5 Food Trends We're Thankful For: An Antidote To Whiny Food Writer Syndrome
We food writers are a cranky bunch. Given today's blog cycle and demand for daily conversation, any small nuance of the dining world is fodder for essay-length dissection, usually of the negative variety. We don't like small plates. We don't like communal dining. We think wine prices are rising. We're sick of Mason jars. We think our dislike of tasting menus is worthy of multi-thousand word articles comparing chefs to murderous dictators.
Jason Neroni via Instagram Superba Snack Bar chef Jason Neroni details his gratitude on the mirror above Superba's dining room.
The tone of the conversation is getting me down. It feels as though we're all just searching for the teeniest things to complain about, all the time. Maybe we ought to try harder to find things to be grateful for in this thrilling, ever-growing, amazing time to be in the food business.
With that in mind, we present: 5 Food Trends We're Thankful For, in an attempt to balance out the whining a little. These are the things from the food world that add to our love of the scene, rather than peevish things that annoy us. Enjoy.
5. Amazing vegetables have become ubiquitous.
Anne Fishbein Baby carrots, currants, chermoula creme fraiche at Tar & Roses
Thanks to the farm-to-table tidal wave, veggies are better, fresher, and more varied than ever on all parts of a menu. The latest offshoot of that trend is the elevation of the "sides" portion of a menu. It wasn't that long ago that vegetable sides were usually only offered at steakhouses and fancy restaurants, and even then they were often confined to asparagus, mashed potatoes, and maybe broccoli. Now, almost every new restaurant, regardless of genre, has a long and thoughtful list of vegetable sides, and often the chefs have taken just as much care with them as they have with the meat dishes. Sunchokes, romanesco cauliflower, heirloom carrots and turnips are all commonplace, so much so that it feels almost obvious to point it out. This is something for which we should be insanely grateful.
4. Service is getting better:
Anne Fishbein Servers at Superba Snack Bar
When fine dining died (or at least took a major hit), good service went with it. So much of great service had been an offshoot of fine dining -- true service professionals came up in an era when the test of a fantastic waiter was things like which side you served from and whether you knew how to fold napkins elaborately. When the casual revolution happened, it's as if many restaurants didn't know how to provide good service without those formal trappings, and we devolved into an era of "Hi, my name's Mark and I'll be taking care of you this evening. Have you dined with us before?" There's still far too much of that kind of scripted service, but recently I've noticed more and more places with relaxed waiters who know food and wine, can talk about it competently, are genuinely enthusiastic, and make sure you have everything you need without the crutch of a canned, fake-sounding script. A couple of examples of great, casual service I've had recently: Superba Snack Bar, where the waitress' enthusiasm for wine and food was infectious, and Cortez, where the welcome was very much like being fussed over by an adoring aunt.
3. Stinky fish are back in style:
Anne Fishbein Spanish mackerel at Mo Chica
Ten years ago, it was considered a gamble to put any fish on the menu outside of halibut, salmon, tuna or trout. In the meantime, more and more fish have become common on menus, and finally recently we're seeing sardines, mackerel, and other delicious oily fishy fish become commonplace. Good places to get your fishy fill? Bestia, for grilled sardines, Sotto for grilled mackerel.
2. Drinking is getting better across the board:
Anne Fishbein Housemade shrubs for use in sodas at Baco Mercat
The cocktail revolution has had plenty of press (although, truly, if there's one single thing that's made upscale dining 200 times better in the last few years, that's it), but drinking is better on just about every front. Wine lists are getting more interesting, stranger, cooler, with more restaurants willing to take chances on young, unconventional winemakers and odd, obscure wines. Refreshing, low-alcohol ciders are showing up on more and more menus. Even on the non-alcoholic side things are looking up. One of my favorite trends is the house-made soda -- Alma, Baco Mercat and others are making stunning, produce-driven non-alcoholic drinks.
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