Just as with what we wear, what we eat is strongly influenced by the trickle-down effect of creative ideas and the cultural atmosphere we’re making decisions in. But, at what point does an ingredient or dish that once seemed utterly fresh become completely stale?
A classic like roast chicken may be safe, but most dishes are not so timeless. For example: The Korean taco. What started as a food-truck highlight from Kogi in Los Angeles has wended its way to TGI Friday’s menus everywhere. And recently, a bacon-studded sundae has appeared at Burger King. When a dish turns up on a chain restaurant menu, it’s over.
"A lot of old school stuff feels cool right now,"says chef David Katz of Mémé. Think 60s-style snacks like devils on horseback or the recent return of iceberg lettuce.
For Katz, it isn't so much specific ingredients or dishes that feel out of style, but rather techniques and presentation. "I'm glad to see all those square plates from the mid-2000s are finally going away."
Chef Matt Levin, currently of Square Peg restaurant, thinks that simple overuse drains an ingredient of its relevance. And chefs and diners alike have probably seen enough of the worst offenders, like the ubiquitous Asian pear in a goat cheese-topped salad.
Chefs agree that plates can get overcrowded with arbitrary ingredients in an effort to make attention-grabbing menus. Restraint on the part of the kitchen is key to eliminating clichés and letting a chef's authentic personal style shine through. Chef Gregory Vernick, of the new Vernick Food & Drink, says his menu evolves daily with small tweaks to refine it and keep it fresh. "The best ingredient is the one you leave out," says Vernick. His advice echoes Coco Chanel's fashion axiom that before you leave the house you should remove the last item you put on.
The following list of 10 out-of-style foods was culled from interviews with chefs and food-world insiders. Quotes are unattributed, because no one wants to bash their friends who may be living in the past, but also because chefs agree that even the most clichéd ingredient or dish can be made interesting and new with an innovative approach.
·Coulis (a thick French sauce made from pureed fruits or vegetables): "It isn't 1992."
·Piquillo peppers (a small, mild chili traditionally from Spain that's usually preserved in brine): "Especially, a stuffed piquillo pepper."
·Roasted beet salad with goat cheese and walnuts: "I remember when this salad was good, but now it puts people to sleep."
·Patatas bravas (Spanish-style fried potatoes): "Jose Garces can keep serving these, but everyone else needs to let them go."
·Sun-dried tomatoes: "So Food Network."
·Wasabi mashed potatoes: "These were bad even when they were cool."
·Vertical food: "Anything stacked high or garnished with a tall spear of greens."
·Gratuitous eggs on top of everything: "Where will this end? Poached eggs on top of ice cream?"
·Truffle oil: "Truffled anything."
·Balsamic vinegar: "But white balsamic is a different story."
So, what ingredients do you think have been done to death? Tell us in the comments.
— Joy Manning
· All Joy Manning contributions [~EPHI~]