The Editor Reflects on Food Trends
Today’s darlings are tomorrow’s castaways in the fast-paced East Bay food scene.
I don’t think of myself as a much of a foodie, because I don’t really cook or write well about food. I rarely grocery shop either and wholeheartedly embrace the convenience and freshness of the boxed fruit that’s delivered to my front door once a month.
But I do like to eat, which I have been doing for a long time now, and take an omnivorous approach to my dining. I sadly haven’t set foot into the French Laundry or Commis, but I have dined at Chez Panisse, Coi, Manresa, even Chicago’s famed Alinea. But there is little I love more than exploring the exciting East Bay restaurant scene. Sometimes I’m dashing off to West Oakland for cinnamon toast at Trouble Coffee Company with an office colleague, meeting PR pros and principals at a hot restaurant opening like Shakewell, or shaking hands with pioneering chefs and proprietors such as Rick Hackett and Meredith Melville to celebrate the growth of their empire to include Jack’s Oyster Bar & Fish House.
It’s interesting to watch food trends play out in the fast-paced world of dining where today’s sautéed Brussels sprouts and baby kale are tomorrow’s pooh-poohed bacon-everything and forgotten foams. For the Fall Foods issue, we pondered this and turned to East Bay pros on what’s hot and not. Elyce Berrigan-Dunlop rounded up 11 cooking professionals—chefs, executive chefs, chefs de cuisine, and owners—to ask them their opinions, an interesting and revealing exercise.
Who knew, besides Julya Shin at Penrose, that whey broths and grains are a thing, and that pork belly and foie gras are definitely not? Or that spiral-cut hot dogs and squid have replaced albondiga and Mexican corn, as Kyle Itani of Hopscotch suggested? Homestead’s owner/chef Liz Sassen took a more philosophical approach, observing that hospitality, warmth, and graciousness are driving customers’ fancies, with chefs’ egos, pretentiousness, and up-tight service thankfully falling by the wayside.
What is the next trending thing? Smoke? The $12 taco? Maybe Chris Pastena of Lungomare, Chop Bar, and the just-opened Calavera, is onto something with the bugs and mezcal on Calavera’s Oaxacan-influenced menu.
When I do cook I follow a recipe, because I don’t know my way around the kitchen. Today’s chefs are way beyond that, combing flavor profiles, textures, and styles in unheard of medleys that work. And that’s what it’s all about.