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Trends to trickle down to the Strand in 2010

Recently, the National Restaurant Association polled more than 1,800 professional chefs to give us the hot trends for 2010. Some of these trends are already in motion in larger cities. Generally, Myrtle Beach falls about five years behind the trend setters, but, due to the poor economy, everyone has gotten back to basics and we are right in the mix as we enter 2010. In no particular order, here's what you can expect to see in our local restaurants, if you aren't seeing it already:

Locally-Grown Produce. This trend really started back in the late 1990s when menus started showing places the food was from on their menus. This works great for our local farmers and restaurants. It also helps the consumer know that they are supporting local business as well as eating fresh food.

Locally sourced meats and seafood. Just as with produce, meats and seafood began the region game about 10 years ago. Hudson Valley Foi Gras, PEI Mussels, Blue Point Oysters, and so on. This trend will make us look closer at using locally-caught seafood as opposed to the so-called "fresh frozen" type. The benefit of this trend to our seaside city is exponential. In fact, we should all have bumper stickers that read "buy local seafood."

Sustainability. This means producing food in ways that won't harm the environment and will promote longevity in the harvest of produce, fish and meats. It also means that we, the local chefs and general public, have a responsibility to promote and utilize places that use these practices.

Mini-Desserts. The purpose is two-fold. First, budgets are tight and these satisfy the sweet tooth at a fraction of the cost for the patron. Second, it seems healthier to have a smaller portion of a sweet finish to a meal. Some places around town have started offering smaller desserts already and claim great success.

Local Wine & Beer. While most of us have marveled at the beers from Liberty Steakhouse & Brewery, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant and New South Brewing Company, we hope to see this trend continue its expansion throughout the Southeast this year. Wine will take a little longer to take shape even with our local wineries. La Belle Amie Vineyard is an amazing place to spend a Saturday drinking wine by the bonfire, but it will be a long road for us to compete with the California producers.

Just as with traditional restaurants, the bar business also is projected to keep things on pace this year. Around here, it's more common to find a modest beer bar than a fancy cocktail lounge, but we still see some of the modern trends creep into both atmospheres. In 2010, expect more flavor-centered trends to pop up around your local watering hole.

Culinary cocktails will become staples in most bars this year. These are cocktails that incorporate gourmet kitchen ingredients and not just fruit juice to make a drink. Keep your eyes open for cocktail pairings on menus as well. Remember, a strong drink has its place and is a needed from time to time, but it doesn't make it a good drink.

Artisan liquor will also assist in the next step of the bar scene. The last two years, we watched first-hand as South Carolina's Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka took that national stage. Expect more bars to use the smaller producers of fine spirits this year. Don't hesitate to try a lesser-known boutique brand. It could be the next Firefly.

Organic beer, wine and spirits will take shape in most bars as an offering to the so-called "green guests."

Molecular mixology will become more popular among the masses. This involves manipulating the chemical composition of a cocktail to create something completely different. I've made vodka sorbet with black olive caviar using these techniques. While time-consuming and sounding a little strange, the principle is that we will get back to drinking for flavor and art of making a cocktail instead of just the effect.

Food and Beer Pairing will make a significant appearance in 2010. Much like with wine, craft beers will take center stage and brew masters will continue using a lot more creativity when it comes to flavor. Thus, making craft beer a perfect food complement. We have some breweries in town already forging ahead with this trend.

It seems that 2010 will be a year of getting back to the basics in the restaurants and bars around town. This is long overdue if you ask me. We'll see places actually serve good food and drink again - practices that were banished into the process of buying mass-produced, frozen products. It's been a great year living the Lush Life with you. I look forward to more of it 2010. Cheers and Happy New Year!