Food trends come. Food trends go. The best food trends stay. Some moments in the food and drink world feel big but end up fizzling before they can ever take hold. One day everyone is raving about colossal milkshakes, the next day those shakes are being banned for having too much sugar. It’s a wild world out there, kids.
Every once in a blue moon, a trend seems to come out of nowhere and become a longstanding national, even international, phenom. Think cheffed up burgers. Even ten years ago, big restaurant-style burgers weren’t that common across the United States outside of the major metro centers. Today, you can get a cheffed up burger in Moscow, Cape Town, and Billings.
2018 has seen its share of trends. Most fade quickly. The over-sugary rainbow-this and mermaid-that era is so forgotten that it feels like a dream. Over-stuffed doughnuts are also losing their luster, as are the aforementioned shakes, as we come to grips with the damage processed sugars have on all of us. On the other side of the trend spectrum, international sensations have finally made it to U.S. shores. Case in point, there’s matcha everything now. Hell, there are even matcha-dipped strawberries. Will it last? We really aren’t sure on that one. Matcha sure is tasty though.
Then there are the trends that’ll transcend the very word, by becoming a mainstay of the national food conversation for years to come. Below is a short list of ten food trends that hit the national food psyche this year that seem to have staying power. These are the best food and drink trends that are actually worth seeking out and trying for yourself right now.
CHEF’D UP BREAKFAST SANDWICHES (126,996 Instagram posts)
Chef’d up breakfast sammies feels like an easy win. This trend combines crucial elements that equate to long-lasting success. There’s elevation. There’s photogenic merit. There’s nostalgia wrapped in deliciousness. It’s something that just works, reborn through a new generation’s lens.
Lastly, it’s amazingly adaptable to your taste. Want a bagel instead of an English muffin? Sausage and bacon? All the cheese? The runniest of eggs? An extra layer of crispy hash brown? Go. For. It.
KATSU SANDO (5,860 Instagram posts)
Coming in hot from Japan this year is the Katsu Sando. This sandwich has some serious legs thanks to being both huge overseas and deceptively simple.
Two pieces of soft white bread generally house a piece of katsu chicken (similar to a fried chicken sandwich). Then there’s a light, tangy, and umami sauce. Those are the foundational elements. From there, chefs are adding wild additions from red sauce and cheese a la Italian-American cuisines to katsu beef filets with truffles and blue cheese. It’s really a wonderland of flavors that can lead, basically, anywhere. All of this potential for remixes and riffs means that this is a sandwich worth finding and eating immediately — in any form.
MAKE-OUR-OWN CONDIMENTS (12,561 Instagram posts)
This one’s a big win in that you don’t have to travel to take part in. It’s all on you. Making your own condiments feels like a throwback to simpler times that also allows you to take control of your food future.
Look at it this way. Say you don’t dig on industrial ketchup? Make your own, yo! Ketchup is versatile and awesome. Tinker with a recipe of fish sauce, smoked tree syrups, paprika, tomato, and spices until you find your ketchup soul mate. Same goes for mayo, aioli, and even salad dressings.
STUFFED CHICKEN WINGS (3,522 Instagram posts)
This is a wondrous food from Japan — but in many parts of the US you’re going to have to work to seek it out. Tebasaki gyoza is an art on the level of soup dumplings. They’re subtle yet burst with flavor.
Cheffing-wise, this one takes skill. You have to debone a chicken wing without ripping the skin. Next, you stuff that chicken wing with dumpling stuffing or fried rice. Then, you deep fry that sucker and, ho boy. This is a transcendent experience that’ll start to blow up as soon it gets off the coasts.
FARRO (140,258 Instagram posts)
Heritage grains are making a comeback. More importantly, whole grains are helping herald in that movement. This is another trend that’s basically cycling back into the public’s consciousness. Farro has been around for dozen of millennia and never really went away in Mediterranean cuisine. It’s now, finally, taking up a solid place in American restaurant kitchens.
Farro — which is usually either spelt, emmer, or einkorn wheat — is a super versatile grain. It works in soups, risottos, salads, bread, and more. It’s also got a heft that fills you up faster than rice while bringing in more nutrients and still feeling light in your stomach.
SHAVE ICE (311,385 Instagram posts)
Okay, we have one sugary delight here. Shave Ice is a goddamn delight and people in Hawaii have known that for decades. Even the west coast has been up on this one for five years or so. For the interloper, this is going to look like a snow-cone — one of those treats that you grabbed at a boardwalk or county fair where huge clear bottles of neon sugar syrup created technicolor diabetic dreams with every pump.
But true shave ice is so much more than that. Shave ice magicians are creating syrups that cover nearly every savory, umami, bitter, and sweet flavor — many sans processed sugars. They’re using adzuki bean paste below the ice ball, just like on the Noth Shore of Oahu. And we are here for those versions of shave ice all day.
NATURAL WINE (391,460 Instagram posts)
Wine is glorious. There’s so much nuance from the dirt the vines grow in to the processing of the juice with yeast to the cellaring. So any innovation in wine is going to be long-lasting, especially if it’s something that feels more wild and natural.
Natural wine is any wine made from an organic or biodynamic vineyard that’s then fermented, bottled, and cellared without any chemical additions. That is, no sulfites are added. If sulfites are added, then it’s either “bio” or “organic” wine, not “natural.” There’s a real sense of the earth and florae with natural wine that adds a new dimension to the experience overall. Find some and give it a whirl.
WILD BEER (26,397 Instagram posts)
Spontaneous fermentation in beer is another practice that has been around for ages. Then, over the course of the 20th century, it fell from grace and nearly disappeared. Recently though, some crafty micro-brewers in America latched on to the styles and helped bring back an entire genre to the masses.
Spontaneously fermented beers generally hail from Belgium’s Pajottenland where lambic was brewed with wild yeasts from the air alongside localized bacteria in oak barrels used for aging. That process caused fermentation over years. Lambics, Gueuze, Wild American Ales, Bretts, and so many more are back on taps and it looks like they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
WILD GAME & SEAFOOD (107,127 Instagram posts)
It’s becoming more and more apparent that it’s time to start moving away from factory farmed foods. One way to do that is by embracing wild foods from the land and sea. Global Food Forums looked at all the major industry trends for the year and found wild and sustainable foods are making a huge dent.
The thing is, you don’t need to be a hunter or fishermen to partake in wild foods. Foraging for mushrooms and wild berries, buying fresh crabs, and heading down to the beach to collect oysters all fall under the umbrella of embracing wild food. Though this sounds like a very “Portland Hipster” thing, more and more people are doing it. So much so that legendary chef Marco Pierre White opened up a gastropub built around England’s wild ingredients. That’s led to restaurants across Canada popping up in rural areas and major cities. And, now, we’re starting to see a real food trend taking hold in the United States.
We can’t imagine this one going away any time soon. Wild foods are more environmentally sustainable. They’re healthier for the average person. The foods are as natural and preservative-free as possible, too — exactly what our bodies are acclimated to eating. Plus, you’re getting closer to the earth. All good, currently relevant virtues.
INDIGENOUS CUISINE (1,112 Instagram posts)
If you’re looking for a place to dive into wild and local foods, then the Indigenous food movement is the best place to start. Indigenous chefs from Australia to Canada to Mexico to the United States are starting to take their food sovereignty back from the grips of colonialism. This has led to entire food movements that are bringing wholly unique flavors, textures, and ideas to the table that haven’t been part of the food conversation for centuries.
Kūkŭm Kitchen in Toronto, The Sioux Chef in Minnesota, Tocabe in Denver, and the internationally-crewed iCollective are just the tip of an iceberg that’s about to sink everything you think you know about American cuisine.
What makes this trend transcend is in that there is so much to it. It’s immensely diverse and spans the globe. It’s exciting, new, and ancient all at the same time. It’s exceedingly healthy and sustainable. And, if you need another reason to join in, the whole movement is supporting small Indigenous farming operations. That’s a trend that becomes a defining moment that then lasts for generations.