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GUEST COMMENTARY: Columbia should be snapping up food trends; what's stopping us?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 | 7:24 p.m. CDT; updated 10:38 a.m. CDT, Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sometimes, all I want in life is a macaroon.

I want to feel cavities boring into my molars as I sink my teeth into one of those chewy, frilly, pastel dreams.

But really, it is a dream. The reality is that if you want a macaroon in Columbia — grab your whisk. You’ll have to make a batch yourself.

Columbia has an abundance of stylish hair salons and vintage stores but isn't quite as bold when it comes to food.

There are at least seven places in The District to buy facial mud masks, but a really interesting lunch?

People in other cities are lining up for cereal-encrusted chicken fingers and lamb chop sliders. We line up at Chipotle.

Don’t get me wrong. Chiptole is inexpensive, fast and fresh – a customer satisfaction trifecta.

But food trends take these basic ideas and shake them up. Artisanal popsicles add uncommon flavors to the fresh fruit dessert, like mango and cardamom. The Italian technique of hay-smoking gives barbeque an earthier flavor. Miniature pies are simply cute.

Sometimes, food can — and should — do more than feed us. It can provoke, inspire and delight.

For the foodies in Columbia who worship foodgawker.com and New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman, watching trends bypass Columbia can be exasperating — although one trend has made a hard landing. Frozen yogurt.

Fro-yo prospers here, as evidenced by three options downtown and the Tasti D-Lite off Grindstone Parkway. There’s no excuse for being probiotic deficient.

If these yogurt shops survived last winter’s Snowpocalypse, I have faith that others could make it, too.

What could be next? Omelet bars? Ramen shops? Wafels-and-dinges trucks? Any kind of food truck? What about the electrolyte-loaded bliss that is coconut water?

Will this string of questions ever end? Not until I can find a good salt bagel.

The real frustration is that we are the perfect town for food trending.

We have the demographics. A college town that supports a farmers market and invented cicada ice cream is surely ready for more action.

We have evidence of success. Across the country, limited-service eating places — such as cupcake shops — bring in almost exactly the same amount of revenue as full-service restaurants.

We have the employees. Most food service workers are young, part time and single.

And clearly there’s a desire here for rich experiences. Ragtag Cinema is thriving. "We Always Swing" Jazz Series sells out its shows. True/False Film Festival jams every art and culture trend into a single weekend.

We need some gutsy entrepreneurs and quirky shop names. We need to make a statement.

In the meantime, I’ll be in the Barnes & Noble cookbook section, checking the ingredients for macaroons.

Gabrielle Lipton is a senior at the Missouri School of Journalism.


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Comments

Jimmy Bearfield October 27, 2011 | 8:18 a.m.

Until a couple of years ago, macaroons weren't hard to find here. For example, Schnucks used to stock them. Now they're hard to find even in large cities. Not sure why. Maybe they've gone out of style, like hardwood floors in the '70s.

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