The famed cronut: a croissant-doughnut hybrid.

Mini cupcakes. Kimchee tacos. The cronut. These foods seem to become popular almost overnight, inspiring hungry customers to stand in line for an hour or more just to get a taste. But what makes a particular food fashionable? And what’s the deal with San Francisco’s $4 artisanal toast craze? We talk with journalist David Sax, who explored these questions for his new book, “The Tastemakers.”

We swung by two San Francisco establishments who frequently have lines out the door for their cragels and specialty toast:

From Cragel to Toast: Inside Two of San Francisco's Must-Try Foods from KQED News on Vimeo.

David Sax, James Beard Award-winning food writer and author of "The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue"

  • Chemist150

    I heard “kimchi tacos” as one of the overnight sensations. I can say for sure that came from the show “Beat Bobby Flay” where the Asian guy beat Bobby Flay with a Korean taco that had kimchi as the first ingredient.

    • Robert Thomas

      “Beat Bobby Flay”! That IS an appealing High Concept. Are contestants allowed to use any implement?

      • Bill_Woods

        It’s sort of the poor man’s Iron Chef.

        • Robert Thomas

          Clubs and swords only, then? No firearms?

          • Whamadoodle

            Considering the alternate meaning of the word “flay,” a whip would be appropriate…

      • thucy

        too funny

  • Chairman Meow

    Waiting in a line for over an hour to chase down a trendy new formula of sugar salt and fat… Sounds more like a desperate search for novelty by those wallowing in a shallow existence of predictable routine. A surrogate for authentic experience for the comfortably complacent.

    • Whamadoodle

      I can’t stand the idea of trend-chasing, agreed.
      However, if the idea is that fine dining (or great, down-scale dining) ITSELF is a “surrogate for authentic experience,” then I don’t agree at all–dining out IS one of life’s great, most authentically fulfilling experiences. Ask any French person.

      But yes, mindless trend-chasing is mindless.

  • Robert Thomas

    I’ve heard Mr Sax speak in other venues.

    His views are amusingly if unsurprisingly parochial to his myopic Northeastern Seaboard experience.

    In particular, I’ve seen the number of South Asian restaurants increase in my neighborhood from two or three thirty years ago to easily a dozen within walking distance today – in a neighborhood where it’s claimed no one walks! The experience is similar if not as pronounced up and down the West coast.

    If I’m tired of South Asian cuisine, I have five pretty good phở shops I can stroll to.

    In contrast, I can’t get decent chopped liver anywhere within miles. Maybe Mr Sax can offer advice about how to remedy this calamity.

    • Whamadoodle

      Ehh, cheap shot. I don’t hear anything parochial or myopic in his comment. So, he comes from a certain place, big deal. Maybe if you give us examples of it I could see what you mean, but he seems very thoughtful to me.

      • Robert Thomas

        The chapter of his book describing Indian food as a “perpetual almost-trend” and that he has mentioned in other radio interviews doesn’t square with my experience in the Pacific rim, the West coast of the U.S., my region and certainly not my neighborhood. It’s a perplexing claim that he makes.

        On the other hand, I sincerely would like to find a good corned beef and chopped liver sandwich in my area code. Sax has battled for this in his neighborhoods and I applaud.

        • Whamadoodle

          Heh–well, can’t accuse you of failing to provide an example of myopia when asked. My claim of a cheap shot is withdrawn, then (though I still do find him thoughtful, at least here).

  • Halley

    predicting food trends: banh mi are going to blow up, and i think ice cream sandwiches are about to pop off just like cupcakes did

  • Jonathan Greenberg

    I disagree with that theory of why bacon is popular. Half precooked bacon at low grade fast food has nothing to do with it. We’ve all grown up loving bacon. Vegetarians can’t even resist it. The smell, the flavor, the salt, the oil! It’s a perfect compliment to greens, split pea soup, ice cream!

  • Ben Rawner

    Lately I have noticed pickled foods (Kimche, Dill, etc…) at many a chef parties. Is this a national trend?

  • I’m a restaurant biz lifer: 25+ years as a front-of-the-houser in SF’s admittedly awesome restaurant scene, so take what I’m saying with that bias in mind. With the advent of social media, a good deal of the restaurant business has fallen under the sway of a certain breed of publicity-hungry “wunderkind” chef-lings. Witness the rise of “stunt food”: the kind of over-the-top taste experience that is less of an actual dining experience, and more of “can you believe this” type of shock cuisine.

    Stuff like quadruple bacon-bacon cheeseburgers with donut buns are the kind of fare that is designed for maximum tweetability rather than actual culinary satisfaction–it’s something you eat on a dare, then share as widely as possible to your social media circle.

    Food is “cute”, like the maddening trend of gussied-up nursery fare being served in restaurants such as tater-tots, grilled cheese sandwiches and cupcakes. Or it’s “challenging”, like the current trend among pastry chefs to incorporate as many herbal and savory ingredients as possible in desserts that often end up successful only as intellectual exercises.

    There’s a certain new demographic among back-of-the-house personnel: the super-educated upper-middle class kids whom *never* would have worked in restaurants 10 years ago. But now that restaurant work has become the high-visibility realm of media darlings, and therefore “cool” enough for recent expensively-schooled university grads, we have the phenomenon of the chef wanna-be doing his or her level best to create some crazy viral trend to kickstart their reality TV career. And so food has become a mere prop in this cutthroat game, hence the rise of bourbon cornflake ice cream and gratuitous use of molecular gastronomy.

    • Whamadoodle

      EXACTLY, thank you. Well-written post. It’s like jazz–jazz started out as music (think Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton, in the early decades) that was TRULY challenging and innovative, but also a lot of fun. That’s why it was fulfilling. Some of it still is, but some of it devolved into f— – the -audience jazz. “Challenging,” but uninspired, self-conscious, mindlessly provocative, and ultimately, lifeless. Unsatisfying.

      Inspiration has its place in gastronomy, but your two middle paragraphs say it best. It reminds me of Anthony Bourdain’s constant “I dare you to eat pig bowels” mantra. We don’t need Tripe Sorbet. Give me something that TASTES good, for crying out loud.

    • Robert Thomas

      Along with those of us who have to put up with increasingly crummy software produced by less and less meticulous and less and less skilled engineers (or “coders”, a euphemism for “ditch-diggers”) from the same cohort, join the club.

  • Avatar’s & Punjabi burrito people in Sausalito & Mill Valley respectively have been doing the hipster Indian Mexican hybrid for over 20 years.

    For the record, in the Inner Sunset, in 2006, on a cardboard table, I made toast for N-Judah people. A car battery messed up the first toaster, so I just made it and brought a whole bunch out to butter and jelly it. People look at you weird if you offer them toast and there’s no toaster around.

    Later, by a plug near Shakespeare garden in Golden Gate Park, I did it again more successfully. It only happened twice, & I meant to take it further, but life got busy. :/

    The next trend is toast. 100%.

  • Ada

    Listening from London, I’ve seen food trends like cupcakes and BBQ come over from the US. Bubble tea from Taiwan. What global foods do you think will come to the US?

    • Perhaps a good ol’ greasy chip butty is in order–I just hope that US chefs resist the urge to fancy it up. I’m also amazed that cheap and tasty Doner Kebab, so popular in late-night Berlin, has yet to make a dent in street food-crazed SF.

      • Whamadoodle

        That is especially strange given the fact that SF has seen a few Turkish restaurants crop up in recent years. But I hope that the Turkish restos start to make Saç Kuzu for me soon! Turkish fajita!

  • Robert Thomas

    The Food Trend for Social Good I’d like to promote is feeding oneself to a worthy polar bear.

  • Kristina Hudson

    One of the most popular food trends I’ve noticed in the Bay Area is the gormet grilled cheese sandwich! Restaurants such as The Melt and The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen have changed the originally loved comfort food into a hip new foodie favorite.

  • Scott

    Can food trends be an avenue for more obscure foreign foods to penetrate the restaurant market and then stake their claim as a permanent establishment? Has this happened before?

  • Knute

    We buy organic not only for taste but mainly for absence of pesticides.

  • Sue Koopman

    With our craze of buying foods pre-cleaned/chopped/ etc., I’m concerned with the extensive one-use and throw away packaging of our food. Whenever we cook, we are adding to the landfill and not helping the environment. It seems that only by shopping at our local farmers’ markets bringing our bags, can we minimize the trash used when cooking.

  • Robert Thomas

    Pseudo-science in food trend blather??

    Mon dieu!

  • Menelvagor

    Interesting show right up to the point where his big mouth starts saying–nobodu–NO ONE eats organic because they care about the environment. Are you out of your @#@# mind! Loads of people–real people. I do. I eat it because its actuallu food–whereis your commercial crap is not. pesticides are poisons! Period. `cide = kill. First used to murder enemy soldiers–oh me corporation how can i make money on thins me spray on food kill poor people back home. Yes its very very very bad for you in countless ways–and gues what organic food is awesome to taste too! ‘conventional food’ is not actually food. So you say quite a bit about these trendsters. But to say NO ONE eats and buys organic–to say nothing of the the people who grow because they care–is just stupid. But just @#@# stupid. It would be nice if we could have all these delicious treats without GMO and pesticides. I guy like this gets on the air and just talks stupid–and one day history will judge you and your kind as criminals. What a @#@#@ yuppie jack

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