Using Google Trend Reports to Predict Future Food Trends

Photo by Pamela
Will anything trump cupcakes?
We recently came across an article on the Huffington Post food section (you know, an ideal source for incredibly accurate news), and found an article entitled "According To Google, Nothing Is Ever Going To Trump The Cupcake."

That can't be right, we thought, weary of the cupcake. It's been a very trendy food item for years now, and while most food writers and chefs admit to being so over the cupcake, the Huffington Post claims that Google Trends shows the cupcake's popularity isn't in decline. Unfortunately.

The image above shows the comparisons the HuffPo author made to prove that the cupcake is still going strong.

Disheartened, we made our own chart showing the rise of the cupcake and other similar baked goods.

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Houston's Best Flaming Dishes and Drinks (in Honor of Pride Week)

Photo courtesy Oceanaire
Have your dinner (or dessert) with some flair.
Everybody loves a good show at dinner, and in honor of Pride Week here in Houston, we're looking at some of the most flamboyant flammable dishes in town.

To flambé a dish is to do more than merely set food in a pan on fire. In order for something to be flambéed, sauce containing alcohol must be lit on fire, either with a match or lighter or by tilting the edge of the alcohol-filled pan toward the burner until the heat ignites the liquid.

The surface of burning alcohol reaches temperatures greater than 500 degrees Fahrenheit, which causes chemical reactions to take place in the food/sauce that's been ignited. The technique is frequently used in the preparation of desserts, because heating the sugar to such temperatures causes it to caramelize.

Whether it's a dessert, a main dish or a drink, though, a little fire sure makes things more exciting.

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The Worst Restaurant Names in Houston

Categories: Off the Wall

Photo courtesy Crapitto's
Aw, we still love (and miss) you, Crapitto's!
With Pho King, Pho Kim and Crapitto's closed, what restaurants are there left in Houston to ridicule?

Plenty, it turns out.

The conversation at a recent media dinner turned to bad restaurant names when we started discussing the current contender for worst moniker: TABLE. Only a few of us had been and reported the food to be pretty good, but...that name. We pictured the chefs, owners and marketing team sitting in the restaurant hurriedly trying to come up with a designation to replace Philippe now that Philippe Schmidt was no longer a part of the restaurant.

Then, we imagine, one of them looked down at the platform around which they were seated.

"Knife? No, that sounds violent. Napkin? No, too close to the Britishism for diaper. I've got it! TABLE. But in all caps. It looks fancier that way. It tells diners nothing about the food or concept, but it lets them know that this is definitely a restaurant. Or a furniture store. Whatever, let's just call the damn thing TABLE."

OK, so there was probably a little more thought in it than that. And just to be clear, the fact that we think the name is, well, dumb, does not reflect in any way our opinions of the food or the restaurant itself. That's true of all the restaurants on this list. They try hard and are quality establishments.

But damn, some of these names are bad.

This story continues on the next page.

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Dear Artisan Toast Craze: Please Don't Come to Houston

Categories: Off the Wall

Photo from
Toast is the new black.
Houston tends to be a little late to the game, food-trend-wise.

The whole food truck-trend didn't really take off here until 2011, long after the gourmet meal on wheels had become popular in places like Los Angeles and New York. We're still going gaga over cupcakes, a trend that felt played out even in St. Louis when I moved away from there last year. Gourmet doughnuts, which have been filling bakery cases in Seattle, Portland, New York and San Francisco for some time now, are finally beginning to pop up here in H-Town.

And that's okay. We know that trends will eventually make it to our muggy little corner of the world, and we're great at building up excitement in anticipation (remember the whole cronut thing?).

But I have a request for the latest and weirdest in food trends, expensive artisan toast. Please, for the love of all that is good and hearty, do not come to Houston.

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The Ultimate Hot Sauce Taste Test

Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
Behold, all the glorious sauces from aisle 13 at H-E-B.
There's evidence that people in the Amazon basin were eating chili peppers as much as 6,100 years ago. Shortly thereafter, from what we can tell, native South Americans began domesticating the plant with the fiery hot fruit. They weren't content to simply forage for it. They needed it at all times.

Many thousands of years later, we can still relate. The first thing we do upon getting a bowl of gumbo, a basket of wings or a plate of tacos is reach for the hot sauce. We've come to expect--and crave--both the heat and the acidity in each bottle of vinegar-soaked pepper purée.

But as anyone who's ever been to a Bloody Mary bar can attest, there are a lot of sauces out there on the market. Tabasco is the oldest recognizable one, tracing its roots back to 1868. In areas of the country not so saturated with hot sauce, Tabasco and hot sauce are synonymous.

Here, though, where Mexican and Cajun food abound, we have much more than just Tabasco to choose from at most grocery stores and even most restaurants. How is one to decide which is the best?

Armed with crackers and a pint of milk, I set out to determine that for you.

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Ten Best Signs You're a Houston Foodie

Photo by Robb Walsh
Quick! Name those fajitas!
Sure, you live in Houston. Maybe you even grew up in Houston. But are you a true Houston foodie?

Do you plan your days off around which type of ethnic food you most want to eat, and stick to a single neighborhood for hours so as to properly indulge and explore?

Do you make a sport of going to Revival Market for doughnuts and Shipleys on North Main for boudin kolaches on the same day in an attempt to actually acquire both before they sell out?

Do the folks behind the counter at Burt's Meat Market greet you by name?

Do you know the significance of the red cup at Ruchi's?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you might be a Houston foodie. Here are some other criteria.

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10 Best Kitchen Tools We Need to Invent Right Now

Photo courtesy Kickstarter
I cannot believe I've made it this long in life without an egg-scrambler.
In news of the dumb, a Chicago inventor recently achieved Kickstarter success and Internet fame with a device that he purports will scramble an egg without breaking or penetrating the shell. It's called the Golden Goose--you know, because the result is a golden egg--and in just a few days, the unusual instrument has raised $109,001 on Kickstarter, nearly $75,000 more than its initial goal. The device works by using centrifugal force to mix the white and the yolk without introducing any outside air. The egg can then be hard or soft boiled and enjoyed.

Which leads us to...why? Is it too hard to just scramble an egg? Do "Golden Eggs" somehow taste better than regular ol' eggs? Does rotating an egg really fast in a plastic contraption make you look cool? Hell if I know.

But this got us thinking. There are definitely some voids in our kitchen tool collection--voids that exist not because we haven't purchased certain items, but because these items for which we pine do not yet exist. If there are any intrepid inventors out there, please, start the design and development process now.

And when you become the next big as-seen-on-TV sensation, we want a cut.

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3-D Printed Food Is a Thing...But Do You Want to Eat It?

Photo courtesy Natural Machines
Hey, Foodini! Make me a sandwich! (Note: It doesn't work like that)
It's called Foodini. Rhymes with Houdini. As if it might, at some point, perform some feat of escape artistry.

It's just a box, though, sort of like a microwave with a computer screen on the front. Capsules containing blended food are loaded into the machine, and it's programmed to squirt out the food mush into geometric shapes and patterns. If the food then needs to be cooked, you cook it.

But the point of Foodini is to cut out the prep time. You don't have sprinkle flour all over a surface to roll out pizza dough. You don't have to shape cookies. You don't have to cut and fill ravioli. Foodini does that for you.

If it sounds a little like something out of The Jetsons, that's not such a stretch.

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10 Best Food Emojis We Desperately Need

Categories: Off the Wall

Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
I really don't think we need all those sushi iterations.
While working on the article about searching Yelp using emojis this week, I realized that the emoji canon has some rather glaring omissions. Sure, I could search for a burger place or Italian food or sushi, but what if I want a sandwich? A cupcake? Some charcuterie?

Emojis were first invented in Japan in 1998, and they've certainly evolved since then (hell, there's a floppy disk and a crystal ball, should you ever find yourself chatting about obsolete '90s technology or fortune tellers), but there are still many things missing.

I polled a few local chefs, restaurateurs and food personalities to see what they thought might be a useful addition to the oeuvre of emojis, and then I made a list of my own, featuring images I constantly find myself wishing I could text into the stratosphere.

What would you add to the already vast (and bizarre) lineup?

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You Can Now Search Yelp with Emojis (For the Spelling-Challenged)

Categories: News, Off the Wall

In case words are too difficult for you to manage or you're a 13-year-old girl with an iPhone (you know, when I was your age...), Yelp has just made things a little easier on you.

Now, instead of actually typing words like "pizza" or "hamburger" in the search box when you want to find a restaurant, all you have to do is type an emoji. You know, those little pictographs invented in Japan and now available on just about any smart phone.

The system seems to work pretty well for pizzerias, hamburger joints and ice cream parlors, but avid emoji users will immediately recognize possible shortcomings of the system. How, for instance, is one to find a Mexican restaurant when there's no taco or burrito emoji available? What good is that damn flan emoji? And what happens if you search for something random like, oh, I don't know, that eminently useful Easter Island head?

We did the research so you don't have to.

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