Five Dining Trends to watch in 2009
1.) It doesn't Get Any Fresher Than Farm-to-Table
Even if one doesn't have a kitchen garden or live on a farm, chances are there is a farmer's market close by. Organically grown produce pulled fresh from the earth that morning, farm-fresh eggs collected before breakfast, and locally produced, hormone-free meats are what consumers will be eating in 2009 - in restaurants and at home.
2.) Sliders, the 21st Century Comfort Food
Many came to know 'sliders' through trips to places like White Castle. Soft and doughy petit rolls filled with a variety of flavorful ingredients that melted in the mouth. They have moved to slider 'tastings' popular at high-end restaurants. Some of the most tantalizing morsels include a mini tuna burger, Kobe beef burger and lamb masala, presented on breads from brioche to semolina. Flavorful eats, tremendous variety, bite-size mouth-watering portions are the trend.
3.) Offal ~ the Food of the Gods!
A little decadence. Offal ~ the more elegant British way to say 'variety meats' ~ is hot! An old classic like calves liver and onions is back and with a touch of Marsala and pancetta ... as are veal sweetbreads presented as an entrée with fresh tomato, thyme and porcini mushrooms, and tender tripe with baby white potatoes and chippolini onions.
4.) Good Riddance to Super-sized American Portions
Fresh vegetables, many more in-season fruits, indigenous dishes, and a much-reduced center meat selection are what will fill America's plates in 2009. It's about a healthy and balanced variety packed with natural flavor, rich in-season colors, and meat portions that are by no means nouvelle cuisine, yet are no longer supersized.
5.) Footprints on Mother Earth
It's the other side of the farm-to-table movement. Food grown and consumed locally doesn't require massive fleets of refrigerated trucks for transport, doesn't need to sit in large temperature-controlled warehouses, doesn't require shots of coloring to make it look fresher ... because it is fresh!
Rocco’s Little Italy, Tinley Park
A recent stop into Rocco’s for appetizers and drinks with friends were delightful. Greeted at the bar by Rocco, several locals were enjoying the end of their work week in this casual setting. The dining room was beginning to fill with patrons. A young couple who recently had a baby brought their family for dinner - the wife had been long overdue for a trip to Rocco’s since the new arrival.
My friends and I ordered the Stuffed Artichoke and Italian Baked Shrimp appetizers. The Artichoke was the size of a softball and so tender, my mouth waters now as I am writing this. The Baked Shrimp was terrific rendition of this incredible classic – large shrimp, bubbling in a clay casserole filled with hot sauce and an immense amount of garlic and bread crumbs.
I had a French martini that was perfect - frothy and just the right shade of pink. As a French martini queen I often judge a bar by this cocktail, and I will be back, see you soon Rocco.
Ottimo Ristorante, Orland Park
This quaint Italian restaurant with an open kitchen delivers great food time and time again. My son and I stopped in early on a Friday night for a quick bite to eat. The dining room was busy, so we sat at one of the high tables in the bar area. The waitress was warm and cheery and the bar was starting to fill up with friends meeting for drinks and couples waiting for dinner.
We ordered dinner and moments later were enjoying warm bread with herb butter. I ordered one of the specials recommended by the waitress, whitefish with sun-dried tomatoes and potatoes baked in a clay casserole filled with the juices to dip your bread in.
My son ordered the double pork chop topped with prosciutto and cheese, served with applesauce. Normally, I take home half of my meal at most places I dine but the whitefish was so good and melted in your mouth I could not stop eating it. The pork chop was big enough to feed a small family. My son said it was amazing, cooked to perfection and so tender. I find myself stopping here after work once a week or so the food is fantastic and the staff is welcoming.