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Trends


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Something that I thought of but failed to raise at last night's pot luck:

What defines a trend in so far as the food/restaurant industry is concerned?  Who decides what is a trend and what is not?  When is a trend considered to be passe and "out"?  Is there an official "trendmaker/trendsetter"?  Taking for example, the "tall food" trend -- the practice of plating the final product, propped up vertically, to achieve a sense of abundance/height/substance -- who started it, why did it go away, and was it a noteworthy trend in that do you think it influenced people's opinions (customers, not chefs) on what a dining experience should be like?

Comments are welcome.  Especially yours, Messrs P., Bux and Shaw...  :smile:

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Comments are welcome.  Especially yours, Messrs P., Bux and Shaw...  :smile:

Personally I couldn't give a monkey's but by naming certain people whose comments you would welcome you could be said to be confirming the very arguments of those who worry about eGullet becoming "exclusionary" or whatever.

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Soba - A trend is something which captures the imagination of the public. Don't ask me why they do. Mostly they are spread through word of mouth, and then the media usually kicks in and makes the trend more mainstream. Of course it happens on occassion that the media reports on something in isolation and they create the trend. But my experience is that is generally not the rule. The media are reporters, they are not in the business of creating things.

One of the great trends in this city was the lamb shank craze started by Tom Valenti when Allison on Dominick first opened. At the time, that neighborhood was for pioneers, and a good review by the NY Times started the ball rolling. But the item itself was so unusual, yet approachable, that an incredible number of people ordered it. That propelled it into the heights of culinary greatness because the word of mouth on it was so strong. Most people think that things become popular due to manipulation by the industry that offers it, or the media that discusses it. But I can tell you that if people do not want to buy something, you couldn't force them to buy it even if you put a gun to their heads.

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Comments are welcome.  Especially yours, Messrs P., Bux and Shaw...  :smile:

Personally I couldn't give a monkey's but by naming certain people whose comments you would welcome you could be said to be confirming the very arguments of those who worry about eGullet becoming "exclusionary" or whatever.

Tony, good catch!  :biggrin:

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Something that I thought of but failed to raise at last night's pot luck:

What defines a trend in so far as the food/restaurant industry is concerned?  Who decides what is a trend and what is not?  When is a trend considered to be passe and "out"?  Is there an official "trendmaker/trendsetter"?  Taking for example, the "tall food" trend -- the practice of plating the final product, propped up vertically, to achieve a sense of abundance/height/substance -- who started it, why did it go away, and was it a noteworthy trend in that do you think it influenced people's opinions (customers, not chefs) on what a dining experience should be like?

Comments are welcome.  Especially yours, Messrs P., Bux and Shaw...  :smile:

The first time I saw 'tall food' was in the 80s at Gotham Grill in NYC. After that, tall food started appearing everywhere for the longest time. The plates got higher and higher and sometimes it was difficult for me to tackle the food without it collapsing on the plates. I loved the visual presentation of tall food and have many photographs that I've taken of beautifully arranged food. At some point, tall food became a cliche and was made fun of by comics and the media, I think in part because the presentations became taller and sillier looking than when they were first presented.

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"Personally I couldn't give a monkey's but by naming certain people whose comments you would welcome you could be said to be confirming the very arguments of those who worry about eGullet becoming "exclusionary" or whatever."

Tony - At the risk of pushing this conversation off topic, can you explain to me why it is that if Soba values certain opinions it excludes anyone else? He didn'task that others shouldn't offer opinions or information, he just asked that a number of posters he respects participate. Would you prefer that he private messaged all those people and the board didn't get the benefit of the writings?

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A lot of food trends start with an ingredient that is newly grown,imported or 'rediscovered'.Some chefs get dibs on foodstuffs from a certain farmer or fisherman,but in general,it's good business for the purveyor to get as many customers as possible-and the trend begins.Fennel pollen and arugala flowers are thrown around with abandon....

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"Personally I couldn't give a monkey's but by naming certain people whose comments you would welcome you could be said to be confirming the very arguments of those who worry about eGullet becoming "exclusionary" or whatever."

Tony - At the risk of pushing this conversation off topic, can you explain to me why it is that if Soba values certain opinions it excludes anyone else? He didn'task that others shouldn't offer opinions or information, he just asked that a number of posters he respects participate. Would you prefer that he private messaged all those people and the board didn't get the benefit of the writings?

Steve, he didn't mention exluding anyone, but it's not exactly the way to encourage participation on the part of everyone.  Just potentially makes people feel that their opinions are less valuable.  Certainly a new poster might not feel "worthy" upon reading that.  The people he mentioned know full well that their opinions are valued, it needn't be pointed out.

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Tony, Ruby, Nina:  I think you're reading too much into my statement.  I value ALL opinions, yes everyone who posts here.  Its just that IN MY OPINION (which should not be construed as fact), I place a great deal of value on those individuals' bases of knowledge insofar as they can add to my own base of knowledge.  I guess what I wanted to say is that I'm especially interested in hearing the opinions/experiences/anecdotes of those individuals, not that I'm not interested in hearing yours or anyone elses.

*shrug*

I'm sorry if things were too unclear but anyway, moving onwards...

Ruby:  I suppose I should clarify -- where do these trends come from?  CIA graduates?  Chefs working overtime, experimenting in the back when no one's looking?  Chefs on sabbatical?  Idea cards ala Zagat left in the suggestion box?  

Mr. P:  But what is it exactly, do you think, that makes it a trend?  Is it because it hasn't been done before?  Is it because of the "coolness factor"?  There are a thousand things floating around in our sphere of interest on any given day, but not everything is a trend.

And also a question for everyone:  Do you think trends are cyclical?  How much time passes before what happened ages ago becomes new again?

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Wingding (or anyone else):  so you think that marketing/food purchases help define or set a trend?  Would it be safe to say that word of mouth helps not only on the consumer end, but also on the supply end?  As an aside, the greengrocer who reserves quality stuff for Mr. Bouley (just to pick a name), is it necessarily the case that the greengrocer would want to spread the word on the newest food of the moment, knowing that he has a sure cash cow everytime he gets an order from his premium customer(s)?  I would think that oversaturation of the market (i.e., arugula and pollen) is certainly a risk to consider.

I suppose the corollary to "trendsetting" is creating something and putting your own stamp such that no one else can copy it.  But I guess patenting doesn't apply when it comes to the restaurant scene.  Or does it?

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Nina - I don't understand why that would keep anyone from participating. Are their feelings hurt because Soba values certain opinions? Remember, this board is eGullet, not eGalitarianism. Part of what makes this board interesting is how natural hierarchies develop based on people's expertise. For example, for someone to seek out Suvir's opinion on Indian food shouldn't make anyone else feel inferior. And if they do, they shouldn't post here.

Soba - Because it becomes fashionable. That isn't to say it has no substance, but a "trend" really speaks to how many people are doing it, not how good what their doing is. Currently a trend to serve fresh bacon has started. Tom Collichio was the first to offer it (at least to my knowledge)and he serves it with an Italian Mostarda. But I ate it at Eleven Madison Park last week, and they offer it at Nick & Toni's in the Hamptons as well. I would bet that in the next 3-4 years it proliferates menus all over the country. In that case, part of what propels that trend is the fact that Niman Ranch is promoting that cut of meat to the restaurants they service. But I don't think it will ever be a trend as big as the lamb shanks because pork just isn't that respected as a meat.

The other aspect to it is that people are always looking to do things that are new. People rush to see a movie on release, but if they haven't (and haven't seen it on TV or rented the DVD,) very few people go to see it when it hits the revival houses. Is it because of the "coolness factor?" I guess it depends on what we are talking about but I think that is a poor way of describing it. For example, everybody went to see the movie Monsoon Wedding. Is that because it was trendy? The simple explanation is that it is social. If we go to dinner and have both eaten the fresh bacon at GT, both saw The Producers, both went to see Monsoon Wedding, we'll have a lot more to talk about than if we didn't share those experiences. So I guess the answer to your question is that trends start, and continue because people want to be "au courrant." And they end when they lose their immediacy.

I will give you a recording industry example that you or anyone else here could extrapolate anyway you want. The typical CD with a hit single on it has a shelf space lifespan of appx 12 weeks. But if the CD has a second hit single on it that is of the same or better quality than the first one, that has a typical shelf life of 40 weeks. There is some marketing phenomenon that occurs (and maybe Jaybee can speak to this since it's his specialty) that makes a CD last 3 times as long when the dynamic occurs that there is twice as much to talk about. The answer to the question you are asking is within that phenomenon. I just wish I had a better answer for you than to say that there are simply more people talking about it.

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Most chefs[and Martha Stewart] would tell you that astute shopping is integral.Of course,knowing how to use ingredients to maximize their flavor,and compliment other flavors and textures is where the talent is.A farmer who has a small crop may reserve it for a certain chef,but otherwise they're trying to earn a living and sell to a circle of people.There are a variety of factors that affect trends-this is just one of them...

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In that case, part of what propels that trend is the fact that Niman Ranch is promoting that cut of meat to the restaurants they service.
 That raises a good "chicken or egg" question.  Did a chef first play with it and ask NR if they could supply it, or did NR offer it and give chefs the opportunity to play?  When I worked as a line cook, reps frequently came to show the chefs some new item to try.  Some might have become trends, if enough chefs picked up on them.  But on the other side, when a chef I worked for was looking for a new menu item, he was open to the suggestion of making up his own version of banh mi -- which I thought might be an emerging trend (from posts guess where?).

Question: are you defining "trend" as a big-city phenomenon, or does it have to be something that gets all the way down to grass-roots.  I'm thinking specifically of tall food, as mentioned earlier.  It seems to be pretty much passe in the top places (with a few exceptions) -- but what about that book/kit Stacks that came out a year or 2 ago, and is still available?  Is there a life-cycle to trends?

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Wilfrid - Sorry. It is pork belly, which is the cut they use to make bacon I am told. But it is not smoked or cured in any way, it is just braised. Gramercy serves a small sqaure of it, with the fatty part crispy like a suckling pig would be. The rest is fork tender. Eleven Mad served a similar prepartion, but not with mostarda. Nick & Toni's in Easthampton actaully offers my favorite version. They take an entire pork belly and roll it around a stuffing of chopped pork, spinach, parmagian cheese, pine nuts, garlic and spices and tie it like a roast. Then they braise it until almost cooked through, then they finish it in a wood burning pizza oven. It comes out a burnt, caramelized, greasy and heavenly mess but truly delicious. And quite different than any other dish on the market. If you have never had it, Gramercy usually has their version available as a main course in the tavern.

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Fresh bacon is pork belly[not stomach],a cut of pig usually used for making bacon.The term seems to scare a lot of people off,which is too damn bad,cause the version at GT is so damn good...

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[my feelings are hurt and now i don't wanna play.  i'm going home.  :sad:

Another relevant and on topic comment.    Thanks for sharing.

Nina, I believe I understand your point.

But this is not a database. It is a discussion board. There is a great deal of information here. But there is also a great deal of references not only to what might be personal to the posters but also references to other threads and posts. Certainly this might be opaque to a new reader or simply someone who has not been active on that very day about who said what where and when. For example, your own post emerges from a background from another thread. This is what makes eGullet worthwhile. Information, opinions, humour, the drama of waiting to see if someone will follow through on not posting again on a thread they say they are absolutely done with. (I was in stitches over something like this a while ago on the British Food Is Utter Shite thread. The enjoyment that I got from this was not as subtle as from a great meal...but it was bloody good fun.)

I've spent a great deal of time on an online database as a mod. Editing for relevance, language, spelling, deleting and deleting and deleting.

Anyway, Nina. I have been considering your points on the other thread about cliques and relevance. And it wound up bringing me to post something utterly irrelevant to this particular thread.

But hopefully part of our conversation as a whole. Excuse me now. It's my turn to swing about the forums seeing if people are using coasters for their drinks or scarring Andy's coffeeetables.*

* Very obscure reference. Sorry.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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In some respects, eGullet resembles a classic Seinfeld sketch, with enormous attention directed toward activities which play a very minor role in the lives of normal people. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.

eGullet has produced, via give and take, many people who have demonstrated and defended competence in specific areas. As a beneficiary of their willingness to share some of that subject knowledge, I'm very grateful for that.

Several folks have organized excursions (Luger's, China 46, Greenwich bar crawl, Potluck, etc) which gave members the opportunity to learn and experience new tastes. I would never have entered China 46 without a darn good reason, but I'm happy I did, and with people who were so knowledgeable.

As an occasional poster, I don't feel excluded, if I miss a reference, I don't think it detracts much from the overall value. But, I could be wrong, that's only my opinion...

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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Steve P. -- that begs the question of "is it a trend because Tom Colichio (or other celebrity/well-known person) first offered this dish"?  Is it often the case that trends begin with well-known people, or can anyone get their shot?  Although I have to say, that fresh bacon/pork belly is a staple at Cantonese or Shanghai restaurants and has been for years.  Kind of late for this trend, if you ask me.

Suzanne F:   It seems to me that foodie trends begin in "the big city" and eventually trickle down to the rest of the country.  A good example is the tall food one.  Two or three years after it faded away, you saw the trend continuing in small places found in out of the way locations, not in well-known establishments in New York or Chicago.  I suppose that's because local, country establishments are seen as places that rarely change, or bring influences from places where trendsetting is part of the cultural norm.  On the other hand, its possible IMO but not the rule, that trends begin in unknown restaurants or locations.  I just can't think of one right now to support my theory.  I suppose The French Laundry -- not necessarily an unknown place, but it isn't exactly located (I think) in a megametropolis either -- counts as one.

An aside:  what is the difference, if any, between trends and fads insofar as each applies to the foodie/restaurant industry, and also, are they substantially different from the standard as applied to the rest of the world (i.e., other industries like film, music, fashion, etc.)?

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"That raises a good "chicken or egg" question.  Did a chef first play with it and ask NR if they could supply it, or did NR offer it and give chefs the opportunity to play? "

Suzanne - You are asking about the difference between who is responsible and who gets credit. In the annals of foodie folklore, highly unlikely that Mr. Niman will ever get the credit even if he is responsible. Anyway the ingredient alone isn't enough to make a trend, it's the preparation of it that catches on. It isn't that Collichio decided to just put it on the menu, it's that he braised it and served it with a sweet mostarda. Ultimately while your question is an interesting one, in the end I think it's merely anecdotal, and is like asking whether it was Mel Brooks idea (or someone else associated with the show) to have Nathan Lane play Max Bialystock or did Nathan read some announcement of the show and call the producers (to be in The Producers  :smile: ) himself.

Soba - Yes Collichio would be responsible for starting the trend, if his version of serving pork belly became as well known throughout the New York food scene as Valenti's lamb shanks became. But that doesn't mean the use of pork belly won't proliferate and he won't get credit. It might be a trend among chefs before it becomes a trend among diners. Valenti on the other hand served a lamb shank that people travelled for. So when it proliferated NYC restaurants, he got the credit.

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pork just isn't that respected as a meat

Interesting that you say that Mr. P, the pork advertising campaign notwithstanding (pork:  the OTHER white meat").  Years of people overcooking their pork chops and spare ribs to the point of inedibility for fear of trichinosis probably killed that trend.

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