Review of food & drink in 2012: How the sausage suddenly got sexy

'This was the year junk food became brash and upwardly mobile'

It is the hot dogs I will most remember about 2012. Those poshed-up cylinders of pork and spice, covered in onions, smothered with mustard, and wrapped in a lover's embrace with a bit of white bread. I could eat one now and I've only just had my cornflakes – but that is this year, one long bout of gluttony, spread thick over 12 months.

The economic weather might have been freezing but restaurants opened like spring bulbs – 160 in London alone – each day another cuisine, another concept. But what have been the stand-outs? And which TV cookery programmes drew us in? What exactly was the taste of 2012?

The year started for me with raw fish and a new word – ceviche. Peruvian food came to the capital and at Lima, Ceviche, Tierra Peru and Coya, this dainty little dish of citrus-marinated fish and spices topped the bill. Zingy, fresh, the taste of the summer – little wonder it has its own public holiday in Peru.

It wasn't all dainty bits of fish in lime-juice baths, though. This was also the year junk food became brash and upwardly mobile, like a 1980s Essex boy. Burgers were 're-imagined' and lusted after from Torquay to Torbay. They were paired with lobster in Mayfair (Burger & Lobster) and it became acceptable to keep whole galleries of pictures of them on your phone to show to your friends ("They call this one the Smokey Robinson…"). The 'haute dog' was born this year, too, and began keeping very fine company indeed: at Bubbledogs in central London your NY dog came accompanied only by artisan-made champagne. And fried chicken – previously only dispensed in 'cottages' and 'shacks' – became a culinary event, got its own restaurants, and was the cause of flame wars on Twitter as people argued about exactly who did make the best deep-fried chicken leg.

On TV, the baking juggernaut rumbled ever onwards, despite the fact the presenters of The Great British Bake Off goaded the nation by trying to turn the word bake from a verb to a noun. It might be a lovely cake, Paul, but it is not a "lovely bake". Much better mannered was the break-out star of the year: Rachel Khoo. The former London-based fashion PR-turned-Parisian baking star proved to be visual candy for the TV-viewing public – we couldn't get enough of her and her Little Paris Kitchen – and in short order she had a book deal and a magazine column.

This was also the year that chefs threw down the gauntlet to diners: 2012 was the time of the chefs' challenge. First Andoni Luis Aduriz brought his two-Michelin-starred restaurant Mugartiz to town and asked his diners to eat warm stones – or what looked like them at least. They were, in fact, thankfully, potatoes covered in kaolin and salt. At Ben Spalding's ongoing pop-up, John Salt, diners were invited to lick a brick – all the better, you see, to taste the chicken liver cream and brittle caramel smeared on to it. While René Redzepi possibly had the biggest laugh when, at his 10-day Noma pop-up at Claridge's in the summer, he persuaded his well-heeled clientele to eat live ants as part of the five-course dinner. Diners paid £195 for the pleasure.

We also became intimate with our baristas this past 12 months. Starbucks decided to get up close and personal by asking our names as we ordered our mocha light frappuccinos. "From now on," they said in a statement, "we won't refer to you as a 'latte' or a 'mocha', but instead as your folks intended: by your name." It is unclear whether this was merely a ploy to get us to buy one of their new Verismo home coffee machines – so we wouldn't have to face up to our name being misspelt day in, day out. Either way, Costa soon followed suit – and now even the inner sanctums of our homes are not free from corporate branding.

For me, though, the true revelation of the year came on a warm day in June. The morning McDonald's revealed, with little fanfare, just what really goes into the Big Mac 'secret sauce'. It turned out to be a bit of mayo, mustard and dried spices. Scales fell with a clatter from my eyes. Where was the magic? Where was the Nasa-developed flavour enhancers? Still, though, there was a consolation – at least I got something new to put on my hot dogs.

@Lord_Sugar Antony Worrall Thompson forgets to pay for stuff five times at Tesco. The check out lady said "here is a bill I prepared earlier"

Lord Sugar, entrepreneur

@ReneRedzepiNoma First day at Claridge's went well! Room filled with friendly, sparkling Londoners & Stephen Hawking smiled at me twice

Noma chef René Redzepi

@Claudebosi Like the review on TA [Trip Advisor]… smile to my face, then stab me in the back…!!! Nice one

Hibiscus chef Claude Bosi

@MrJamesMay Marmalade is like gold to the prospector in the frozen fridge wasteland

James May, TV presenter

@halfon4harlowMP So now the food police are adding red meat to our list of uneatables. Soon we'll all be starving, but oh boy will we be healthy!!

Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow

@camillalong I really want to know if the queen is fed up with asparagus and noisettes of lamb yet

Camilla Long, journalist

@YvetteCooperMP Finally something in garden bears fruit. Good apple recipes anyone?

Yvetter Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary

@Hollywoodbaker Big congrats to Mary Berry today, she's picking up her deserved CBE x

Paul Hollywood, Great British Bake Off judge

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
VIDEO
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environmentGardeners rally round the endangered bumblebee
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
musicBest exclusives coming to an independent record shop near you this Record Store Day
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

    Sports coaching volunteer jobs

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...

    Turtle Nesting and Coral Reef Conservation in Borneo

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...

    Elephant research project in Namibia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...

    Day In a Page

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit