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Wacky Food Trends for 2012

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By Kate Krader, Restaurant Editor, Food & Wine

Follow Kate on Twitter: @kkrader

It's time to bring some new things into your life: squirrel, fish bones, black water. Here's a few things you should start eating immediately to be on the cutting edge of the food world.

Chocolate-Covered Sprouts. Last year Frito-Lay began putting natural foods in their snacks. (Brief round of applause for them.) Now comes junk food that's having even more of an identity crisis. Lulu's raw, organic Smoked Sea Salt Almond Chocolate Bar (that's a mouthful) is made with sprouted almonds--sprouts being a supercool health food these days. Is that better than Shiloh Farms Dark Chocolate Covered Sprouted Almonds? There's only one way to find out.

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Fish Spines. We've come a long way from the days when nose-to-tail was a novelty (back in the olden days, about eight years ago). Even fried fish bones are now almost as ubiquitous as sliders on menus, at least in NYC where I live, at places like En Japanese Brasserie and Brooklyn's Isa in Brooklyn. The new frontier is fried fish spines. At Blue Ribbon Bar & Grill in midtown Manhattan, they serve specials like fried wild eel spine--it's the size of a pencil. They're also eating the gills from wild king yellowtail: first they dehydrate them, then they fry them, and serve them "just for fun," says Blue Ribbon Manager Rich Ho.

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Unnaturally Black Foods. Black foods are nothing new. So it's foods like squid ink pasta and blackout chocolate cake (what I like to think of as "naturally occurring black foods") that have paved the way for this new breed of black foods. Specifically the jet black burger buns that anchor the "Darth Vader" burger which recently debuted at France's fast food chain, Quick. And of blk., the black health water that's the brainchild of Albie and Chris Manzo, who you know from the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Like the Manzo brothers, you might not understand exactly what makes the water black, but is that really the point of this water? No, it's not.

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Random Animals. Recently some high-profile people in the food world have offered opinions on what we can eat in the name of causes like saving the planet, and pushing boundaries. Rene Redzepi, chef of Noma in Copenhagen, aka the world's best restaurant, recommended that people in the United States start eating squirrel (he hashtagged them "rabbit of the sky" on Twitter). And Bizarre Foods hero Andrew Zimmern came back from a trip to Beijing energized by a 10-course donkey tasting. "Donkey should be on everyone's plate in 2012," he says.

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