Food Rant – Casual dining + fine-dining trends

This is my first food rant, but probably not the last…some things in the food industry drive. me. crazy.

My best friend and I had nothing to cook in the house, there was a torrential downpour outside and we didn’t want to go grocery shopping. This, along with the fact that my town becomes an island when it rains, led us to the only eatery close enough that provided cocktails: Applebee’s. Now, casual dining is a necessity – I am not a food-snob. I understand that you can’t spend $300 on dinner all that often (because trust me, if I could, I would). Plus, even with all the local memorabilia and photos from my high school, they still make a pretty decent margarita. Our server was great, the food was decent and again – cocktails were on point. However… one of my biggest pet-peeves was on the menu. Repeatedly.

The fine-dining scene in America tends to always be on the cusp of something new, or at least, reinventing or bringing back a trend that has proven popular. Caviar on everything, squid ink pasta, molecular gastronomic “caviar”, pork belly, crudo, kimchi… Pick a decade and you’ll find at least one trend that appeared across the country in every fine-dining or trendy establishment. It is a facet of the industry and it honestly breeds creativity, at least for a little while before it becomes overkill. With some of the greatest chefs in the country embracing such trends, casual dining (usually chains) tend to try to grab onto something that was popular or has made an appearance in Food&Wine, bon appetit or on Food Network. There is nothing wrong with that…if it is done well.

On this particular visit to Applebee’s, I saw ‘maple’ on far more items than was necessary. I just sat there, reading and looking at Ashley, “but why?” uttered on more than one occasion. A maple-glazed pork chop can’t go horribly wrong, so by all means, keep that; but everything else has got to go. Maple cream cheese dipping sauce? I mean, come on. I would like to reiterate that I am not a food snob. I just don’t understand why fast-casual dining places feel the need to over-embrace certain trends. When certain things, be it a technique, ingredient or style, are trending, I completely understand wanting to include them on your menu in an effort to ‘keep with the times’. Don’t get me wrong, maple is delicious. Good maple syrup on pancakes or waffles? Yum. Maple-candied bacon? Delish. Maple-bourbon pecan pie? Yes, please. However, I just wish there was a little more logical thought (and maybe tact?) implemented when applying said trends, like maple.

How ’bout local and sustainable food? Can we over-embrace that trend? I could get behind that wholeheartedly.




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