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No more fancy food

As the world's economy carries on flat lining, families are heading back into the kitchen rather the restaurants.

by: Reuters: Richard Leong: | 13 Jan 2009

As the world's economy heads for its deepest slide in decades, cheap, comfort food is back in vogue while fanciful, culinary experiments are falling out of favour, according to culinary experts.

People are expected to opt for familiar fare with beans, pasta and chicken and eat at home more, making 2009 the year of the home cook.

"Wacky, weird-science cuisine that requires fancy-schmancy equipment doesn't necessarily make food taste better, and more often than not it adds needless complexity," said food Web site in its predictions for 2009.

"Expect to see comfort food stage a comeback again."

While no one expects lauded molecular gastronomic restaurants like Alinea in Chicago or elBulli in Spain to suffer, families are clearly reaching into their pantries more now instead of reaching for their phones to make reservations.

"People are looking at the family table in a new way, and trying to save as much as possible," said Susan Stockton, senior vice president of culinary production at the Food Network in New York. "This will be the year of the home-cook."

The eat-at-home trend has put the heat on US restaurants whose sales have nearly flat-lined since the summer.

Consumers are expected to look for better value when they do choose to eat out, heading to neighbourhood bistros, wine bars and noodle bars. Serious food lovers may still splurge on higher cost, local organic ingredients but will be more selective.

"Instead of caviar and foie gras you'll have people seeking out a new kind of eating indulgently," said Howard Greenstone, chief operating officer at high-end US Mexican restaurant chain Rosa Mexicano.

He sees more offerings of small plates so diners can share and keep their bills down.

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