Restaurants must constantly evolve in order to stay fresh and ahead of the competition—especially in this insta-blogging, food-crazed world we live in. Chefs do this by creating new menu items, often gourmet versions of a classic dish, and anointing it the Next Big Thing on the culinary scene. Once an epicurean, caviar-flecked deviled egg emerges on a menu on South Beach, it will be widely copied throughout the nation. And who can forget the ubiquity of foams and molecular gastronomy, a trend that is, thankfully, on its way out. Here are six of the most overplayed food concepts.
Food Trucks Drive Me Crazy
Yes, these restaurants on wheels are cool, affordable, quirky, and even delicious. But as they proliferate cities like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and Austin, one has to wonder if it’s too much. New York now seems under siege with these rolling kitchenettes. For every innovative concept ( Rickshaw Dumplings), there’s another gimmicky one on the next corner (such as the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck). Every day a new food truck launches with more fanfare, high-end concepts, and celebrity chefs. Even Disneyland isn’t safe. As the mobile food market gets gourmet, its prices are skyrocketing past the $2 hot dog stands. And wouldn’t you prefer to eat that $7 banh mi pork sandwich or $9 Wagyu beef and broccoli at a proper table instead of standing on a street corner? Chicago, for one, has banned cooking, cutting or prepping onboard, which has basically halted the trucks from clogging its roadways, unless one local chef gets his way. Nevertheless, this trend is going to endure until it finally runs out of gas. Brace yourself for even more stunts on the street.
There Is Such a Thing as Too Much Bacon
The proliferation of bacon in non-traditional arenas has been swift and extra-porky. There are bacon-flavored cocktails, mayonnaise, syrup, ice cream—even multi-colored bacon strips. For those who want to fuse together two annoying food trends, there’s a bacon cupcake making the rounds. Not since Elvis’ peanut butter, banana, and bacon sandwich has there been such a craze for all things porcine. And while at first the enthusiasm of these bacon crusaders was contagious, sometimes it’s OK to make guacamole, or a Bloody Mary, sans pork. Between David Chang’s meat-centric eateries and this bacon fad, vegetarians must exercise some serious self-control. Rest assured, bacon-flavored tofu is probably next on the horizon.
Truffle Oil, Career Killer?
This oldie but goodie made news again after M.I.A. infamously indulged in a truffle-flavored French fry during her disastrous interview with Lynn Hirschberg. Some blamed that innocent tuber with derailing her attempts at projecting an “authentic” image. Whatever your favorite flavors (or musical tastes), how this ingredient remains popular with its overwhelming flavor is a mystery. It simply lacks imagination to dump truffle oil in risotto or to drizzle it over a dish. (Frank Bruni appears fed up as well—he recently tweeted his frustration over a bowl of nuts doused with the aromatic ingredient.) Too many chefs have become heavy-handed with the infusion, using it more as a crutch than an accessory. The oil shouldn’t overpower the dish, which it ends up doing more often than not. Although they are significantly pricier, I much prefer shaved, seasonal truffles over my risotto. That is a heady, authentic flavoring you will never derive from a bottle. M.I.A., take note.
Cupcakes: Never As Good As You Think
OK, we get it. These bite-sized, pink-frosted, red-velveted cupcakes are as adorable as they are tasty. But after witnessing them at every wedding, social function, and fashion show for the past two years we’re gagging at the sweetness. Are adults really waiting in line for a treat once reserved for fourth-grade birthday parties? Even the Food Network has gotten into the act with their new show, Cupcake Wars. Really? An entire competition (with a $10,000 prize) about dueling bakers making something I could produce out of my vintage Easy-Bake oven? How about satisfying that sweet tooth with a slice of cake, a donut—even some fruit for dessert? Something, anything, but another cupcake.
Farm to Table to Backlash
While this is one of the most admirable food trends to emerge recently, the term “farm to table” has lost all meaning as Sysco-loving chefs in the ‘burbs have co-opted the concept without really understanding it. Originally, the movement started as a way to promote sustainable, local agriculture. Restaurateurs were supporting community farmers with this measure by buying local products and showcasing them in a creative manner. Now, though, this cooking ideology is too far-reaching, which is the exact opposite of the intended mission. Practically every new restaurant that has opened in the last year touts its supposed farm to table credibility, but yet they serve fare from across the country.
While White Castle created the slider back in 1921, this mini, flat burger has become ubiquitous in more recent times. And sliders are no longer solely made from beef. Gourmet versions span bite-sized chicken, veal, turkey, seafood, and veggie versions. We’ve witnessed chicken parm sliders and crab cake sliders. What’s next? Osso bucco sliders? Ultimately, this miniature menu innovation is a way for restaurateurs to charge more money for a cutesy dish versus serving a heftier, eight-ounce burger—and to leave diners wanting more. Shrewd move, but we’re not buying it any longer.
Jacquelynn D. Powers is a writer based in Miami Beach. Her work has appeared in the Miami New Times and slashfood.com. Prior to that, she was the Senior Editor of Ocean Drive magazine for over a decade.