The best new food and drink drops of the year stand out because they change how we think. Have you ever considered a frozen puck of coffee might be better than anything you could brew at home? Probably not, but it is. In the same vein: can canned wine be… not terrible? The answer is yes, apparently. And just when you think you’ve memorized all the pasta shapes at the grocery store, a James Beard Award-winning podcaster goes and makes a new one that beautifully delivers carbs and sauce to one’s face. Point is, it’s healthy to acknowledge your old opinion is no longer a good one, and this year’s best new food and drink releases epitomized that.
Game Changer: Fellow Drops
Origins: Ethiopia, Colombia, Kenya, Ecuador and more
Ships To: Continental U.S.
Price: ~$15 to $25 per bag
Most new capital-C Coffee people don’t struggle to identify the brewing equipment that best aligns with their new hobby, but find it difficult to figure out what coffee is good and who simply slaps words like “gourmet” all over the label. Fellow Drops is an effective and needed curator of good coffee, not unlike Trade, another coffee bean website. And while it’s healthy to take the customer testimonials companies post on their websites with a 10-pound bag of salt, customer Austin P. (from Detroit) hits the nail on the head in his 15-word review: “I love how simple the text-to-order system is: here’s the coffee, how many bags? Boom.”
Launched in the summer, Fellow Drops is not overly innovative: It’s an SMS service that pings you once or twice a week with a different coffee bean offer from a different roaster. The texts usually come on Tuesdays, and include an image of the coffee, a brief roaster bio and all the nerdy bean details one could need (growth elevation, preferred brew method, processing style, etc.). To order, you reply with the number of bags you want. A few days later the freshly roasted coffee (it’s roasted to order) is in your mailbox.
Perhaps just as importantly, Fellow’s text service reminds you that you need coffee before you run out, and is much harder to ignore — open rates for SMS-based marketing are near 100 percent, because who is really going to leave a “1” hovering over their text message app? At the end of the day, it’s a lot easier to leave the hunt for new and interesting coffee to professionals than it is to do the dirty work yourself. Making good coffee easier to come by is a feat, even if the solution was a consistent (but not too frequent) text from a company that makes rad coffee gear already.
ThermoWorks Thermapen One
Range: -58°F to 527°F
Accuracy: +/- 0.5°F
Warranty: Five years
The general consensus among professional chefs is that the Thermapen Mk4 from ThermoWorks is the best instant-read thermometer you can buy. But wait, this isn’t the Thermapen Mk4 — it’s its new-and-improved version, the Thermapen One. The Thermapen One puts the “instant” in “instant thermometer” by giving temperature readouts in one second, whereas its predecessor took between two to three seconds. Besides the speedier readings, the One retains everything that made the Mk4 popular — its auto-rotating display, motion-sensing sleep and wake mode and an IP67 waterproof rating. There’s also a smaller margin of error and a brighter backlight.
Roasters: Equator, Birch, Counter Culture and more
Shelf Life: 18 months (frozen)
Subscription: Every one to four weeks
The world of instant coffee is changing. It’s not about freeze-dried coffee granules anymore (though some of them are pretty good nowadays). No, these days, we’re referring to anything that makes coffee in an instant as “instant coffee.” And one of the best instant coffees you can buy now is called Cometeer.
The idea of Cometeer is simple enough. The company brews coffee, then immediately freezes it with liquid nitrogen. The frozen coffee, shaped like ice hockey pucks, are housed in Keurig-style aluminum pods (they’re fully recyclable!) that you can turn into hot coffee by either using a pod coffee brewer (please don’t) or popping the puck into a mug and melting and diluting it with hot water. In layman’s terms, it sounds simple, but the science behind it is way more complicated than an uncaffeinated mind might struggle to grasp — think terms like “water chemistry” and “extraction yield.”
Besides the science, Cometeer partners with an impressive roster of coffee roasters, which it continues to grow since its inception. From third-wave coffee pioneers — like George Howell and Counter Culture — to newer speciality roasters — like Go Get ‘Em Tiger and Bird Rock — Cometeer is making sure the coffee beans are just as high quality as the coffee science. We’ve found it a struggle to describe just how delicious these coffees are. “Wait, frozen coffee is good?,” is a typical response we get when we rave about Cometeer. But yes, it is really good, and you need to stock your freezer right now.
Wine Styles: Red, white, rosé, sparkling
Winemakers: Sutro Wine Co., Bodkin Wines, Handley Cellars, and more
Shelf Life: 18 months
Don’t balk at canned wine. Especially when new producers, like Maker, which just rolled out nationwide distribution this year, are making wines that even master sommeliers would serve. The brand partners with small-production winemakers — particularly those that are minority and woman-led — to create 250 milliliter cans, the perfect size for a double serving (or generous single serving). The wines have zero added sugars and have as little added sulfur as possible. So the next time you host a dinner party, don’t be afraid to crack a couple of cold ones — wine, that is.
Sporkful x Sfoglini Cascatelli
Cook Time: 13 to 17 minutes
You know your standard pasta shapes: spaghetti, penne, rigatoni. In all the years that pasta has been, well, a thing, one would assume all the pasta shapes have already been invented. But in 2021, we were given a new pasta shape, courtesy of a famous food podcaster. Dan Pashman, of the James Beard Award-winning podcast Sporkful, spent three years in R&D to develop it. (The journey itself was documented the process in a five-episode Sporkful series called “Mission:ImPASTAble.”) That new shape is called cascatelli.
Meaning “waterfalls” in Italian, cascatelli was developed to nail what Pashman called the three qualities of the perfect pasta: “forkability,” or the ease in which a fork can lift up a pasta, “sauceability,” or how well a pasta retains sauce and “toothsinkability,” or how satisfying its texture is. According to Pashman (and now us), it does nail each of those qualities.
Cascatelli is sort of like a combination of bucatini (because of its tunnel-like center) and mafalde (because of its ridged edges), Pashman’s two favorite pasta shapes. That longer cut? It makes it easier to stab. The ridges? This pasta is basically a vehicle for sauce. Now all you have to decide is what you’re going to eat with it.
Momofuku Instant Noodles
Flavors: Soy and scallion; spicy soy; tingly chili
Cook Time: 3 to 4 minutes
Anyone who has eaten Cup Noodles before should thank Momofuku Ando. The man’s impact on the food industry expands beyond instant noodles — he’s the namesake behind David Chang’s massive food empire Momofuku. In expanding Momfuku’s pantry staples, Chang has added a line of instant noodles, and they’re better tasting (and better for you) than Cup Noodles (though no shade to the legend). Made in partnership with A-Sha, a Taiwanese noodle brand, Momofuku’s instant noodles are air-dried, while most other instant noodles are fried or frozen. And with flavors like Soy and Scallion and Spicy Soy, they taste like something you’d get from a Momofuku restaurant — but at around $2 a serving.
Bowl: Frosted borosilicate glass
Lid: Borosilicate glass; stainless steel; silicone
The caption was jarring and read like a recipe on Clickhole, if Clickhole were to publish recipes. “A machine from the future, here in present day…This is the greatest recipe of all time. Wash potatoes, drain, sprinkle liberally with salt. Microwave until tender. Dip in tuna sauce #2020″
But those are the words of one of the world’s most visible chefs: David Chang. Back in the early pandemic days of yore, things got weird. We ran out of office chairs and toilet paper and our favorite whiskey brands started making hand sanitizer. While not the weirdest or most important of the bunch, David Chang’s profession of love to perhaps the most unloved appliance in kitchendom — the microwave — is worth memorializing. Then, less than a year later, Chang was attached to the launch of a microwave-specific cookware brand.
Anyday sells a handful of frosted glass dishes with nice glass tops and fancy metal rims. They make microwaving feel more elegant than it’s known to be, and do so at the perfect moment, given most of the world is cooking and eating at home more than ever (still). Anyday is almost more of a PSA than a product; the company’s recipe collection is immense and — if you’re not accustomed to using the microwave for anything more than reheating leftovers and popcorn — eye-opening (the Chawanmushi is absurdly good). You will save time, you will learn the way of the microwave and you will impress visitors and onlookers alike. And while there are companies making more affordable versions of Anyday’s microwave cookware, none make cooking in the microwave feel like something worth considering.
Jack Daniel’s 10-Year Tennessee Whiskey
Age: 10 years
Price: $70 SRP (~$200 in the wild)
It’s time to take Jack Daniel’s seriously. Jack Daniel’s 10-Year Tennessee Whiskey is not the first premium, quality-focused whiskey the brand has released — its high-end single barrel line is especially good, if underappreciated — but it is its best.
From a business perspective, Jack Daniel’s (the brand) is in excellent shape — depending on what data you look at, it’s one of the three or four most popular whiskey labels in the world. But that reputation works against it with the premium whiskey shopper, many of whom view JD as a brand that makes cheap mixing whiskey first and foremost. The new and limited 10-year is unequivocal proof that the makers of Old No. 7 can do both, and it feels like the people behind it know it.
For starters, the 10-year age statement is stamped on the center of the label, in gold, and takes up more real estate than everything but the “Jack Daniel’s” name above it. That focus is intentional — this whiskey is the first JD product to carry an age statement in more than 100 years. The 97-proof bottling point excellent as well — just high enough for a full-flavored sip but not so high as to burn out taste buds. If anything is evidence of Jack Daniel’s doing good whiskey right, it’s the delta between this bottle’s suggested retail price and the price it’s commanding in secondary markets — the bottle’s MSRP is a high-ish $70, but bottle hunters are paying three-times that online.
Comes With: Sparkling charger; CO2 capsules; Coravain stoppers
Wine Lifespan Enhancement: 4 weeks
Warranty: One year
Nearly ten years since Greg Lambrecht invented the tool to try wine without popping the cork, there is finally a solution to do the same with sparkling wine. The original Coravin, which works on all non-sparkling wines, works by inserting a tiny needle through the cork, allowing you to get a pour of wine without uncorking it. The device flushes argon gas into the bottle while wine comes out, which effectively creates a blanket that protects the wine in the bottle from oxygen that would come in otherwise (the need is small enough that the cork reseals naturally after removal).
The sparkling wine solution is similar, though does require some extra doing. You won’t be able to preserve the wine with the original cork — instead, Coravin’s solution is to use a temporary stopper that, in concert with the larger Corvain Sparkling tool, replaces the oxygen that slipped into the bottle at opening with carbon dioxide. The TL;DR: it keeps sparkling wine sparkling for four weeks after opening, which is massive for anyone who’s ever opened (but not finished) a good bottle of bubbly.
Dogfish Head Hazy-O!
Hops: Citra; Mosaic; Azacca; Centennial; Simcoe; BRU-1; Mandarina Bavaria; Sabro
Malt: Malted oats; rolled oats; naked oats
Price: $10/6 pack
An oat milk IPA might sound a little odd at first. But when you realize that many New England-style IPAs use lactose, then the oat milk makes more sense. It can help fight climate change — oat milk is one of the least water-intensive milks there is. It can make beer’s most popular style enjoyable by all. And it can infuse energy into a style that had been feeling vapid and overdone in the last few years by combining it with another major trend outside the beer world.
Hazy-O! from Sam Calagione and Dogfish Head does all that and more. Arguably one of the biggest innovators of IPAs (continuous hopping and imperial IPAs were his doing), Calagione is trailblazing what could be the next path for America’s favorite hoppy brews. These hazy concoctions have brought more beer drinkers to craft breweries than anything else, so it was crucial that a next step for the style came along.
“Hazy-O! is unique in that the oat milk gives it a distinct silky-smooth mouthfeel that makes this beer drink like a 5.0 percent session IPA instead of the 7.1 percent bad boy that it actually is,” Calagione says.
While Calagione is not the first brewer to put oat milk in a beer (some smaller breweries have put the plant-based milk into stouts), Hazy-O! is the first nationally available oat milk NEIPA. This game-changer brewed with Elmhurst Oat Milk offers notes of mango, pineapple and citrus for a creamy mouthfeel akin to a creamsicle drink.
And if the success Dogfish Head has already seen this year with Hazy-O! (it’s been the number-two seller on-premise for the brewery) is a look into the future, we could be seeing oat milk replace lactose and other milk byproducts in craft beers moving forward.