The Top 25 Food Trends of 2011

End-of-the-year trend roundups are about clever observations, overarching themes, and identifying those handful of concepts, people, places, and things that defined the food scene over the past 365 days. But trend pieces are also about understanding what everyone thinks they noticed and what they hope will catch on in the upcoming year. As always, a number of 2011's hottest trends were continuations of (or at least variations on) the year before — food trucks, Italian cuisine, and mobile apps, for instance, are still wildly popular, though they've certainly evolved. But the vast majority of the trends that made this list are new additions.

How did we go about putting this list together? Throughout the year, we closely monitor changes in consumer spending, food-industry news and innovations, restaurant openings and closings, and the media’s coverage of the food world, to decide at year’s end which trends were most noteworthy and which new movements have begun to take shape that will become more mainstream in the next year. Ultimately, we narrow the list down, through discussion and careful analysis, until we've collected and ranked the top 25 trends.

So what did we come up with? Let's take some of the hottest trends in ingredients and dishes. When it comes to vegetables, there is one superfood that stood head and shoulders above the rest in 2011 — kale. You'd be hard-pressed to find a farmers market that's not carrying this leafy green (in fact, trying finding one that isn't carrying more than one varietal of it) or sitting down to lunch at any trendy cafe and not finding a raw kale salad on the menu. This was also a big year for French macarons — these trendy sandwich cookies are having their moment of glory right now (though somehow it appears that pies have still not taken off, despite being the anticipated trendy dessert for years now).

Another big trend this year was with fast-food chains. Between Burger King dumping "the king" as its mascot, Wendy's unveiling their new burger prototype, and McDonald's announcing a more than $1 billion plan to remodel their franchises, the news just kept on coming. Not to mention the major efforts among fast-food companies to join the fight against childhood obesity by revamping their kids menus.

This is just a taste of what's to come — take a look through the rest of the list for a complete look at the hottest food trends of 2011.