbell's Supper Bakes and Ragu Express pasta dishes. Even the side dish is disappearing, according to NPD's Harry Balzer, as consumers skip the extra step needed to make an extra dish, and instead throw vegetables into one-dish meals such as stir-fries, stews and casseroles.
It's the age of "super-ply" in home cookware. The trend for pots and pans will be anything "clad," according to the Cookware Manufacturers Association. Even the humble saucepan may be made with up to nine separate pieces of metal. In these new pans, a stainless-steel bottom (and sometimes a stainless interior) wraps around layers of aluminum or copper. The multiple metals improve heat conductivity that stainless alone can't give. Traditional copper pans are superb heat conductors but also are expensive and time-consuming to maintain. The new pans combine the best of both worlds.
The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service released a risk analysis Nov. 30 about the prospects for mad cow disease in the United States, which up to now has avoided Britain's fate. The "executive summary" of the analysis, produced by scenario modeling at Harvard University's school of public health, predicts little threat to American cattle, and even less to burger lovers.
"If BSE [bovine spongiform encephalopathy] has been introduced into the U.S., as has been suggested by some observers, the course of the disease has been arrested and it is destined for eradication by the measures currently in place," the authors conclude.
Doubters, such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Public Citizen, object to how much money Harvard's Center for Risk Analysis gets from the very industries whose issues it studies.
Maybe Heinz started the fad last year with green ketchup (purple has since been added). Parkay now has neon pink and blue squeeze margarine, and Dannon Sprinkl'ins includes "sparkle packets" to stir into cups for boldly colored yogurt. Behind this trend: Getting to Mommy through Junior. Expect to see more surprising hues in otherwise ordinary food products, say industry watchers.
Vitamins with your water
Neither man nor woman can live by wine alone, but the new-product gnomes are making strides toward a pure water diet. Energy Brands, a New York State company, has introduced Glaceau Vitaminwater, "the must-have accessory of the modern consumers' on-the-go lifestyle." It is a line of 11 low-calorie, vitamin- and electrolyte-enhanced flavors of water, each in a distinctive color. "Endurance peach," for example, contains vitamin E and ginseng. "Focus kiwi-strawberry" offers vitamin A, ginkgo biloba and gotu kola.
More dessert, please
Restaurant customer numbers and per-customer spending have sagged since the Sept. 11 tragedies, but the expense of employing a pastry chef is paying dividends for fine-dining establishments. Dessert sales have gone up in this down market, and heightened demand should continue in the coming year. For instance, Mary McMahon (left), executive pastry chef at the Italian Village in the Loop, reports a 10 percent to 12 percent increase in dessert orders over a year ago. On a recent weekend, 65 percent of the diners in the Village's up-scale Vivere dining room ordered desserts such as chocolate hazelnut ganache tart and warm chocolate molten cake with chocolate malted gelato and deep-fried chocolate truffles. Will stay-at-home dessert-lovers be eating these? Not likely. The very definition of "dessert" also is broadening. A cheesecake that is savory, not sweet, is selling well on the Vivere dessert menu.
"Making food safe" used to be all about bacterial contamination of raw foods and the cleanliness of kitchens, at home and in restaurants. But the boom in the security business since September's terror attacks has extended to "food security" as well.
The National Center for Food Safety, a public-private venture in south suburban Summit, is touring the state with a seminar that teaches smaller processors the basics: screening employees, securing the physical plant, and procedures to safeguard raw and finished products. Center Director Charles Sizer predicts that prevention of food tampering will be high on processors' agendas in 2002.
On a national scale, the Senate's Bioterrorism Preparedness Act proposes broadening the authority of the Food and Drug Administration and the Agriculture Department to inspect imports and the records of domestic food processors. Consolidation of various federal agencies' food-safety functions also has been proposed.
The trend toward handmade, small-batch foods will continue as consumers seek higher quality. Artisan cheeses from small farms in Europe or America, rustic breads from high-quality bakeries, chocolates made by hand, even olive oil from "estates" in Italy and California--all will find their way to our cupboards in 2002. According to Howard Solganick, an Ohio-based supermarket industry consultant, "I don't know how else to put it, but once you taste really good bread, it's hard to go back to Wonder."
Home cooks will continue to yearn for the foods of their memories. Things Grandmother used to make: stews, meat loaf, roast chicken, mashed potatoes and layer cakes.
According to New York City industry consultant Clark Wolf, "Now cooking is comforting--and when entertaining, it's no more show-off cooking, it's communal cooking."
As in any country that throws off the cloak of tradition, modern Spain embraces the new. Wine is no exception. From the staid bodegas of Rioja to the shiny stainless-steel tanks of Galicia, bold experiments are resulting in a new species of wines, brighter and more vibrant than those of the past. Not only are these wines priced attractively when they reach American wine shops and restaurants, the reds also have been aged by the producer before release and are truly ready to drink. Look for reds from Navarra, Ribera del Duero and Rioja; and whites from Galicia.
Cooking schools come back
Across the country after Sept. 11, couples with show-off home kitchens began to take cooking classes to learn to use them, while younger couples and singles have been signing up too, hoping to eat better--and more cheaply--when they eat at home. Look for the trend to continue in 2002.
"People seem to be finding lots of comfort in the kitchen lately," sys Shelly Young, owner of The Chopping Block. "We could do double our current enrollment, but we don't have the space."
Dish of the year
Mac & cheese earns Good Eating's predictions as the most yearned-for dish in 2002, at least until the weather warms up again. Who can resist? Plump pasta nestled and baked with creamy Cheddar cheese sauce until the whole thing mingles and melds. Trust us, this is not just food for kids!
Greens go global
With the multi-ethnic makeup of American diners, look for more markets to stock edibles such as mustard greens, water spinach, sea vegetables, chards, bok choys, "dinosaur" and other hearty kales.
Publishers are learning that cookbook buyers want a lot more information when they wade into recipes. Check out the growing inclusion of background information, extensive glossaries, kitchen tips, supplier lists, menu ideas, wine suggestions, measurement conversion charts and other hand-holding hints. These soon-to-be-standard extras appeal not only to eager cooks but to the totally clueless. Two upcoming examples: "Lorenza's Italian Season" from Lorenza de Medici's (Trafalgar Square), with holiday menus and preservation tips; and an American regional barbecue book from Dallas writer Dottie Griffith (Simon & Schuster), packed with history, cooking tips, Web sites and a bibliography.
Next hot-shot chef?
If the king of Chicago chefs, Charlie Trotter, is lured to London as rumored, who might inherit the mantle of Chicago's most prestigious chef? Good Eating ventures a guess that many will be willing. From among a bumper crop of talented chefs in their 30s, we vote for the following candidates: Paul Kahan of Blackbird, Shawn McClain (on cover) of Spring, Sandro Gamba of NoMi and Michael Kornick (above) of MK.
Shelf-stable foods (which do not require refrigeration) will mushroom in the supermarket aisles, predicts Art Siemering, editor of Noble & Associates' Food Channel Trendwire newsletter. It's another of our convenience-oriented cooking habits.
"We'll see continued growth among shelf-stable entrees and canned items in general," Siemering said. "The bowl format still has lots of unexplored possibilities, including the conversion of many existing canned items. Why not shelf-stable vegetables that can come directly to the table?"
The need for speed is everywhere, especially in the supermarket and most especially at the checkout. That may explain why some customers would rather scan products themselves, and why supermarkets are increasingly willing to oblige them.
"Self-scanning has grown in various pockets around the country," says Michael Sansolo, senior vice president of Food Manufacturers Institute, a trade group for the supermarket industry. "For a quick trip, it's much simpler for shoppers."
"The customers who use self-checkout are usually in a hurry and don't mind technology," said Karen Ramos, director of public relations for Jewel-Osco, which opened its first self-scanner in July in its Melrose Park store and now has seven in place for customers with 15 or fewer items. Self-scanning won't replace clerks but usually occupies one or two aisles in stores that offer it. Expect to see it grow.
- Desiderius Erasmus
- Desiderius Erasmus