As writers of all things food and drink, we take particular notice to the trends that rise and fall throughout the years.
2012 included its fair share of relatively new trends that make us wince, and it had even more stuff that has been building over the past few years. With that in mind, here is Short Order's list of the ten most annoying food trends that outright drove our interests over a cliff.
10.Molten Chocolate Cake Lava cake is delicious, but it's a cop out dessert to have on a menu. I can understand if places like Outback Steakhouse or The Cheesecake Factory have it. But if I see it on a menu in a nice, original, non-franchise place, my expectation of creativity dwindles.
9. Pork Belly Unfortunately, I love pork belly. Crispy with a little char on the outside, juicy and succulent on the inside. It's kind of God's gift to mankind. But now, it's on more and more menus, on more and more dishes. It's no longer a treat. Pork belly is on almost every single menu now. It's that shiny something that fish see and swim towards. It's menu porn.
8."Artisan" Junk Food The term "artisan" has been thrown around more this year than it ever has before. It must stop. Webster defines the word as "one that produces something (as cheese or wine) in limited quantities often using traditional methods." Burger King, the global monster in fast food, does not make small quantities of anything -- they're industrial, not artisans.
7. $20 Tapas Tapas are the perfect way to more or less try everything on a menu. The Spaniards knew what they were doing when the idea first started -- small quantities, treated like appetizers, passed around groups like snacks. But marketing gimmicks have gotten the best of tapas, and now, places charge 20 bucks for food that costs less than $6 to buy and prepare. Unless they're well-priced, or the last thing you'd eat on death row, expensive tapas are not worth it.
Well, this is embarrassing. I was the very one who made the list of the top five bacon dishes in Miami this year. Bacon's a beautiful thing. But it doesn't belong on everything. And like pork belly (which is typically where bacon comes from in the U.S.), it's menu porn. It's the shiny object to catch your attention. Nowadays "innovation" is throwing bacon on it (whatever "it" is) and calling it a day.
I'll be honest. Cupcakes make me want to get violent. 2012 was the year of the cupcake, and I've read that 2013 is predicted as the year of the pie. Whatever the case may be, something - anything - needs to shove cupcakes off the stage. There is nothing exciting about a cup's worth of cake batter slathered with buttercream icing and sprinkles. It's even less exciting when the buttercream is shaped like a hairy dog. It's stupid.
4. Lobster Mac and Cheese
This is one of those "lava cake" crimes. If you've got lobster mac and cheese on your menu, it's a cop out for something potentially greater. It's an easy-out that says, "I care enough to be a people pleaser, but not enough to be creative."
Before you jump the gun, foie is not on this list for the obvious reason. Unlike PETA, I'm all for foie. I understand that it's considered inhumane, but so is killing animals for food in general, so let's not be choosy. Foie definitely made its mark on the food industry this year, but just because it made a scandal across the country, doesn't mean it should be on things like burgers and cotton candy.
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2. Molecular Gastronomy
This was a tough one to put on the list. I kept telling myself that molecular gastronomy is more a style of cooking -- a technique -- rather than a trend. But still, it has most definitely gained extra trendy points over the course of the last year. Diners see it as the "Cirque du Soleil" of food. It's weird, and mind boggling, and cool. But unless this is your niche, your signature way of creating and designing food, I think it's yet another marketing gimmick for restaurant goers. People went to El Bulli because this was Ferran Adrià's thing. People go to The Bazaar because this is José Andrés' thing. The same goes for Grant Achatz at Alinea in Chicago. But if all of a sudden a menu has traces of agar agar and maltodextrin, it seems like it's trying to keep trendy, rather than sticking to its roots.
1.Truffle or Truffle Oil
The ultimate offender of menu porn. First came lava cake, then came pork belly and bacon, and now comes anything truffle related. Restaurants that think putting the word truffle on the menu will a) make something taste better or b) make something worth the surcharge of $20 are silly. The flavor profile of truffles have been completely thrown out the window, and now it's just a matter of making a dish decadent. Gold is also really decadent but usually when people see it on a dish, they think it's a waste. The same goes for truffles -- leave it to the dishes that deserve it.
Follow Alex on Twitter @ARodWrites.