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Food & Dining // Table Talk
Jo McGarry

Food And Bar Trends In The New Year

As the holidays wind down and expectations for the new year ramp up, it might come as good news to know we are headed into a year of eating differently. Food trends are fun to observe, and as we head into 2013, here’s a look at what we might expect from our restaurants and bars.

Leaving The Table. Bar food – and beer food – has taken center stage this year in Honolulu, with the emergence of a bartending movement that shows no signs of slowing down. We have an extraordinary number of talented and highly professional bartenders who attract legions of foodie followers happy to sit at their bars, sipping and tasting.

Look for more bars to open this year with the emphasis on fresh cocktails made with organic and locally grown ingredients, and a focus on small-batch distilleries, hand-crafted bourbons and organic, unflavored vodkas. Small plates and cocktail pairings make bar food among the most exciting dining options. Look for more craft breweries to expand into the restaurant world. Two new restaurants scheduled to open early in 2013: Chai’s Bistro at the Honolulu Pacifica Building, and 12th Avenue Grill in Kaimuki. Both will feature large bar/dining areas.

Downsizing Fast Food.

Watch carefully as the New York City ban on giant soda is implemented. The soda ban is a reversal of a trend that got way out of hand.

You might not like the idea of portion control, but in a culture where diabetes is escalating at an alarming rate, does anyone really need 64 ounces of soda (and its 744 calories) as a snack?

Look for more drinks that give the appearance of being healthy, including flavored iced teas, herb-infused juices and a growing number of kombucha (mushroom) drinks.

Pop-ups Rule. In the same way as the food truck revolution started and kept going, pop-up restaurants are here to stay. They provide an exciting alternative for diners willing to travel to different locations to taste food prepared by their favorite chefs. For young chefs, the pop-up is a way to sharpen their skills in the highly challenging restaurant market and to avoid the many pitfalls of long-term commitments to landlords.

Taste Table, Kakaako, Mark Noguchi’s partnership with Poni and Brandon Askew and Amanda Corby, proves that a pop-up can exist within a pop-up. “The Gooch” and his team change up the menu, invite guest chefs and host breakfast lunches and dinners that challenge our dining ideas. The Taste Table team thinks beyond the box and imagines new possibilities with food and drink. From The Pig and Lady Noodle Bar to No Ka Oi Cookie Company breakfasts, this new restaurant format offers an exciting vision for the coming year. It also gives popular food truck vendors an opportunity to showcase their talents.

Look for more of these interactive dining experiences featuring chef demonstrations, tasting classes and community events hosted within simple dining spaces.

Better Wines By The Glass. And finally, this is a trend we’re hoping to kick-start. In 2013 there is simply no excuse for boring, expensive wine lists that offer little in the way of variety to educated drinkers. There are literally hundreds of excellent wines that can be offered by the glass for $7 to $10, and there are now Master Sommeliers working at all of our major wine and spirit distribution companies. Restaurant owners, please use them!

Happy New Year!

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