On the rise in 2012, part 2: F&B trends

Last week HOTELS presented insights about hotel and spa trends for 2012 from San Francisco-based Andrew Freeman & Co.’s annual report about the coming year in the restaurant and hospitality industries. What follows here is part 2, which focuses on what will be hot next year in food and beverage.

When it comes to F&B, Andrew Freeman & Co. expects everything from potatoes to ice cream to catch fire in 2012. Here is a list of 20 of the firm’s F&B trends and predictions:

1. This spud’s for you: 2012 will be the year of the potato. Watch out for French fry menus that let guests choose the cut, crispness and sauce; make-your-own mashers with mix-ins; or custom-cut chips with dusts and dips to order.

2. 3,100 flavors: Creative chefs are taking advantage of ice cream’s blank canvas to entice people to try unfamiliar flavors such as grass-and-horseradish or confit of pear, candied beet and sourdough.

3. Melt in your hands: Grilled cheese is the new hamburger as restaurants devote special evenings or entire menus to this childhood favorite.

4. Use your noodle: Noodles are nothing new, but innovative restaurants are highlighting this ancient art with glorified exhibition-style hand-pulled noodles.

5. Thai the knot: Exciting, creative takes on modern Thai cuisine are becoming popular as diners become more adventurous. An increasingly savvy clientele also will come to appreciate a focus on regional Thai variations.

6. Produce-ing desserts: Move over carrot cake — cutting-edge pastry chefs are turning vegetables into sweet finales.

7. Inspiring mouths want to know: Chefs tell the story behind the dish by paying tribute to their inspiration on menus.

8. Strip service: Restaurants are keeping prices low and the feeling casual by stripping dining rooms back. Expect not only bare tables but bare amenities as guests take on more responsibility: pouring their own water from a carafe, hanging on to or setting their own silver and tearing off their own bread. 

9. Chaat rooms: Indian street foods will gain popularity as fans flock to food trucks, pop-ups and quick-service restaurants selling Indian fare. Look for kati rolls, puri with sauces and condiments or “pav” sandwiches with spiced vegetables.

10. Breakfast club: Breakfast is the new dinner. Restaurants are re-interpreting breakfast for lunch, dinner and late-night menus. Expect to see waffle sandwiches, savory turnovers, eggs in any manner of ways, pigs in a blanket, hollandaise-topped sandwiches and French toast or bread pudding served either sweet or savory.

11. Red hot chili peppers: Specialty chili peppers are heating things up. Middle Eastern aleppo pepper, African piri piri or Indian ghost pepper are spicing up menus.

12. Healthy indulgences: Health-conscious diners will be satisfied with more nutritious meals and drinks that offer real appeal. Expect signature, whole grain salads and sides, a selection of plates available in smaller sizes, menu items that appeal to particular dietary needs and high-fructose free sodas.

13. Tableaux settings: Artistic chefs are creating edible landscapes that represent where food actually came from. Think oysters served on a rock or mushrooms in a forest of edible “moss.”

14. Go Hungary: Eastern European food is moving into the mainstream.

15. Tap dancing: Now mixed drinks are available on tap.

16. It was a fine, fine beer: Vintage beers are coming of age, offering intrigue and a taste of the past with higher alcohol levels. 

17. Double hitter: Bars are offering a cocktail or shot and a beer to chase it with.

18. On solid ground: Everyone from bartenders, artists, and pastry chefs will break the mold and reinvent cocktails in solid form. Frozen beverages translate to sorbet and popsicles while artistically layered boozy jellies give jello another shot. 

19. Ounce upon a time: Serious spirits enthusiasts and avid wine drinkers will pay for an opportunity to taste luxury beverages beyond their means — one ounce at a time.

20. Sip tease: Mini cocktails offered as an amuse “wet” the appetite before the drinks and meal to come.