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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Food in 2009

It's a brand new year (well, actually, it's just a little less new now since it's already the 5th here in Manila), and I was assigned to write a forecast for food and fashion for 2009 for work. I'm pasting here the part that talks about food. Here's to more great meals for this year!

Food in 2009: Restos should satisfy palate and pocket

Heading into the new year, while facing and fearing the effects of the global economic crisis, Filipinos are bound to see some changes in one of their favorite things: food.

Filipinos will no doubt continue to eat, drink, and be merry, but some feasting behavior will necessarily be affected by the uncertain times.

Comfort feeding

One trend that will become apparent is the popularity of comfort food. In times of stress, there is comfort in the familiar, and this applies even to food. When it comes to dining out, restaurants that serve feel-good dishes will see a surge in popularity.

“I believe that cafes and bistros will be the way to go. Simple great food that reminds people of home. Comfort food to take the stress of everyday problems away,” said Chef Bruce, resident chef of popular talk show “Boy and Kris”, and host of cooking show “Tablescapes”.

Diners will also tend to stick to their favorite restaurants, as well as their favorite dishes.

“Everyone who has tried my food always asks me to cook something that is different than the last time. But at the end of the day after the event… we always end up at the same Chinese resto,” according to Chef Bruce.

Edsa Shangri-la’s director for food and beverage Eddy Sarton also thinks that for the coming year, Filipinos will stick to what they know.

“I think the trends will remain the same as 2008… I think… that the Filipino diner is loyal to local cuisine and Chinese.”

Comfortable does not necessarily mean boring, though. Familiar dishes are seen to be served up with a twist. Ramon Eugenio of Myron’s Place in Greenbelt 5 said that dishes will be prepared with “heightened and more creative presentation”.

The popularity of comfort food will not be confined to restaurants. Filipinos are also likely to whip up their old favorites at home.

Small is beautiful

Another trend that logically follows from the economic downturn is smaller portions.

This could be bad news for the hearty eater. But this does not mean only that a serving of one’s favorite steak will simply shrink to bring the price down. This also means that dishes are now available in smaller portions, whether bite-sized or half-portions, allowing one to eat more of other offerings.

This could be seen as a positive development for diners because this will enable them to experience more during their meal.

These “light bites”, being served from appetizers to desserts, offer a wider variety of selections for the customer. Thus, when dining out, one can experience two or three dishes, instead of one.

Head to tail

Another trend that 2009 will see is the use of more parts of the fish, meat, and vegetables when cooking. Filipinos are already good at using almost all parts of the animal being cooked.

This year will see even more ingenious ways of doing this. Old recipes will be dug up, and new ones will be created, all in the spirit of using every last bit of meat and produce available.

Eugenio admits that it won’t be business as usual in the food industry as the economy heads south. The challenge for restaurateurs is to change with the times, and satisfy both palate and pocket.

“The past won't do; the consumer will need to feel they are getting their money's worth,” he said.