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TND – Oh Just Die Already

April 19, 2012

In the late ‘90s there was a show on HBO called Oz which was all about life inside a maximum security prison (it was a lot better than I just made it sound – the writing was fantastic). Anyway, it was the quintessential ‘don’t get too attached to this character’ show. On the one hand, this was terrible because sometimes your favorite characters ended up getting shived out of nowhere. And, on the other hand, when there was a really irritating character you could shout ‘just die already’ at your TV with a fair chance that it might actually happen. The downside is that after watching eight seasons of Oz some of that attitude spilled over into other areas of our life – some of it TV related, and some of it really not. Case in point, there are some food trends I would like to just die already . . . .

Bacon in places it doesn’t belong
Do not get me wrong, I love bacon. I love it melted into stews, and as crispy bits in salads, and lacquered with maple syrup and black pepper alongside my plate of eggs for brunch. Where I do not love it? Ice cream. Chocolate. Brownies. Chocolate Chip Cookies. I get the whole salty & sweet thing, and the different textures – crunchy & smooth, but bacon still doesn’t belong in my brownies.

Cupcakeries
Very few things elicit quite so much vitriol amongst a certain subsection of the population (aka Dinner) as the cupcake bakery. This is mostly because 98% of cupcake stores turn out substandard baked good for exorbitant prices, and even if I know better than to buy them I altruistically object to other, less canny, individuals being gypped out of their hard earned money by stale cake and overly sweet frosting. Also, they’re taking up valuable dessert real estate that could be dedicated to other, better, dessert items, like say popsicles.

Red Velvet Anything
I would particularly like the red velvet cupcake to move off the front page. Red Velvet cake/cupcakes are fine, but let’s be honest here the most interesting part of red velvet cake is the color and the amount of cream cheese frosting you can spread on top. Red Velvet Cake is basically a white cake with a lot of red food coloring, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s also nothing all that exciting about it either. Unless it’s shaped like an armadillo and covered in grey icing, in which case I take back everything I just said.

I also polled Dinner (& honorary Dinner members who live elsewhere) about what things they’d like to consign to the fiery furnace, and got the following responses:

Frozen Yogurt
It’s looking like the new cupcake store is going to be the tart frozen yogurt shop (think Pink Berry and Berry Freeze). Google maps suggest that there are at least five different frozen yogurt vendors in the Back Bay area – including two that are directly across the street from each other. And that doesn’t include all the local ice cream places that also produce tart frozen yogurt, like JP Licks. This is actually not one of my particular pet peeves, I really like tart frozen yogurt and since I neither live nor work near any of the many many frozen yogurt vendors it’s a special weekend, marginally out of my way, treat for me. However, other people at Dinner work in places where a second frozen yogurt shop is opening shortly and would have liked for at least one of these frozen confection locations to be dedicated to the gourmet popsicle instead (look, we were all seduced by the popsicles at Meltdown when we were in New Orleans last summer).

Salted Caramel Anything
Exact comment, “Not saying it’s not good . . . . but so are a lot of other things.” Followed with, “Die in a fire salted caramel.”
It should be noted that there was vehement disagreement about this assertion from other members of Dinner. I’m ambivalent on the subject, mostly because unless it’s the only thing on offer caramel isn’t a flavor I tend towards. I usually opt for mint, chocolate, or citrus flavored things instead. Entertainingly, what appeared in my food blog feed this morning but a recipe for a Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart.

Menus that are pretentious to the point of incoherence
I’m talking about the menus that make you feel stupid, or like an overly picky eater, because they’re so spare that you can’t actually figure out what’s being offered. For example “Carrot, Barley, Yogurt” to me is not a dish description. Is that a salad? Is it a dip? Is it warm, cold? Or, “Hake, Crab, Citrus” is that cooked or raw? Because braised, roasted, broiled, or panfried and that could be tasty, raw and I probably don’t want to order it. I object to having to ask the waiter to then describe each dish for me – it’s a waste of their time, plus it makes me feel like I’m being insufficiently ‘foodie’ to be seated at the restaurant. I don’t want to be judged by the menu.

On the flip side are the menus that list the provenance of each and every single ingredient. The farm-to-table restaurant is particularly guilty of this sin. I’m all for local sourcing of ingredients, but I don’t need to know what precise field my mushrooms and spinach were dug up from. Put a list of vendors at the back of the menu and have done with it, otherwise I start worrying that someone somewhere has named my chicken and I’m eating some child’s beloved pet. Also, it just makes reading the menu exhausting.

Thus endeth the vitriol for the week (hopefully).

Ham Steaks
Roasted Butternut Squash & Grapes
Apple Sauce
Green Beans

In my defense, I did not know it was going to unseasonably summer-like when I planned this menu (89 on Monday/80 on Tuesday). When I planned this menu I was thinking about the two ham steaks in my freezer, and how I needed ¾ lb of butternut squash for another dinner this week, and oooh apple sauce. I was assuming that the weather would hold steady with the mid-60s sunshine that we’ve been enjoying for the past couple of weeks and thought I’d sneak one last wintery-ish meal in before the end of the season. I was foiled by New England (don’t like the weather . . . . just wait 45 minutes). It was still tasty, just a trifle out of step with the temperature.

Ham Steaks

Roasted Butternut Squash & Grapes

Recipe previously given: Cleaning Up the Fridge

Apple Sauce

Recipe previously given: Bangers-n-Mash

Green Beans
Tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and lots of minced garlic and lemon zest, which is my new favorite way to ingest yet a little more garlic.

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5 comments

  1. I’m sorry you find my menus that frustrating.


    • Sorry, didn’t mean to single y’all out specifically. I understand the tasting menu concept that you’re going for, it’s just that a more traditional menu approach works better for me.

      I am at times willing to “trust the chef” and eat whatever is provided to me, but most of the time I want more control over what I’m ordering than that. Rightly or wrongly when I have to ask to have a dish described to me, I then feel judged on whether I do or don’t end up ordering it. When I’m going out for a ‘nice’ dinner feeling silly or unaccepted taints the experience for me.

      I also love being able to peruse past/current menus for restaurants in advance so that I can work up a healthy sense of excited anticipation before going out for a special meal.

      – Petra


  2. All I’m saying is, with SO MANY different dessert options, why does one of the options always have to be salted caramel? And what’s wrong with having something sweet for dessert? Why can’t it be caramel caramel? Why add salt? Are they afraid there wasn’t enough sodium in the main dish? Are they under the impression I’ve been working in the yard under the hot sun all day? Yes, I understand that salt brings out the flavor in many dishes, but I’ve never had a problem defining the flavor of caramel. Because it tastes like caramel.

    At this point I’d rather have a red velvet mini cupcake than salted caramel anything. And I love caramel. Way to ruin a good thing, foodies.


    • That is quite a statement of antipathy. Not just a red velvet cupcake instead of salted caramel, but a mini red velvet cupcake no less.


  3. […] wait 45 minutes. Some weeks I manage to coordinate what I’m serving with the weather nicely, and some weeks I’m really off the mark. Spring and Fall are particularly difficult in terms of predicting what the weather’s going to be […]



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