Food Trends that Fed and Fueled the Bay Area in 2013

| January 1, 2014 | 1 Comment
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There were some popular food trends in 2013 that we'll continue to see in the coming years. Photo: Thinkstock

There were some popular food trends in 2013 that we’ll continue to see in the coming years. Photo: Thinkstock

Starting on a sad note, there was an unusual wave of fires at Bay Area restaurants this year — Chez Panisse, Maverick, Merritt Restaurant & Bakery, and Chez Spencer were among the casualties.

Popular food and beverages trends like gluten-free foods and homebrewing took off this year, while others fizzled. Here were some of the food trends that couldn’t be missed in 2013.

The Food and Drug Administration is at last defining what a "gluten free" label on a food package really means after nine years of consideration. Photo: Jon Elswick/AP

The Food and Drug Administration is at last defining what a “gluten free” label on a food package really means after nine years of consideration. Photo: Jon Elswick/AP

Gluten-Free: Gluten-free food went so mainstream in 2013 that it became the butt of jokes even from places like Hallmark and the Disney Channel. But, that didn’t stop people with gluten intolerance and those who choose to avoid gluten from advocating for their favorite foods. The year kicked off with an agreement from the Department of Justice that colleges need to provide gluten-free food for students under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Then, at the beginning of August, the FDA approved a gluten-free label that came with some regulations over the title. While doctors haven’t quite been able to figure out what has brought on the rise in Celiac Disease, marked by your body’s rejection of gluten, that hasn’t stopped a whole lot of chefs and celebrity chefs from coming out with books, shows and diets touting a gluten-free lifestyle. Will the frenzy come back down to a sustainable level in 2014 or will gluten-free become the new normal?

All the breads at Ponsford's Place, Craig Ponsford's bakery in San Rafael, are made with 100% whole wheat. Photo: Kelly O'Mara

All the breads at Ponsford’s Place, Craig Ponsford’s bakery in San Rafael, are made with 100% whole wheat. Photo: Kelly O’Mara

Local and Freshly-Milled Grains: Maybe it’s a reaction to the gluten-free trend, but bakers and millers pushed back, touting their own local, fresh grains. Community Grains, headed up by Oliveto owner Bob Klien, was all over the news in 2013 as they pushed for (and sold) authentic, freshly-milled whole wheat flour. It attracted big names, like Michael Pollan and Tartine baker Chad Robertson, and it was the spearhead of what may be the next big Bay Area food movement. With high-end chefs having sourced nearly everything else on the menu, the logical next step is artisanal flour and farm-to-table grain — or farm-to-toaster?

Food trucks gather in San Francisco.

Food trucks gather in San Francisco.

Pop-ups and Food Trucks Grow Up: Pop-up restaurants and food trucks are so common in the Bay Area that they’re finally starting to grow out of their infant phase and become full-fledged adults — sometimes very, very large adults. For some places, this meant the pop-ups got a semi-permanent home in the form of a community market or the food trucks gained a regular day and place. For many of the on-the-go venues, though, growing up meant finally growing into a brick-and-mortar location, like Corner Taco and Bacon Bacon. Often, they did this with the help of crowdfunding. The whole movement has raised more than a few questions from city officials about what constitutes a food truck and how they should be regulated. Expect the food truck/pop-up wars to continue — and hopefully flame out — in 2014.

Five cronuts from around the Bay Area. Photo: Kelly O'Mara

Five cronuts from around the Bay Area. Photo: Kelly O’Mara

Mash-ups: Cronuts, cronuts, cronuts. The donut-croissant combo was so hip in 2013 that its hipness didn’t even last the year. The dessert masquerading as breakfast may be passe now, but it spawned an entire cottage industry of food mash-ups. There were chicken waffle tenders and Pop-Tart ice cream sandwiches. And, with chain restaurants and packaged food jumping into the game, 2014 will either see more crazy combos or will mark the end of the mash-up craze.

Starbucks'-owned Evolution Fresh says its method of processing juice delivers more of the flavor and nutrients of raw fruits and vegetables. Photo: Courtesy of Starbucks

Starbucks’-owned Evolution Fresh says its method of processing juice delivers more of the flavor and nutrients of raw fruits and vegetables. Photo: Courtesy of Starbucks

Juicing: If Starbucks is doing something, then you know it must be a big money-maker. Healthy juice got so big this year that Starbucks announced it was opening a juicery in California to quadruple its production of its juice line. The juice industry — widely perceived by consumers as healthy and just like eating fruit/vegetables — is projected to grow by 4-8% per year. People drink juices for drinks, for meals, for diets. The juice cleanse has become a status symbol of celebrities. Local juicers even started mixing up their own drinks and delivering them to Bay Area residents’ front doors. Now, juicing is so big, it’s spawning hate columns.

Home brewing will become legal in all 50 U.S. states, if Alabama's governor signs a recently passed bill. In March, Mississippi approved a bill that will take effect this summer. Photo: iStockphoto.com

Home brewing will become legal in all 50 U.S. states, if Alabama’s governor signs a recently passed bill. In March, Mississippi approved a bill that will take effect this summer. Photo: iStockphoto.com

Local Beer, Spirits and Sodas, Homebrew: Sure, the Bay Area’s always been a wine-centric region. But, in 2013, other beverages started to catch up. Local cider and local spirits all got a boost this year from Bay Area brewers and distillers. Local mead companies joined in — making everyone have to learn what mead is. Even local high-end sodas weren’t to be missed. And, while some of the drinkers were making their brews to sell, plenty more were making them for their own enjoyment. Homebrewing went from a niche hobby to, well, a less niche hobby, with plenty of Bay Area brewers growing their hops at home. Even some breweries tried to plant their hops closer to home in Oakland’s parks and storefronts. The craft brewery movement, in a region where local is already a keyword, gave a boost local farmers who supplied the grains and ingredients. Will the craft breweries and distilleries become too big to be craft next year?

Can't get enough of Sriracha? Now it can fill your belly and your screens. Photo: Nick Ut/AP

Can’t get enough of Sriracha? Now it can fill your belly and your screens. Photo: Nick Ut/AP

Sriracha: No summary of the year would be complete without tales of the Sriracha-pocalypse. The factory that makes the hot sauce was shut down per a judge’s order, prompting everyone to lose their minds and start collecting the little jars like it was the end of days. Then, there was a movie. And, now sriracha has a song. Sing the Sriracha anthem as you stockpile the hot sauce before the New Year and the coming doomsday.

What were your favorite food trends in 2013?

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Category: bay area, Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, beer, food trends and technology, local food businesses, restaurants, bars, cafes, street food and fast food

About the Author ()

Kelly O'Mara is a writer and reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes about food, health, sports, travel, business and California news. Her work has appeared on KQED, online for Outside Magazine and in Competitor Magazine, among others.
  • http://successcircles.net/ Kelly Murphy

    I’ve lived in CA for a few years now but have not begun to scratch the surface of the food scene! I feel like I’m getting the insider scoop with this blog – thanks!