Trends That Should End
The rise of mac and cheese: a good trend. From Google Trends.
Oh, yes. It’s that time of year, when serious eaters everywhere assess the foodscape to determine what we’re going to see more of on our plates next year and how we feel about it. While there are a few things all of us at Serious Eats are excited about, like salted caramel ice cream, gnudi, and heritage pork, there are a few things we are scared of. Very scared.
First the good trends we would like to see blow up into a continuing presence in our mouths.
Heritage pork: Luscious, succulent, porky deliciousness (in the right hands).
Gnudi: These little cloudlike ricotta dumplings are just so delicious served with butter. And sage.
Gastro pubs: Places like the Spotted Pig in New York, the Standard Tap Room in Philadelphia, Avec in Chicago, and the Palace Kitchen in Seattle make us happy with their publike atmosphere and serious, unpretentious food.
Salted caramel ice cream (with or without peanuts): It’s salty, it’s sweet, it literally melts in your mouth. And when there are salted peanuts added, you have a triumphant crunch. What more could we ask for in a dessert?
Mac and Cheese: It's everywherefrom barbecue joints, to soul food eateries, to four star restaurants. New York has two mac and cheeseonly restaurants. How could that be bad?
Now the bad (and sometimes even ugly).
TRENDS THAT SHOULD END
Savory ice creams and other sweets: If we never see another dish of basil ice cream, that would be fine with us. Whatever happened to a perfect scoop of vanilla, chocolate, or coffee ice cream, with some hot fudge or chocolate sauce? That’s our idea of heaven.
Celebrity chefdriven steakhouses: Pots and pans, yes. Cookbooks, sure. But why can’t rock star chefs leave steak to the Peter Lugers, Bern’s, Murray’s, Pacific Dining Car, and the other local steakhouses around the country.
Celebrity chefdriven burger joints In-N-Out, yes. Shake Shack in New York City, sure we love it. Hudson’s in Idaho, Red Mill in Seattle, Dyer’s in Memphis, the Apple Pan in Los Angelesthey all serve our burger Platonic ideal. The BLT Burgers of the world should be banned.
Restaurant concepts: Whatever happened to good old restaurants with an original idea and an obsessed individual behind that idea? Does every restaurant have to be cloned to be deemed successful? We don’t think so. We need more restaurants and fewer concepts.
Televisions in the bar of upscale restaurants: We love television. We watch it a lot. But when we go out to a nice restaurant, we’d like to enjoy the place itself along with the people we’re eating with, and not the Simpsons. We do admit that the Simpsons episode in which Homer becomes a restaurant critic is a perfect 22 minutes of television. (NB: Our friends at Eater had a nice piece about this trend earlier in the year.
Really bad Euro techno music in restaurants: We love music, but must we listen to it as we dig into a great plate of pasta or some of those terrific gnudi we talked about above? And somebody needs to tell restaurateurs around the country that bad European techno music should never be heard in a restaurant, or anywhere else for that matter.
Bad pork bellies are just blubber: A properly cooked pork belly with just about all of the fat rendered with a crispy crust is one of life’s great pleasures. A sloppily cooked slice of pork belly is just a piece of blubber with a little edge.
'Molecular gastronomy' in the wrong hands is a dangerous thing: The Grant Achatz and the Wylie Dufresnes of the world should be applauded. They’re stretching the art of great cooking. But the second-rate chefs who eat one meal at El Bulli and think they’re Ferran Adrià don’t realize that bad foam belongs in cheap mattresses.
OK. That's our wheat-from-chaff list. Now we want to hear from you, Serious Eaters. What food trends make you cranky, and which ones make you salivate?