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Food/Restaurant Trends

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Over the years, you've seen a heckuva lot of food & restaurant trends come & go.  Which surprised you the most?  And what do you see as The Next Big Thing?  Miss you on the show, btw!

Boy, have I become a curmugeon. By definition, trends come and go, so I try not to be enamored by them, or despise them. As they say in the musical "Avenue Q", don't worry, it's just for now. (But then, they sing that about George Bush, too, and he's here for another four years.) The trend that has come and gone and come and gone again, is here once again -- small plates of food. Young people, who need constant senusal stimulation (they did their homework while listening to music, watching TV, and on the computer) love loud restaurants with menus that offer a million strong flavors. Witness the success of Spice Market, and any number or other restaurants where small plates are enouraged. The Thomas Keller phenom is in the same category -- you don't get more than two bites of anyting at his restaurant in the Time Warner Center, Per Se. Ditto his restaurant in Napa, French Laundry, which I found an ordeal of 54 course, which meant I had to sit with business acquaintances for five hours. I ran out of things to talk about. Anyway, small plates (okay, you wanna call them tapas, go ahead, even though they are not and that's not what tapas are really about ) are a trend. Raw fish is a trend. Not sushi, which is an international trend by the way, but just raw fish -- if it's an Italian restuarant they want to call it "crudo." That means raw in Italian. Raw fish is not a surprising trend. If we can eat sushi with soy sauce, we can eat raw tuna with extra virgin olive oil and call it Italian. I like raw fish, but I can't make a meal of it. And if find it insanely expensive. At Esca, which I like for other reasons, the crudo is $5 a bit. Literally. I choke on those prices.

What else -- do I have to say that ice cream with every non-ice cream dessert is a trend. It's actually often the best part of the dessert, even though thought to be a garnish. I hate the trend of herbal desserts (I never even liked chocolate chip-mint ice cream.) I recently went to a restaurant where the ice cream choices were between bay leaf ice cream, sage ice cream, lavender ice cream, and espresso (I like that last). My dinner companion had to beg to get some vanilla.

Pasta has become a catch-all for everything in the kitchen. I hate that trend. In a carbo-phobic world, as we have now, why don't restaurants serve pasta the way they do in Italy -- in portion sizes that don't kill, leaving enough room for a little protein secondo.

I could go on and on ... you've taped into a subject ripe for feature treatment.

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