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Valerie Phillips: Sausages and specialty drinks top Flavor & The Menu food trends

Signature sausages and booze-free beverages, such as artisanal root beer, are two of the "flavor trends" for 2010, according to Flavor & The Menu magazine, a publication for chefs, restaurateurs and other food professionals.

Some of us don't care too much about what the "in" foods are — we just eat it.

But, if you're in the food business, it pays to keep up on what's cutting edge.

The editors based their predictions on menu development, restaurant growth and dining patterns throughout the past year.

In our uncertain times, people are balancing small indulgences with large helpings of comfort, according to Cathy Nash Holley, the magazine's editor.

Some of these trends may never hit Utah, some are yet to come and some are already here.

For instance, several local brew pubs, such as the Beehive Grill in Logan and Rooster's in Ogden and Layton, are becoming known for their house-made root beer.

This is a big trend nationwide, along with other non-alcohol beverages, such as lavender-infused tea, exotic fruit juice, spritzers and frappes.

The experts theorize that this ever-expanding specialty drink category has been inspired by the popularity and profitability of specialty cocktails.

Other trends:

Worldly sandwiches. Goodbye ham and Swiss — from now on, it's a world of banhmi, torta, Cubano, tartines, muffalettas and other ethnic/regional sandwiches from around the globe.

Chile-fired sauces. Chefs are branching out with usage, layering several types of chiles to infuse heat in more ways.

Blue-plate updates. Family-style dinners, Sunday suppers and other chef-driven ideas address today's quest for casual-dining formats.

Deep-fried. It's a great fit with the small-plates and bar-foods trend; fried chicken, hush puppies and fresh doughnuts are good examples.

American tavern. This revival is bringing about pub fare with pared-down menus and hand-crafted menus.

Signature sausages. Proprietary recipes, house-made and artisan sausages are being showcased at center plate. The hot dog is turning into this year's hamburger, with premium ingredients, great buns and terrific toppings.

Rustic revolution. Shorthand for all that is comfortable and affordable, "rustic" is the new artisan, encompassing everything from farmhouse tables and pared-down decor to foraged foods, farmstead cheeses and plenty of regional, home-style cooking.

Global grab & go. Street snacks, such as kebabs, dosas, crepes, gorditas and vada puri are being reinterpreted in limited-menu formats to provide meals on the run.

Sentimental sweets. These days, desserts offer a taste of childhood memories via cupcakes, cookies, whoopie pies and popsicles. Even the most sophisticated pastry chefs are taking inspiration from nostalgic desserts. The soft economy is making this category even more lighthearted and important.

The magazine's new Web site,, offers more ideas about today's food trends.