House made Scrapple with Fennel Kimchi & Creamy Shallot Confit Barley
Barley & Quinoa “Risotto” with Winter Vegetables, Crispy Poached Egg, and Basil & Preserved Orange Pistou
Above are dining options from a restaurant I’ll be visiting later this week. It’s been my experience over the course of my life that restaurants generally serve food, but after reading this I’m not so sure. I mean, I assume it’s food – I do notice certain familiar words like “egg” and “vegetables” in there – but with so many colorfully misleading and probably made-up words in the description, I certainly don’t want to bank on that. For instance, I thought barley is what they fed the horses on my uncle’s farm. Perhaps this restaurant is for livestock. Others such as “scrapple” and “quinoa” confuse me to no end; the former sounds like a genre of steel guitar music from the 1950s. And I find it particularly worrisome how there are quotes around the word “risotto.” That is one word I was beginning to feel comfortable with, but now my guard is back up. Why the quotes? It’s as if they’re saying it with a wink and nod, and we’re expected to be in on the joke. Well I am certainly not in on the joke, for I have no idea what the hell they mean, and I’d appreciate a more straightforward, quote-free description in the future.
Slightly dramatic embellishments aside, this is clearly not a menu from Outback Steakhouse. It’s restaurant week in Denver; that time of year when even the outlandishly expensive restaurants are reasonably priced and diners are encouraged to get out and eat. Actually spanning two weeks, restaurant “week” is a great time to be human, as the low prices and abundant options make a great opportunity to try something new. And to that end, the Denver/Boulder area is a blessed place for food-lovers to be in general, with a wide variety of top notch eateries mostly focused on quality and freshness of ingredients and healthy experimentation. And who among us doesn’t love food?
But there comes a time and place when the love for food is taken too far and the experimentation gets unhealthy. The white plates get bigger, and the food in the middle gets smaller. The menu at the top is an example of this – it’s obvious at first glance it’s among the snootier places one could find (hell, menu items also include bone marrow and lamb neck), so is certainly not the norm. But it seems this is becoming more and more mainstream. Now, I promise you, I’m not completely uncultured swine – I do enjoy a good gourmet meal. I can appreciate new foods and culinary creativity, and I don’t need every main course to be a steak. I’ve had my share of large plate/small food meals, and have enjoyed most every one of them. However, sometimes it seems that we get a little caught up in using colorful and “foodie” academic words – “confit,” “foie gras,” and “reduction” come to mind – in some attempt at an air of class and exclusivity. I think the food snobs are becoming more numerous, and they care more about being able to name outlandish ingredients than having a truly pleasing meal. And maybe, just maybe, some chefs are more concerned with impressing other chefs, and with how a dish looks (and sounds on the menu), than how a dish tastes. It’s as if the more times you can work “crusted” and “gnocchi” and “butternut” and “crème fraiche” on a menu, the more status you have among foodies.
Personally, I just want to have a tasty meal, and I don’t want to have to learn another fucking language to order it. Seriously, if I have to try to decipher what “aioli” is one more time, I may just stab the pompous ass waiting on me with a fork. It’s not his fault, of course, but his thick-framed glasses and neck beard just fit him right into this food snob stereotype.
Seriously, what if we treated other areas of life the same way we treat food? For example:
Al Michaels calling a football game
The call: “Peterson takes the handoff, runs right and picks up six yards.”
The foodie version: “The distinguished man of Texan descent is delivered the dried cow membrane, harnesses its energy and grasps its succulence. The run is the antithesis of to the left, with plastic cleat spears juxtaposed against Floridian sod and topsoil, moving the main course from its origin to six yards beyond. Yardage reduction.”
Christmas Store Ad
The ad: “Christmas time is coming! You’d better get your shopping done.”
The foodie version: “The sparkling anniversary of the first Noel, when Jesus “Yahweh” Christ descended upon the Israeli region, has again been assumed to happen this 25th of Diciembre as previously scheduled. Imperative, it is, that the customers finishes his or her retail extravaganza in a timely fashion, before the inevitable human flooding of cement and granite structures makes such an endeavor burdensome, and the sterling prospect of yuletide cheer transforms into a substandard procession.”
The tag: “100% cotton”
The foodie version: “Pure, unadulterated, locally farm-raised algadon. Never synthetic, never poly, a classic “hand-weave” with light ulterior stitching and authentic Mandarin craftsmanship.”
See? It’s ridiculous. If we were all as pretentious as the food snobs, our lives would be a constant exercise in trying to decipher even the simplest of labels. I’m sure I’ll enjoy my parsnip meringue – or whatever they decide to serve this week – but that doesn’t mean I won’t make an effort to fart each time I walk near the kitchen, just to bring the uppity vibe in there a notch closer to reality. I wonder how they’d describe that?