I always enjoy reading the Bon Appetit Foodist blog by Restaurant editor Andrew Knowlton. He goes out of his way to create controversy, and the comments are usually quite entertaining. One of his most recent columns listed his “top 5 restaurant dishes in need of a culinary sabbatical“.
1. Beet and Goat Cheese Salad: The tang of goat cheese with the earthy sweetness of beets is a brilliant combination–but enough already of this default appetizer.
2. Short Ribs: In less-than-expert hands, this profound deliciousness is often tough.
3. Crostini and Bruschetta: Devoting entire sections of a menu to simple grilled bread with toppings and then charging crazy prices is robbery.
4. Bacon-Wrapped Dates: Yes, we get it–fat and sweet are two flavors that go great together, but simply putting them on your menu does not make your place an “authentic tapas bar.”
5. Panna Cotta: An easy-to-make dessert, panna cotta (“cooked cream”) neither really pleases nor offends. Give me a little more creativity, or just give me a chocolate chip cookie.
Surprisingly, I’m not entirely in agreement. Beet and goat cheese salad? Yes please. It may be a bit tired, but it’s still damn good. Short ribs? Agreed – rarely very good. Crostini/Bruschetta at silly prices need to fade away. Bacon-wrapped dates are more difficult. Sweet, fatty, earthy… ohhh Marge!
As for Panna Cotta. If I never saw one again, it would be to soon. How about you? What would you like to see retired from restaurant menus?
Foodie Trapped in Tron says
First ever comment on my favorite food blog! Food Dude’s comment on Pana Cotta brought me out of the woodwork. TIRED! YES! I always scratch my head when someone says they love it. Boring! Now I I know I visit the right site for all my food news.
I’m 100 percent behind the Beet/Goat cheese thing. Fresh beets are a revelation, but the goat cheese pairing is the equivalent of “lights out missionary style” if you get my drift.
Conversely, I’m also going to throw my support behind panna cotta (if it’s done well). Desserts like that are a godsend if you’re a chef working in a small kitchen and are doing your own desserts. Beats creme brulee, right?
I agree with Food Dude on every one of these. Great beets and a really good goat cheese? Yes, it’s ubiquitous, but sooo good. I mean, one might well say the same thing about shoestring fries. They’re on just about every menu, but for good reason. Panna Cotta? Never really got the appeal.
Yes, these are all played out. Good calls on all of them.
I would like to see other things done with squid besides fried calamari – or a delicious calamari vinagrette salad like I used to get in north beach. Not squid steak though, oh my god, pass the tofurky, before I would order squid steak again.
I just realized that I have no idea how squid ranks for sustainable seafood
If I wrote the BA list, I would have included carmelized onions to the list. This ingredient appears everywhere from sandwiches and pizzas to pasta and salads. AND, most of the onions found are not even carmelized but rather they are sweated or lightly browned, which means they are slimy and onion-y. None of that wonderful sweet, nutty richness that you get with properly carmelized onion.
I think the most glaring omission is Caesar salad. (delicious – yes) But it’s everywhere and often prepared incorrectly. How many food editors in various cities have done a ‘best Caesar in the city’ article? Probably a thinly veiled attempt to criticize all the chefs to ‘move on’ to another salad or be more creative…
Dave J. says
I’m starting to get a little tired of people putting a damn “farm egg” on EVERYTHING.
That said, I always order one when there’s an option to do so.
Rebecca..as far as I know, squid is plentiful and is OK from the sustainable seafood front. I also agree about squid steak. The reason a lot of places serve it is because it is CHEAP.
Pam..ubiquitous is one thing, but the Beet/Goat cheese combo is becoming cliche.
Hey! I like Panna Cotta – especially the Panna Cotta at Cafe Mingo and Tasty N Son’s. That being said, it can be a little boring without a nice topping and really good vanilla. I just steep a vanilla bean in the cream and scrape out the seeds into the mixture just like you would do for Creme Brulee. mmmm
I was so excited when I saw this column in BA because I read restaurant menus the way some people read US Weekly, so I am especially sensitive to “I’m putting this on my menu because it is trendy and just creative or unusual enough to fool people who aren’t paying close attention or don’t know any better into thinking this is a really good avant-garde restaurant” dishes (sorry, that was an eyeful).
Beet salad is way up there for me. Not that I don’t like it; I often order it, but dude, it’s beets and cheese (I’ve seen it with ricotta and feta too); it’s one of those things that is hard to screw up if your ingredients are decent.
2-4 I actually feel are fading from menus; I saw these more a few years ago than I do now, although the crostini/bruschetta thing still plagues the menus of those Wolfgang Puck-esq California-Italian places (the same ones that can’t give up Caesar salad and serve Caprese in January). On second thought, they are not disappearing entirely, they are being recast as flatbread!
As far as panna cotta goes, I actually think that creme brulee has much worse menu-fatigue. But I also think that panna cotta can be totally dull or absolutely amazing, and I have had both. Case in point of the latter: a lavender panna cotta eaten recently at a restaurant in the british countryside which was amazingly rich and smooth with exactly the right level of lavender flavor (which can be over- or under-done so easily) and paired with a spiced caramel which I could have eaten in a bowl with a spoon.
Burgers on every damn menu, regardless of whether or not it fits. Case in point: Toro Bravo. Portland, with its pedestrian ways, MAKES them have a god damned burger. Then of course they do with a lot of things, make it really effing great.
Pine Nuts. Not a dish per se, but an ingredient. Reason? EVERYONE BURNS THE FUCK OUT OF THEM! Then I am left to eat a dish that has a permeated stench of carbonized nuts. Terrific.
Flourless Chocolate Cake. Just for a “truth in advertising” moment, can we just start calling this “Tasteless bitter brownies”?
I still stand very strongly that seared ahi tuna should be retired for at least a decade. It hasn’t been a fresh idea since the 90s. Although, I see it on so many appetizer menus as their pride and joy. It’s really irritating to me and brings down a restaurant in my opinion.
The Wizard Tim says
Have to say that i don’t really eat dessert, but if i spy a simple vanilla bean panna cotta on the menu, i will order it every time.
I sort of fall into the “if you don’t want it don’t order it” camp so I’m not too concerned about whether I have seen things too many times before on menus. I definitely fall into the “if you order it and like it then don’t complain about it camp” however. I agree that more restaurants than not should stop making Caesar salads. The vast majority are made poorly, incorrectly, are WAY overdressed, use poor lettuce or some combination of those. Ahi tuna also should go, mostly because it’s not all that tasty.
I, too, like a nice little panna cotta. I would much rather have that than a chocolate souffle cake, especially at 10:00 at night.
I think Knowlton and Joisey wanting beet salad scrapped is yet another two good reasons to put it on our dinner menu. So we’ve fancied it up a little, and we have.
Hey Morris, I’ve got a chicken parmigiana recipe for you too if you’re interested.
Beet and goat cheese salad. Get rid of it. Unimaginative and it takes no real work to do. I make it at home, like, once a week and my heart sinks when I see it on a menu. I generally avoid places with beet and goat cheese salad on the menu.
Panna Cotta — a necessary staple. Like tapioca or rice pudding. I know, I know, there are people, mostly outside of Europe, who hate those things but a good panna cotta is the mark of a restaurant I’d return to. Like a good tuna fish sandwich, it defines what a reliable eatery should be.
Crostini and bruschetta — my rule is that if you can’t pronounce it correctly you shouldn’t be serving it. Get it out of there. Or call it “toasted baguette with various toppings that make no sense” which is what you normally get.
Bacon — give me a break, really. It is an easy out.
I don’t like goat cheese at all, so when I see something else with the beets, I am thrilled. Ditto blue cheese.
I do like panna cotta, but only when it is done really well and has the barest minimum of gelatin in it, just enough to keep it together. John Gorham makes one of the best in the city, and I would put Mingo’s (though I have only had it in Beaverton) at second. Basta’s does a decent version too. I think Cathy Whims does one at Nostrana, but why wouldn’t you order the butterscotch budino (one of the best simple desserts in the city, IMO). And yes, better than creme brulee or flourless chocolate cake or molten chocolate cake…
OK, the crostini thing? HAS. TO. GO. Not only in restaurants (OK for an amuse you are not charging me for, but as an app?), but at events. I have been to a lot of food events this year, covering them for PFG, and the lack of inventiveness and the reaching for the crostini is sad. Chefs, there are other things to perch your toppings on – get creative, will ya? Taste of the Nation was a crostini-fest this year (though some of the toppings were very good). Step it up!
Short ribs are so easy to make at home that I rarely order them out.
Yeah, you’ve gotta really be trying to F up short ribs. Who has had them prepared poorly and what was the issue with them?
I’ll put it on the bar menu instead of the chicken plate Ben wants so long as I can tell him it was your idea Doug.
I agree with Jimster……if you don’t want it, don’t order it. I really can’t think of anything that sells better than a beet and goat cheese salad even if it’s not the most creative thing around. Believe it or not some people still go out to restaurants for something satisfying and not just to be entertained by the “clever” chef.
Lets put this into a different perspective. Bon Appetite magazine in my opinion isnt really a great food mag anyway. It is full of ads and over opinionated media driven propaganda that showcases the false side of the culinary world as they want the public to see it. A monoculture that is driven by pointless garble and overrated food trends. Beets and goat cheese are great together, but uninspired chefs tend to roast beets, slice them, crumble goat cheese on it and do the “Balsamic Drizzle”. BLEH…..Those chefs that think outside the box and get creative with varying textures, cooking methods and procedures are the ones keeping it alive. For one to say these items should be off menus is one mans opinion, it is up to the chefs to keep inspired by the forementioned criteria of keeping food exciting. I must add thouh in my opinion, GET RID OF SLIDERS………………………Keep food simple yet refined, cooking methods traditional yet contemporary and always cook with your heart and passion on the cutting board.
Marshall Manning says
I fall into the “if you don’t like something, don’t order it” camp, and like to see a variety of fresh items on a menu whether they are things I would order or not. For example, I’m very sensitive to bitter flavors, and all beets taste metallic, dirty and bitter to me, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on the menu for others who enjoy them.
Short ribs – Delicious if done well, try them at Kin.
Crostini & Bruschetta – Can be simple and fantastic, but shouldn’t be more than a few dollars. And if the server says “brushetta”, beware.
Bacon-wrapped dates – Hey, if any of my dates (when I was young and single) ever showed up just wearing bacon, I would have been a happy man.
Panna cotta – A fantastic dessert for those of us who don’t want the 7-layer, peanut butter, meringue, chocolate torte, hazelnut, toffeed asparagus special and don’t want to look like the kid with the birthday party at Farrell’s. Unfortunately, very few places do this dessert well. The best I’ve had in town was at Beaker & Flask, but it’s been a while. Too many restaurants make panna cotta too heavy and more like custard, when it should be light, airy, and fresh. If you really want to know what good panna cotta should taste like, visit La Cantinetta in Barolo. We went a few years back and even though we ate lunch there and said we didn’t want dessert, they brought us a panna cotta on the house to share, saying “It’s the best panna cotta in Italy…you must try it!” I’ve never had one anywhere else even close, so it’s worth the trip.
Jason L. says
Roasted Peppers says
As a vegetarian I think the whole portobello mushroom burger/garden burger or maybe fettucine alfredo dish offerings are extremely played. C’mon chefs you can do better than that can’t you? There are only about a million vegetarian cook books out there and not EVERY effing dish needs bacon.