The 50 Biggest Pop Culture Food Moments of 2017
No doubt about it; 2017 was a tough one, a seemingly endless cycle of fallen public figures, trying national tragedies, and politicians who'd rather push their constituents apart than start the healing process. The blurry line between food and pop culture has provided some relief, however, numbing the noise with TV and movie tie-ins, onscreen feasts, fantastical Instagram fodder, and a much-needed sense of humor. (Remember that?) The following Top 50 list is a taste of what saved us from ourselves this year, presented in no particular order because there's no way we're going to decide between Unicorn Frappuccinos, lightsaber churros, and Drew Barrymore's newfound cannibalism. — Andrew Parks
The Museum of Ice Cream crash-landed in LA and San Francisco. Miami's next.
To give you an idea of how many tickets have been torn at the Museum of Ice Cream over the past year, New York Magazine declared co-founder Maryellis Bunn “The Millennial Walt Disney” in a major long read just last month. While that may seem like a stretch to some cynics, New York's kind of right; few social media-savvy entrepreneurs have capitalized on the #FOMO-fueled rise of Instagram quite like this traveling selfie factory. May we suggest a gallery full of giant smoothie bowls and avocado toast next?
Eggo embraced its role on "Stranger Things."
When the Duffer Brothers snuck Eggo's frozen waffles into the first season of Stranger Things—Netflix has a policy against product placement deals—the Kellogg's brand embraced the free publicity with Twitter nods and a nostalgic Super Bowl spot. But the love affair didn't stop there; the rollout for round two included, shall we say, inventive recipes, idiosyncratic promo items, and several on-screen cameos, including a 'triple decker' twist that makes IHOP look healthy.
Run the Jewels put the hops in hip-hop.
Interboro's Stay G-O-L-D IPA isn't the first time El-P and Killer Mike greenlit a craft beer collab—that distinction goes to Goose Island, who made a special Run the Jewels wheat ale for the Pitchfork Music Festival four years ago—but it's definitely the duo's best, a DIY-or-die produced alongside regional partners like Burial Beer Co. and Creature Comforts. Fun fact: Interboro founder Jesse Ferguson managed El-P's influential Definitive Jux imprint before he got into the bottles and cans business
"Twin Peaks" got people talking about Agent Cooper's caffeine habit again.
The long-awaited return of David Lynch's otherworldly soap opera left fans with more questions than answers, but one thing's for certain: nothing's done more for diner culture—among film nerds, at least—than the Double R's peerless cherry pie and damn good coffee. Why else would serious Twin Peaks fans make pilgrimages to this, uh, less-than-positively reviewed place?
Katy Perry revealed her "World's Best Cherry Pie" recipe.
As part of the rollout for her poorly reviewed Witness album, Katy Perry was seasoned and served alongside Roy Choi and Migos in the singer's "Bon Appétit" video. But that's not all; Perry also cooked her manager's prized cherry pie recipe over at Buzzfeed's Tasty channel, showing Warrant how it's done with a few choice ingredients and slick camera shots.
"Rick and Morty" fans rioted at McDonald's.
As same-store sales continued to climb towards the end of 2017, McDonald's got another boost from a publicity stunt involving the Adult Swim show Rick and Morty. The one-day-only sale of Szechuan sauce originally used to promote the Disney film Mulan in the 1990s—and referenced by Rick in this season three clip—caused such a ruckus that McDonald's had to issue a public apology, promising "a lot more" packets this winter. Wait and weep, or you could just make our recipe right now.
"Master of None" sparked its second season in Modena, Italy.
Aside from its role as a rightfully acclaimed Netflix series, Master of None is essentially an excuse for Aziz Ansari to eat his way through restaurants he'd otherwise frequent when the cameras aren't rolling. While season two mostly stuck to NYC staples like Carbone and The Four Horsemen, it opened with a story arc involving a pasta apprenticeship in Modena, Italy. Ansari's Dev Shah character didn't spend too much time actually making food, however; he was far too busy highlighting sausage sandwiches, hard-earned reservations, and a memorable meal that happens to be hidden behind a deli counter.
Father John Misty wrote a heartfelt tribute to Chuck E. Cheese's house band.
Children of the '80s wept in unison over the summer when Chuck E. Cheese's announced its decision to reboot the 40-year-old brand for everyone's favorite demographic—millennials. Chief among the changes: a revamped menu featuring gluten-free and thin-crust pies, and family-friendly entertainment that doesn't involve the animatronic Pizza Time Players. Singer Father John Misty was floored by the news, offering Facebook a lengthy eulogy that oughta be taught in humor writing classes across the globe.
T.J. Miller spent his time away from "Silicon Valley" on Yelp.
If you've ever wondered how to write Yelp reviews without resorting to tired 'foodie' tropes, then head straight over to T.J. Miller's official account. In the nearly six months since his final Silicon Valley episode, the comedian has filed off-the-cuff ramblings from the front lines of restaurants, bars, and tourist traps in Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, LA, New York, Denver, San Francisco, and Gonzales, Louisiana. They're all priceless.
Food puns reigned supreme on "The Good Place."
Everyone loves a good pun, right? Well how about a whole episode of 'em—all food related and taken from the twisted mind of writer/comedian Megan Amram? That's what we got during The Good Place's "Dance Dance Resolution" storyline, including such droll restaurant names as From Schmear to Eternity, Knish From a Rose, Ponzu Scheme, and Sushi and the Banshees. Not everything ended up on screen, either; Amram posted a lengthy, uncut list of puns on Twitter, including entire script note sections devoted to pasta, corn, sushi, bread, poultry, cheese, and pastries.
Stand-up comedian Shane Torres went to bat for Guy Fieri.
It may be hard to feel sorry for Guy Fieri when he's worth millions, but let's be honest: success needn't breed blind hatred towards a blue-collar hero who boosts the bottom line of our country's beloved diners, drive-ins, and dives. Or as Torres puts it in the "A Man Named Fieri Filled With Fury" segment of his Established 1981 album, “Look, I get it. I know he looks like a Hot Topic manager moonlighting at Friday's, but he didn't do anything wrong. He goes around the country to small businesses and gives them free advertising…. I think it's awesome there's a racing stripe on his fridge. You'd love it if Banksy did it, wouldn't you?”
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon took a "Trip to Spain."
As many times as we’ve endured Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's Michael Caine impressions three stops into their Trip movie series, there's no denying the simple pleasures of seeing the Spanish countryside unfold alongside lavish meals and lean punchlines. The pair is reportedly considering a fourth buddy film, too—one that’d take place among the hairpin turns and lush scenery of Ireland.
"The Great British Bake Off" proved us all wrong.
Anyone concerned about the major changes marring the eighth season of The Great British Bake Off—three of the hit show’s four hosts quit when it moved from a commercial-free BBC slot to the flush, ad-driven budgets of Channel 4—was proven wrong this fall when its finale drew 10 million viewers. (That’s about one-fifth of the country’s entire population.) Netflix hasn’t committed to licensing the show from its new home just yet, but Food & Wine did grab an interview with original winner Edd Kimber, who pinned The Great British Bake-Off’s cult following on its status as a “super simple, super sweet show. There’s no politics, no game playing. And I sometimes forget how much the Britishness is appealing, especially to Americans.”
Lionsgate plans to keep "Mad Men" alive in Times Square.
Jokes and jabs about the Disney-fication of Times Square have plagued Manhattan since the Giuliani administration, so who can blame Lionsgate for wanting a piece of prime real estate shared by the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and M&M’s World? According to Deadline, the studio is in the planning stages of an amusement park dubbed Lionsgate Entertainment City. The 2019 opening will most likely include a bakery torn from the pages of Hunger Games and a “dining and lounge experience” based on Mad Men’s bar carts and martini lunches—rehab not included.
Starz ordered a six-episode "Sweetbitter" series.
In one of the year's least surprising TV adaptation deals, Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company optioned Stephanie Danler’s semi-autobiographical Sweetbitter novel for a six-part series on Starz. Let’s just hope it lands better than the book’s spirit animal did when Kitchen Confidential made a widely panned move to Fox, starring Bradley Cooper as Anthony—sorry, Jack—Bourdain.
"Bob’s Burgers" gets real (again).
In the spirit of Cole Bowden's hit cookbook and last year’s LA pop-up, Eggslut chef Alvin Cailan wound the year down with a week-long Bob’s Burgers restaurant in New York’s Lower East Side neighborhood. Through Christmas Eve, the exclusive Chef’s Club Counter event featured a different special every day, from a Hit Me With Your Best Shallot Burger (topped by caramelized shallots, arugula and a chèvre spread) to a Bet It All On Black Garlic Burger (topped by mozzarella, spinach, and a pungent black garlic spread). As for what the food will cost ya, $20 would get you a Burger of the Day, fries, a sticker, and a keychain.
Dogfish Head tapped The Flaming Lips for its latest music-inspired beer.
If there’s one thing the Flaming Lips excel at besides psych-infused pop music, it’s merch. Over the years, they’ve endorsed a rye whiskey with “an expressive aroma of citrus and smoke,” snuck a memory stick-only EP into a gummy skull, and wrapped a Songs of Love mix in an anatomically correct dark chocolate heart. The OKC band’s latest F&B venture is a looming collab with Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. Set for a spring 2018 release, Dragons & YumYum is described as "a lip smackingly tart pale ale… intensely tropical yet subtlety bitter.” Fans can expect an "explosion of fruit” not unlike the group’s own “lush, multi-layered, psychedelic rock arrangements.” Or as Dogfish CEO Sam Calagione put it in a press release, "The Flaming Lips are one of the most innovative and collaborative bands of all time and Dogfish shares a similarly playful and adventurous point of view. Their art is a full-on otherworldly sensory experience and we strive to create that same intense sensational experience for craft beer drinkers in the development of our liquid art."
Drew Barrymore went on the "Santa Clarita Diet" and "Raw" made us terrified of vegetarians.
To be clear, the Santa Clara Diet is actually human flesh, as detailed in the dark Netflix comedy starring Drew Barrymore as a full-time real estate agent, part-time zombie. And you thought giving up gluten was hard! Meanwhile, the brutal French film Raw kept 2017’s cannibalism trend going strong with a WTF plot involving a vegetarian who learns to love the taste of (human) flesh in veterinary school. Good times!
A Cincinnati bar channeled Quentin Tarantino's Blockbuster career.
Just when you thought the world was over that whole speakeasy thing, The Video Archive snuck a bar into the back of its movie rental business. Don’t worry, though; this is a vest-and-handlebar-mustache-free zone, featuring a pretense-free cocktail menu inspired by film-school freak Quentin Tarantino and the occasional pop-cultural pop-up. Among the everyday spoils: a $9 Jackie Brown made with bourbon, elderflower liqueur, blackberry-cucumber puree, and salted honey, and a $12 Royale With Cheese blends yellow chartreuse with lemon juice, simple syrup, and a hop-heavy IPA brewed by Cincinnati’s own Rhinegeist.
Binging With Babish cooked all the food from your favorite TV shows and films.
If you’ve ever found yourself craving a Krabby Patty from Spongebob Squarepants or the stretchy New York-style pizza the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are always tearing into, filmmaker/self-taught chef Andrew Rea has got you covered. More than 1.7 million YouTube viewers have subscribed to his Binging With Babish series in hopes of seeing him replicate their favorite dishes from major TV shows and movies. Check out an excerpt from his recent Eat What You Watch cookbook in the Food & Wine archives, and a rundown of what you need to Be Like Babish here.
Ina Garten shared her knife skills with helpless millennials.
In a bid to ensure and expand her icon status across generations, Ina Garten tweaked her longtime Barefoot Contessa brand with a new Food Network show called Cook Like a Pro. It’s focused on the basics many ambitious cookbooks miss, or as Garten told The Today Show, “I just want to show people how to sate a pepper, chop an onion, and cut a cauliflower so that it won’t get all over your kitchen.”
Kendall Jenner starred in the world's most divisive Pepsi ad
Sarah Michelle Gellar’s baking-mix company exceeded all expectations.
Enough about what Freddie Prinze Jr. won’t make Sarah Michelle Gellar for breakfast. (Pancakes if you must know.) Actually, strike that; the actor/cookbook author's refusal is relevant to his wife’s own venture Foodstirs. The Santa Monica company just had its biggest year, tripling its reach from 500 to 1,500 grocery stores and making good on $5 million in outside investment money. “We have a great [work] culture,” Gellar told CNBC. “We bake all day.” Take that Freddie!
Sheet-caking became a national crisis.
In this most divisive of years, UVA graduate Tina Fey had the nerve to drown her sorrow in frosting and fondant. Or as she said on a Weekend Update segment of Saturday Night Live, “Sheet-caking is a grassroots movement, Colin [Jost]; most of the women I know have been doing it once a week since the election.”
Bread was one hell of a plot device in "Sourdough."
Best-selling author Robin Sloan returned to bookshelves a few months back with Sourdough, a strange little novel restaurant critic Jason Sheehan called “a-Silicon-Valley-style-fairy-tale,” with elements of The Great British Bake Off and, err, Fight Club. Not to mention the Tartine Bread tome that inspired Sloan’s obsession with starters in the first place. (Wait till he sees the Bay Area bakery’s new Manufactory, one of our Restaurant of the Year honorees.)
Neil deGrasse Tyson examined the truth behind GMOs in Food Evolution.
Knowing all there is to know about the universe was apparently not enough for astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. No, he also had to make us all feel dumbfounded about our lack of actual GMOs knowledge as well. “We’ve been genetically modifying organisms since the dawn of agriculture,” deGrasse Tyson explained on his popular StarTalk podcast. “There are no herds of wild milk cows wandering the countryside. We cultivated, or genetically changed, corn from whatever cavemen ate to these big ol’ sticks of corn that we now munch on. This is essentially true for every food in the grocery store.” It’s not that simple, of course, but Tyson elaborates on many of his points in the narration of Food Evolution, a provocative doc from Academy Award nominee Scott Hamilton Kennedy (Searching For Sugar Man). Get into it over a bowl of GMO-free (or is it?) popcorn.
Gordon Ramsay got another TV show. Twice.
While it’s almost as hard keeping up with Gordon Ramsay’s television appearances as his own restaurant openings, the one Ramsay property most fans can agree on is the reality show classic Kitchen Nightmares. It’s been off the air for years, however, leaving a hole in our collective heart. Until now, that is—until 24 Hours To Hell & Back, an imminent Fox show Ramsay described as a “culinary boot camp” on wheels in a recent Deadline interview. There will be blood. Obviously. Pair that with this past summer’s U.S. edition of The F Word and there’s it’s clear our TV appetite has a lot of room for Chef Ramsay.
The Super Bowl was dominated by big money ads from Budweiser, Snickers, and… Avocados From Mexico?
Now here’s something we didn’t expect to see last February…. besides the Atlanta Falcons blowing their seemingly locked Super Bowl win. And that is a Budweiser commercial that celebrated the American Dream despite President Trump’s proposed ‘Muslim ban’, a Snickers segment that was far more innovative than its actual candy, and an Avocados From Mexico advert that may or may not have been inspired by the sex party sequence in Eyes Wide Shut. Sans the sex, of course.
"Shark Tank" said yes to Chirps.
What are Chirps, you ask? Well they’re stone-ground corn chips ‘enhanced’ with cricket flour, packing as much protein-per-serving as an egg white. Mega entrepreneur Mark Cuban ended up offering the San Francisco start-up $100,000 in exchange for 15-percent of the company. Maybe it’s time to read this “What You Need To Know About Insect Protein” story?
A New York City bartender became the most talked-about "Jeopardy!" contestant since, well, ever.
James Corden must have been half-kidding when he said Austin Rogers “looks like a sommelier at a food truck.” The NYC bartender’s keep-it-casual-and-crafty look is kind of his deal, one of the many reasons Rogers became the first compelling Jeopardy! contestant since Ken Jennings won 74 straight games in 2004. Alex Trebek must have nightmares about those two (and Sean Connery!) every couple days.
Nicolas Cage refused to endorse Japanese snacks.
As if receiving a 27-percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes wasn’t embarrassing enough, the Nicolas Cage movie Army of One made its Japan push with the botched rollout of a “Deluxe Umaibou Nicolastick”. Sloppily packaged snack food, in other words, something Cage struck down via his publicist, who said, “Mr. Cage had no prior knowledge that the product was being created, nor did he grant permission to use his likeness in this way…. All parties responsible for the creation and announcement of this promotional product sincerely apologize for the use of Mr. Cage’s image in this manner and any harm that may have been caused to him and his image and reputation.” Someone clearly hasn't seen Ghost Rider.
Joey Fatone reached out to Donnie Wahlberg for advice.
Maybe it wasn’t the best move considering a few business partners sued the Wahlbergs for cutting them out of the family business earlier this year, but it was certainly amusing to witness former *NSYNC star Joey Fatone discuss the fast food business with former New Kid Donnie. And the key to succeeding with his Florida stand Fat One’s Hot Dogs & Italian Ice? A “bahr.” And a Boston accent. And the innate ability to appear rough while asking the immortal question “are you tough enough?
Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappucino may not have been so unique.
It’s no secret that Starbucks based its most buzz-worthy Frappuccino on the fantastical ‘unicorn’ food and drinks that flooded social media feeds this year. A Brooklyn cafe by the name of The End claimed they came up with unicorn lattes first, however, filing a lawsuit against the giant corporation asking for all their profits and a public apology. It didn’t happen, but Starbucks did come up with a separate Zombie Frappuccino for Halloween, complete with blood-red syrup and pink “brains” (okay—whipped cream).
Things went very wrong at a restaurant on "American Horror Story."
We’re not sure what’s creepier: Olive Garden ‘fan fiction' or the bloody crumpets and clowns on American Horror Story: Cult. Actually, that’s easy: it’s the clowns, one of the central figures tormenting restaurateur Ally Mayfair-Richards (Sarah Paulson) almost as much as election night.
You can literally have breakfast at Tiffany's now.
It’s not cheap—breakfast plates start at $29 and get as high as $49 for a simple high tea spread—but the fourth floor of Tiffany & Co’s New York flagship finally got into the food business with its newly opened Blue Box Café. And just a few years before the sixtieth anniversary of Audrey Hepburn’s most iconic movie, no less.
"Riverdale" made us all miss malted shakes and squishy burgers.
Twin Peaks wasn’t the only recent TV reboot with an old-school diner as one of its central locations. Riverdale—a widely acclaimed live rendition of Archie Comics—brought us all back to Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe, the happening spot where all the high schoolers hang out… and Josie and the Pussycats cover Kelis. The only thing missing in season one? Jughead crushing a burger, although Netflix took care of that in a widely shared YouTube clip.
Goop held a wellness summit and proved that print isn’t dead.
Oh to be Gwyneth Paltrow, one of Hollywood’s most polarizing figures and one of the health food industry’s most powerful. While the actress claimed to be divesting from her big-money lifestyle brand Goop earlier this year, that didn’t stop her from appearing on the cover of its new magazine or hosting a power lunch with select readers at the company’s first wellness summit.
Amy Schumer got a critically acclaimed chef in the gossip pages.
When she’s not overtipping the service industry she was once a part of, comedian Amy Schumer apparently likes to hang out with a certain New England native: Martha’s Vineyard chef Chris Fischer, a favorite of the Obamas, Mario Batali (Fischer was his sous chef at Babbo back in the day), and the James Beard Foundation (Fischer’s Beetlebung Farm Cookbook won one of its coveted awards last year). Us Weekly ‘broke the news’ in early November and the rumor mill hasn’t stopped churning since.
The Oregon Trail went all Portlandia on us.
In one of the year’s most brilliant tourism board tie-ins, Travel Oregon recently unveiled an ultra-modern version of everyone’s favorite old-school computer game, The Oregon Trail. Aside from losing that whole dysentery angle, the web title features artisanal coffee, craft beer, and kombucha alongside a rotating cast of yoga teachers, Willamette Valley winemakers, and heritage apple farmers. Now, if only they’d add a cameos from Carrie and Fred…
Eric Ripert became an action hero thanks to his ol’ buddy Anthony Bourdain.
As if Anthony Bourdain wasn’t busy enough seizing the spotlight on The Tonight Show, trying to get his wildly ambitious NYC food court off the ground, and filming the latest season of his hit CNN show Parts Unknown, the food world’s biggest star made time to taunt his best friend Eric Ripert a few months back. Thanks to the fake trailer for 32 Yolks to Slaughter, Bourdain racked up more than 200,000 views on Instagram and managed to make one of the industry’s most likable chefs look like a bloodthirsty action hero. Your move, Ripert.
Disneyland unveiled lightsaber churros.
Seeing as how the sci-fi community will never tire of Star Wars tie-ins or trivia, it shouldn’t be surprising that Disneyland started selling limited-time-only lightsaber churros at a kiosk last May. Available in red and blue hues, they could be seen stirring up Instagram battles and disturbances in the force, which is a nice way of saying it caused many a crash among the park’s glucose addicts.
The Coppola clan continued its love affair with food culture in "Paris Can Wait."
A rare example of a feature film from documentarian Eleanor Coppola—wife of wine/Godfather maker Francis Ford—Paris Can Wait follows Diane Lane’s Anne Lockwood character as she finds the meaning in midday meals and boulangeries. The film’s visuals were tantalizing to one’s tastebuds enough to warrant a runthrough of 12 classic recipes.