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Kruse/Thorn: Reflecting on the Food and Drink Trends of 2016

Everyone from flavor companies, to supermarkets, to people who, for reasons of their own, wanted to be cited as mavens, set forth their prognostications for how and what Americans were going to eat and drink in 2017.
I did it too, of course, because it’s my job, but it’s also my job to try to get those predictions right. So in the spirit of accountability, full disclosure and other aspects of integrity that seem to be in short supply these days, I’d like to take a look back, as I do every year, at my predictions for the previous year and see how I did.
I predicted that India Pale Ale would continue to thrive, and indeed it remained the top beer style among craft beers in terms of amount poured, according to BeerBoard, which monitors more than 50,000 draft lines across the country. So I got that one right.
I said chefs would increasingly highlight and celebrate vegetables, especially local and seasonal ones, and we did, indeed, see that, not only with the opening of upscale vegetarian restaurants like Nix in New York City, but by the upgrading of vegetable dishes across the country, such as the “spiralized” zucchini in Houlihan’s Thai “Noodle” Salad, and True Food Kitchen’s seasonal Spring Vegetable Salad with grilled asparagus and broccoli, chickpeas, wax beans and roasted cauliflower with mint, raisins, pistachios and manchego cheese. 

Chains continue to look to the East for inspiration. As you predicted, gochujang, the sweetly spicy Korean condiment, is breaking out all over.
At Noodles & Company, the gochujang that topped a meatball special was touted as “this year’s must-try flavor.” Red Lobster’s popular Endless Shrimp promotion debuted in September with Korean BBQ Grilled Shrimp with gochujang paste, while gochujang sauce is in the aptly named Seoul Bowl at Veggie Grill.
Other Asian influences figured prominently in Red Robin’s spiffy Red Ramen Burger, which sandwiched the burger between two crispy ramen patties, thereby nodding to the sizzling hot ramen trend in a memorable fashion. McAlister’s Deli introduced the latest iteration of the bánh mì trend with its tasty West Coast Bánh Mì, in which the classic Vietnamese sandwich included pulled pork as a means to remove the patron fear factor and promote trial.
As is typically the case, all this ethnic innovation sparked a comforting counterbalance of familiar foods creatively reimagined.

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