We're coming up to the end of the year, which means it's time for would-be tastemakers to make all sorts of bold and useless predictions about what the new trends are. That people pay to hear this nonsense is hysterical (though the fact that I get paid to complain about it is even more hysterical).
Let's back up. NRN is reporting that Andrew Freeman, of Andrew Freeman & Co., has released his list of the upcoming restaurant trends for 2011.
Some of these are so obviously self-limiting that the impending sense of doom should by rights be visible to the naked eye. One-ingredient (or, more accurately, one-dish restaurants) work in Korea and Vietnam, but they don't work particularly well here in the Land of a Million Choices, where people choose the restaurant first, not the dish. People will adore a one-dish restaurant for six months until the food trends change, then most will fold, just like 90% of all restaurants.
Markets sharing space with restaurants? Oh, please. Half the best ethnic food (and all of the best Argentine food) in this county comes from combination stores/restaurants. Head up to L.A. and see places as different as Cube Marketplace or Papa Cristos. The people who line up out the door at Cortina's in Anaheim probably have no idea they're part of a trend; they just want good food.
Dirt (i.e., crumbly powders instead of sauces) made the list too. Nina, the beloved Boyle Heights itinerant purveyor of pambazos, sopes and quesadillas, has a beguiling salsa de semillas, made of pumpkin seeds, peanuts, dried chiles, sesame seeds and salt that's been copied by chilango food purveyors from Inyo to Imperial Beach. Ludo Lefebvre, the pop-up king of Los Angeles, served a boudin noir mousse with three different powders... two iterations of LudoBites ago.
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Wood-fired ovens will be used just like normal ovens, for roasting meats and vegetables. Quick, nobody tell Rosti, the L.A. restaurant duo that's been doing that for more than a decade, or CPK. Definitely don't let the dozens of Peruvian chicken joints know, either, that their pollo a la leña is suddenly trendy.
Clearly, Freeman was paying attention when Jonathan Gold of the LA Weekly was all over our neighboring county, sampling every paleta he could get his gourmand hands on. That's right, I said it in Spanish: the Mexicans have been making dozens of varieties of portable ice cream snacks for a very long time. Of course, just like Europeans "discovered" Mexico, now we can look forward to people "discovering" paletas.
Another one we're used to, at least those of us who eat in LA and OC's fantastic Persian restaurants, is whey. Farsi-speakers call it kashk and it appears everywhere. Kashk-e-bademjan, for example, is the delicious, dairy-rich cousin of babaghannouj, and it's available in every single Persian restaurant in OC.
These may be the trends--or Freeman could just be blowing hot air, like most would-be pundits--but if his predictions do come true, it's nice to know we're ahead of the game here.