Monday, May 21, 2018
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Comfort food makes a comeback

Food trends will likely take a decided turn from edgy, pricey choices as 2009 approaches due to a the slow economy. Whether dining out or cooking in, consumers will be leaning toward the comfortable, the safe, the less expensive, and the local. High-end selections will be intentional and specific.

Comfort food will be evident on restaurant menus as much as in home cooking.

According to Mintel Menu Insights, which forecasts restaurant trends for 2009, comfort food is often connected to times of economic recession, and it is what people crave when they re feeling down.

Restaurants will make comfort food new by increasing the use of slow-cooked, slow-baked, slow-grilled, braised, and poached foods

Even the fast-food chains are showing this trend for example, the Long John Silver chain, known for fried entrees, now is advertising Freshside Grille, offering grilled fish including salmon and tilapia.

According to the market research firm Information Resources, 53 percent of consumers said they are cooking more from scratch than they did just six months ago. That s good news for small-appliance firms such as KitchenAid, which makes stand mixers that can be used for everything grinding grain and meat to kneading dough, slicing vegetables, rolling, and cutting pasta, and even making ice cream.

Eating fresh foods is even ringing true for today s kids and teens. A Mintel survey indicated that 42 percent of children and teens reach for foods that give them more energy. About 35 percent purposefully eat foods that are rich in vitamins and nutrients. Approximately one-fourth try to eat foods that are low in fat, and 22 percent look for low-in-sugar foods.

The National Restaurant Association survey of more than 1,600 professional chefs members of the American Culinary Federation seems to concur with this. Local produce, bite-size desserts, healthful kids meals are among the top trends.

Local produce

In 2008, Mancy s Steakhouse made the commitment to the farm-to-table movement. Their menu has included local, organically grown, and heirloom apples served with a cheese plate; brioche croutons on an apple salad, and acorn and butternut squash sides. We are trying to network locally, says Gus Mancy, managing partner.

Using an area farm, Homestead Gardens near Grand Rapids, Ohio, Mancy s was able to get a good variety of local produce into November. The crop covers kept the crops going through several minor freezes, according to Ed Lachowski, owner. Kale, collards, lettuce, chard, kohlrabi, Asian greens and radishes were still available as were the heirloom apples for baked pies, cobblers, strudels and crisps. This continued to mid-November with chives, beautiful purple basil, and onions and sage, according to Mr. Mancy.

We look forward toward continuing the relationship next spring, says Mr. Mancy. (In 2009 Homestead Gardens will be begin to supply produce late March or April.) Now in the winter our produce comes through local purveyors who purchase through the Eastern Market in Detroit.

Not only have local restaurants sought the local farmer and farmers market produce, home cooks have sought out local products from farmers markets. Slow Food Maumee Valley continues its pursuit of artisanal, heirloom, and local food products.

Source of foods

Consumers want to know where their food is from and how it is grown and processed.

The Country of Origin Label (COOL) bill was put into effect Sept. 30 for vendors and suppliers to list the country of origin on fruits and vegetables - all produce, nuts, meats, and fresh whether fresh or frozen. This is important for the consumer when buying asparagus on the shelf, fish whether fresh or frozen, and other fresh fruits and produce.

Restaurants are paying more attending to the origin of foods on their menus, also. Right now we are running a prime strip steak from Nebraska, says Mr. Mancy, who notes the trend of better restaurants specifying the breed of the beef. Certain breed specific animals are superior eating.

In addition, menus at Mancy s Blue Water Grille and Mancy s Steakhouse are listing on the nightly feature sheet, the five fish featured and their countries of origin. It s another way to assure customers we are buying the best, says Mr. Mancy.

Selective dining

Consumers love to eat out. But because of the budget concerns, they will be more selective about dining dollars opting for good tasting food that offers atmosphere and service.

At the same time lower prices are turning up from fast food to family dining. This summer, Subway Footlong subs for $5 and TGI Friday s Right Portion, Right Price with smaller servings of regular entrees, value-priced between $5.99 and $9.99 were among the many quick service and family restaurants trying to get their market share.

More recently, McDonald s gourmet coffee beverages at more affordable prices is having an impact on the marketplace.

Trendy flavors

Food manufacturers are always looking for tastes and aromas that consumers favor.

Among the new foods are superfruits such as acai and mangosteen, many of which are added to juices.

Watch for chimichurri sauce for grilled meats; the curry trend; lavender to spice up food, chocolate, and even beverages; craft and specialty beers; organic wines, and small plates of tapas/mezze/dim sum. Small desserts or bite-size desserts will add a sweet note like the cupcake phenomena already in full force.

Just as the American plate adapts to international foods, the trends from America will continue to spread around the world.

The North American Blueberry Council reported in October about their efforts to open the Indian market to blueberries. Although blueberries are foreign to the Indian subcontinent, they are in great demand in that area. It is an important market for the blueberry industry, according to the Council.

Kathie Smith is The Blade s food editor.

Contact her at: or 419-724-6155.

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