This was a good year for booze, fried food, and cavemen. As the economy remained shaky, people sought comfortable, hearty fare: beer, burgers, pasta. Street food stuck it out, with vendors expanding into new ethnicities. There were new, creative things, to be sure, and you’ll find them below. But by and large, nostalgia reigned. See what the big trends were for 2011, and our predictions for 2012.

  • 1. Aged Cocktails

    A bunch of different liquors mixed together, aged in a barrel, and poured into your glass. Like this.
  • 2. Savory Desserts

    Corn sorbet, black olive cake, and fresh turmeric on panna cotta were just a handful of the not-very-sweet desserts made by top pastry chefs around the country.
  • 3. Southern Food Not in the South

    Brisket, fried chicken, bourbon in everything—non-Southerners’ love affair with Southern food is going strong.
  • 4. Fast-Food Chains Do “Healthy” Breakfast

    Everybody from Burger King to Chick-fil-A
    got in on the hot oatmeal action.
  • 5. Pickled Eggs

    No longer only vermilion orbs floating in jars in old-man bars, pickled eggs hit trendy appetizer menus.
  • 6. Tongue

    Warm lamb’s tongue at San Francisco’s Locanda, beef tongue salad at Má Pêche, and the list goes on.
  • 7. Boozy Milk Shakes

    Who wouldn’t mind a strawberry-rum shake? Jose Garces and Bobby Flay, for starters.
  • 8. Austrian-Hungarian Comfort Food

    Goulash got sexy. Because we need proper food to pair with the antler décor trend. Like here.
  • 9. Paleo Diet

    Cavemen have cool beards, like to go camping, and are the inspiration for the latest diet craze and a new restaurant in Berlin.
  • 10. Wet-Hopped Beer

    Smells like pot, tastes like flowers. Tons of craft brewers made fresh-hopped beers this fall, creating a new American Oktoberfest style.
  • 11. Single-Food Restaurants

    Rice pudding. Grilled cheese. Meatballs. It’s easier to open a restaurant when all you have to do is sell one thing!
  • 12. Box Wine

    There are plenty of good varieties now, and the media all decided to “reconsider” it.
  • 1. Wine in Bulk
    Take a big jug to the store and get a refill of wine. Hey, they do it in France, so why not here?
  • 2. Hamburger Helper
    The economy is crappy, and it probably will remain crappy. What’s not a downer about that? More restaurants reinventing blue-collar money-savers like meatloaf, Sloppy Joes, and Cincinnati chili.
  • 3. Good-Beer Tall Boys
    The craft-beer-in-cans thing is booming, and smart brewers are starting to do 16-ouncers.
  • 4. Scotch Eggs
    A hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, breaded, and fried. Just starting to hit. Look out 2012!
  • 5. Scandinavian Comfort Food

    Call it Viking Soul Food. Lefse wraps are the new burrito.
  • 6. Carbonated Cocktails
    These are inspired by French spritzers: The entire cocktail is carbonated, then packaged into cute bottles at bars. Surefire chick bait.
  • 7. New Ethnic Street Food

    Takoyaki (Japanese octopus balls), Thai banana roti, and other hand-held food from foreign lands will give bao buns a run for their money.
  • 8. Nouveau Diner
    The gastropub craze has confirmed that all anybody wants is a burger and a beer. Add breakfast to the mix and you’ve got trend gold.
  • 9. Filipino Food
    Never had it done well? You will.
  • 10. Upscale Mozzarella Sticks
    If they’re served at a cute, local, sort-of-expensive place, does it make it OK to eat them again?
  • 11. Juicing
    It’s coming back as a “healthy” dietary regimen: Even Starbucks is getting in on the action.
  • 12. Horse-Meat Sashimi
    Congress green-lighted the return to the slaughter of horses in the U.S. You know somebody’s gonna do it.
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