The Year In Review: Food Trends of 2009


Oh 2009, we hardly knew ye. But now with (gulp) exactly two weeks left in this year and this decade, it's time to look at the food trends of 2009.

This is the year that food went mobile—carts popped up everywhere, selling everything from chai to curry to grilled cheese sandwiches. Food businesses also opened in unexpected places, from loading docks (Kitchenette SF) to counters within existing markets (Mission Burger, Pal's Takeaway). And established restaurants decided to try their hand at more casual operations, with concept changing (South, Laïola, Acme Chophouse) becoming the order of the day.

The economy was probably to blame for the rise of casual food. Tacos picked up speed (including Namu's Korean taco, a nod to the crazy-popular Kogi truck), chicken and waffles graced many a menu (Little Skillet, Bruno's), pizza remains a driving force (Flour + Water, Tony's, Delarosa) and porchetta was spotted on menus all over town (Cane Rosso, Ironside, Starbelly). Sandwiches became the go-to (Kitchenette, Pal's Takeaway, Cane Rosso), with the bành mi being one of the most popular varieties.

Breakfast (Out the Door, Bar Tartine) has made a reappearance and ice cream, always popular, was the one foodstuff that got a bit of a makeover. Thanks to the innovations of Jake Godby at Humphry Slocombe, now "secret breakfast" and "foie gras" are considered acceptable flavors. Scream Sorbet also pushed the envelope, with sorbet flavors ranging from sweet potato pie to kettle corn and fennel-citrus. And hot dogs, as Food + Wine noted, may be replacing burgers in popularity, from the gourmet, housemade version at Absinthe to Ryan Farr's snappy little number.

Speaking of Ryan Farr, this was the year when the butcher reigned supreme, the subject of countless media profiles and adoration. Live-butchering classes, sausage workshops, meat CSAs and general meat mania swept the city (and the nation), and at years end, as Sara Deseran noted, there was not one but two memoirs about women and meat. Not only were people interested in carving up their own beasts, there has also been a renewed interest in DIY: canning, kombucha making, pickling, beer making and the like have all become popular, as San Francisco's food-lovers strive to get ever closer to their food.

One of the best "trends" that we saw this year was the resurgence of a feeling of community among people in the food world. Sam and Anne Mogannam opened 18 Reasons, a non-profit in the Mission that aims to connect consumers with producers of their food and drink. Bi-Rite, along with Cane Rosso and many others, banded together to help Soul Food Farm in the wake of a devastating fire. Chefs helped other chefs, teaming up for dinners and special events. We continued to support small scale entrepreneurs with our dollars and our patronage.

Oh, and one last thing: Cupcakes aren't going anywhere, for better or for worse.

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