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A look back at the decade's biggest food and drink trends and where to find them

A quick Google search brought up some of the biggest food trends of the 2000s: sushi, fondue, chain restaurants.

Then the kids decided chains weren't cool anymore.

Chain restaurant adoration may not have carried over into the 2010s, but plenty of trends volunteered to become their replacement. Avocado toast had a controversial rise to fame.

The word "craft" began to precede normal things to hint that now, the beer or coffee or cocktail is better than before. Kombucha superseded soda. And everyone started photographing their food.

Let's take a walk down short-term memory lane through the last decade of food trends in Buffalo and where to find them.

Avocado toast became so popular it became a meme, which is another trend of the 2010s. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

Avocado toast

Avocado toast had quite the story arc throughout the decade. A massive marketing push took avocados from a semi-unpopular fatty fruit to a healthy staple in the American diet, Olga Khazan wrote in The Atlantic. Thank the PR firm Hill & Knowlton for its marketing campaigns of the late 1980s and early '90s for the early avocado popularization, The Atlantic reports, which eventually skyrocketed consumers' avocado-eating habits from the '80s, to the 2000s, to the 2010s.

Up until 2013, Bon Appetit estimates, the toast held onto its coolness, even though the frequent photo sharing of the toast by lifestyle brands on Instagram started to threaten its exclusive appeal. They believe that Instagram and aspirational lifestyle tycoon Gwyneth Paltrow might be to blame for avocado toast's turn from respectable restaurant order to unsophisticated, basic rookie mistake.

Then came the memes, when a millionaire told CNN in 2017 that he could afford his first home because he wasn't spending $19 on smashed avocados.

But the controversy didn't seem to affect the dish's popularity around here. And salt, olive oil, pepper flakes and smashed avocado does work well when served on warm, multigrain bread. Tipico Coffee makes a classic avocado toast with avocado, olive oil and pepper on rye bread. Grindhaus Cafe slices a whole avocado into a flower formation then adds a housemade sriracha aioli. Public Espresso whips up an avocado toast with lemon and espresso paprika sprinkle. Coles offers a more tricked-out version of avocado toast on its weekend brunch menu, with jalapeño, fresh cherry tomatoes, cilantro, pumpkin seeds and pickled onions.

[Related: 6 ideas for vegan, vegetarian dates in Buffalo]

The Butterfly Effect at Lockhouse Distillery is a gorgeous color-changing cocktail using Lockhouse vodka, lime juice, maraschino liqueur, butterfly flower tea, fresh blackberries and mint. (Sharon Cantillon/News file photo)

Craft cocktails

When did cocktails become craft? When patrons stopped ordering a cosmopolitan or a Manhattan in favor of the whiskey drink on the bar menu with a quirky name and ingredients both hard to pronounce or define.

It's no longer rare to pay $10 for a cocktail at a bar, and that's a lot cheaper than other cities, where $15 to $20 for a cocktail is the new normal. The New York Times wrote about the 2000s as the decade of the craft cocktail, but trends make it to Buffalo slower than in New York City.

Lizz Schumer wrote in The Buffalo News that the now-closed Vera Pizzeria launched the local craft cocktail movement with its 2011 opening and that by 2014, bartenders spending several minutes crafting just one cocktail, with orange peel-slicked rims and dashes and drops of random liquids, became the new norm.

Swanky cocktail bars flourished in the city in the last decade. By now, each cocktail bar has made it has its own distinctive presence. Mès Que is the soccer bar with an intricate liquor drink. Lockhouse Distillery takes craft to another level, mixing cocktails with its own locally distilled vodka. Marble + Rye is perhaps the most "big city" of the lot, with the feeling of a Brooklyn cocktail bar, but the prices of a Buffalo cocktail bar.

[Related: According to bloggers: Where to grab drinks in Buffalo]

Craft beer

In 2007, The News published the short article "Can craft beers compete?" in which Fred O. Williams asked, "can small-scale brewers continue to compete with the big labels while keeping their unique flavor?" Twelve years later, it would seem the answer is a resounding yes.

If anything, big labels are trying to copy the little guy, like when Labatt debuted its menu of craft beers, including IPAs and a porter, late last fall at its massive taproom, the Draft Room.

These days, the question might be: Where can't you find craft beer in Buffalo?

When Tim Herzog founded Flying Bison Brewing Co. in 2000, he was the first of the area. Big names like Ellicottville Brewing Company, Resurgence Brewing Company and Big Ditch Brewing Company have thrived since, with expanded taprooms and beers sold in big grocery stores and at bars. Microbreweries have flourished, too, and new ones still open. The area even became a hot spot for beer tourism, Andrew Z. Galarneau wrote in 2010 when Canadians were flocking to Buffalo bars and breweries to try craft beers.

[Related: Craft beer boom brings jobs along with brews to Erie County]

Restaurants and even a whole village hopped on the farm-to-table trend this decade. (Francesca Bond/Buffalo News)

Farm-to-table

Farm-to-table dining originated in the desire to financially support local agriculture, ethically sourced meat and dairy from farms that humanely care for their animals, and to create dishes that are more environmentally sustainable, compared to Goliath industrial farms.

While raw materials cost more, the final product usually benefits from the extra care.

In 2015, The News' Andrew Z. Galarneau called the small influx of farm-to-table restaurants New-School Buffalo. Buffalo Proper, the Black Sheep, Carmelo's, Elm Street Bakery, Trattoria Aroma, Black Iron Bystro, Marble + Rye and the since-closed Rue Franklin, made his list.

Since 2015, you can add Craving, a Hertel Avenue farm-to-table small plates restaurant to the running list of the farm-to-table titans, as well as the Dapper Goose and 100 Acres. Farm-to-table menus often change with what's in season, which Galarneau noted hurts only when you realize that you could never see a favorite dish on the menu again.

Farm-to-table doesn't stop in restaurant kitchens. Local farms host feasts at the farm or at an event venue. On the city's outskirts, the businesses and farms in Medina gather once a year for a farm-to-table dinner on Main Street, which sells out as fast as tickets to a popular band's show at a small venue.

[Related: Inside Medina's small-town culinary and cultural renaissance]

Employee Sarah Bartolotta uses an air-triggered bottling wand to fill the Hibiscus Lime Kombucha containers at Bootleg Bucha, a local brewery and distribution facility manufacturing kombucha. (Robert Kirkham/News file photo)

Kombucha

By the 2010s, we understood that soda, whether diet or not, was bad for our health. As a result, alternatives became increasingly available, from LaCroix sparkling water to a fizzy, living, fermented tea drink called kombucha.

The jury is out on kombucha's supposed health benefits. Some claim that the drink (which is made from a large, gooey blob that breeds cultures) aids digestion, reduces the risk of heart disease and even prevents cancer, Healthline reports. But experts agree that there hasn't been enough research to make bold claims.

Bootleg Bucha spearheaded the city's kombucha movement, and takes credit for legalizing the large-scale sale of kombucha in New York State, according to its website. Aside from its Niagara Street taproom, Bootleg Bucha is sold in more than 160 retail locations, and usually costs less than competing grocery store kombuchas.

And there's more. Snowy Owl Kombucha came on the scene in the Barrel Factory. Barrel and Brine recently moved to a new Chandler Street location. Big Norwegian Kombucha, just opened a few months ago in 500 Seneca in the Hydraulics District.

[Related: With kombucha on the rise in Buffalo, Big Norwegian joins the pack]

Pumpkin spice

Can a food-and-drink trend piece about the 2010s omit pumpkin spice? Probably not.

Second perhaps only to avocado toast, pumpkin spice saw a rise and fall – and rise – during the 2010s.

In a viral 2015 piece for The Phoenix, the independent student newspaper of Swarthmore College, student Min Cheng summarized pumpkin spice hate succinctly and with humor, by saying, "people love to hate on what girls like." In 2017, Vice wrote that the drink had "become closely entwined with the concept of "basicness," described as "the Taylor Swift of the seasonal drinks world."

Despite its divisiveness, cafes, bars and breweries adopted the flavor in lattes, cocktails and beers, and it doesn't look like it's going away soon.

In October, you'll be hard-pressed to find a local coffee shop that doesn't offer a seasonal pumpkin spice latte. Southern Tier and Resurgence both brew pumpkin beers. Vegan restaurant Root and Bloom offered a seasonal pumpkin faux milkshake last year.

Maybe we're far enough removed from avocado-toast-and-pumpkin spice-centered public discourse. Perhaps, one can enjoy a pumpkin spice latte unironically and without judgment, though for $6. The 2020s are sure to bring politically charged debates around food and drink (and everything else). And hey, maybe chain restaurants will make a comeback. Anything can happen.

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