Bizarre factors guide what will appear on restaurant menus this new year.

America’s consumers willing to chance new food and adventurous chefs eager to cook something untried, have teamed up to bring new delicacies to the menus of eateries from Formica-topped diner counters to bastions of white linen and crystal.

In his annual prediction of what cuisine diners will encounter in the nation’s eateries, Bret Thorn, senior food editor for Nation’s Restaurant News, lays out his guesses on this year’s most popular food trends.

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He says the popularity of the salty, crispy skin of chicken, duck and pork will increase in innovative applications ranging from adding crunch to salads and appetizers to surprising garnishes for soups and vegetables. But Thorn also predicts greater uses of the far more healthful crisped salmon skin. This has long been a favorite on the Pacific Coast.

Trash or junk fish like sea robin, lion fish, green crabs and other “by-catch” that fishers used to toss back, have now found their way to the stoves of some really talented chefs. Thorn says that one reason is that diners are becoming increasingly adventuresome, and “junk fish is now a delicacy.”

While wildlife has long been commonplace in many restaurants in the Northwest, cuts of bison, elk and venison are showing up in unique preparations on menus from coast-to-coast. Thorn questions whether Antelope can be far behind.  The Food Watchdog has noted a rapidly increasing number of ranches in Oregon, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming raising a variety of game animals –  not for the joy of hunters, but the pots, ovens and skillets of fine chefs.

For the health conscious meat from these animals have half the calories of beef and all the ranchers I’ve questioned say the game they raise receive no added hormones, steroids or are feed tainted by pesticides.

For those who want more of Thorn’s predictions, including the impact of last year’s drought on beef sales, the expected popularity of Australian bush tucka and Thai sriracha, here is a link to his report.



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