Food Trends: Actually Tasty or Just Instagram Fodder?

Video by Vic Chin, Photos and Words by Grace Cheung, Animation by Annie Wong

Are unicorn foods, edible gold, the Instant Pot, and other food trends actually tasty or just Instagram-friendly foods? People on the streets and in KQED weigh in on camera, and we share where you can get your own "Instagram-friendly" treats around the Bay below.

How many of these have you tried?

Unicorn Foods

You might remember this little old trend from 2017, but it made a comeback in 2018 to cover pretty much anything that was a vibrant color explosion (and "super cute"). In fact, the #1 Google search for food in 2018 was the term "unicorn cake." What's the appeal? We'll have to assume it's for the gram!

A "unicorn" birthday cake latte from Home Cafe
A "unicorn" birthday cake latte from Home Cafe (Grace Cheung)

The term "unicorn" covers a lot, but it's generally going to be anything very colorful with a lot of blues, pinks, and purples for a whimsical fairy tale feel. If you're not over the unicorn craze, try Comstock Saloon or Home Cafe for bursts of color on your table and in your latte.

Plant-Based Burgers

The Impossible Burger can be found at restaurants like Umami Burger
The Impossible Burger can be found at restaurants like Umami Burger (Grace Cheung)

If Beyonce and Jay-Z recommend going vegan, we're doing it. Just kidding, but the plant-based diet craze has really boomed in the last few years and the most recognized name in the game (or the news) was probably the Impossible Burger. This company promised their scientifically-engineered patty would do the impossible: replace meat with you barely noticing the difference.

The Impossible Burger even bleeds like a real meat patty.
The Impossible Burger even bleeds like a real meat patty. (Vic Chin)

Surprisingly, they didn't land too far off from this promise, and, despite a long stand-off with the FDA, their patty was widely adopted by many restaurants around the country! They even appeared in fast-food restaurants like White Castle, Hopdoddy's and Umami, and are making moves to be sold in grocery stores.

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If you're craving it or just want to try one, hit up Umami Burger, Cockscomb, or the robot burger-making restaurant Creator!

Cheese Tea

At Tancca, you have cheese foam, puff cream, and other topping options.
At Tancca, you have cheese foam, puff cream, and other topping options. (Grace Cheung)

Cheese foam might sound off-putting, but it's actually quite tasty! The foam is a topping for your tea (milk or not) and has a sweet and savory taste — almost like a cream cheese foam (does that sound any better?). It adds a savory finish to your tea, and can give you that lovely white mustache that you envied in Got Milk? commercials.

Eater wrote that cheese tea "is still waiting to achieve widespread popularity," but we think the trend has already hit the Bay Area. In a place where boba is entrenched in daily life, the taste and visual appeal of cheese tea make it a popular beverage for a lot of people!

If you want cheese tea, a few places we've found them are Tancca, Steap, and Happy Lemon.

Instant Pot

All the ingredients for chili thrown into an Instant Pot.
All the ingredients for chili thrown into an Instant Pot. (Vic Chin)

Oh, the instant pot. Home cooks are obsessed with it because it can speed up your cooking by an insane percentage — even taking into consideration all the prep work and how long it takes the pot to reach full pressure. But wait, it's not just a pressure cooker! It's a multi-use tool for steaming, baking, heating up leftovers AND high-pressure cooking. Want some beef stew but all you have is frozen beef in the freezer and hungry kids at the table? Throw it all in the Instant Pot and your meal is ready in minutes.

A hop and a skip away, there is even a community of megafans on Facebook (at the time this was written, the Instant Pot Community group was at 1,808,894 members) sharing their successes, failures, favorite recipes and advice with each other. When asked about favorite features, one member said, "It [the Instant Pot] warms food too; it’s not JUST for cooking! I use my IP to reheat leftovers ALL THE TIME anymore. We don’t microwave. Our toaster oven works but takes forever. Stovetop takes too much minding. I just set it for 0 minutes and high pressure, quick release and enjoy the effortless hot food!" It's not magic, guys, it's the power of technology that was developed by some geniuses in Canada.

Maybe there are some professional kitchens around the Bay using the Instant Pot, but it's most likely that you own one or have a friend/family member that swears by it and has one (or more) at home.

Edible Gold

A hojicha ice cream cone at Matcha Cafe Maiko can be adorned with a gold sheet for a few extra bucks.
A hojicha ice cream cone at Matcha Cafe Maiko can be adorned with a gold sheet for a few extra bucks. (Grace Cheung)

Treat. your. self. That seemed to be the mantra in 2018, which is why we might have seen the explosion of gold-covered food and drink last year. Do they have any nutritional value? No. Do they add anything taste-wise? Nope. Does the gold make you feel like you're worth millions of dollars when you see it garnishing or sometimes completely covering what you're about to eat? Maybe just a little.

Those shiny treats make great Instagram fodder and make you feel a little richer (without the cost of getting actual gold jewelry). You can even get the gold leaf in flake or sheet form to put on your homemade food! The sheets are extremely delicate and can rip easily, so be careful when handling them.

We spotted gold-adorned foods at Matcha Cafe Maiko, Maruya and The Shota to name a few, but there are plenty of spots around the Bay dipping into this trend.

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What are the food trends you're predicting for 2019? Is it more alternative milks? Maybe a twist on cannabis cuisine? Tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with your guesses.

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