The Best Food And Drink Trends Of 2016

From the French invasion to cacio e pepe everything

From a revival of French cooking to bottles of Georgian wine and countless bowls of cacio e pepe, 2016 has been a stellar year for diners and drinkers. At the start of it, we set out to predict what we would eat, and while most of those predictions came true, a few other trends snuck into the mix and offered us delightful surprises (hello, Daniel Rose's pike quenelles!). Before the year wraps up, we wanted to take stock one more time of all of those tastiest things.

① The NYC Restaurant Trend of the Year: French Cooking

French cooking, like Julia Child herself, will never go out of fashion. But it had slunk off  to the side over the past few years, outshined by the bolder and brasher flavors entertaining our palates. This year, with the help of Daniel Rose at Le Coucou and his featherlight pike quenelles, French food demanded to be noticed, enjoyed and debated.

Union Square Cafe's Dining Room | Photo: Emily Andrews

② The Comeback We're Most Grateful For: Union Square Cafe

Late in 2015, the city lost one of its restaurant pillars, Danny Meyer's original Union Square Cafe. Nearly one year after its closing date, the restaurant reopened a few blocks away with a new menu (try the carrot pasta) and wine program, but the same classic feeling. Welcome back, old friend.

③ The Restaurant We Simply Can't Stop Talking About: Baroo

Tucked into an unassuming strip mall on the edge of L.A.'s Koreatown, Baroo doubles as a fermentation laboratory and a restaurant where Kwang Uh serves some of the most original food we've ever seen. Dishes like his kimchi fried rice made with pineapple white kimchi, pesto and a soft sous-vide egg simply don't make sense until you've tasted them. But once you have, you won't soon forget. (N.B.: For those looking to visit Baroo, note Uh is currently on a sabbatical in Korea, but plans to return in the middle of 2017.)

④ The City We're Contemplating Moving To (Just for the Food): Los Angeles

Our hearts may belong to New York, but we're pretty sure if our mouths had their way, we would be relocating to the left coast. From the wildly experimental cooking at Baroo to the drag queen bingo during dinner at Grand Central Market to the endless array of East Asian options in the San Gabriel Valley to the country's best taco trucks to a booming beer scene to . . . to . . . to . . . We simply can't get enough of the food L.A. has to offer.  

⑤ The Inescapable Dish: Cacio e Pepe

This Roman icon made its way onto more menus this year than we can count—both in classic forms like a bucatini cacio e pepe from L.A.'s Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo and in playful modern takes. Dave Chang set off a firestorm at Nishi with his cece e pepe, a riff on the dish made with a fermented chickpea paste, Missy Robbins tossed it into frittelle at Lilia and John Fraser made it play nice with shiitakes at Nix.

⑥ The Cooking Trend of the Year: Sheet Tray Meals

Any cooks who look down on this trend should make this spicy spatchcocked chicken with mushrooms, kale and heaps of lemon, and then give us a call.

⑦ The Wacky Fling That We're Ghosting: Rainbow Foods

Shhh . . . don't tell anyone, but we've perused our fair share of rainbow foods on Instagram. But our short-lived affair is over; we've taken a shower, and it's time to move on.

⑧ Protein of the Year: Chicken

We get it, the all-American love of chicken isn't exactly new. But this year, the bird went from being the default for picky eaters to the main event. Restaurants like Le Coq Rico, where Antoine Westermann serves several breeds of heritage birds, focused on simple preparations, allowing the meat to speak for itself. In other parts of the dining-verse, rotisserie chicken went from being a sad thing you buy from the supermarket to a chef staple. The trend even hit Shake Shack land, where everyone lined up for fried chicken sandwiches.

⑨ Root of the Year: Turmeric

This orange root with anti-inflammatory powers glowed more brightly than ever this year in turmeric tonics, lattes and teas. Our favorite way to consume it: turmeric, ginger and coconut ice cream.

⑩ The Wine We Happily Drank (a Lot Of): Georgian Wines

Natural wine has been on the rise for years, but in 2016, sommeliers and winos took a step back—way back to the country of Georgia, home to the oldest wine tradition in the world. Between a new book from longtime natural wine enthusiast Alice Feiring on the subject to wine bars stocking shelves with the orange-tinted juice, there was plenty of Georgian wine to explore. And we did so, happily.

⑪ Beer Trend of the Year: East Coast IPAs

We know what you're thinking: IPAs are basically synonymous with American craft beer and have been for decades. But New England IPAs, the uber-popular bitter brew's softer, sweeter baby sister, has shot to the top of this year's hot list. Pioneered by Vermont's The Alchemist and its cult-favorite Heady Topper, these hazy, velvety ales are bursting with citrus, melon and tropical flavors, thanks to ample doses of fresh hops, and are more akin to a glass of boozy OJ than the piney palate crushers of yore. And while East Coasters like Pennsylvania's Tired Hands are leading the pack, other breweries around the country, including Colorado standby Odell Brewing and California's stellar Modern Times, have also hopped on the hops train with gusto.