Crystal Ball

Predicting local restaurant trends for 2006.

As Roger Downey recently pointed out in these pages, one-syllable restaurant names are the thing these days: Veil, Lark, Crave, Crow, Crush, Pair—and something called Fork, set to open on the Hill any day now. The phenomenon reminds me of indie rock in the '90s, when Pavement, Silkworm, Sebadoh, and Superchunk set naming trends. If restaurants are on the same trajectory, '06 might see a rash of "the" names mirroring the garage-rock revival of the early '00s, which featured bands called The Hives, The Strokes, and The White Stripes. After that—but let's hope not—we could end up seeing bistros and cafes named the way many post-rock and emo-core outfits are, with sentence fragments suggesting faux-lofty concepts. In a parallel universe, there's probably already a really pretentious wine bar called As I Sit Sipping. (If you don't get that reference, you probably don't know a 15-year-old and have never heard the "hardcore" band As I Lay Dying. Consider yourself lucky). And what's the restaurant equivalent of the Austin band . . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead (yep, the ellipsis is part of their handle)? Wait, don't answer that, and don't go thinking I'm crazy either. Anyone remember the Seattle-area restaurants Clinkerdagger Bickerstaff & Pett's or Boondocks Sundeckers and Greenthumbs? They existed in the same era as '70s prog-rockers Emerson Lake and Palmer. But beyond naming trends, what I'm looking for in 2006 is a transparency trend. I'd like to see a restaurant that puts it all on the menu—full disclosure. I want organic ingredients selected not just for flavor (and not to satisfy fads; ixnay on the oamfay) but for nutritional value, for sustainability, for the benefits of optimal food combinations. Matter of fact, I'd like to supply every chef in town with a nutritionist, a Chinese herbalist, and an Ayurvedic/naturopathic M.D.—someone who specializes in Samyoga, the ancient, rational, and scientific theories of food combination—as consultants. I want these transparent, forward-thinking menus to be geared toward Seattle's growing number of flexetarians, those who don't see vegetarian dishes as lacking but who don't mind free-range, family-farmed meat here and there, either. All animal products—eggs, cheese, fish, etc.—would be natural as well as hormone- and cruelty-free. Produce, grains, and fruit? All natural, too, of course. And again, sources ("Skagit Valley sweet corn from Schuh Farms") and preparation techniques ("sautéed in walnut oil, high in Omega-3s") must be up front. Give me references, research, footnotes! No more hiding behind the now-ubiquitous catchall slogan that you're a seasonally and locally focused restaurant. I realize this will make for a lot of reading, but shouldn't we be more thoughtfully engaged in what we order? Designing a menu, and a restaurant concept, that's mindful of health, well-being, equilibrium, education, and bold, exciting flavors has to be the next step in local food culture. As more and more Americans—and especially Seattleites—get hip to CSA subscriptions, farmers markets, organic produce, and sustainable living at home, won't they be looking for dining-out experiences that extend and expand their personal practices? If you want classification, let's file these restaurants of the future under "new vital global cuisine." They'll be part Chez Panisse, part PCC, part Diet for a Small Planet, part something exciting and fresh you'd find in Portland or Vancouver. What will they be called? Something conceptual, alluding to the idea of transparency? Ice? No, that's too conceptual. Something high-concept but pop-arty? The Clearness? (A la that overhyped rock band The Darkness?) That's terrible, too. How about A Full and Accurate Disclosure of All Ingredients Is . . . —ellipsis included? Nah, way too fussy. Listen, call me; we'll get out a white board and brainstorm over cardamom-spiced roasted German butter ball potatoes (high in potassium, fiber, vitamin C, and complex carbohydrates) and baby red beets (high in iron) from Full Circle Farms in Carnation, and locally caught crab—which contains, among other great things, selenium, a detoxifying antioxidant.

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