Some of these are sitting ducks and others the restaurant world will resent us for not "getting," but we're sticking to these quibbles, these thorns in our hungry guts. We're looking forward to a year when these trends go away and make room for the freshness of the new.
Nobody, ever, ever said they were hungry for some foam, unless it was floating on top of a glass of beer. Fun to make, not fun to eat, and when it goes away, nobody is ever, ever going to halt, look up from their plate, and demand to know where all the foam has gone. Sauce: delicious. Foam: bloviating as the pontificating politician who can't cite a single newspaper. All fluff, no substance. Go away foam, and dissipate thyself like a thousand tiny bubbles.
9. Big Ass Burgers
Fun to pile high with bacon, special sauce, pot roast, and fontina, burgers are also fun to eat and easy to pay for. But being that the undisputed champion of the local burger world at this moment is Parlour's simple two-patty, two-American-slice simple wonder, it might be time for menus (and diners) to release their death grip on the security blanket of the big ass burger and branch out. Man (or at least woman) can't live on bun and meats alone, and we're curious about the true chefly talent lying in wait for us beyond the burgers, however decadent and cheffed up they may be.
It may be a bit uncomfortable, but like creaky joints after a long slumber, we might begin to slowly shake off the recession ick. Bold restaurateurs are bringing back their white linens and fresh flowers, and luxury dishes that made accountants and diners nervous in recent years are coming back too: Foie gras is making its triumphant return, as are steakhouses and getting comfortable with boldly uttering "omakase!" (chef's choice) at the sushi bar. Next time you're at that steakhouse, you might actually order the cote de boeuf instead of the burger.
8. Tableside Soup Pouring
We can get down with the notion that soup loses a little heat when leaving the kitchen, but it couldn't have been all that much heat, or every cup of soup since the beginning of restaurant time would have been sent back. It's also nigh impossible to get excited about watching a server pour soup from a teapot, as though it were some sort of action item. Novel the first time, but a bit like watching the proverbial paint dry every subsequent time.
7. Esoteric Cocktail Listings
Be very honest now: When presented with a cocktail menu that lists Tomatin 12 yr, Araki, Farigoule, Sombra, and Cascara, do you even know what any of that stuff is? It's not the cocktails that concern us -- they're better than they've ever been. But when a mixologist is very busy he's not going to talk you through each detail of that complicated concoction, and we've suffered through too many medicinal tinctures as a result of crapshoot ordering. These menus too often read like inside baseball. Go ahead and keep the cool cred, but please also list a simple flavor profile next to each obscure libation. We drunken laypeople will be grateful.
6. Tableside Soliloquys
If the number of words coming out of the server's mouth trumps the number of words between two table-canoodling lovebirds, the food is too complicated, too self-important, or both. Menus, plus specific diner inquiries, should suffice. Save the speech for the lady who truly does demand the name of the farmer and the name of his pig, and allow guests to do the chatting.
5. The Ubiquitous Beet Salad
Yes. Beets, chevre, balsamic, and nuts go together like the Mamas and the Papas. But this is exactly none percent of the possible salad combinations that the universe has to offer. Go beyond. Dream a little.
4. Alinea Style Plating
When the Alinea cookbook published in 2008, all the plating went slim and rectangular like bikini wax landing strips. But unlike bikini wax landing strips it never went away. That plating style worked because it was whimsical, surprising, and even a bit shocking to behold at the time. But Grant Achtaz has moved on -- he continues to play with his food, poking bites onto pointy skewers, upsetting symmetry, plating desserts on Dali-esque Candy Land boards, and going as multidimensional as the dining room will allow. Not every restaurant can be Alinea and we don't want them to be. Achtaz has his own dinnerware and utensil craftsman, and your restaurant probably does not. Be your own restaurant. Perform your own unique artistry.
3. Side Plate
We empathize with the daily grind of the overworked chef. Day after day the same old, same old. But then, we simply can't believe that moving the entree just a few degrees can infuse life with thrills anew. And now that side plate seems to be the standard plating technique, we fear it will go the way of the Alinea plate and just never go away. Until, that is, the day comes when middle-plate produces chills for the world-weary cook.
2. "Tap, filtered, or sparkling water?"
What a perfect way to instantly make your guest feel like a rube. If we're the sorts of folks content with tap, then clearly we'll just have the rail vodka and we don't need silverware either, we can just eat with our hands. In fact, we'll just grunt and point our way through the rest of the menu. In other words: If we want a bottle of water or a Perrier, we will order one. That is all.
1. Charcuterie Boards
Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. The now-omnipresent charcuterie board is like an eight-year-old with a magic trick book. You sit at the table and politely grin while he does his best rendition of disappearing a fork beneath a napkin. Cute, but overly earnest ham-handed (sorry). And, are we really supposed to know, much less remember and taste the difference between capicola, cotechino, and cacciatore? It all starts to come together like a salt lick and we want to swipe our date's beer and down it like we're a runner at the end of a race. If we're not sitting in Spain with a jamón hanging over our heads and a glass of manzanilla in our hands, or if Mike Phillips (Red Table Meats) didn't make it, we don't need any meat boards for a while. Asking the general public to relish head cheese is like telling a kid his tricks are unsophisticated. Just mean.
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