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Consultants race to call the top food trends of 2011

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It seems about as premature as the holiday commercial that annoyingly awoke me from deep slumber this morning, but 2010 must be drawing to a close, because consultants across the country are racing to call the big food trends of 2011.

Last week, Andrew Freeman & Co., a nationwide hospitality agency based in San Francisco, put out its list, which was followed this week by Baum & Whiteman, a New York-based shop.

What can we expect for next year?

According to Andrew Freeman, pies will be the number-one trend (so, Frank Bonanno, nice call on Wednesday's Pie, but you might consider being open more than one day a week). The group also calls out veggies (thank you, Meatless Monday) and, on the flip side, goat and lamb bellies, which makes sense since pork belly has got to be close to running its course, but fat-laced meat is as classic as the white T-shirt. And apparently, small is about to get smaller: The group predicts that mini-plates, as in mini-appetizers and mini-desserts, will increase in popularity because they fit the budgets of cash-strapped diners.

Baum & Whiteman, on the other hand, optimistically predicts that wallets will fatten so that post-recession dining rooms will be full again, and not just of cheapos looking for a Groupon deal. And apparently they'll be eating Korean food, breakfast and, uh, grits, which all make the list for up-and-coming cuisines.

More baffling is the food-trucks call. Sure, it stands to reason that mobile food will enjoy popularity into next year, but as one of this year's top trends, it doesn't seem exactly groundbreaking to put it on the list again.

Both agencies say multi-use space (like markets that serve really good food or restaurants that house shops), gourmet popsicles and yogurt will have a place in the food annals of 2011. But while Andrew Freeman says gourmet sausages are on the rise, Baum & Whiteman decisively declares them on the way down, along with hamburgers, and says sandwiches will step in to fill the void. If the ongoing success of Biker Jim's and Masterpiece Deli here in Denver is any indication, we say why not both?

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