Flavor of the year: salted caramel
Kim Severson of the Times dubs salty caramel the flavor of the year and explains how food trends take a relatively unknown ingredient and "move it through a cultural sluice box that ends at McDonald's."
Severson writes that, "like grief, American food trends go through five stages" and discusses how salted caramels began as a traditional treat in Brittany and, after jumping a series of hoops--wowing high-end pastry chefs and confectioners, national food magazines, innovative chain restaurants, mainstream supermarkets, and Starbucks--the flavor made its way to a box of Wal-Mart truffles, a.k.a. "complete integration in the American mass market."
I think salted caramel is a worthy pick for flavor of the year. I still remember the first time I tasted the flavor combination, in a scoop of ice cream on a La Belle Vie ice cream sampler a few years ago. The salt seemed to take everything great about caramel--the rich creaminess, the nutty sweetness--and make it that much better. It was just a tiny scoop, but it packed a lot of punch...I think it's telling that I can't remember any of the other flavors on the plate.
Since then, I've enjoyed salty caramel ice cream on a few other fancy dessert plates (one at Forepaugh's a few months ago) and downed nearly half a pint of it at Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco.
Locally, I've seen salty caramels made by Amy Goetz (she makes the Bramblewood Cottage scones and shortbread) at the Golden Fig, salt caramel truffles from B.T. McElrath, and salty caramel ice cream at Izzy's for starters (unfortunately, I'm not sure if Izzy's is carrying it right now, as they don't open until 3 today). Anybody have other suggestions on where to get your salt-caramel fix?