Trend spotting is an exhausting job. After all, trends come and go at hyperspeed. Who can keep up? We can, that's who. Here at FOOD & WINE, we have an insatiable curiosity about what's coming next. Last year we chased down breaking news about crêpes, Las Vegas restaurants and white-on-white place settings; this year we're in hot pursuit of the latest on gnocchi, Wales, haute chopsticks and $80 Australian wines. And our forward-looking test kitchen has developed seven recipes that give a preview of the taste of things to come. It could be tiring--if it weren't so much fun.
Tired of steak? Pork (including suckling pig), once merely the other white meat, is now the meat of the millennium. Sausages and cured meats are favored first courses, along with carpaccios. Whole fish will be wildly popular; they're dramatic and more likely to stay moist than fillets. Freshwater fish, especially sturgeon and Arctic char, is newly fashionable. Brining, wood roasting and wood grilling are everywhere. New seasonings include Japanese sansho pepper and Italian dried fennel pollen. The latest side dishes: gnocchi (from those made with the traditional potatoes to rutabaga updates), pierogi and spaetzle. Latin ingredients will keep pace with the exploding Latin music scene as guava paste, yuca and Scotch bonnet chiles become supermarket staples. Cooks are also turning to nut oils, especially almond and pistachio, for mixing into vegetable purees, drizzling on roasted fish and even spooning over ice cream. In fact, fat in all its guises--especially butter from France, Italy and Scandinavia--will make a comeback in the 21st century.
The biggest surprise: Eastern Europe is in. At Walzwerk in San Francisco (German) and Danube (Austrian) and the Russian Tea Room in New York City, chefs are celebrating foods from the other side of the Rhine. Chefs at Canteen in Manhattan, Gordon's House of Fine Eats in San Francisco and other places are busy reimagining good old American cuisine as edgy comfort food. Fish restaurants are this year's steak houses--witness Johnny's Half Shell in Washington, D.C., the Fish Market in Philadelphia and Jasper White's yet to be opened place in Boston. The layered look is officially over: at restaurants like Santa Monica's Melisse, chefs are deconstructing dishes and presenting each component separately on the plate. San Francisco's Foreign Cinema, a bistro combined with a movie theater, is just one example of restaurants as entertainment centers. Rich colors, like the deep indigo at Tizi Melloul in Chicago, have replaced the forlorn beige look in interior design. Multistory spaces, like Terence Conran's bi-level Guastavino's in New York City, are generating excitement with a different ambience on each floor. Another popular use for extra space: take-out and fancy-food shops. Bacchanalia in Atlanta has Star Provisions, and Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia has a "pastry laboratory" that sells chocolates, pastries and wedding cakes too.