Sunday, September 2, 2012

Top 20 List of Food: From Love to Hate

Back in the saddle! Since everyone just loves lists, I thought I'd make up for not posting for awhile by including my current top 10 loves and hates in food (that's 20 opinions, people! In one blog post! What a bargain!). This list will be updated from time to time as I formulate new thoughts about food with passing trends and new experiences.

Top 10 loves
10.) Buffalo blue cheese: Ok, while it’s sort of boring, unimaginative, and part of generally boring grill menus (see my hates), there is something ethereal about the buffalo blue cheese combo which will continue to hold it high for the rest of time. Chile pepper and tangy blue, you have my heart. Dips, sandwiches, spreads. It’s as American as apple pie. Buffalo blue cheese apple pie? Hmm, that’s an idea. And it’s better than baconating everything, because, well, I have no logical reason. But, buffalo ranch? NO, that is pure blasphemy, and should be outlawed.

9.) Smoked fish: It’s not just for breakfast, and it’s not just for salmon. Smoked whitefish, trout, mackerel, cod, you name it – fit for a queen! I can taste it just typing about it, and my keyboard is probably now damaged beyond repair.

8.) Well planned wine and food tastings: I have an awful time trying to pair food and wine, and I seem to always make just about the worst choice no matter what. When this happens, I might as well be drinking bad vodka on the rocks. Yuck! The apps have not been extremely helpful. Therefore, I would pay good money for restaurants that do wine pairings for me. It’s an amazing thing when wine and food go well, and its usually not what I expect – like a fruity white paired with spicy dishes, genius!

7.) Olive bars: Bigger the better! Unbelievably delicious. I could eat olives for the rest of my life. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. One of the best olive bars I have ever been to was at Central Market in Texas. There is a whole aisle dedicated to olives and other cured veggies. Only downside is that they have different codes for different items so you need separate containers, big pain in the keister. So I guess this like goes with an asterisk: olive bars with one price by the pound.

6.) Whole Foods: Many of you gripe and groan about “whole pay check”, or perhaps you have good reason to hate them because of their increasingly large corporate actions like taking over the organic standards board or taking a stand against healthcare reform. And you’d have good reason to hate them. But I still love shopping there, and I can’t explain it. Maybe it’s my years in Oklahoma where Walmart was just about the only thing near me, so I’m making up for lost time. Or maybe its because everyone there is so helpful, especially the butcher and fishmonger. Maybe its because the Folsom Whole Foods has a freaking bar. Whole Foods, you have my heart, and my pay check.

5.) California beer and wine culture: Never a state, except maybe for Texas, has been so accommodating of beer and wine customers as California. You can buy just about anything in the grocery (unlike New Jersey and many other states), and most restaurants have exceptional selections. None of this 3.5% grocery store shiz, liquor distributor conglomerates, or other strange laws, that limit your selection like you get in Oklahoma and elsewhere. You have real choice, and the choices are GOOD. California wine country will always be #1 in my book. I live in a state where people plan vacations around the booze, and if that isn’t awesome, I don’t know what is.

4.) A good burger: A bad burger is really bad, but a good burger is the stuff that heaven is made of. What is a good burger? One that is juicy no matter how its cooked, one that is rare when you ask for it rare (but again, you don’t need it to be rare), one that goes with any topping and that doesn’t need bacon or avocado to be good. Pass me a good burger with a Pliny the Elder IPA, and I am on another plane of existence.

3.) A good pizza: This is sort of a love wrapped in a hate, because I have so many more hates than just 10. While pizza is everywhere, good pizza is practically nowhere, especially outside of the northeast. A good pizza does not need toppings. A good pizza can rest on top quality mozzarella and sauce with a thin crust where the slice wilts just slightly at the edge when folded before taking a bite. Jon Stewart can tell you. Good pizza does not come from Chicago, and does not need pesto or barbecue sauce or nuts or fruits or those other things Californians try to do to it.

2.) Food trucks: Mobile food mania! This fad still has engine fuel in my book. Some of the best new food is coming out food trucks. I think the best part is that food trucks generally have small and simple menus because of their spatial capacity, which means that they can focus on prioritizing production of awesome things. What’s even better? Food truck festivals. Too bad I get full after the first truck. You can try foods from all over the world if you’ve got the stomach capacity, time to wait in line, and an open wallet.

1.) Sriracha: Um, yeah, it’s the title of this blog. No explanation needed.

Top 10 hates

10.) Pasta al’amatriciana in food magazines, over and over again: While this is no doubt my most favorite dish in the world, this was SO three years ago. But it’s still cropping up in food magazines, and it’s the same goddamn recipe, no matter who the chef. It’s a total crutch for unique content, mostly because it’s awesome. Bacon and pasta, together? You cannot go wrong. Make the dish different or unique, make it better than the one I make , or stop publishing. I pay good money to learn new things.

9.) Kale: While my internal statistics are indicating that this ingredient is finally appearing less often in food magazines and food blogs, it’s still making a regular appearance. And why not? It’s a super food: healthy, extremely nutritious, available year round, and it’s just so darned trendy. Who doesn’t eat kale? Me. I’m sick of it. It’s just not tasty, I’d rather swallow vitamins. Plus I’d like to keep my pee yellowish, thank you very much. So stop making me feel guilty for not eating the thousands of Kale recipes you publish every year. Don’t want to turn into Scott Jacobson from Slate.

8.) Worshipping the small farmer: Ok Mark Bittman fans, sorry to be a downer, but small farmers are not the savior of the world. Many do not pour love in to every tomato, and love doesn’t make the tomato taste better. Workers can just as easily be treated poorly, and farmers can just as easily have disregard for their neighbors and be selfish or greedy. They are still businesspeople, and they still need to make money. If they were in it for the craft alone they are probably retired or have another stash of funds. So upcharging me for an item just because it comes from a small farm does not win my business. What will win my business? An awesome tomato, not from Mexico, and in-season. Tamar Haspel puts it very nicely.

7.) American grill/pub menus: I know it’s a staple of our meat and potatoes culture, and I won’t turn down buffalo wings (unless they are served with ranch dressing), but frankly, it’s boring as hell. I’m so damn tired of burgers (especially bad ones!), grilled chicken sandwiches, California grilled chicken sandwiches (because they have sliced avocado), bacon cheddar mushroom grilled anything, chopped chef salad (with canned black olives), strawberry spinach salad, and the like. You know what I’m talking about. I’m falling asleep just writing about this one.

6.) The Baconator: Who doesn’t love bacon? But stop using it as a crutch for dull recipes. Not everything needs bacon. And bacon won’t save a boring or unimaginative recipe. Stop putting bacon on my cupcakes or in my ice cream, I’m not impressed. Pork belly sandwiches are just a trendy code for a fancy BLT. And a recipe made entirely of smoked cured pork products, like the bacon quilt roll? If there is any way to make bacon boring, that’s got to be it. The heart attack is not worth it. I couldn’t have said it better than What’s for Dinner?, though – you like bacon? Really? Wow! Maybe you should get a tattoo to express your unique point of view.

5.) Deep fried sushi: I just don’t get it. Deep frying is like bacon – of course adding gobs of fat to things makes them taste better. But sushi? No. California sushi establishments seem notorious for this. If your fish is poor quality, deep frying the rolls are not going to make it better.

4.) Standard breakfast food: Ok, I know most of you are going to hate me for this. See the title of my blog? I’d rather eat that. Cereal, pancakes, French toast, granola, oatmeal, yawn, super yawn, mega yawn. Give me some chorizo hollandaise smoke trout with hot sauce on fried sourdough with a cup of spiced coffee, before I fall asleep. I will make an exception for when I’ve been doing field work – sometimes I have a hankering for French toast – but it’s rare and inexplicable.

3.) Peanut butter and jelly: As a kid, this always signified the absence of bologna and cheese, and became my symbol of all things disappointing. I suppose I’d eat it if there were literally nothing else to eat, and I was truly hungry, maybe if it were the apocalypse. But that’s about the only situation.

2.) A confused menu: While it’s always good to diversify your menu, have some semblance of continuity, for the love of God. I recently saw a menu for an Italian pizza and pasteria (whatever that is), with Pad Thai and Japanese soba noodles. No. Stop. Just stop. When I go to an Italian restaurant, I actually lose my appetite thinking about those vastly different flavors. It’s just wrong. Chain noodle shops in general are notorious for this, which is why I stay away, very far away.

1.) Bad burgers: Need I say more? This should be outlawed. Restaurant owners: a burger is hard to mess up, but somehow you manage to do it, and then try to sell it to me. You can do other things poorly, and get away with it, but NOT a burger. I don’t care how good the view of the lake or the ocean is from your window. It’s a crime against humanity. If you are going to serve me a half pound pre-cooked previously frozen hockey puck, and then have the gall to ask me how I want the burger cooked knowing full well that it’s going to end up well done anyhow, charge me $1.99 or leave it off the menu. A bad burger is a sure-fire way to lose your restaurant business, and I will see to it personally.

Blue cheese photo from Dr Vino: Wine Talk that Goes Down Easy Olive bar photo from Central Market Hipster farmers from Health Freedoms Food truck photo from Nanny Goats In Panties Unappetizing fried sushi photo from Oh So Fat!: One Man’s Journey into Obesity Bacon log photo from Playing With My Food

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