Industry Update
Opinion Article 9 December 2008

Benchmark Hospitality International’s Top Five Dining Trends for 2009; Plus Five Cocktail Trends

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Bob Zappatelli

The Woodlands (Houston), Texas, Benchmark Hospitality International, a leading operator of award-winning restaurants, personal luxury hotels, resorts, conference centers and condominium resorts throughout the United States, in Japan and Latin America, has just released its Five Top Dining Trends for 2009. The trends were observed by its properties and are announced by Robert Zappatelli, vice president of food & beverage, together with his team of 20 culinary professionals.


“Fresh and locally produced ingredients, intense rich flavors, and, thankfully, the demise of supersizing is where America’s chefs are trending this year,” said Mr. Zappatelli, speaking on behalf of the Benchmark Hospitality culinary team. “But we still love our comfort food. And the real surprise this year is offal – making a huge comeback after being out of favor for way too long.”

Trend #1 It doesn’t Get Any Fresher Than Farm-to-Table

Even if one doesn’t have a kitchen garden or live on a farm, chances are there is a farmer’s market close by. Organically grown produce pulled fresh from the earth that morning, farm-fresh eggs collected before breakfast, and locally produced, hormone-free meats are what consumers will be eating in 2009 – in restaurants and at home. And local farmers are responding with farm-fresh markets, which are sprouting up in communities across the nation.

It’s about freshness and health and the taste of the region, with locally accented and controlled high quality food items, harvested at prime maturity when food is most flavorful, robust, colorful and elegantly textured.

Trend #2 Sliders, the 21st Century Comfort Food

Many came to know “sliders” through trips to places like White Castle. Soft and doughy petit rolls filled with a variety of flavorful ingredients that melted in the mouth.

Although an occasional trip still tempts, most have moved to slider “tastings” popular at high-end Latin restaurants, such as five-time Grammy Award-winning Gloria Estefan’s newest, Oriente, at Costa d’Este Beach Resort in Vero Beach. Some of the most tantalizing morsels include a mini tuna burger, Kobe beef burger and lamb masala, presented on breads from brioche to semolina or the great breads of Cuba. The smash hit: Palomilla Slider – a classic featuring thin pounded steak grilled and served with seared onion and crispy potato on petit fresh rolls. Sabrosísimo!

Flavorful eats, tremendous variety, bite-size mouth-watering portions are the trend in Vero Beach, in Chicago, Scottsdale, Santa Cruz and on the North Shore of Oahu!

Trend #3 Offal ~ the Food of the Gods!

A little decadence. Offal ~ the more elegant British way to say “variety meats” ~ is hot! An old classic like calves liver and onions is back and with a touch of Marsala and pancetta … as are veal sweetbreads presented as an entrée with fresh tomato, thyme and porcini mushrooms, and tender tripe with baby white potatoes and chippolini onions. Mouth watering yet? How about consommé with liver dumplings, ox tails classically prepared with root vegetables and red wine? Delicious – and it’s the trend!

Bold flavors are sizzling hot right now, as is the willingness to experiment, and this is moving offal to the center of the plate for 2009. Offal is a flavor-packed ingredient for sauces, stuffing, forcemeats, confit and savory marmalade. So livers from poultry can accentuate a reduction for squab or duck, and Foie Gras will elegantly and flavorfully round out a fish sauce, fowl or meat dish.

European chefs have known this since Auguste Escoffier, and American Chefs are just discovering that offal, when applied to a dish correctly, creates the “Food of the Gods.”

Trend #4 Good Riddance to Super-sized American Portions

Fresh vegetables, many more in-season fruits, indigenous dishes, and a much-reduced center meat selection are what will fill America’s plates in 2009. It’s about a healthy and balanced variety packed with natural flavor, rich in-season colors, and meat portions that are by no means nouvelle cuisine, yet are no longer supersized.

Chefs will tempt with intense flavor, garden freshness, rich texture, local favorites and tremendous variety – all of which will likely render 24 oz Porterhouses obsolete! Hearts and arteries across the country will give thanks.

Trend #5 Footprints on Mother Earth

It’s the other side of the farm-to-table movement. Food grown and consumed locally doesn’t require massive fleets of refrigerated trucks for transport, doesn’t need to sit in large temperature-controlled warehouses, doesn’t require shots of coloring to make it look fresher … because it is fresh!

Farm-to-table organically grown cuisine consumed locally reduces green house gas emissions and minimizes shipping requirements, helping to stabilize the earth’s environment by starting in our own “back yard.”

Somewhere Mother Earth is smiling …

Five More Trends – Cocktails for 2009!

From the Master Mixologists at Benchmark Hospitality International.

  • Cocktail Trend #1 Bar Chefs
    Anyone can mix together ingredients, pour these into a glass and say, 'there's your drink.' A 'bar chef', however, utilizes all that is around him or her, bringing these components into a perfectly balanced concoction.

    Bar Chefs work jointly with the culinary team using ingredients such as fresh mint sprigs; lemongrass, for a 'sour’ substitution in recipes; raw sugar cane for simple syrup; fresh herbs like basil and cilantro; and fruit such as blueberries, strawberries, and seasonal / regional selections – macerating these in preparation for the perfect drink.

    And citrus rinds are no longer just for garnishes. Bar Chefs lace them with powdered egg whites or sugar, freeze, and then use these delicacies as the pièce de résistance atop elegant, freshly created cocktails! What a way to start the New Year!

  • Cocktail Trend #2 Nature in a Glass
    The trend in 2009 will be to return to nature utilizing what planet Earth has given since the beginning of time...fresh fruit and vegetables that can be 'muddled' for the perfect drink, organic teas, rose water, natural and sparkling waters from pure sources around the globe, and even bamboo skewers, which recycle themselves.

    So instead of topping off a cocktail with tonic or soda water from the bar gun, a splash of natural sparkling water from a bottle adds the right amount of effervescence, without the added sodium. It’s a respect for and appreciation of the fruits of the earth.

  • Cocktail Trend #3 Old-School Drinks with a New Twist
    Old-School drinks are making a come back, and bar staffs are hitting their little black books for the recipes!

    Product knowledge is a key tool for today's and tomorrow's bartender. Knowing what is in a 'Sidecar,' for example, is just as important as knowing what other ingredients may be substituted to bring this classic drink to a new level for customers in 2009 and beyond.

  • Cocktail Trend #4 Globally Infused Spirits
    Remember the days when bars displayed large obtrusive glass containers that had unsightly fruit or other secret ingredients "infusing" into the spirits? Today there are select distilleries at home and abroad that have mastered the techniques of infusing or 'complementing' their branded spirits, and these infusions are being warmly embraced globally. Why … because properly infused flavor is pure, rich, fresh, and the ideal complement to many of today’s cocktails!
  • Cocktail Trend #5 Secrets of the Forgotten Liqueurs & Cordials
    What are those 'other' liqueurs hiding behind the front wall of spirits at the bar? These forgotten liqueurs or cordials are some of the best ingredients to enhance a specialty cocktail: Drambuie, Benedictine, Galliano, Pernod, Sambuca, Absinthe, Licor 43, Chartreuse, Grand Marnier and Amaretto – just to name a few.

    Tomorrow's bar staff must know not only the names of these items, but more importantly the flavor and aroma of each as these can be superb complements to spirits. Just like a fine chef places ingredients together on a plate to create the perfect balance of taste, a well-trained bar staff will know how to balance flavors in a glass.

About Benchmark Hospitality International | Benchmark Hospitality International is a leader in the management and marketing of resorts, conference centers, hotels, and Personal Luxury Hotels™. The privately held company, launched in 1980, is a founding member of the International Association of Conference Centers. Benchmark is a worldwide organization operating over 30 properties representing major metropolitan and resort destinations. Benchmark's international headquarters is located in The Woodlands, Texas, near Houston, with regional offices in New Jersey and Connecticut. International offices are located in Tokyo, Japan and Santiago, Chile. For locations of properties and additional information, visit .

For more information on Bob Zappatelli, vice president food & beverage, Benchmark Hospitality International, visit

Ken Ellens
Ken Ellens Communications
Phone: +1 201 758 2864
Fax: +1 201-758-2865
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