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Five bold predictions for how we eat in 2015

A new year is ahead of us. The way I figure, that’s nearly 1,100 meals — more if you eat a second breakfast like a hobbit would.

I hope the coming year has rich flavors and not many instances in which you have to settle for a Lunchable for lunch.

The year will bring new restaurants and the demise of some. It would be unkind and unfair to predict the demises, so none of my predictions will go there.

I’ll go out on a limb with five predictions for 2015. I may eat my words. It’s been known to happen.

Here’s my list:

Artisan will stay open

Kurt Janowsky is opening a high-end restaurant at 505 S. Main St., Elkhart. He’s said it’ll be a step above his other restaurants and others in the region.

Even before it opens in early January, people are asking if it’ll make it. They’re questioning whether Elkhart can support a restaurant with a high average check price.

It’s true that fine dining is a hard sell in Elkhart County. Flytrap’s closed (in the spot where Artisan is going), and so did Indigo on 17. Kelly Jae’s Cafe/Next Door continues to be successful.

However, it won’t just be Elkhart that will support this restaurant when it does open. Diners will come from St. Joseph to Syracuse. Janowsky has had immense success at his restaurant and catering operations. He’s betting he can enter a small but uncrowded niche in the market and succeed again. I’m not willing to bet against him at this point, so I predict Artisan will last through 2015 and beyond despite the naysayers.

Local meats will be on the table more

Restaurants are getting better at serving local greens and other vegetables. It makes a lot of sense to feed the local economy by buying from it to feed your customers.

Microgreens and basil don’t need to be inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture before they’re put on a plate the way chicken, beef or duck does. Getting local meat into the supply chain that restaurants can easily access is more difficult in terms of inspections and maintaining enough supply.

Customers are looking for local and know better how to ask for it. That prompts restaurants and others in food service to meet the demand. Having Miller Poultry and Culver Duck in our community makes it easier, and a number of meat suppliers are stepping up to provide local meat.

In northern Indiana, the relationships are developing in a way that local food and the farm-to-table movement will continue to grow, and more local meat will be served alongside the fresh produce.

Local craft beer consumption and awareness will grow

This is an easy prediction to make. Goshen Brewing Co. will open in the coming months behind Interra Credit Union at the west end of Washington Street in downtown Goshen. Owner Jesse Sensenig says it’ll open in April, so I’ll predict May for when the 65-seat dining room will start serving GBCo brews.

In Elkhart, New Paradigm has yet to sell a pint of its own brew, but I expect it’ll happen in 2015.

Middlebury will also get a brewing company in the coming year, next to 41 North on Main Street.

Will Hydraulic Ale Works, which was to go into Goshen’s Hawks Building, or others make their way into the market? I don’t know, but even without them, I predict there will be more purveyors of local craft beer this year.

Meanwhile, sales at Iechyd Da, Elkhart County’s preeminent brewpub, will keep growing, too.

Does that mean people will drink more? I hope not. I hope it means people will drink local brews instead of Bud Light. Drink better, not more. We don’t need to grow our beer guts.

Craft beer continues to be one of the fastest growing segments of the industry. It’s possible for a brewery to survive in a small town such as Constantine, Mich. People who are unsure about craft beer are finding their way, sip by sip, alongside those who love it.

Kids will eat healthier

Conventional wisdom says children and teens don’t want to eat healthy. Chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese inhabit kids menus at restaurants.

But in Elkhart County, there’s a growing movement to feed our young people healthier food and the reports are that they’re eating it.

At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County, kids are eating healthier snacks and meals, and the employees there say they’re doing it without complaining. In addition, several Elkhart and Fairfield schools received donated salad bars this past year.

We’re still swimming in processed food and have a long way to go before healthy eating becomes our norm. However, the efforts to teach young people the value of salsa rather than chips and greens rather than ranch dressing is underway — and will result in them eating even healthier as they grow.

Cocktails will rise again

The craft cocktail revival has been underway nationally for several years. Locally, bartenders such as Wally Ruston have been making the classics for years. Now he’s practicing the craft at McCarthy’s on the Riverwalk in Elkhart. (And teaching it — the next class in Ruston’s Classic Cocktail Series is at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 15, focused on the Prohibition era.)

Not everyone is a fan of liquor, wine or beer, but for many it’s part of having a dining experience.

What’s happening behind the bar is that a new generation of bartenders is learning to make classic cocktails such as Manhattans and mojitos. Moscow Mules in copper cups are being served instead of only glasses of beer or wine.

Again, it’s not about promoting irresponsible use or drinking more. It’s about seeing a drink as a path to a culinary experience.

Now drink menus are being served alongside the food menus in more and more local restaurants and that will only continue to be more common.

For more restaurant news and commentary from columnist Marshall V. King, sign up for the Dining A La King email newsletter.

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