We eat out a lot, and it’s come to our attention that there are some standard food items that, though delicious, have really had their moment and should, while they still have some dignity, step to the side and let other foods get some time on the plate.
* Hamachi. Fresh, raw fish. What a great way to start a dinner! But after the same fish has started dinner, oh, a zillion times, I’m ready for something different…and I’m not talking about tuna Tartare…about which, ditto.
* Scallops. I love scallops – or, I should say, loved scallops. Now, every other meal, they’re there, looking delicious but very repetitive. It’s a privilege to eat these creatures, they’re delicious, but enough already. Make way.
* Salmon. If I never see salmon again, I might live. Make no mistake: I like the stuff. However, salmon is the new chicken, the non-meat alternative that’s pretty much a required menu item everywhere. A related problem is that a lot of salmon is kind of second-rate (after having Skuna Bay salmon for the first time this year, the standard is set pretty high – I would definitely eat Skuna Bay salmon again…and again). The main problem, for me, is that standard-grade salmon has become just too commonplace. Not commonplace like hamburger (which is eternally satisfying) but commonplace like, you know, scallops.
* Beet and goat cheese salad. What an incredible combination! The earthiness of the beet up against the milky light funk of the goat cheese, beautiful. Now, get outta here.
* Short ribs. T’was a time, short ribs were considered somewhat undesirable meats, not quite so déclassé as kidneys, but a long way from steak. Then, the head-to-tail revolution kicked in, and we were all eating pig snouts and ox tails and everything in-between. Including short ribs, which are great…I just don’t need to see them for another decade or so. Enough already.
* Chipotle-anything. As with just about everything here, I like chipotle flavor – I just don’t like it enough to have it every day. I’m certain that just dining in Oak Park alone, I could probably have this seasoning at every meal. Again, a good spice, victim of its own popularity. So hit the bricks, pal…and take truffle oil with you.
* Meat as the climactic dish. So many tasting menus lead up to the climactic moment when a hunk of meat – usually beef – is presented. I like meat, but it seems too easy to throw down the beef and let that be that. The meat course is almost like punctuation, signaling the end of a multi-course meal, or the music that comes up near the end of a movie to let you know that you should get ready because we’re concluding here folks. Even at superb, innovative restaurants like Elizabeth and El Ideas, when just about all is eaten, it’s meat that comes out for a star-turn, announcing that we’ve hit the apex of dining, the crown of culinary creation, the hunk o’ flesh. Yawn. I mean, yum, but also, definitely, yawn.
I am fully aware that this is a First World problem, and that this whine could come only from a privileged North America who can fill his belly with great food regularly. Maybe I should spend more time fighting for world peace rather than arguing against yet more Hamachi. But I’m a food writer, and this is where I work for a better world.