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Published: Tuesday, 5/9/2006

Food trends to watch

PHILADELPHIA - The world of food never stands still. There are always new trends, new chefs, and chefs moving to new places.

At the National Chicken Council/U.S. Poultry & Egg Association Food Media Seminar held here in April, trends discussed included the popularity of foods with bold flavors from anywhere in the world, small plates, and tapas. Some say that ceviche is replacing sushi, that creative chefs in small local restaurants are being overlooked in favor of high-end chain restaurants, and that there is interest in the express lunch that focuses on portion control. Watch for foods that are cooked in an iron skillet.

Big news from Dallas: Chef Dean Fearing after more than 20 years has left the Mansion on Turtle Creek to open a restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton that's under construction. "This is a seismic change," said Cathy Barber, food editor of the Dallas Morning News about Mr. Fearing, who has been called a "father of Southwestern cuisine."

Also known for Southwestern cuisine (and New American) is Stephan Pyles, who is back after a five-year hiatus. His new Dallas restaurant, Stephan Pyles, has been described as urban-cool. Over more than 20 years, Mr. Pyles created 14 restaurants in Texas and Las Vegas, including Star Canyon (circa 1994) with Texas cowboy cuisine. At the new restaurant, he has a communal table (space available, no reservations) where as many as 20 diners can order.

The communal table is a growing trend, even in Las Vegas.

Muriel Stevens of the Las Vegas Sun also talked about how food has changed Las Vegas, which "is now known for food, shopping, and gaming, in that order," she said. "The changes are due to the major chefs [who have come to Las Vegas]. With locals, health is important."

Lifestyle issues of collecting, antiques, and food, are big for Cheryl Slocum of Country Living Magazine in New York City. "What's old is new such as ancient grains - like barley - as alternatives," she said. She also noted the importance of heirloom vegetables and fruits, communal (family-style) dining, and tapas or small bites.

The recognition of stay-at-home moms was mentioned by Ms. Barber with food parties. "Food that connects [with people] such as Mom's Cooking Club" is a trend for food editor Nancy Hopkins of Better Homes & Gardens Magazine based in Des Moines.

"Bring your own bottle" is a big trend for Philadelphia restaurants, according to Rick Nichols of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Judy Faye of the Center City Proprietors Foundation estimated there were 200 restaurants with this policy in Philadelphia, and it may be the only city in America with this tradition to that degree. It is especially popular among small family restaurants. Due to the difficulty in obtaining a liquor licenses, restaurants concentrate on what's on the plate.

From the chicken industry came statistics that 9 billion chickens will be grown in 2006, and 15 percent of the meat will be exported. Most of the meat exported will be dark. The U.S. preference is for white meat. With the increasing size of the chicken breast to 7 to 9 ounces, the uneven shape means it cooks unevenly. Thus processors are cutting the meat into sizes or portions. The industry recognizes the interest in more all-natural products at supermarkets and the promotion of all-natural chicken by companies including Arby's and Panera Bread.



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