This spud's for you: gourmet french fries are going to be big in 2012.
This spud's for you: gourmet french fries are going to be big in 2012.

Foodies take note, 2012 is shaping up to be a remarkable year in San Francisco for those that like a little adventure in their dishes and dining experiences.

Every year about this time we begin to scan the horizon, talk to chefs and restaurateurs, and review our notes from recent culinary outings to see if we can identify what’s hot.

Andrew Freeman, the man behind SF Chefs, and his team in SF are another great source for getting the gourmet (ice cream) scoop, so to speak. According to his research (via The Passion Collection 2012) here’s the things you need to know to stay up-to-date on all things gastronomique.

This Spud’s for You

This is the year of the potato. Why? Potatoes are one of the hottest ingredients around and are finding their way onto gourmet french fry menus (choose your cut, sauce, mashers) Example: Hasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen in San Francisco.

31 Hundred Flavors

Savory flavors are big – vegetable, lobster, spices, bacon. “It’s going a little crazy,” according to Andrew Freeman. “It’s not just for desert anymore.”

Melt in Your Hands – Grilled Cheese is the New Burger

Food Trends 2012
Is Grilled Cheese the new Burger?

All over the country, restaurants are serving up the classics. Signature versions: short rib, artisan ingredients. Expect the sandwich you loved as a kid to go crazy in 2012.

Hand Pulled Noodles

Hand pulled noodles - worth the extra time?

This one is not only tasty, but fun to watch. Again it’s been popping up already all over the country, but the early word say the showy noddle is ready to hit mainstream.

Modern Thai Cuisine

New unfamiliar, vibrant flavors. Most people know Thai one way, this is changing.

Vegetable Desserts

A potentially unlikely combination of savory and sweet. Again, experimentation with flavors, gorgeous plating too from what I’ve seen so far.

The Story Behind the Dish

Patrons are increasingly wanting to know more about dishes. Why is the item on the menu? Chefs in the know are giving guests something to relate to by refining the art of the personal story.

Strip Service

No, not that kind. The casual kind. This is all about simplifying service standards. Goodbye table clothes. Hello fun and edgy atmosphere. There is a cost reduction issue here too, but this trend is mostly about making restaurants more approachable and comfortable.

Eating Between the Lines

High end chefs are opening off-shoots: trucks, kiosks. Fast food goes upscale, while high-end food becomes more accessible. Example: Calafia Cafe in Palo Alto.

Chaat Rooms

Food Trends 2012
Will Indian food go big in 2012?

Food trucks, pop-ups and quick service restaurants … Indian food goes mainstream.

Breakfast Club

Breakfast for lunch, dinner, and late night menus. Reinventing favorites.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

The emergence of extra hot, sweet & spicy, smokey flavors. Peppers coming in from afar.

Healthy Indulgences

Signature dishes in smaller sizes. “The word diet shouldn’t exist, because it makes people feel bad when they break it.” Emphasis on gluten free, lower fat and reasonable calories.

New Infused Flavors: Pine, Fir, Eucalyptus

Infusing nature into the dish.

Tableaux Settings

Food Trends 2012
If you see it, eat it!

Edible landscapes. Dominque Crenn of Atelier Crenn is a leading example in San Francisco of creating artistic representation for the table.

Liquid Diet

Familiar flavors in a new form: Chefs and mixologies distill complex flavors into liquid.

Snow Ice

A Tawaiin import- not ice cream, not shaved ice. It’s creamier, lighter. Should make it’s way onto menus big time in 2012.

Go Hungary

Eastern European food gaining popularity: Russian, Polish, German, Austrian, Hungarian, Jewish Delis. Example: Moscow 57 opening in NYC in 2012.

Hot Ingredients for 2012

The lovely bones...


Issan Sausage

Homemade flavored marshmallows

Marrow bones, rib bones, ham bone, bone soup (e.g. L’Express – Montreal, Canada)

Duck and goose eggs

Curry wurst

Lamb belly

Crispy pig skin, chicken skin, fish skin

Parisian gnocchi

Two Concepts, One Space

By economic necessity or choice, creative entrepreneurs are using the same space to create multiple dining experiences– including different menus and cooks at different hours of service.

Last, but not least: Stroop There it is!

Here comes the Dutch dessert (a dark treacle syrup).


Loni Stark
Loni Stark is an artist at Atelier Stark, self-professed foodie, and adventure travel seeker who has a lifelong passion for technology’s impact on business and creativity. She collaborates with Clinton Stark on video projects for Atelier Stark Films. It’s been said her laugh can be heard from San Jose all the way up to the Golden Gate Bridge. She makes no claims to super powers, although sushi is definitely her Kryptonite.