This month’s edition of Food Arts declares that “Greece is stepping out of the wings and into the spotlight.” Is Greek food the Next Big Thing in the United States? Instead of Olive Garden, will Americans be schlepping their families to, uh, Greek Olive Garden?
This is a question that many magazines would support with a few anecdotes and a lot of purple prose about feta, but Food Arts bolsters its argument with a number of interesting facts.
1. The Hellenic Foreign Trade Board is stepping up its marketing campaign, holding its second annual International Kerasma Conference on Greek Gastronomy in Crete. In attendance: amateur spearfisherman Gordon Ramsay, I. Pano Karatassos of Atlanta’s influential Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, and a host of U.S. buyers and critics.
2. Greek food exports are up 36 percent since 2004.
3. New York magazine declared it the year’s top trend, and 14 new Greek restaurants have opened in New York this year.
Beyond the numbers, the bigger issue is the character of the food itself. “It has all the characteristics that the US consumer is looking for,” says Lisa Smith, the food service product development manager for Central Market of Austin, Texas. “It’s bright, light, flavorful, healthy, visually appealing and you feel great after you eat it.”
Speak for yourself, Ms. Smith. Those who eat Rafiqi’s excellent-but-ass-kicking gyros in New York City exceed my two-per-week guideline at their own digestive risk.