Off the Eaten Path

Five Food Trends Jess Bender is Craving in 2018

Jess Bender shares the dishes—and drinks—she’s most excited to sample in NYC this year.

Photo by Liz Clayman

Last year I craved plenty: Filipino pork trotter from Woodside’s Little Manila, wontons from hole-in-the-wall spots in Flushing, and fried dough from every corner of the city. My body hasn’t fully recovered from the delicious wrath of 2017, but it’s ready to take on 2018—along with lots of Middle Eastern sammies and charcuterie boards—with a ravenous vengeance. What’s on my list to try first? These mouthwatering vittles and meals:

Pastéis de Nata

Until recently, there was only one place that I trusted with making the perfect pastéis de nata (Portuguese egg tart)—but the schlep to the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it New Flushing Bakery is harrowing. Making appearances at the globe-spanning Queens International Night Market and SoHo’s Broadway Market, Joey Bats Sweets has been delighting hungry masses with its version of the Lisbon snack—covered with extra cinnamon and powdered sugar—for the past year. Fortunately, we don’t have to chase Bats’s pop-ups around town anymore; his tarts arrive fresh out of the oven every day inside the Meatpacking District’s Frankie Portugal Coffee.

Inventive Middle Eastern

A recent romp in New Orleans introduced me to the ultimate in Cajun cuisine: confectioners’-covered beignets, crawfish-topped jambalaya, po’boys overflowing with blackened catfish, and potent chicory coffee. But, surprisingly, the one bite I kept jumping on the trolley for was a messy Middle Eastern sandwich packed in between two slices of rustic bread with some of the best spit-fired doner and schug this side of the hemisphere. While I’m struggling to find a perfectly composed mouthful as good as that one in NYC, I’ll gladly settle for tableside shawarma service inside Lebanese mainstay Za’atar. If anything, cutting your dinner off the spinning custom spit will give you a good excuse to nibble on a few more mezze; it’ll take 40 minutes for your tantalizing lamb to cook through all the way.

2018 food trends
Slabs of Middle Eastern meat at Au Za’atar / Photo by Liz Clayman

Mead

When you think of honey wine, what comes to mind? Vikings and Medieval Times most likely, but I look back fondly on an artisanal meadery I visited in Portland, Maine, a few years back. What I expected from its tasting room was a honey-soaked hangover; instead my palate was greeted with more complexity than can be found in the typical beehive. It’s been difficult to find the world’s oldest alcohol around these parts, but that’s all going to change with the opening of New York’s first meadery, to be located inside the William Vale Hotel. The self-proclaimed heathens behind All-Wise Meadery promise hyper-local varietals, along with takes from mazers across the country, in bottles and on tap.

Charcuterie

One of my favorite lazy dinners to make for myself is what I call the “Clean Out the Kitchen Charcuterie.” The concept is simple: I unwrap some leftover prosciutto and whatever cheese I have, grab some crackers and hot honey from the pantry, present it to myself on a fancy platter, and call it a night. When I’m feeling particularly sluggish on payday, though, I’d rather treat myself to a proper meat-and-cheese board. Michelin-starred chef Danny Brown has been sorely missed since his Long Island City wine bar closed in 2016, but he came back swinging in 2017 with a new charcuterie concept on the Upper East Side, appropriately called Charc. With land, sea, and cheese options like cured duck rillette, potted crab with Meyer lemon, and Spanish goat cheese, how could you not want to wipe the entire slate clean?

2018 food trends
Innovative charcuterie bites at Danny Brown’s Charc

Dishes Made by Female Chefs

Because Lord knows when we’ll be able to trust male chefs again. In Esquire magazine, Dirt Candy’s executive chef, Amanda Cohen, put together a comprehensive Rolodex of female chefs who are ready—and more than deserving—to step into the culinary spotlight (Victoria Blamey from the revitalized Chumley’s, Isa Chandra Moskowitz from the vegan-driven Modern Love, Ann Redding from the ambitious Thai twofer Uncle Boons and Uncle Boons Sister, to name a few). To her already substantial list, I humbly add these bites from some inspiring ladies who work tirelessly behind the scenes:

2018 food trends
Prep your stomach for an Indian feast, courtesy of Yamini, at League of Kitchens

Feast your way through 2018. Let us curate the perfect meal for your palate. 

Find out where else Jess eats in NYC in her column, Off the Eaten Path.