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10 food trends for 2012


1. RENE REDZEPI’S INFLUENCE Spain’s Ferran Adria has been the culinary guiding light in recent years, but now the focus shifts toward Copenhagen, where Rene Redzepi’s Noma has been called the best restaurant in the world. Redzepi is greatly admired for his use of traditional methods and highly local, often foraged, ingredients to create a new version of Nordic cuisine. Chefs will be influenced by his natural approach, and they will look to do similar things for the food of their own regions.

2. MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY AT BARS I agree with Todd Maul of Clio. As chefs begin to put down the bells and whistles, bartenders will pick them up. Molecular gastronomy will creep into both cocktails and bar snacks. A prime example: At 41 Degrees in Barcelona, Albert Adria serves a prix fixe of 41 El Bulli-esque cocktail snacks, such as tuna nigiri with marshmallow instead of rice and Parmesan ice cream sandwiches, as well as drinks like a smoked gin and tonic.


3. THE RISE OF RAMEN Boston still lacks its version of New York’s Ippudo. Could Guchi’s Midnight Ramen, an upcoming pop-up from o ya chefs, be it? The photos they’re posting online look very tantalizing. Casual or upscale, a high-quality ramen joint would do very well in these parts, starved for good noodles since Ken Kojima of Ken’s Noodle House closed up shop to return to Japan.

4. VEGETABLES IN STARRING ROLES For years, people have been saying things like “vegetables are the new meat,’’ and I just laughed. But this may be the year we begin to see the tide truly turn. Yotam Ottolenghi’s recent cookbook “Plenty,’’ featuring “vibrant vegetable recipes,’’ is a runaway hit. There is an increasing awareness of obesity and the challenges of weight loss. And local chefs such as Jody Adams (pomegranate-glazed eggplant), Louis DiBiccari (green bean casserole), Michael Schlow (Brussels sprouts with bacon, kumquats, mint, and jalapeños), and Jamie Bissonnette (Brussels sprouts with horseradish and pecorino) are already winning us over.


5. DELI DELIGHTS Chefs are obsessed with charcuterie and butchering. A modern take on traditional Jewish deli is an inevitability that, mysteriously, has not yet come to pass in Boston. Still, hints are cropping up here and there - mostly in the form of pastrami, gaining traction at new places like JM Curley, Pinky’s Deli (which takes over Local 149 at lunch), and Michael Schlow’s upcoming Happy’s Bar & Kitchen. Someone, someday, will build us a place like Brooklyn’s Mile End. And we will come.

6. AFRICAN FLAVORS We are gradually starting to see more restaurants from the continent crop up - the South End’s Senegalese Teranga, the Ethiopian Blue Nile in Jamaica Plain, and the upcoming Nigerian Suya Joint in Roslindale, for instance. It’s not many, but Africa’s presence is increasing. Too, the flavors of North Africa will continue to creep onto menus around town.

7. TRACEABILITY As Jose Duarte of Taranta points out, diners want to know from whence their meat, seafood, and produce come, for ethical, environmental, and health reasons. Restaurants will increasingly oblige, providing the information. This creates a new standard, encouraging more chefs to source carefully.

8. MICROSEASONALITY It’s not enough to change your menu every winter, spring, summer, and fall anymore. Each day represents its own season, according to what is available locally. Look to see more menus changing daily, a la Jason Bond’s Bondir.


9. EATING AS ENTERTAINMENT The line between dining and entertainment will blur further. We’ll see more pop-up restaurants and underground supper clubs, as well as dinners focused around historical or whimsical themes. We may even see restaurants selling tickets for dinner, a la Grant Achatz’s Next in Chicago.

10. CHEF-TAUGHT COOKING CLASSES (Towne Stove and Spirits), Ana Sortun (Oleana), Karen Akunowicz (Myers + Chang), and other local chefs offer instruction on the side. Shire’s new classes may seem a bit pricey at $250 (including a $50 “gift card’’ to Towne), but compared with a recent Groupon deal offering classes and dinner with Todd English for $25,000, they are a steal. Look for more chefs to follow suit.

Devra First can be reached at dfirst@globe.com.