News Column

Food Trends 2013: Homemade, Fermentation

Jan 23, 2013

Bethany Clough, The Fresno Bee


A new year means new trends, especially when it comes to food.

Fresno -- often slightly behind bigger, trendier cities, but always in touch with its agricultural roots -- has its own unique set of food trends.

We asked people in the food world what they predict we'll see in 2013 and here is what they said.

Homemade food

A new state law makes it easier for people who cook at home to sell what they make -- and that could give the Valley an economic boost.

The California Homemade Food Act went into effect Jan. 1. For many food producers, it removes the requirement that their food be prepared in a commercial kitchen. Without the costly expense of renting a kitchen, you can expect to see more locally made jams, dried fruit and baked goods for sale.

And with so many of the vegetables and fruit that go into such foods grown right here, the Valley is a ripe place for new food businesses to get their start.

"I think it's a burgeoning opportunity for food entrepreneurs," said Craig Scharton, Fresno's business development director.

There still are some limits on what food producers can do. The law doesn't allow the sale of homemade perishables such as meat or baked goods made with cream filling. And home cooks will need to register with their county health department, pass a test and, in some cases, get their kitchens inspected.

But the county health department and farmers markets are already getting inquiries from interested people.

For more information, check out the "cottage food operations" page on the California Department of Public Health's website.


It may not sound as yummy as last year's cupcake trend, but a fermented food trend is starting to take off in Fresno.

Proponents say the good bacteria that form during the fermenting of sauerkraut, yogurt, vegetables and other foods is beneficial for the digestive system.

Last year, The Art of Fermentation, a guide to do-it-yourself fermentation, landed on the New York Times best seller list. The manager of the Vineyard Farmers Market at Blackstone and Shaw avenues, Felix Muzquiz, says lots of customers are talking about fermenting and vegetables they can do it with.

Revive Cafe, a raw food restaurant downtown, sells a probiotic-laden drink it calls Flo. The drink is made using fermented water kefir -- a bacteria and yeast combination -- and ginger extract and cold-pressed hibiscus tea. It's the house drink and also is sold in bottles.

"As fast as we can make our Flo we can sell it," says owner Ta-raw Hamilton.

Food trucks

The food truck trend took off in 2012 and it will keep rolling through 2013. Initially butting heads with some restaurants, food trucks have found their niche: a series of events where several trucks serve at the same time every week.

Creative Fresno's CartHop events downtown draw hundreds and there are going to be more such events, says Creative Fresno project coordinator H Steele.

The grand opening of CartHop at Eaton Plaza near the downtown water tower happens Feb. 1. Trucks will gather for lunch and musicians will play at the amphitheater from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Friday.

Food truck folks are working hard to host more evening events throughout the year, too, Steele says.

Expect more food trucks to join in, possibly including a seafood truck, Filipino food and a much-loved taco truck.

Smaller portions

For years, the trend in restaurants was to serve bigger and bigger portions, like Claim Jumper's gut-stuffing entrees.

But that trend is starting to change. Health-conscious customers, cash-strapped diners and people getting increasingly familiar with tapas and small plates are all driving some restaurants to shrink portions, according to FSR magazine geared toward restaurateurs and chefs.

Some, like California Pizza Kitchen and Ruth's Chris have started offering smaller options in recent years.

Chef Matt Babcock has pushed smaller portion sizes at Cafe Via on Blackstone Avenue near Herndon Avenue. He is finding customers appreciate it now.

"You still have to make them full, but you don't have to stuff them to the gills," he says.

Plenty of restaurants in Fresno still are serving the more-bang-for-your-buck style entrees, but don't be surprised if, sooner or later, your meal is a little bit smaller.

Source: (c)2013 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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