Free Range Grumbling

Whatever happened to food? In an effort to be hip, chic, “cutting edge,” different, attention-getting, and yes, even pretentious, restaurants and recipes now proudly present their mondo bizarro ideas of new cuisine. Their mantra now seems to be: “If you can concoct it and give it a fancy name, they will eat it.”  And, pay outrageous amounts for it. I’m reminded of a fight between Niles and Daphne on Frasier – where Daphne accused Niles of being pretentious: “You’d eat a worm if I gave it a French name!” Gotta love Niles, he made that show.

“Would mademoiselle care to begin with our house specialty appetizer, Vers de terre pochés served with a reduction of l’eau des marais?” Poached earthworms served with a swamp water reduction.  It’s getting out of hand, I tell you.

The new rage is evident in what can best be called Transparent Pumpkin Pie.  Basically, it’s clear, pumpkin-flavored Jell-O made into tiny pies. They claim to get the pumpkin flavor from its essence. Yes, it’s essence. The essence, or distillate if you will, is extracted in a thing called a rotary evaporator. Usually used in chemistry labs, a kitchen version of one will only set you back a few thousand dollars. That’s a hell of a lot of miniature, transparent pumpkin pies.

click the pic for more info on the restaurant serving this…umm…pie

When I see certain words on menus or in recipes, I feel that Western Cuisine is in a tailspin.  Here are a few of them:

  • Deconstructed – What do they do to the entrée, disassemble it? Why yes, yes, they do. My deconstructed pizza had the green pepper and mushrooms neatly peeled off and stacked on a bed of farm fresh arugula.
  • Essence – I guess this means that they didn’t have enough of something to put it into the meal, so they just waved it over the plate to get that waft of…whatever.
  • Foraged – For example, foraged morel mushrooms…I’m sorry, but I simply don’t envision the chef crawling around in the woods on all fours to find the mushrooms he put on my morel and asparagus salad.
  • Hand Selected – As opposed to robot or cockroach selected. Seriously though, this one is most confusing of all, because if it’s not hand selected, what is it??
  • Artisanal – “Made with loving care by a professional.” If that’s true, this is an artisanal blog! But really, when you think about it, aren’t all recipes artisanal? I mean, they should be unless they’re made by a machine…which I guess is to be expected in mass-produced items, but restaurants, especially of the swanky variety? Not so much. 
  • Foam – I’ve seen this in offerings ranging from new-age drinks to toppings for savory entrees to dessert. Personally, I’ve always thought it was the stuff I spray on my legs to shave them, not a deconstructed essence of foraged lime shot out of an aerosol can.

New restaurants, to remain popular (and open) need to come up with more and more outlandish foods to keep their target audience intrigued. Much of it is driven by two words that I never thought would have any connection to food: Molecular Gastronomy. It is science, chemistry, and physics combined to find new ways to prepare food. Because these types of dishes can take a long time to prepare, they usually come with two things: small portions – as in elf-size portions and high prices.

As cool as the whole process is – from a chemistry-set loving perspective, I’m not sure that I would be happy with a meal of ginger-orange gelatin sheets, pearls made from balsamic vinegar, avocado mousse with soy sauce jelly, a spoonful of tomato water spherification with basil oil infusion, and faux-caviar made from olive oil and ingredients I can’t pronounce that you’d be more likely to find in a science classroom.  Evil things are being done to food to make these dishes, I tell you.

I know, I know. Some people don’t mind paying $250 to $500 for a meal of these things…wine extra. As for me, just give me some plain ol’ kick-ass eggplant parmesan and chocolate molten lava cake and I’m in heaven.

What’s For Dinner?

I’m an admitted foodie and I love…well…food. Nothing beats a good Irish pub, but I enjoy branching out and trying new things, to a point. Not that I like Burger King on a good day, for a variety of reasons, but their recent mishmash of food items has just reached a whole new level of ridiculousness.  First it was mac and Cheetos. An insult to mac and cheese if you ask me. Though others I know have raved about it. Now this. Cheetos chicken fries. Uh…no thanks. I’ll pass. Is this what we’ve come to, folks? This is what we’re offered as “food.” Really? I mean, I know it’s fast food and all and they’re likely trying to get that eccentric crowd who enjoys the strange mash-ups often served at carnivals, but seriously, this is just going too far.

 

cheetos-chicken-fries

Really, Betty Crocker?

So I saw these at the grocery store yesterday. Maple Bacon Cookies. And if that’s not bad enough, there is Maple Bacon Icing to go on the Maple Bacon Cookies. No, I didn’t buy any. Is this what we’ve come to folks? I guess they’re a “thing,” because otherwise they wouldn’t be at the grocery store, right? Displayed prominently on the outer aisle no less. But I just can’t imagine that they’re actually good.  At least I’m not willing to try.  I know, I know, I always tell my kids…try something at least once before passing judgement.  But in this case, I vehemently choose not to practice what I preach.

 

maple bacon cookie mix

COOKIE MIX

 

ICING FOR THE COOKIE MIX

ICING FOR THE FINISHED COOKIES — SEE THE LITTLE CRUMBLIES TO PUT OVER THE TOP?