To say I get out to eat a bit would be an understatement and with that frequency comes exposure, or should I say overexposure to culinary trends that probably make me a bit more sensitive to them than the average foodie. That being said and sensitivity aside, there are culinary trends that have worn out their welcome and some that have become a welcome part of the scene. So for what it’s worth, here is my wish list for 2016.
First off, has the word foodie become so entrenched that it’s here to stay? I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard, “Oh, so you must be a big foodie” after telling someone what I do. Well, if you insist, but really I just love food and telling the stories behind the people behind the culinary scene. I guess that’s too much though but I’d sure like to find a word to replace foodie. Foodie makes me think of the person taking photos, with their flash on, of every single dish that comes out. If you must, maybe be a little more tactful about it? I have to do it to document meals for the column and the show and I don’t make a big production about it. I also have other interests in life besides food, just saying.
While menu seasonality can be a tricky topic in Southern California, there are still basic guidelines I like to see in place on menus regardless of location. Now is the time of year for braised meat like shanks, short ribs, cassoulet and roasts. Same thing can be said for root vegetables and Brussels sprouts. Seeing these dishes on menus past April with all the seasonal options available bums me out. Change those menus up and lets keep it fresh!
That is a good segue to the restaurants in town that have been abusing the terms farm to table and scratch kitchen to the point where both are beginning to lack any real meaning. I’ve had French and Italian born chefs tell me that the fact that we even use those terms is a joke. They came from the school that good chefs source locally when they can and make as much from scratch as possible from a cost perspective. It’s almost impossible to source everything locally and cook everything from scratch and still maintain a profitable restaurant. A simple solution would be to honest about it and say sourced locally when possible. I had a very large gaming establishment chef tell me last year that all of their restaurants were scratch kitchens, with a straight face. I just don’t think that’s possible. The closest I’ve come to a scratch kitchen in North County is The Wooden Spoon and Chef Jesse Paul readily admits that he is incapable of baking his own bread so he sources that. I love him even more for that honesty. Troy Johnson from San Diego Magazine wrote a great piece about the farm to table scam and it’s worth checking out.
Have wood-fired and quick-cook high temperature pizza joints become this year’s version of hamburger restaurants that have already begun their downward trajectory? There seems to be a lot of pizza options in this category these days, way to many options in my opinion and when that happens, there is the inevitable thinning out of the herd which is a bummer because I like wood fired pizza. I’m not sure what research the money behind these places are doing to justify imitating rather than innovating but it does not seem like real solid planning.
And not straying to far from the pizza category, is every restaurant in town going to have a flatbread on their menu? I realize the margins on thin bread with minimal toppings are high, but really, if you insist on serving flatbread, at least put some stuff on them to give a perceived value.
OK, enough with the rants. There really has never been a better time to for dining options in North County and having to many options is better than the alternative right. The positives far outweigh the negatives and there has never been a better example of natural selection than in the restaurant world where those who put out delicious, quality food with reasonable prices and great service tend to survive. One of my new year’s wishes is about to come true with the addition of what looks to be a solid deli on Coast Highway in Encinitas soon with the arrival of Moto Deli from chef Alex Carballo.
While the bone broth trend has been around for a while, it’s a solid, healthy, delicious movement that is perfect for this time of year. Spend a day creating your own stock creations and you will be very happy. San Diego author and stock guru Quinn Wilson has beautiful new book out called Bone Broth - 101 essential recipes and age-old remedies to heal your body. It’s available in bookstores and through Amazon January 15.
Lick the Plate is always looking for compelling stories from the culinary world. Feel free to contact us with ideas and suggestions and hey, have a great new year!