Gastronaut: And Now for Something Completely Different
There 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.