2011 is mere days away, and of course I feel that I must foist upon you my list of predictions for food trends and news for the upcoming year.  Some are random personal picks, and some have been gleaned from other, more knowledgeable, sources.  I think it needs to be said (but does it?) that Upstate New York usually lags behind national food trends by several years, so most things on this list have not yet made their way to me.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or predictions, too – fill up the comments section!

  • Cupcakes – more cupcakes, for crying out loud.  But not the sweet, sugary kind – I’m talking savory cupcakes.  Little cakes full of meat and/or vegetables.  Now that’s the kind of cupcake I can get behind.  I’d follow that bus.
  • Even more farmers markets. Ah, you can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting a farmers market (which is a good thing, really).  And I have a feeling there are even more on the way.   They have proven to be such a hot commodity all over the place, that everyone’s going to try to get into the act.  There are a few cities/towns around here that don’t have a farmer’s market, but they better hurry up before all of the farmers are gone.
  • Bánh mì sandwich. Photo by jeffreyw on Flickr

    Sandwiches 2.0. Comfort food, given a swift kick in the behind with sustainable ingredients, local ingredients, and exotic flavor profiles.  I’ve been hearing local rumbles as of late hoping to track down the elusive Vietnamese bánh mì – which means that it’s only a matter of time before bao, empanadas, pasties, and falafel take center stage on adventurous menus around the Capital Region.

  • Artisanal Distilleries. There are currently fewer than 300 artisanal distillers in the U.S., and it seems to me that there’s a growing throwback admiration for small-batch whiskeys and the like.  Pair this trend with the organic food movement, and I think you’ve got yourself a winner.  (I am currently not a fan of these types of alcohol, but perhaps it’s because I have yet to find one that I actually can drink without gagging.  Is it maybe an acquired taste?)
  • The Wendalicious Podcast
  • Pie. Oh yes, pie.  Pie is poised to make a comeback in a big way, according to industry consultants – one  even named pie as the hottest trend of the upcoming year.  In addition to jacked-up versions of old standbys like banana cream and apple, look for new flavor and texture combinations, and the addition of new and unusual ingredients.  I’ve heard that someone has even created a pie milkshake.
  • Food trucks.  Maybe not here in Upstate NY yet, but LA and other major urban centers are experiencing a food-truck boom (and all of its ensuing problems) and I predict we’ll see some of the trickle-down happening late in 2011 and in 2012.  And I don’t just mean down at the Empire State Plaza during lunch hour – I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of them traveling around the region, tweeting their locations, à la L.A.’s Kogi.
  • Photo by Auntie K from Flickr

    Popsicles/frozen ices.  In all sorts of gourmet dumbass flavors, like kiwi-cucumber, lemon-chickpea, and blueberry-basil-rust.

  • Single-ingredient restaurants. You know, like “Quinoa Palace” or “Ham House”.
  • DIY RestaurantsJust like Kramer tried to pull off in 1994, we’ll see more “make it yourself” places – you take the raw ingredients, you put them together in appetizing combinations, and you hand them over to someone to cook and slide on back to you.
  • Teeny-tiny portions.  First we had amuse-bouche, then small plates (piattini, tapas, mezze), and now we’re going to see microscopic portions of dishes, like a “flight” of entrees.  Which, actually, sounds kinda cool.
  • Korean food.  I’ve never had it, but I DO have it on good authority that it’s gaining popularity around the nation.  Which means we’ll get a good Korean place in the Capital Region around, say, 2026.
  • Increasing food costs.  Sad, but true.  Maybe it’s time to start growing some of my own food.
  • Bike Delivery.  Surprisingly, this is already happening here.  Two intrepid bike-loving dads from Delmar started up a bike delivery service called the Town Pedaler, where subscribers receive a soup-salad-and-bread delivery (by eco-friendly bicycle) at their doorstep every week.  If these guys can make this work in suburban Delmar (and soon in Slingerlands), then I really think this could take off in more urban settings around here.
  • Alton Brown will finally come to his senses and realize that I am the woman for him.

Tomorrow: what’s OUT, and what’s trending but shouldn’t be.