Gastronaut: And Now for Something Completely Different

It’s time to put down the bacon-wrapped bacon, lay your pickle fork aside, and start eating like a grown-up.

taste-gastronautThere is something to be said for a steak.

A big one—thick and bloody, perfectly seared, laid on a plate and flanked by a baked potato oozing butter and a desultory mound of creamed spinach that you probably won’t eat anyway. A shrimp cocktail off to one side. A gin and tonic near at hand.

That, my friends, is dinner. So, too, is a big mound of pasta from a kitchen that knows what it’s doing. A perfect bowl of pho. A plate of tacos. The tasting menu at Zahav.

Culinarily, there is so much good going on in Philly right now. So much excellent food. So many incredibly talented chefs. There is, in fact, so much greatness (with more coming, it sometimes seems, every single week) that it led me to wonder …

How does so much bullshit cuisine still survive?

No, seriously. In a time and place where almost anyone can eat phenomenally well on almost any budget, how is it that so many bad ideas, dead fads, ridiculous trends and generalized culinary dumb-assery still pass as acceptable? We’ve grown up, Philly. There was a time when we had to take what we could get and eat the crumbs that fell from the tables in grander food cities. But we’re big now. There’s no longer any reason (other than drunkenness, of course) to eat what the dim, the slow or the overly impressionable tell us is cool.

Here, then, my humble list of Shit That Has to Stop Right Now:

This obsession with beets and radishes. // Beets are barely a food. In olden days, beets were what you ate in the dead of winter right before turning on the family pets—a food of second-to-last resort. And radishes aren’t even that good. No one in the city (with the exception of the crew at Vedge) should be allowed to pretend they’re food and charge actual money for them.

Bacon. // Yup, it’s delicious. But no one is laughing at your bacon-based t-shirt, douchebag. And the only reason your bacon-wrapped-bacon taco with bacon salsa made the news is so that clever people elsewhere can make fun of you.

Pickle menus. // If you want to grow an ironic mustache and move to Williamsburg that badly, just go already.

“Time-honored traditions.” // Screw you. Think of something new.

Bitters. // The difference between a bad cocktail and a bad cocktail made with bitters? About $14.

“Upscale” comfort food. // Gussied-up mac-and-cheese looks better to your accountants than it does to your customers, Chef (exception: lobster mac-and-cheese at Village Whiskey). And no one cares about the pedigree of your tater tots (exception: Serpico). It’s exactly this kind of fake-smart, gussied-up grub that needs to stop the soonest. Because the first step to growing up is putting aside the baby food.

First appeared in the October, 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

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  • JA

    Jason, my guess is…that if you had the answers…you’d still be cooking! Also, do you consider yourself to be part of the “We’ve” in “We’ve grow up in Philly” seeing as you’re NOT from here?

  • gorilla biscuit

    get over yourself, dude

  • PutJasonOutToPastureAlready

    my humble list of Shit That Has to Stop Right Now:

    Jason Sheehan putting words in sentences.

  • Alimentarian

    “The difference between a bad cocktail and a bad cocktail made with bitters? About $14.”
    Your unexplained dismissal of an essential ingredient in many great cocktails aside, what do these sentences even mean? That a bad cocktail made with bitters costs $14 more than a bad cocktail made without bitters? And one final question: Doesn’t Philly mag have proofreaders?

    • JA

      But Jason is a James Beard Award winning author…he don’t need no stinking proofreader! He’s above that.

  • yourdickinmymouth

    you got dude! Hail to the chief!

  • Eric

    Wow, speaking of ironic mustaches & Williamsburg,let’s add name dropping the ‘hottest’ chefs in town as exceptions to your list, you pretentious D-Bag.
    Philly is undergoing a terrific food renaissance, but don’t forget it’s still blue collar. Some of the best food in town doesn’t come w/a $200 price tag, or a fancy name attached to it.
    If I read another menu or review that uses the term “deconstructed”, I’m going to the top of the nearest clock tower.
    Comfort food is comfort food. Who cares if it’s upscale or low brow?
    Pickles will always be awesome, but as a complement, not a menu worthy item.
    If Philly has tourists, then Applebees will still exist.

  • LaRiga

    This is the reason I long ago decided to let my subscription to that craptastic magazine lapse.

  • Toms

    Most of you have said what I want to say already. I feel
    Like this is a “oh shit not much to post today, I guess I’ll write some stupid article to get the pot stirred.”
    Stop acting like chefs need to reinvent the wheel daily. It’s a tough job. People still eat meals to satiate and appetite and have good conversation over the meal. Not every meal needs to be pushing the limits or even interesting. I like food that tastes good. So let people cook what they want and if it bothers you so much, open a restaurant and run a kitchen. I hope I don’t see a single thing that has been done before.

  • Sirius

    Dear Jason.

    The utter stupidity of this blog post is crystallized by the fact that while you criticize legitimate ingredients (beets, bitters) and processes (pickling) as some sort of out of place “shit”, you then praise the only uniformly agreed-to worst food combination on either side of the Atlantic (cheese and Shellfish) in lobster Mac and cheese as worthy of praise. It is the ultimate neophyte -philistine dish.
    You sir are a joke and your own worst enemy as a food writer.

  • herman

    Thank you so much to all the intelligent (real) Philadelphians who responded to this idiot’s post!! I’ll tell you the shit that has to stop right now, these idiotic posts!

  • jason

    Where’s herman’s post?

  • tijuana

    Have never left a hateful message for foobooz editors/contributors before. You don’t like bitters? Why were you licking them from Lee’s ass 8 months ago? You ever had a good Manhattan without bitters? Fuck off. Pickles ? Yeah I hate that pickles are on every shitty menu too, but, they are essential and on lots of good menus too. Do the pickled vegetables at Zahav suck? Beets! Beets are fucking awesome. My family is Pennsylvania Dutch, don’t be telling me beets are a last resort, they are always good. When is the last time you had a bad beet? They lend themselves to easy, delicious preparation! I have already wasted too much time on this, if your intention was to stir the pot, well, job well done. If it was to actually call out shitty trends you are far off the mark. Bitters, pickles, bacon and I guess ” time honored tradition ” have been around for hundreds of years.

    Also ragging on the bacon wrapped taco etc

    And the only reason your bacon-wrapped-bacon taco with bacon salsa made the news is so that clever people elsewhere can make fun of you.

    is kind of ridiculous considering how much press you give/sell to PYT.

    I’m out.

  • Jimmy

    Is Jason Sheehan the prolific food writer who came to Philly by way of Des Moines?

  • Lord Chesterfield

    I hope the next time I look at foobooz I don’t see a post that fawns over any of these things.. I don’t understand how a blog that hypes these trends can so vehemently decry them.