Tuesday, November 27, 2012

10 Dining and Plate Trends You Won’t Find in Italy

“Don’t play with your food,” our mothers and grandmothers and aunts and nuns used to tell us. That was then. America has a whole new order and the kids are now the quartermasters at the asylum. Italy looks to America for all kinds of inspiration, but some of the plate trends that refuse to die in American kitchens, one would be hard pressed to find in the heart of the Italian kitchen. Some of those plate trends we now have to come to America to witness and enjoy are:

1) The Drooling Plate – Otherwise known as foam, when it first appeared it was our cute, little, oozy molecular buddy plate. Now it looks like someone in the kitchen coughed up a loogie and forgot to clean up their mess. Get those folks some antibiotics, quick!

2) The "Egg on Top of Everything" Plate- We know America is a protein deprived place, hence the need to put an egg on top of everything. Italians love their eggs, they even have designer eggs. They just don’t sully up their eggs (or their other dishes) with an egg every time they feel the need. This is so not "over the top" anymore. It’s just over.

3) The "Shooter" – in the beginning this was another cute fusion idea, mix up some lobster or scallop with some liquids and spices and herbs and throw it in a shooter glass. Sliders without the bread. Pass them around and have everybody throw them in their gullet.. Again and again. No forks needed. Nor seats, napkins or patience. Next.

4) The Tower – At first the tower was the sign of haute cuisine. It was so very Alto-Borghese. Now that restaurants down the food chain are towering up everything from their bacon-and-cheeseburgers to their sashimi-life-boats-in-a-tower, it seems we all have to deal with the ultimate homage to the vertiginously challenged. This is no longer cute nor is it found in serious Italian kitchens, both of the Alto and the Basso variety.

5) The Foie Gras Topper – Hey, a 48 oz. Ribeye doesn’t have enough fat and protein for you? Throw a little foie gras on it. Thankfully this trend never really saw much acceptance in Italy. After all, a bistecca Fiorentina needs no complement. But America, we need to put a little foie gras Hummer on top just for good measure, because we are the mightiest!

6) The Mix-It-Up Plate – it started with plopping a vegetable on top of some mashed potatoes and then thumping some protein on top of that. No separation of starch from protein, no segregation of green from brown. No way, no how, not in America. Everyone in it "all together." Italy flirted with this fad. They also flirted with the muu-muu in the 1960’s. For about 10 minutes.

7) The “Let’s put the fish back in the water” Plate – I didn’t order Cioppino. I didn’t order Seaman’s stew. I ordered a filet of fish, grilled. So why does it show up in some balmy, smarmy murky liquid that looks like the back bay of Louisiana after the BP oil spill? I get it, this is catch and release. So not only do we pay $32 (ala carte) for the fish, but we also have to catch it and bring it back on shore? Cute…

8) The Skid Mark Plate – this one is raging hot these days. These kids didn’t have enough finger painting classes in kindergarten? Or they are fixating on Franz Kline and Mark Rothko? Nothing says loving like a green sluice with a brown skid mark on my plate. This is better than Weight Watchers for my waistline.

9) The Truffle Oil Pissaloo – How anyone in America can still subject their pizza, fish, pasta, lobster or anything edible to the endless stream of abuse from the artificially curated and wrongly named truffle oil is beyond me. In Italy there are truffles galore, so no need to employ any inferior ingredients when the material prima is so much better. But the cooks in America’s kitchens either don’t have enough life experience or they really believe the crap someone has fed them about people actually liking truffle oil. Balls. No one in their right mind believes that for a moment. Except for 1,394 line cooks across America.

And last but not least…

10) The “Artistic” Plate – More chefs and cooks who didn’t get enough creative time in their Montessori classes? More likely they never saw the inside of a Montessori class, or this all could have been avoided. But here we are once again being subjected to some food preparer who aspires to produce beautiful things. Most of what I have seen in America looks like the discards of an Art 101 class. Been there, done that, know what I’m talking about. We want artichokes, not Arcimbaldo, for Heaven’s sake. But still, chefs must play and we must pay. Not so much anymore in Italy. America, that’s where the large playgrounds are still going strong.

Italy isn’t the only place where someone will smile at you and tell you to have a nice day when what they are really saying is, “kiss off.” Only in America it costs a little more and it still seems to be an aspiration to behold these plated treasures. In Italy, there are still those experimental plates, but more and more, with the “crisis” in Italy, people are looking for comfort and meaning, not abstract expressionism and attitude.

Oh, and how's your food tasting?

written by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy

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Marco de Bartoli said...

Basta, I'll go with L'Aquila d'oro.

Mike Dunne said...

The next time someone asks me why I don't eat out much anymore, I'll hand them a printout of this posting. Well done!

Ivo said...

Wow, Now I am hungry much more :)))

Caleurogal said...

But you do see most of these trends in London, Paris and other French cities. I also saw some in Michelin starred restos in Edinburgh.

Ernest said...

Bravo! I love eggs but there's was too many of them all over the place on US menus nowadays. I think you see eggs more on the French dinner table than the Italian (certainly from my viewpoint here in Italy). By putting them on Italian dishes in restaurants, it seems akin toy the comment of one who likes Italian wines when, and only when, they taste French. Which I get, but it's kinda of missing the point of 'finding' Italia' in Italian wines.

Tiana Kai said...

Ha, this is a great post! Although I still see eggs on pizza in Italy, maybe because I still order them when I remember too, but typically keep it to 1-2 toppings. The Tower gave me a heart attack!

mrjab said...

cute! ;)

rihannachris said...

thanks for sharing this! ^_^

danicarjam said...

so lovely~

A.J.REIS said...

hi Alfie! as usual you are bang on the money with this one. Too many chefs trying to be hipster.

fredric koeppel said...

The editors of every food magazines should read this excellent satire; also all the chefs and menu planners in America... right on!

babylonfalling said...

I needed a good laugh! Thank, that was great.

Francesco Gullino said...

I always thought the foam looked like dog vomit after eating grass

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