Andrew Knowlton and Julia Kramer are the two lucky editors who got to travel the country to compile the list. Brendan got to travel a few subway stops to Bon Appétit headquarters, and he chatted with Julia about the trends they observed while eating their way through hundreds of restaurants. First on the list: gussy-ing up the now ubiquitous oyster.
Oyster toppings move beyond mignonette
Julia Kramer: The trend that we called out in this issue is that it’s not enough anymore just to serve oysters. You have to kind of do something else to it, there has to be some sort of-
Brendan Francis Newnam: You have to tart them up.
And one of their, sort of, signature dishes is grilled oysters with something called “popcorn butter,” which is, basically — you make popcorn, you grind it into a powder then you combine that powder with melted butter. Then you grill oysters and then you put that butter on top of the oysters.
— Bon Appétit (@bonappetit) August 16, 2016
Brendan Francis Newnam: Wow, that almost sounds like a classic way of getting clams, right? Like hot butter and stuff?
Julia Kramer: Yeah, totally. Except it tasted exactly like movie theater popcorn butter.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Any other interesting mignonette’s or oyster preparations?
Julia Kramer: Oh, I had this one at Petit Crenn in San Francisco, which was oysters with preserved lemon and a little apple cider gelée cubes on top and chives*. Andrew had at this really cool place, Local Provisions, in Asheville [North Carolina]: Ginger and shallot, champagne vinegar vinaigrette.
I went to an oyster bar in Portland [Olympia Oyster Bar]: Pomegranate seeds, pickled Serrano peppers and basil. I mean, basically I think you could put anything on an oyster in 2016.
Julia Kramer: We kind of feel like the bathroom is the window into the restaurant’s soul. When you go into a restaurant bathroom, you’re like, “OK, I get what you guys are really into.” Because… you can express yourself, you can be a little weirder with the design. You sort of discover another aspect of the restaurants personality when you go to the bathroom.
A great example is this coffee shop that I went to in Denver called Black Eye Coffee. It’s a really cool, nicely designed space. And then I went into the bathroom and there was like, an audio book playing. And it was one of those… Jeff Bridges made a sleeping tape. Something you could listen to, to help you fall asleep. And that was playing in the bathroom.
There’s a very cool restaurant in Brooklyn called Semilla. When you go into the bathroom there, there’s a window into the kitchen. So you can watch the chefs cook from the bathroom.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Can they see you?
Julia Kramer: So that’s the part that’s really freaky, is they assure you that it’s a one-way window, or one-way mirror, whatever it’s called. And that they can’t see in. But that moment when you walk in and you’re like, “Oh my god!”
Get a peek at the kitchen staff at Semilla’s cool aforementioned bathroom. (Photo Credit: Melissa Hom)
The LaCroix Craze
Brendan Francis Newnam: So, another trend you identified in travelling around the country is something that I’ve been seeing, we’ve been seeing all year. Maybe you can help me get to the bottom of it, which is, there’s trendy sparkling water. There is one brand in particular…
Julia Kramer: LaCroix?
Brendan Francis Newnam: LaCroix [pronounces it La-KROY].
Julia Kramer: That’s how I say it because I’m from the Midwest.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So LaCroix is this sparkling water that’s been around for a long time, right?
Julia Kramer: For as long as I can remember.
Brendan Francis Newnam: And it’s from Wisconsin, right, LaCroix?
Julia Kramer: It’s made in Wisconsin, yeah.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Right. Wisconsin. But all the sudden, this year, it’s become the hipster water. Why?
Julia Kramer: I wish I knew. It’s, I feel like such a failure right now. It’s so crazy. I mean, when I grew up, I thought that LaCroix was just, sort of, this low brow super market sparkling water. It was not as cool or fancy as Perrier or San Pellegrino.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, it’s like, for the designated driver or the kids at a barbecue. You throw it on ice, right?
Julia Kramer: And then, all of the sudden there’s models drinking LaCroix. The Whole Foods that just opened in Williamsburg has like a dedicated LaCroix area.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So, what gives?
Julia Kramer: There’s a certain sub-set of people who drink LaCroix in a way that I think is maybe ironic. I don’t know if you saw that episode of “Girls” where Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah, pronounces it “La-qwah”? But there’s definitely a certain knowing irony to drinking LaCroix.
[This interview has been edited and condensed.]