- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 1, 2006

It’s out with the chi-chi raw foods and the carbohydrate-free Atkins Diet, and in with the bacon, megaburgers and cream puffs.

Yes, cream puffs.

America apparently has reacquainted itself with a cornucopia of he-man goodies from another era, according to 2006 food-trend predictions from a variety of industry analysts.

“Long live bread and pasta,” proclaimed the five editors of Epicurious in their annual review of the best and worst of the nation’s culinary proclivities. The online compendium of eating information is maintained by Conde Nast, publisher of Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines.

Comfort food is a factor. The favorite recipe of Editor in Chief Tanya Steel is, in fact, short ribs with mashed potatoes, while second-in-command Clare O’Shea votes “double chocolate” layer cake as her dish of choice.

Public interest in meals composed entirely of uncooked items has grown cold, they say.

“There’s a wonderful cooking tool called fire, and for the most part, haute cuisine tastes better when it’s employed — chefs across the country came to their senses about this fact in 2005,” the Epicurious editors stated.

And about that bacon, or “pork belly” as it is known among the restaurateurs, not to mention Wall Street.

“We really can’t resist the salty, succulent allure of this unabashedly fatty cut,” the group added, while praising the newest fast-food chain — Beard Papa Cream Puffs — as “wildly addictive.”

While some of the nation’s burger franchises have been chastely offering lighter fare in the past year, others have fearlessly resurrected the unabashed hamburger — such as the two-thirds-of-a-pound, 1,300-calorie “Thickburger,” from Hardee’s.

“We’re feeding our core audiences what they want, not what they need,” a spokesman said, according to the Cattle Network, a Missouri-based trade group that tracks the meat industry. They categorize the rising trend in dining as “mass quantities.”

Meat also gets the vote from the Culinary Mapping Report, produced by the San Francisco-based Center for Culinary Development. In this case, the meat du jour is the flat iron steak, a juicy cut of chuck beef discovered by research teams at both the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida.

Is there a diet strategy to cope with all this? Perhaps. The Remuda Ranch, a weight-loss retreat in Phoenix, has the newest twist: intuitive eating.

“It’s very simple: The key is to listen to your body, eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full,” said ranch dietitian Juliet Zuercher. “Our belief is to not put labels on food. It all depends on how food is used. Even candy bars are acceptable if you keep in mind balance, moderation and variety.”

The more forbidden the food, the higher the chances are that people will overeat, she said.

“The reason most diets don’t work is that many foods are restricted, and the minute you crave and eat a forbidden food, you believe that the diet is over,” she said.

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