It looks as though the newest trend among restauranteurs in major cities is one in which diners are able to personalize their meal-sizes through non-tradional menu offerings.
Perhaps diners are being led here, to this point in dining time, as they run in horror from the realization of how extensive obesity and weight-related ailments (high blood pressure, cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, etc.) have become in today' society, and across the globe. Perhaps it's the result of the growing repulsion to the humongous, protein-packed dishes running rampant through our typical restaurant menus.
The good points from this trend seem to be the internationalization of menu items (variety, flavor, spices), and the availability of mix and match dishes that can be pulled from a number of categories (appetizers, snacks, sides, etc.) to serve as your meal. This is more familiar to those of us who have relished, at some point, Tapas. Tapas are small, shareable dishes--usually with a Spanish flair (it's Spanish as in from Spain). These small plates of cold and warm goodies can be split and shared any which way with one's fellow diners at the table. A wonderful development for those of us who enjoy the occasional treat (be it savory or sweet) and at the same time enjoy sharing to reduce total caloric, or sugar, or carb "damage."
There's a fascinating article in the New York Times today, titled "Is the Entree Heading for Extinction?" and authored by Kim Severson. There's a number of restaurants and chefs mentioned, as well as good examples of this growing trend. The words tapas, appetizers, and snack menus are thrown about... and I like it! What better way to eat a healthy and varied diet? Some of these appetizers and snacks may very well be traditional dishes, and categorized as comfort food--just as likely as labeled fusion with the creation of new mixtures and flavors... they're just portioned and presented in new, smaller, innovative ways.
There's long been a strong and growing voice out of health and nutrition circles suggesting people focus on smaller, more frequent meals in portion-controlled fashion, while showcasing an appropriate variety of nutrients (and colors!). What better way than use these new dining trends as a way to get from theory to practice?
I've partaken in sampler desserts (such as the dolcino sampler at Brio Tuscan Grill--though they mispell the italian words to make them pronounceable to an American) and enjoyed them immensely. These "new" sharing dining ways, are great. We not only enjoy the camaraderie of fellow dinersat the table, making for a cozy experience, but also taste and mix and match to our heart's content... all in safe smaller portions.