Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Chronicle of Annoyance: 15 Pet Peeves of the Food World

  1. Spicy grits (or any spicy starch) served with a spicy main dish.
    The grits with shrimp and grits can be plain or enriched with cream, butter, cheese, but please ... Take a lesson from the hot chicken restaurants who serve plain white bread with the incendiary bird:  The starch should be a soothing counterpoint to the spicy shrimp. Same with grits served with barbecue. Ditto cornbread, cole slaw, mac and cheese, etc. Leave out the peppers and give the diner's taste buds a break.
  2. People who refer to themselves in the third person as a "chowhound" (or worse, "hound") on the Chowhound forums.
    It's not cute. Stop it.
  3. Referring to barbecue as " 'cue."
    Or spelling it "barbeque" as I saw recently in a online ad for WalMart.
  4. Use of commodity tomatoes between June 15 and September 15.
    You may not be a "farm to table" restaurant, but there's no excuse for not calling up Howell Farms and getting some real tomatoes during tomato season.
  5. Pies where the crust has not been pre-baked.
    Pour a wet mixture into a raw crust and the end product will have a gummy, limp crust. If pie is the new cupcake, then bakers are going to have to get used to blind baking crusts. (Note: Lisa Donovan of Husk Nashville is exempt from this rule.)
  6. Pepsi products instead of Coke products in any restaurant in the southeast.
    Even if it's a chain whose headquarters is in Pepsi Country.
  7. Restaurant staff that can't taste the difference between unsweetened tea and tea that has soured.
    Yes, tea can sour.
  8. Restaurant service that does not live up to the ambition / abilities of the kitchen.
    I'm not sure if this is a Nashville problem or a common issue elsewhere, but many restaurants with great PR machines and even great food often fall short in the front of the house.
  9. Servers who are instructed to brag about the restaurant's ethos and hipster farm-to-table cred as a prelude to service.
    I've come to dread waitstaff who ask, "Have you eaten here before?" when they first approach the table.  It's great that you use local purveyors. It's wonderful that the owners/chef care about putting out quality food. I love that you do everything from scratch, including curing meat and grinding your own flour from organic wheat hand-raised by virgins. Brag about it on the menu if you like, but I don't need to hear a commercial about this before I place my order.
  10. Similarly, restaurants that serve food that's a bit unconventional and think it necessary to have the waitstaff explain the concept.
    I know we live in a tourist-centric city, where the tourist base is often ... how shall I say ... not terribly sophisticated. If you serve modern twists on classics, then explain that on the menu. Don't call a dish a "BLT" and leave it at that when it's really tomato puree with wilted lettuce and chopped pork belly with croutons. Describe it accurately on the menu, and don't have the waiter bombard me with a speech when they take my order.
  11. The overwhelming dominance of testosterone in the professional food world.
    There are a million examples. Cooking well and creatively does not have to be about being aggressive, competitive, etc. This is a huge topic with many facets and multiple causes, and is echoed throughout the professions - it's not exclusive to food. Still, it's a bit wearying to see so few women as foodie household names. In Nashville we are blessed to have Deb Paquette, Laura Wilson, and Margot McCormack, among others. But when local chefs are discussed, especially in the press, it's the boys' club that dominates. On the national stage, the few women who are well known are either caricatures (Paula Deen), known for dumbing-down (Sandra Lee), or valued as much for their looks as their food (Giada De Laurentiis). 
  12. Use of the term "killing it" to praise a chef/restaurant that has done a good job.
    (see "testosterone," above)
  13. Use of the term "crush it" to describe eating something with gusto.
    (see "testosterone," above)
  14. Restaurants with inadequate air conditioning.
    Yes, I know the cavernous, former commercial building is edgy and hip, and the exposed kitchen with the huge wood-burning oven is groovy, but if you can't cool it adequately during the sweltering Nashville summer, you need to rethink your ventilation system.
  15. Food / recipe web sites that don't have a mobile version.
    If I want to look up a recipe on my smartphone while I'm in the grocery store, having to navigate a site that's not optimized for mobile is ... annoying.
 Bonus:  "Elevated Southern." Again.


Dale said...

can I still right BBQ?

alexandra @ sweet betweens [blog] said...

#9 sings loud and clear to me. My recent experience at FIG in Charleston was tarnished by an exceptionally snobby waiter. Ugh. Regardless of whether the food was delicious or not [and it was], I wanted to get the hell outta dodge so I didn't have to hear him wax on about how hyper local the food on the menu was.

TLF said...

Yes, it's actually #9, and the other service-related items here, that prompted this entire post. I have more to say on the topic in a separate post ... but a couple of recent experiences (one that sounds very similar to yours at FIG) that really annoyed me to the point of wanting to write about it.

Anonymous said...

#14. Being a part of restaurant hvac/hood design, it's amazing that you can tell an owner what he will need to stay cool, but they do not want to pay for it. In July and August you start getting phone calls asking why the kitchen is 100+ degrees. I know of one down the street from me is going through that process.

TLF said...

I thought about that ... "If I'm drenched (literally) and fanning myself with the menu, I can only imagine what it's like for those folks over there in front of the stove/pizza oven." Working in hot environments is part for the course when you are a cook, but there's a point at which it becomes ridiculous.