Time for part two of this piece, also known as, old man shakes fist at young people running rampant all over his lawn.
Brioche burger buns
Qu’ils mangent de la brioche
So goes the famous phrase by Marie Antoinette; a clarion call that has echoed down the ages, eagerly received by a cavalcade of chefs all too happy to comply. Cake! Cake is what people want with their burger. At least so the evidence would suggest if you’ve stopped by a local restaurant over the past couple of years.
For my money the enriched brioche is the curse of many a would be contender in the best burger stakes. It’s too sweet, too rich, too greasy. It’s the uninvited guest at the party who swanks around the joint asking how much the sofa cost. A savvy beef blend is all the luxurious fattiness a burger build needs.
I’ll fight on this particular hill till I’m dead, I know other’s vehemently disagree. Potato and pretzel rolls, floury ciabatta, and I know it’s crazy, but hamburger buns – a bounty of baked beauties await the curious chef; please just stop it with the brioche.
A perfect circle
While we’re on the subject let me bang on about burgers once again. On multiple occasions of late I’ve been served burgers so perfectly circular you could explain cyclic quadrilateral theory. Look, a real burger should be a beautiful imperfection, a shape unbound by geometric description. I waxed lyrical in this post on making lamb burgers.
I might also begin a third burger tirade at this point, a thesis on the senseless smashing of burgers. The violent cooking technique is all the rage. The MMA of the grill if you will. Alas. I think I might have run the clock on my burger babbling. I’ll save my screed on the dubious scientific nature of this most brutal methodologies for another day.
And yes. I’ve been eating a lot of burgers of late.
[This one removed] It was pointed out to me that my critique of certain stylized social media videos came off as mean spirited. I can absolutely see that in the cold light of day. In a poorly executed attempt to be witty, I realize I was inconsiderate to a great many. A myriad unreserved apologies, and please do scroll to the end where I place the pointless like of myself on this list. I’m for sure a dinosaur that is probably ready for the trash can. If I soured your day with this one, allow me to buy you a conciliatory drink in person should we meet, I will spend the entirety apologizing profusely, while you make me eat brioche upon brioche.
Elevated – Can we stop elevating things please. If menu items are elevated any more, I might not be able to reach them.
European-style – I’m European. We agree on absolutely nothing. The continent has literal millennia of continual disagreement. The only reason for bedecking a menu or concept with Euro-stylings is to charge you more.
Sushi grade – The phrase means nothing. It has no legal standing, no official FDA backing. If you read sushi grade on a menu, they’re confused at best.
Artisan – This bread you see was made by an artisan. An old chap, some eighty years or so, his name is Charles. He wakes at four a.m. daily and never sees sunlight. As a result, this artisan bread is $12 per slice.
Composed. Social plates. Shareables.
“Can I offer you an egg in this trying time?” – Frank Reynolds.
You know how I love to start a meal? Knocking back a few hard boiled eggs to get the juices flowing. I do it every night at home, I bet you do too right? This undeniable dining truth is surely the reason for practically every menu under the sun now featuring this most classic way of beginning a meal. Like the shishito pepper before it, and the seared ahi tuna before that, so we have our newest appetizer superstar.
Almost routinely cack-handedly executed pork belly bao came a close second to the egg nonsense. Stop both please.
Family style menus
Also known as, “prepare thineself to act with swift purpose or look on in resignation, amicably smiling that you really just wanted to ensure everyone gets their fair share.” Any time I see a restaurant menu or event labelled as such, I scramble for the door. A veritable Hunger Games battle royale is set to ensue on the tabletop. Let me be clearer, should you spot me at a family style menu event, I’m there under duress.
You can’t get food INSERT X in Utah
Look I get it. Utah will never be the culinary capital of the Western U.S., let alone the nation as a whole. Of course the BBQ in Utah doesn’t rival the South, of course we don’t compete with Maine for lobster, Pacific waters for brine-bright uni.
There is good food here. There is quite excellent food here. If you’re looking carefully that is. The notion that immigrants galore are somehow stripped of their talent and taste the moment they step in the Beehive lands somewhere on a scale of ludicrous to offensive.
Great product is also made here. I’ve seen Utah lamb on Charlie Trotter menus, Beltex Meats have scooped gold in Good Food Awards (Ritual Chocolate might replicate that this year).
And while we’re on that subject, let me repeat this one from last years write up. Stop with the ethnic restaurants. I’m still seeing folks who should know better, devaluing a wide tranche of global flavor; see: Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, and never Italian.
Michelin and their damned tweezers
The recent success of the movie The Menu strikes me as the formal signal the tweezer movement is over. Long held as the apex of the dining experience, it’s increasingly prehistoric in approach. It’s the micro green in the rock strata that defines a new era. With Rene Redzepi’s Noma set to close in 2024, tales of misery from shows like The Bear, it feels like an epoch change is underway.
We’ve been here before of course. Nouvelle cuisine died a death sometime in the mid 80’s whereupon molecular gastronomy rose from the ashes a decade or two later. So don’t worry, we’ll more than likely have some similar resurgence coming along soon enough.
I’ll hold my own hands up, I was *that* guy in The Menu. I chased chefs from coast to coast, myopically studying their menus well in advance of arrival. I had practically ingested entire meals from online consumption before a plate was ever placed in front of me.
Personally speaking, the wheels fell off years ago at a certain two star Michelin joint that will go unnamed. It goes without saying the food was stellar, though I found myself nodding off around the soup course. The grinding precision and procession of the evening’s meal felt more like work than pleasure. Sit up straight, listen attentively to the intricate sourcing and plating details, yes there will be an exam before you leave.
I’m eager for the transition. Great cuisine needn’t require pomp and pageantry; last year’s Arthur pop up was perfect proof. I’m clearly not alone in this longing for a return to simple enjoyment. It’s the reason Viet Pham made the switch to quick service dining. It’s echoed across the pond by the effervescent Jay Rayner. His Le Cinq review lingered long in my mind, and this story nails the whole thing.
Know it alls
This one applies to your truly. It’s only fair to give myself the same treatment as all of the above. Food writing is comically egotistical and vapid stuff. I’m just here stuffing my face on the side lines while a legion of over worked and underpaid industry folks bust their ass. When the end of society finally comes, my lot will be up against the wall first alongside venture capitalists, and the My Pillow fella. As will that guy (it’s always a guy) from California astutely noting that no, you can’t get good seafood in Utah, and he should know.
What else do you want to say goodbye to 2023? Let me know in the comments.
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Image credit, Midjourney 5.0.
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC. I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have written in myopic detail about the Salt Lake City dining scene for the better part of seventeen years.
I’ve worked extensively with multiple local publications from Visit Salt Lake to Salt Lake Magazine, not least helped to consult on national TV. Pause those credits, yep, that’s me! I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’m largely fueled by a critical obsession with rice, alliteration and the use of big words I don’t understand. What they’re saying about me: “Not inaccurate”, “I thought he was older”, “I don’t share his feelings”.
Want to know more? This is why I am the way I am.
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