It’s been a crazy year in New York dining, full of big, bold concepts, and wild ideas… that never really took off. Here’s a list of 10:
10) Micro Desserts: In October, the Times alerted us to the rise of the micro desserts, which are sweets that are so small that a mouse could eat one and not get full. Said one cannoli salesman: “The minis are cute…But the micros are going to be a powerhouse.” This trend never really caught on, but the media fever is easily explained: Chapter 16 of The Food Trend Rule Book (Workinghouse Books, 978-0067934910) states that every five months, food writers will predict that a new dessert will reach the popularity of cupcakes. It also notes that no dessert will ever become as popular as cupcakes, at least not for another 15-20 years, because dessert fads on the cupcake-level aren’t born overnight — they take years and years of annoying hype to reach full-fledged food trend status. [Fred R. Conrad/NYT]
9) Toast: Earlier this year, a few trendwatchers proclaimed that toast — the cooked form of bread — was infiltrating menus all over New York City. Sometimes the starch appeared alongside a dip or oil, beneath a piece of cheese, or under a thin layer of meat or vegetables. It’s a fun idea, but there have always been bruschettas, tartines, and crostini in this city, and in 2011, the regular, not-cooked kind of bread was actually way, way more popular — just look at the Google Analytics.
8) Drinkable Vinegars: In 2011, bartenders at hip restaurants like Saxon & Parole, Frankies 570, and Peels started using vinegars in their drinks instead of other more common acids like lemon juice. Although it’s an intriguing development in the cocktail arts, drinkable vinegars aren’t quite eligible for the full-blown trend status if only because they seems more popular with bartenders than with bar patrons — no one’s heading down to their local tavern for a cool glass of vinegar-laced booze, at least not yet. But with some time, a bit more exposure, and a man named Andy Ricker drinkable vinegars might just become the new picklebacks, maybe.
7) Pop-Ups: There were indeed a lot of pop-up restaurants in 2011, but most of them started and ended in the first few months of the year. It’s hard to explain why the pop-ups dropped off, but it might have something to do with that kid Greg Grossman — he’s a small but potent trend-killer. As a visual aid, here’s a chart that shows Eater NY posts about pop-ups, by month:
There’s a curious spike around August, but by the time fall rolled around, pop-ups were on the way out.
6) Queens is the New Brooklyn: In 2011, a few newspapers and magazines suggested that the Queens food scene was starting to bear similarities to the Brooklyn food scene — one weekly arts mag even included a Queens restaurant on its “Best of Brooklyn” list. Although many great new restaurants opened (and closed) in Queens this year, the comparison doesn’t quite make sense, if only because Brooklyn attracts so many more Manhattan diners, restaurateurs, and critics right now. Queens is its own thing, and that’s great.
5) Duck is the New Pork: Chapter 16 of The Food Trend Rule Book (Workinghouse Books, 978-0067934910) states that every nine months, some food forecaster will proclaim that a new kind of meat will soon become as popular as pork. And in June, it seemed like the moment was right for such a call: Ssam Bar rolled out its awesome duck menu at lunch, M. Wells started serving a large-format Peking duck feast, and Torrisi dropped a duck dish, too. But the duck-fever cooled after that, perhaps because the meat is much harder to cook than pork, and also, a new poultry trend was coming up on the horizon…
4) Chicken Skin: In September, we learned that the chicken skin trend was picking up steam across the county. Sadly, this food trend never really took off in New York this year. You can get them at Fatty Crab (late night, with lemon salt) and at Recette (with gravy and foie gras), but we’re way behind cities like LA in terms of variety and volume of dishes made with the poultry part. However, if some bold New York chef were to affix chicken skin to a tender slab of pork belly using meat glue, the internet would short-circuit. [Photo]
3) Lobster Rolls: As the Times noted, a lot of new lobster roll restaurants opened in hip neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Manhattan this year, many of which were frequented by scruffy guys and their comely girlfriends (see photo at left). But, casual seafood shacks open every summer, because fish restaurants are always popular in New York, especially in the warm months. The real lobster roll boom occurred back around the turn of the last century, when Pearl Oyster Bar and Mary’s Fish Camp were the new hotness. Like burgers, Neapolitan pizzas, or banh mi sandwiches, lobster rolls have been around for a while and they’re here to stay. [Yana Paskova/NYT]
2) Foraging: At the end of last year, we learned that hot spots like Torrisi, Vandaag, and the Momofuku restaurants were working with foragers. The hype kept building in 2011, as magazines and newspapers were flooded with profiles of Rene Redzepi, the Danish chef who loves taking food writers to parking lots in search of edible gems amidst the gravel. But very few restaurants in New York are actually using lots of foraged goods right now. In August, Vandaag owner Brendan Spiro explained the reality of the situation: “Believe it or not, foragers are not just coming out of the woods, so to speak….If you can get it foraged? Great. If it’s coming from a local farm who is doing it right and growing it well? Perfect. We’re looking for taste over gimmickry or trends. And I think it’s gotten to a different level right now.”
1) Food Trends: Food trends never really took off in 2011, which is weird because they were popular for such a long time. From 2008- 2010, dishes and dining styles popped up every few months that were easy to classify in clean little groups (see: Fried Chicken, Banh Mi, Thai Food, The Golden Age of Pizza, whatever Compose was doing). But now, there’s so much food coverage on the internet that it’s easy to see that tastes don’t generally move in one direction. In other words, because the dining world is so transparent at this point, we might be living in a post-food trend New York City. But, who knows? Maybe that will blow over soon too.