What’s new foodie? Here’s a peek at the latest gustatory trends

By Catharine Kaufman

As 2012 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on the best and worst of the food trends, and get a glimpse into what’s hot for the New Year.

The Gastronomic Geek

When Bill Nye the Science Guy does kitchen patrol you get freaky food cuisine. Molecular gastronomy has been a growing (and annoying) trend of chef-upmanship where chemicals meet molecules using techniques of emulsification, spherification and thermal immersion to create such kitschy cocktails and dishes as bubbling mojitas, beet foam, arugula spaghetti, balsamic ball-bearings, fruit “caviar,” and edible paper from soy and potato starch.

How ‘bout concocting some negative-calorie foods to put the skids on holiday weight gain.

Foaming at the Mug

The craft beer scene is booming, with some 40 boutique brewery meisters in San Diego County, transforming the SoCal surf town into a Napa Valley for amber nectar. The city is rife with upscale beer pairing events, and even hosts an annual San Diego Beer Week in November.

A head above other breweries is the irreverent Stone Brewing Co., dubbed “All-Time Top Brewery on Planet Earth,” by BeerAdvocate magazine. Stone’s brewing facility in Escondido offers daily tours like a Disneyland theme park for beer-lovers. It’s adjacent to its bucolic World Bistro & Gardens, pairing flagship brews like the Arrogant Bastard Ale and Ruination IPA (India Pale Ale) with scrumptious locally grown, organic dishes.

Raw, Raw, Raw

The burgeoning raw foodism or rawism practice is based on the ethos that vital enzymes critical for digestion and nutrient absorption are destroyed when food is heated at temperatures above 118-degrees Fahrenheit (varies in raw food community). Raw food advocates consume primarily organic, uncooked and unprocessed foods, a mother lode diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains, but can sometimes include meat, eggs and fish along with non-pasteurized dairy as raw milk, cheese and yoghurt. According to raw food chef Perkunas Core of San Diego-based Veggie Vibes, a weekly raw food delivery service, “Eating raw foods is a lifestyle that is becoming stronger and more popular. You gain awareness between the environment and what you put into your body. It’s all about finding balance, harmony and rhythm through simple, natural foods.”

Spam Bam, Thank you Ma’am

The butt of food jokes, SPAM (whose acronym “SPICY HAM” was introduced in 1937 by Hormel Foods Corp.) has become au courant in a bevy of dishes by top chefs throughout the land. SPAM does sushi, eggs Benedict, risottos, frittatas, lasagnas, pizzas, breakfast burritos, hash a-go-gos, and check out Chef Anthony Sinsay’s savory Spam Fried Rice featured in Brian Malarkey’s new cookbook, “Come Early, Stay Late.”

A Cut Above

For Eric Bauer, Executive Chef at Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa, what rocks is “using off cuts of protein, such as cheeks from fish, boned-out lamb shoulder confit, and pork or veal shanks, and making them luxurious.”

While Chef forages herbs, fruits and veggies that grow naturally on the property like wood sorrel, wild watercress, dill and onion flowers, the new year brings row crops including English peas, fava beans and squash in addition to harvesting honey from resident bee hives.

applesLiving High on the Hog

Pork is popping up everywhere from honey ham and grilled cheese sandwiches and prosciutto wrapped shrimp to salted pork clam chowder and maple bacon cupcakes.

Everything Old is New Again

Watch out for creative riffs on oldies but goodies. Mac and Cheese made with quirky pastas, fish “meat” loaf and French fries made from everything but potatoes.

Kale is the new lettuce, pesto is the new red sauce, flat bread is the new pizza, bison is the new beef, quinoa is the new rice, farro is the new quinoa, savory is the new sweet, sweet is the new savory.

Runny eggs are back, so are monster rib eyes, quiches and stuffed everything, including my childhood fave — classic baked apples, now drunken in apple brandy and filled with everything from cookie dough to salted caramels.

For trendy or not-so-trendy recipes e-mail or check out