What Sonoma is to organic kale and heirloom tomatoes, San Francisco is to culinary trends of the bold, sometimes bizarre and universally-copied. And one of the biggest stages for what we’ll be seeing in food this fall often debuts at Outside Lands, the Bay Area’s biggest music/food fests each August.
Here’s what trends are hot, hotter and hottest for 2012.
- Thighs are the new breast: Chicken thighs were every, every, everywhere. Sure, they’re cheaper than breasts, but they’re also a whole lot tastier, and less prone to drying out. Namu Gaji, Nombe, Tacolicious, etc.
- Fried chicken and bacon just keep getting better: Farmer Brown’s Fried Chicken and Waffles is a sell-out fave every year for a reason. Buttermilk waffles and tender, juicy fried chicken are the star-crossed lovers of the food world. Rarely in synch, but when they come together, it’s magic. And bacon? It’s moment seems to keep shining on, because hey, can you ever really get enough bacon? Bacon, Bacon got it so right with bacon gravy poutine and chocolate covered bacon that was at once crispy and meltingly soft. How do they do it?
- Poutine: Canadians have long mocked us for our ketchup addiction when it comes to fries. They know what we don’t: Gravy and cheese are so much better on the humble potato. Or mayonnaise (aka aioli). Especially when it mixed with truffles and available in convenient pump form. Can I have one of those for my kitchen?
- Tacos are the universal meat carrier: The tortilla is quickly outclassing bread as the best conduit for getting meat products from the grill to your face. Korean barbecue, pulled pork, fish, fried chicken…whatever. Throw it on a tortilla and you’re good to go.
- Multi-level food trucks with wood fired ovens inside are hella cool: Del Popolo was the “wow” factor of the weekend — a custom-built, two-story pizza truck with a wood-fired oven inside. The line reflected everyone’s fascination.
- Wine in a bag is waaaay better than beer. Especially when you can wear it around your neck in a plastic pouch. And squeeze it like a bota bag into your friend’s mouth. Or you know, pour it in a glass. House Band Wines are our new favorite drink for festivals. Speaking of which, we’re liking the trend of moving away from crummy, overpriced beer and watered down cocktails to artisan wines and craft brews. This year, Beerlands kicked off (featuring our own Russian River Brewing) and Winelands was wall-to-wall with tasters grabbing primo pours from Windgap, Preston, Gloria Ferrer, Medlock Ames, Navarro, Sinskey and Bonny Doon (we couldn’t even get close to The Scholium Project). We like that.
- Smore’s are even better cold: You thought melted chocolate and marshmallow were tasty? Try eating the whole thing enrobed in another layer of chocolate. We dare you to eat more than one. Sharon’s Chocolate Shop.
- Lamb is the new pork: There’s a certain type of food audience that relishes watching a burly butcher hack a roasted lamb to pieces in public. Stand too close and you might get a flick of crispy goodness on your shirt. The Whole Beast was universally acknowledged as the star of 2012 with their Lamb Poutine, topped with cracklings and goat cheese.
- Rice crispy treats can benefit greatly from a little fried pigskin. And Apple Jacks: 4505 Meats can do no wrong. But adding their crispy pig skin chicharrones to a Krispy treat? Evil. Bacony evil.
- Mole plus pickles. Who knew? Those Frabulous Frickle Brothers keep kicking it with fried pickles and tasty sauces. Our favorite newcomer this year was a sweet, spicy mole.
Kinda Tired, But Still Kickin’ It: Cupcakes, Ironic Tater Tots, Mac and Cheese.
I Can’t Forgive: Brass Knuckle for not having the Crack Bar this year. Booo.