Seattle-based Starbucks generated a lot of buzz in April with its Unicorn Frappuccino, a pink crème Frappuccino with mango syrup, blue drizzle, vanilla whipped cream, and a sprinkle of pink and blue powders.
The quick-service chain followed up with another creative concoction for Halloween: the Zombie Frappuccino, a tart apple and caramel beverage topped with pink whipped cream “brains” and a red mocha “blood” drizzle.
Christmas Tree Frappuccino
Not to be outdone by its previous menu items, Starbucks pulled out all the stops for its Christmas Tree Frappuccino, a limited-time offer for the holiday season. The drink is a Peppermint Mocha Crème Frappuccino with a red-and-green blend, a matcha whipped cream “tree,” a caramel drizzle “garland,” candied cranberry “ornaments,” and a strawberry “tree-topper.”
Black Seed Bagels
The bao bagel is a new food hybrid created in collaboration between New York City’s Black Seed Bagels and Nom Wah Kuai. Introduced in November, the fusion treat is made with Nom Wah Kuai’s sweet pork belly wrapped in Black Seed Bagels’ sesame bagel dough.
Nekter Juice Bar
"Black” foods were trendy in 2017, with restaurants imbuing beverages and desserts with activated charcoal to lend them dark visuals. The coloring found more mainstream exposure this year from chains like Nekter Juice Bar. The fast-casual chain, based in Santa Ana, Calif., offered customers the Scary Skoop, a charcoal vanilla treat made with creamy cashew milk, as a limited-time offer around Halloween.
Anna Routh Photography
Blossoms are more than garnishes, as seen in the increased appearance edible flowers in dishes to add color, taste and fragrance. Executive chef Steven Greene of Herons restaurant, located at The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, N.C., recommends using the petals rather than the whole flower, so the flavor isn’t overwhelming.
Savory ice cream
Salt & Straw
Ice cream combinations are expanding to include unusual toppings like crispy turkey skin. Salt & Straw, based in Portland, Ore., released a lineup of Thanksgiving scoops for November that included savory flavors such as Salted Caramel Thanksgiving Turkey, an ice cream churned with salted caramel, comprised of boiled-down turkey stock, sugar, spices and onions, and crispy, candy-coated bits of roasted turkey skin.
A style of waffle that has been making waves on Instagram this past year is the bubble waffle, which hails from Hong Kong. On restaurant menus across the nation, the puffy waffle can be seen paired with savory or sweet toppings. The Roof’s winter pop-up at the Viceroy Central Park in New York City serves bubble waffles with caramelized bananas, vanilla Chantilly cream, walnuts and butterscotch.
Doughnuts got extra attention from restaurants this year. Flex Mussels in New York City gave the fried pastry a savory upgrade with its Everything Doughnuts – doughnuts with everything bagel seasoning and scallion cream cheese filling.
Doughnut grilled cheese
Clinton Hall in New York City serves a doughnut grilled cheese, a glazed doughnut with mozzarella cheese served over a bowl of tomato soup.
Though technically not a doughnut, this sushi dish took on the shape of the familiar dessert. Rice is molded to resemble a doughnut, then topped with raw fish, avocado, nori and other ingredients that would normally be found in a sushi roll.
Long John Silver’s
Long John Silver’s gave Twinkies a makeover this year with the release of a deep-fried version of the cream-filled cakes. The Louisville, Ky.-based quick-service chain introduced the new dessert on National Talk Like a Pirate Day as a free treat for customers.
Naked Chicken Chalupa
After two years of testing, Taco Bell, headquartered in Irvine, Calif., rolled out its Naked Chicken Chalupa nationwide in January. The taco “shell” is made with crispy all-white chicken and stuffed with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, cheddar cheese and creamy avocado ranch sauce.
Pumpkin spice pizza
Villa Italian Kitchen
Pumpkin spice has become a ubiquitous presence during fall, but a memorable seasonal menu item was the pumpkin spice pizza from Villa Italian Kitchen, headquartered in Morristown, N.J. Each pie is topped with pumpkin pie filling, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon and mozzarella.
Insanely loaded menu items
Another trend from 2017 was over-the-top treats, like a “freak shake” – a milkshake brimming with candy, drizzles, sprinkles, desserts, snacks and other extra bites – served at a number of spots.
Arby’s Meat Mountain
A special off-the-menu sandwich that was available at Arby’s this year was the Meat Mountain, a gigantic $10 combination of all the meat varieties the Atlanta-based chain serves.
Clinton Hall in New York City has its own excessive treat: The WTF Waffle, a pile of waffles, ice cream scoops, sprinkles and other toppings.