by Jonathan Vatner | March 01, 2006

food plate

Portion control: Small plates are hot.

With each new year, F&B experts weigh in on what’s coming in the food world. Their lists are notoriously discrepant, if only because they attempt to find commonality in such a multifarious industry. This year, M&C compared four such lists from Marriott International, restaurant consultancy Joseph Baum & Michael Whiteman Co., conference center manager Benchmark Hospitality and cooking website Epicurious to fish out which trends the experts agreed upon.

1)Tapas-style dining. Every source found that grazing on small plates is preferred over sitting down to a full meal. Miniature sandwiches and flights of soups allow diners to experience a lot more creativity in a meal, and it takes the unnecessary formality out of dining.
2)The end of diets. All the lists herald the end of Atkins’ reign. Though Baum & Whiteman predicts an all-out fat and carb fest, the others say diners are looking for healthful food that follows just one diet: a balanced one.
3)Organic products. All four lists see a turn to natural foods pulled directly from the garden, and more focus on whole, organic products.
4)Modernized ethnic foods. Indian and Spanish cuisines are haute.
5)Old-fashioned desserts. Two trend lists argue that nostalgia desserts like gelatin and pudding are all the rage, though they are sometimes made more formal with exotic flavors and preparations.
6)Upscale cocktails. Marriott and Epicurious expect a rash of new libations with fresh-squeezed juices and top-line liquors. Menus will pair dishes with cocktails, the way many upscale restaurants do with wines.