Every year, it seems that various ethnic cuisines take turns spreading like wildfire across the country. One of the most prominent cuisines to do so this year was Peruvian. Undoubtedly, the increase in the prevalence of Peruvian food was affected by one of the country’s most acclaimed chefs, Gastón Acurio, opening a restaurant in New York City this year, La Mar Cebicheria. Other ventures bolstering the trend include spots like Latin Bites Café in Houston, named the city’s restaurant of the year.
Heralded by active proponents of the raw food diet, the legal status of raw milk and cheese in the U.S. was a hot-button topic of discussion this year. Currently, most states across the country have regulations banning the sales of raw milk and cheese, which makes the illicit dairy the item of the moment for rebellious food lovers.
This is a trend that seems to have spawned from the popularity of “nose-to-tail” eating, or cooking and serving as many parts of the pig as possible. This year, the pork-centric dining concept evolved into restaurants serving other animals, such as duck, rabbit, and even large fish in the same way. This spring, David Chang introduced an all-duck lunch at Momofuku Ssäm Bar, including a menu of preparations using various parts of the animal cooked with their in-house rotisserie.
Ever since cupcakes took the world by storm a few years ago, experts have speculated about the next big dessert trend. This year, it seems French macarons are scaling the ladder of popularity, giving pies and doughnuts a run for their money. This summer, Ladurée brought their iconic versions of this Parisian cookie to the U.S. with the opening of their first New York City store. Chicagoans even welcomed the first food truck dedicated solely to macarons. These bite-sized, vibrantly colored sandwiches may look like dainty confections, but with their rich fillings and dense almond-scented cookies, they’re not for the faint of heart.
Perhaps a by-product of the high-end casual dining trend that swept the nation last year, a growing number of chefs are serving up condiments scratch-made in house. From homemade ketchup to signature flavored mustard, fancy pestos, bacon jam, and “special sauce,” casual dishes are getting the upscale treatment in food trucks and at the table.
Crudo is a trend that started back in 2007, when Dave Pasternack opened Esca and his partner, Joe Bastianich, coined the term for this Italian version of sashimi. These days, the dish has become so popular that bigwig Italian chefs like Scott Conant and Michael White have adopted it as their own. And now, with Eataly having its own crudo bar, the duo to introduce the dish originally is getting another chance to promote the trend.
Between the influx of shops dedicated solely to dishes like meatballs and arancini, Mario Batali’s plans to open five new Eataly superstores (and becoming a regular face on morning and late-night television), and negronis taking over as the cocktail darling of the moment, it’s safe to say that the trendiness of everything Italian is alive and well. The truth of the matter is that Italian places just keep opening, seemingly outnumbering even Starbucks on our city streets these days.
This trend didn’t start in 2011, but it seems to have certainly grown exponentially throughout the year. Beyond the flurry of fully dedicated gluten-free bakeries and restaurants (such as Babycakes in New York City), high-profile chefs, like Michael White, are offering options such as gluten-free pasta on their menus.
The world of smartphone apps is vast and shows no signs of slowing down growth any time soon. However, for the food media industry, it was the iPad that really characterized the app trend this year. From cookbooks to videos to online publications, all facets of the food world are getting in on the action.
This was a year of growth for many New York City restaurateurs, especially for those opening secondary outposts of their original ventures. Giulio Adriani opened both of his Forcella pizzerias this year (Williamsburg in August and Manhattan in October), The Meatball Shop boys opened their first Brooklyn branch this summer, and Arthur Avenue pizza haven, Zero Otto Nove, opened in the Flatiron District.
2011 was a big year for the Miami restaurant scene; some of the most anticipated openings this year included Shake Shack, Scarpetta, and an outpost of Andrew Carmellini’s The Dutch in New York City. José Andrés has plans to open a branch of his restaurant, The Bazaar, in Miami early next year.
This was a breakout year for a handful of pastry chefs. For instance, acclaimed pastry chef Alex Stupak opened his hotly anticipated first venture, Empellon, in New York City and the rising star behind Momofuku Milk Bar, Christina Tosi, drew notable attention upon the release of her first cookbook. Another contributing factor to the trend was certainly the continuing success Top Chef Just Desserts, which came back for a second season this year.
Related to the fast-food makeovers trend, a handful of national chains introduced new kids menus this year in an effort to join the fight against childhood obesity. McDonald’s, Burger King, Denny’s, Subway, and IHOP are just a few of the chains that hopped on the bandwagon. Interestingly (but maybe not such a surprise), almost all of these new kids menus include apple slices (with caramel dipping sauce) as the side of choice.
Food trucks have taken over most major metropolitan cities in the country at this point, but a secondary trend that caught on this year was the teams behind the trucks setting up brick-and-mortar places. Joining the ranks in 2011 were Cupcake Stop, The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, and Coolhaus, just to name a few.
In a similar vein to the house-made condiments trend, more and more chefs offered up fresh cheese made in-house this year. The cheeses that were particularly prevalent among restaurants nationwide include ricotta (both fresh and smoked, and almost always slathered on crostini), burrata (on its own, melted on pizza, on a bed of fresh arugula), and pimento cheese (in sandwiches, on crackers, and melted onto burgers).
Undoubtedly, chef Rene Redzepi’s rise to glory spurred the spike in popularity of Nordic cuisine, especially after Restaurant magazine named his restaurant, Noma, as the number one restaurant in the world for two years running (knocking elBulli out of the top spot). This dining trend is categorized by ingredients like cured fish, lingonberries, and clean flavors, such as pine.
Regional burger chains, such as Umami Burger, Shake Shack, Smashburger, and In-N-Out have developed cult-like followings since bursting on the scene. This year, all of these chains expanded to new locations outside of their initial regions, recruiting a new batch of burger fanatics along the way.
When it comes to the restaurant world, diners and chefs alike are always looking for new and exciting ways to broaden their horizons. For a growing handful of chefs this year, this meant trying their hand at a new cuisine. José Andrés, known for his innovative interpretations of Spanish cuisine, opened China Poblano, a mash-up of Chinese and Mexican cuisines in Las Vegas. Grant Achatz, known for modern American cuisine at Alinea, unveiled a futuristic Thai menu at his second iteration of Next. Iconic French chef Michel Richard has plans to open a meatball shop in D.C., and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, known for his French and Asian influences, is rumored to be opening a lobster shack in New York City.
As food continues to permeate mainstream popular culture, chefs and restaurateurs looking to expand their burgeoning brands are opening ventures in public spaces that are more accessible to the masses, namely sports stadiums and airports. Taking a nod from the likes of Wolfgang Puck, chefs like Rick Bayless, Cat Cora, and Tyler Florence have opened casual eateries in airports this year. The Torrisi boys unveiled a Parm concession at Yankee Stadium this season, serving up their famous sandwiches.
The nature of food television is constantly evolving and ever-growing in popularity. Thanks to the success of hits such as Top Chef (and the spin-offs) and The Next Food Network Star, a slew of new food-reality shows aired this year. Notable additions included America’s Next Great Restaurant, Chef Hunter, and MasterChef, plus the inclusion of chefs on The Celebrity Apprentice, and the new daytime talk show, The Chew.
This nutrient-packed leafy green was undoubtedly the superstar vegetable of 2011. Whether it’s kept raw and julienned in a salad, baked into crispy chips, or sautéed and tossed with pasta, kale has become a mainstay on menus nationwide. In fact, one Vermont T-shirt artist gained viral popularity this year for creating clothing emblazoned with the tagline “Eat More Kale.”
What did Mario Batali, John Besh, Ferran Adrià, Art Smith, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten have in common this year? They all published cookbooks this year filled with simple recipes aimed at getting families to get in the habit of sharing meals around the dinner table. The trend extended to restaurants as well, especially in the forms of family-style weekly specials and Sunday dinners.
A handful of national fast-food chains revamped their looks this year, whether it was Burger King dumping “The King” as its mascot; McDonald’s introducing a $1 billion plan to renovate their franchises with a sleeker, upscale makeover; or Wendy’s unveiling their new burgers in an attempt to compete with the likes of Five Guys and In-N-Out.
One of the most prominent trends of the year was the number of acclaimed foreign chefs and restaurateurs who opened restaurants in New York City. To name a few: famed Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio opened La Mar Cebicheria; rising star chef in Copenhagen, Adam Aamann is in the midst of opening Aamann’s Copenhagen (an outpost of his Danish sandwich shop); CIA-trained chef Jung Sik Yim, who is said to be the first to apply the techniques of molecular gastronomy to Korean cuisine in Korea, returned to the U.S. with Jung Sik; and the team behind Al Mayass, an established Armenian restaurant in Beirut, also opened a venture in The Big Apple this year.
As food entertainment continued to explode this year, it makes sense that its major players have garnered enough fame to attract brief starring roles in general-interest shows and films. Bobby Flay had a multi-episode stint on the final season of Entourage and Wolfgang Puck lent his voice to Chef Smurf in The Smurfs this summer (Tom Colicchio made a cameo appearance in the movie as well). The Simpsons even dedicated an entire episode this year to food celebrities. While the notion of chefs testing their acting chops is not entirely new (remember Paula Deen's role in Elizabethtown? Or how about Emeril Lagasse's gig as the voice of Marlon the Gator in The Princess and the Frog?), these more recent appearances feature these chefs as themselves (well, mostly).