The national food trendspotters have spoken, and according to them, 2013 will be all about farm-to-table dining, local ingredients, vegetable worship, and a litany of other eating habits that San Franciscans have been following for decades. Clearly these lists don't apply to a city where food trucks are as popular as high-end restaurants, and it's not unusual to see Cal-Med-Eastern-European-Japanese fusion on the menu.
So we made a list of our favorite food trends from last year that we'd like to see much, much more of in 2013 and beyond.
7. More great food at music festivals
In 2012 music and food festivals became one and the same. Outside Lands was as much about eating as seeing the acts perform, and we loved that the festival brought in higher-end restaurants like Michael Mina and Namu Gaji as well as food truck favorites like Del Popolo and Bacon Bacon. Last year S.F. also saw the Noisette festival's live butchery demonstrations alongside indie bands, and The Bay Brewed paired tunes with all-you-can-drink beer from 12 local breweries. We'll hoist a glass to more of these unions next year ... as long as we can put the phrase "chefs are the new rock stars" to bed forever.
6. More reasons for New Yorkers to follow us
Danny Bowien is the local-kid-made-good success story of last year. As the face of the Mission Chinese Food expansion into lower Manhattan, he's been profiled in magazines like New York, GQ, and Playboy. But he's not the only example of New Yorkers falling in love with the Bay Area food scene. Bon Appétit and Esquire named State Bird Provisions one of their best new restaurants of 2012, and Travel + Leisure gushed over San Francisco dining in a December feature. But now that we've been exporting some of our talent (S.F. favorite Rosamunde Sausage also opened a second location this year in Brooklyn), we'd like NYC to reciprocate. Maybe make good on those rumors that April Bloomfield of the Spotted Pig is scoping out an S.F. expansion.
5. More experiments in bread-making
Between Atkins and gluten-free diets, the staff of life has been demonized for almost a decade. We're glad it's making a comeback, because we could happily live on bread alone. Tartine Bakery expanded its empire in 2012 with the opening of the Bar Tartine sandwich shop and its 15,000-pound bread oven, where owner Chad Robertson's been turning out intriguing loaves like wheat with sprouted emmer (ancient farro). And wunderkind Josey Baker is about to finally open The Mill on Divisadero, a partnership with Four Barrel Coffee, where he'll grind his own flour for a menu of "toasts." A loaf of Tartine's bread will set you back $8, a slice of Baker's toast around $3, and slices from house-made loaves at restaurants like Rich Table and Local's Corner around $3-$4, but we'll gladly pay a premium for bread this good.
4. More beer and cider pairings at high-end restaurants
Even during the craft brewing renaissance over the past years, fancy restaurants hardly ever offered beer pairings with their tasting menus, sticking dutifully to wines just like haute cuisine's French forefathers. No longer. In 2012, new spots like St. Vincent and Lolina employed Master Cicerones (certified beer sommeliers) to curate their lists and oversee beer-and-food pairings. The Abbot's Cellar, the restaurant from the Monk's Kettle crew, took the concept one step further with its five-course, $90 tasting menu that doesn't have a drop of wine on it. And with the appearance of Upcider, S.F.'s first cider bar, we hope local hard cider will start getting more attention in the new year.
3. More quality chocolate
When Dandelion Chocolate moved into its new factory at 18th and Valencia, smack in the middle of two of the hottest blocks of restaurant real estate this year, it was a good sign that craft chocolate had arrived. The factory turns out bars that are nearly 100 percent cacao, sweetened with a little sugar, and it's amazing how differently bars made with beans from Venezuela and Madagascar taste. Dandelion joins legacy artisans like TCHO, Recchiuti, and Dick Taylor that care about where they source their beans and avoid artificial flavors and fillers. We predict that 2013 will bring more savory integrations of the dark stuff, as well as endless comparisons to the third-wave coffee movement.
2. More casual fine dining
It's not an oxymoron — more and more restaurants at the high end of the price spectrum are ditching starched white tablecloths and rigid cuisine guidelines in favor of something more relaxed and personal. We're talking about new places like State Bird Provisions, Central Kitchen, and Rich Table, which feel like casual neighborhood hangs despite their cutting-edge menus that include ingredients like yuzu, nettles, and huitlacoche. Then there are chefs like Roberth Sundell of Pläj, who used his Scandinavian roots to create a beautiful fusion of Nordic and California cuisines. These newbies join more established restaurants like Coi and Francis in stretching the boundaries of California's fine dining culture.
1. More aggregations of pop-ups, food trucks, and fledgling food businesses
Mobile food businesses are nothing new, but 2012 seemed to begin to codify the sprawling chaos of food trucks, pop-ups, and freelance food artisans into a real movement. This past year saw even more expansion of Off the Grid and the opening of permanent truck pod Soma StrEat Food Park. On the pop-up front, spaces like SF FoodLab and Oakland's Guest Chef give a home to a rotating cast of restaurants and aspiring chefs. And Good Eggs, a startup geared toward culinary entrepreneurs, used technology to help other young food businesses connect with their customers. This year we should see the opening of Forage Kitchen from ForageSF, a shared kitchen workspace for the would-be business owner or culinarily curious individual. Let's hope more of these spaces will follow.