Remember when "I-can't-believe-it's-not-butter?" was a healthy alternative to butter? Evidently our mothers were killing us with hydrogenated oils and trans fats. Only yesterday alcohol was a quick road to hell, now it can deter heart attacks and thin the blood -- in moderate consumption, of course. "Man cannot live by bread alone"? For the past couple of years we've been trying to live on everything but. Thanks to the food gods, the pendulum is about to swing the other way. What else is on the culinary horizon? Here's my short list of hot and cold for 2005.
Cold: Low-carb diets. OK, so it might rear its skinny head during the post-holiday period, but this trend has clearly lost steam by the news from nutritional scientists that such diets only work when fewer calories are ingested.
To lose weight you have to burn more calories than you are consuming. Turn off the TV and go for a walk.
Hot: Mediterranean cuisine and eating habits, which encourage a leaner diet and smaller portions. Antipasti meats, cheeses, vegetables in marinades with olive oil, caponata, smoked fish and tuna packed in oil all offer the opportunity for satisfying flavors and moderation.
Cold: Fast food and all-you-can-eat buffets. We are (slowly) realizing that fast doesn't necessarily mean gluttonous portions of over-processed, over-salted, high in fat and empty calorie food.
Hot: Small Plate Restaurants. From Chinese Dim Sums, to Greek Meze and Spanish Tapas, small plates feed into the fast-casual dining trend and encourage lighter eating.
Global Roadfood and Multilayered Ethnic Cuisines. Upscale Spanish and Mexican lead the current ethnic trends, but look for Peruvian and Tunisian foods plus regions such as Provence, Galicia and Hunan to grab some attention.
Dessert-Only Restaurants. The ultimate comfort food is showing up in smaller portions in all-dessert restaurants from Barcelona to Chicago.
Raw Food Restaurants. We're not in California anymore, Heather. East Coast and Midwest (even Cincinnati!) cities are supporting vegan and "living food" restaurants.
Blueberries. The new power food whose properties are being studied as a preventative against dementia.
Cold Sake. Bye-bye, Bellinis and Cosmopolitans. This was the hip choice in 2004 for cocktails and as a food-friendly dinner accompaniment.
Barbecued Ribs. Down-home has gone uptown as soul food turns up in pricey dining establishments from Manhattan to L.A. Blame it on Mad Cow, but pork is popular again -- especially finger-lickin' ribs.