Doesn’t it seem like food is getting kind of insane? Maybe it’s some kind of reactionary response to the shitty economy, or an exercise in pushing the boundaries of kitchen creativity, but today’s sweets and savories are evolving into edible Frankensteins. Are these culinary creatures the new comfort foods?
Maybe you can’t afford to treat yo’self too extravagantly after a miserable day at your miserable low-paying start-up job, but damn, you’ve got to do something to boost your mood after that three-hour meeting about how to have effective meetings. A snack will cheer you up fast, but cupcakes? So pedestrian. Oooh, but a cupcake that’s baked inside of a pie that’s encased in foie gras ganache and topped with a slice of gold-plated artisan bacon? Now that’s just as special as you are, you pretty little princess.
Indulging in over-the top-dishes can feel adventurous, even naughty, as you embark upon an odyssey of innovative flavor mash-ups and obscene amounts of calories. I could go into more cultural analysis, but I’m starving. The next time you want to reward yourself for making it through another day of content management at the failing daily deal company, or soothe the fragments of your freshly dumped ego, go put one of the following things into your toothy food hole.
Bacon’s been a “thing” for awhile. Pretty soon, people will be rolling their eyes at the blasé-ness of it all, just like they do when other formerly smokin’ hot trends come up in conversation. Remember LOLCats? And Rebecca Black? And T-shirts with mustached owls on them? Come on. You loved that shit. Bacon may never jump the shark. But if it does – who gives a fuck? More for you. Frankly, if every piece of bacon tasted like the Millionaire’s Bacon ($6.75) at Sweet Maple, pigs would be begging to be slaughtered in the hopes of one day having their beautifully butchered bellies baked under a cozy blanket of brown sugar, maple syrup, and red pepper. An orgy of sweet, salty, spicy, and porky.
Chicken and waffles has fast become an American standard, but chicken and cupcakes? Turns out it’s equally fantastic and even more sinful. At American Cupcake, the Red Velvet Fried Chicken ($16) gets a luxurious bath in red velvet cake batter and then coated in red velvet breading before it’s tossed into the fryer to crackle away. The result is the epitome of the best food the Deep South has to offer. The chicken is juicy and perfect, its crispy coating as light as air and gently chocolaty. Served on a pillow of cream cheese mashed potatoes and garnished with a crunchy cocoa slaw. Because why not?
The tortilla chip is the least important, least exciting part of a chip-based snack – a mere conduit for salsas, dips, melted cheeses. Replacing them with a tastier, more substantial item as a foundation for something like nachos is a no-brainer for carb whores and flavor freaks. Enter the tater tot! Specifically, the Tot-chos ($7.95) at Bullitt. This is fat kid slumber party food: crispy tots drizzled with creamy cheese sauce, sour cream, and guacamole. It all ends up swirled together like a delectable Tex-Mex fondue. A confetti of diced black olives, onions, tomatoes, and jalapeños adds color and a little bit of crunch. The accompanying pile of napkins adds dignity.
Barely edging out Justin Bieber as my favorite Canadian export? Poutine. If poutine was my boyfriend, I’d never let it go. Instead, I’d put it in my mouth all day long. You would too, hater. Fries buried under puddles of gravy, piled with squeaky cheese curds? Come on. Yeah ya would. At Citizen’s Band, the Poutine ($6) is a perfect marriage of Canadian specialty and American gluttony. Golden fries having a polyamorous romp with homemade curds, rich mushroom gravy, and pork belly that crackles between your lips. Oinkaroo.
Completing the potato-based trifecta of temptation is the Korean-American glory that is the Gamja Fries ($6) from Namu. The food truck cranks out some seriously good fusion fare, and these fries are like manna from hangover heaven. Hand-cut potatoes loaded with tender diced short ribs (you can choose chicken, but why would you?), spicy kimchi relish, green onions, and gochujang, a jammy condiment made with red chili and fermented soy. By the time you get to the bottom of the cardboard bowl, your tongue is on fire and your heart is singing. Or screaming for mercy. Whatever.
Some people would say that the cheeseburger-donut combo is on the verge of culinary cliché. To those people, I would say a fucking cheeseburger served in between two fucking donuts is masterful and excruciatingly delicious. So tasty that it’s painful to your tongue buds, your bloodstream, and to your nutritionist. The Ringmaster ($11.75) at Straw is a gorgeously spiced burger smothered in cheese and snuggled up between two fluffy glazed donuts. But these aren’t your typical insulin-busters – the donuts are light and bready, only barely kissed with a sugar glaze. They translate more as donut-shaped burger buns. Maybe that’s what they actually are. I would have asked but I was too busy tongue-banging my lunch.
Pie and ice cream is the classic American after-dinner combo. But aren’t forks such a pain in the ass? So much easier if buttery crust and fruit fillings can just be blended into a cold and creamy state, then consumed with a straw. At Chile Pies & Ice Cream, you can customize your own Pie Shake ($8). That’s pie blended into a milkshake. Cue the choir of chubby angels. Pick a pie, pick a flavor of Three Twins ice cream, and pick your jaw up off the floor when you realize that you have to suck it all up with a triple-wide straw. Flavors vary: The day I went, my pie choices included apricot berry, lemon buttermilk, banana cream, green chili apple, and chocolate peanut butter. I went with the apricot berry, blended with chocolate ice cream. And I nearly died of happiness. And from overworked cheek muscles. Sucky sucky.
Gorge yourself into oblivion at Sweet Maple (2101 Sutter St.), American Cupcake (1919 Union St.), Bullitt (2209 Polk St.), Citizen’s Band (1198 Folsom St.), Namu Food Truck (Ferry Building on Thursdays 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m.–2 p.m.; Fort Mason on Fridays 5 p.m.–10 p.m.), Straw (203 Octavia Blvd.), or Chile Pies & Ice Cream (601 Baker St.). Antacid not included.