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Benchmark Hospitality's Top 5 Dining Trends for 2009, Plus 5 Cocktail Trends

04/12/2008 09:47

The trends were observed by its properties and are announced by Robert Zappatelli, vice president of food & beverage, together with his team of 20 culinary professionals. 


Benchmark Hospitality International, a leading operator of award-winning restaurants, personal luxury hotels, resorts, conference centers and condominium resorts throughout the United States, in Japan and Latin America, has just released its Five Top Dining Trends for 2009. The trends were observed by its properties and are announced by Robert Zappatelli, vice president of food & beverage, together with his team of 20 culinary professionals.


'Fresh and locally produced ingredients, intense rich flavors, and, thankfully, the demise of supersizing is where America's chefs are trending this year,' said Mr. Zappatelli, speaking on behalf of the Benchmark Hospitality culinary team. 'But we still love our comfort food. And the real surprise this year is offal - making a huge comeback after being out of favor for way too long.'


Trend #1 It doesn't Get Any Fresher Than Farm-to-Table

Even if one doesn't have a kitchen garden or live on a farm, chances are there is a farmer's market close by. Organically grown produce pulled fresh from the earth that morning, farm-fresh eggs collected before breakfast, and locally produced, hormone-free meats are what consumers will be eating in 2009 - in restaurants and at home. And local farmers are responding with farm-fresh markets, which are sprouting up in communities across the nation.


It's about freshness and health and the taste of the region, with locally accented and controlled high quality food items, harvested at prime maturity when food is most flavorful, robust, colorful and elegantly textured.

Trend #2 Sliders, the 21st Century Comfort Food

Many came to know 'sliders' through trips to places like White Castle. Soft and doughy petit rolls filled with a variety of flavorful ingredients that melted in the mouth.


Although an occasional trip still tempts, most have moved to slider 'tastings' popular at high-end Latin restaurants, such as five-time Grammy Award-winning Gloria Estefan's newest, Oriente, at Costa d'Este Beach Resort in Vero Beach. Some of the most tantalizing morsels include a mini tuna burger, Kobe beef burger and lamb masala, presented on breads from brioche to semolina or the great breads of Cuba. The smash hit: Palomilla Slider -- a classic featuring thin pounded steak grilled and served with seared onion and crispy potato on petit fresh rolls. Sabrosísimo!


Flavorful eats, tremendous variety, bite-size mouth-watering portions are the trend in Vero Beach, in Chicago, Scottsdale, Santa Cruz and on the North Shore of Oahu!


Trend #3 Offal ~ the Food of the Gods!

A little decadence. Offal ~ the more elegant British way to say 'variety meats' ~ is hot! An old classic like calves liver and onions is back and with a touch of Marsala and pancetta ... as are veal sweetbreads presented as an entrée with fresh tomato, thyme and porcini mushrooms, and tender tripe with baby white potatoes and chippolini onions. Mouth watering yet? How about consommé with liver dumplings, ox tails classically prepared with root vegetables and red wine? Delicious -- and it's the trend!


Bold flavors are sizzling hot right now, as is the willingness to experiment, and this is moving offal to the center of the plate for 2009. Offal is a flavor-packed ingredient for sauces, stuffing, forcemeats, confit and savory marmalade. So livers from poultry can accentuate a reduction for squab or duck, and Foie Gras will elegantly and flavorfully round out a fish sauce, fowl or meat dish.


European chefs have known this since Auguste Escoffier, and American Chefs are just discovering that offal, when applied to a dish correctly, creates the 'Food of the Gods.'


Trend #4 Good Riddance to Super-sized American Portions

Fresh vegetables, many more in-season fruits, indigenous dishes, and a much-reduced center meat selection are what will fill America's plates in 2009. It's about a healthy and balanced variety packed with natural flavor, rich in-season colors, and meat portions that are by no means nouvelle cuisine, yet are no longer supersized.


Chefs will tempt with intense flavor, garden freshness, rich texture, local favorites and tremendous variety - all of which will likely render 24 oz Porterhouses obsolete! Hearts and arteries across the country will give thanks.


Trend #5 Footprints on Mother Earth

It's the other side of the farm-to-table movement. Food grown and consumed locally doesn't require massive fleets of refrigerated trucks for transport, doesn't need to sit in large temperature-controlled warehouses, doesn't require shots of coloring to make it look fresher ... because it is fresh!


Farm-to-table organically grown cuisine consumed locally reduces green house gas emissions and minimizes shipping requirements, helping to stabilize the earth's environment by starting in our own 'back yard.'


Somewhere Mother Earth is smiling ...

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