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Are we Becoming Flavor Coke-heads

Jfood was sitting at dinner the other night in a new restaurant and a great dish of sausage stuffed squid over lentils arrived. The flavors were unbelievbably deep and rich. It was a great dish. Jfood finished and wondered what would come next.

He looked at Mrs jfood and remembered one of their first dates when they saw a play "Modigliani" where he and other painters grabbed towels from butchers because the color were something they wanted to include in their next paintings. They chatted about finding the next new flavor like Modigliani was looking for the next depth of color.

It seems many of us are looking for that next level of flavor, that next texture combo and the dish we might have enjoyed two months ago may take a second seat to the one last night.

Are we almost becoming coke-heads on flavor where we cook longer, puree combinations for depth of flavor? Jfood now loves caramelizing his onions for the onion soup for a minimum of 2 hours. Are we insane or are we just becoming flavor coke-heads, needing more to get the same high?

PS - this is written before the first cup of coffee.

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  1. Becoming? I thought that is what it was always about.
    Funny, when I read the title I thought this was going to be about Cherry/Lime/Lemon Coke vs regular Coke.

    2 Replies
    1. re: AHan

      Speaking of coke, ever degaleaze a pan with it, add some bourbon and finish the pan sauce with butter?

      1. re: Demented

        No, but I do use it as a mop for BBQ sometimes.

    2. I am still at the recreational use stage. I always liked food, but not until I discovered Chowhound did I learn to be more discriminating (in a good way). Some meals are new experiences for me now, as I pay better attention to flavors and textures. I also recognize now how many foods I used to like are no longer satisfying to me. But I am still not obsessed. Of course, now that I've passed through that gateway...

      1. I think we are heading down this road, jfood. Perhaps too much so in some ways. Deep flavors and long cooked flavors are spectacular but in many restaurants they seem to be pushing out other kinds of flavors. I also love the bright, fresh, high-note flavors that can come through in quick cooked dishes or especially in various Asian soups that feature chilis and citrus and herbs added at the last minute.

        I think I may like a combination of such things together. A caramelized tomato tart (from a Tom Collichio book actually) has long caramelized onions, long roasted tomatoes and roasted garlic with a caramel sauce but with a squeeze of lemon and fresh herbs to provide brightness and balance.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ccbweb

          So totally agree cc. I have often eaten at restaurants where the courses went from crescendo to crescendo without rest - leaving me exhausted at the end of the meal. Were they all great? Yep, but could have been so much better with a nice balance of less exhaustive flavors and more 'brightness'. It's like a CD that only focuses on 'best of the best' - it only leaves one note (but great) and nothing memorable. Give me a play of clean and complex on my plate and I'm yours!

        2. Well, yeah - but instead of rejecting the old I simply want more!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Richard 16

            More specifically - that something has been done the same way for decades - or even generations --- often (not always) means it's still around because it's good.

            It is a logical fallacy to presume some things are better because they're new - or because they're old. Good is good because it's, well, good. The quest for great foods, for me, includes repeating eating things I love as well as expanding the boundaries.

            For me this also means expanding my waistline as well...

          2. It depends; did you snort the sausage stuffed squid through a rolled up $100 bill? If not I'd say you're not a coke-head.
            Aren't new flavors what hounding is all about? Has the sausage stuffed squid replaced a NJ Sloppy Joe or merely augmented it?

            2 Replies
            1. re: Passadumkeg

              LOL. We may not be doing that, but we are the people you find in the grocery sniffing all the fruits and veggies prior to purchasing.

              1. re: Passadumkeg


                Nothing will EVER replace the SJ. Even when someone tried to sell jfood a Smokey Joe and a Saturday Special, he held firm.

              2. I see this more as part of our cultural personality. We like big and intense.
                Big spaces, big portions, big houses, big cars -- our culture thrives on the "more is better" principle. We like thrills and intensity -- the highest, fastest roller coasters; hotter and hotter hot sauces, and "big, bold flavors," as the television commercial says.

                As a result, an appreciation of subtlety is lost. The concept of "enough" is undervalued. The artistic underpinnings of balance are not as revered as...big.

                7 Replies
                1. re: maria lorraine

                  This even applies to fresh produce. Even if it's a fresh cherry tomato, it's...super-sweet, very tomato-y. an heirloom variety, organic, grown by a farmer nearby, etc. We keep upping the ante. We become more specific and specialized in what we want. Again, this is, in part, a reflection of our "go for it" culture, and also our desire for flavor. Granted, the tomatoes in Italy, the strawberries in France, taste incredible.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    We're also messing with nature with hydroponics, hot-housing, cross-breeding, etc. Is this a good thing?

                        1. re: Whosyerkitty

                          You can expand "messing with nature" all the way to refrigerators if you want - the air in your kitchen doesn't get that cold on its own. Yet I think refrigerators are a good thing. The methods you mention are all ways to increase food production. I think that's generally a good thing, too.

                          1. re: Whosyerkitty

                            all our crops are cross bred and genetically modified already. because manipulating nature is what we as human beings do. have always done.

                            why would the ability to be able to use hydroponics, and grow more food be a bad thing? why would the knowledge of how to improve a plant's yield, flavor, hardiness be bad, in and of itself. sadly it has been used more to make food easier to ship, and not tastier or better suited to feed people in arid places, etc, but in and of itself - nothing wrong with it.

                            for that matter i have no problem with genetic engineering, as long as we do the science right. reducing insecticides, and feeding people in marginal zones seems like a good thing, as does producing plants that also act as medicine. and just tastier foods in general. all good things

                            1. re: thew

                              Agreed, over 8000 years of domestication has already made almost all of our food crops unrecognisable from its wild counterparts... as long as we do so with an eye on the consequences I can't imagine continued "manipulation" is a bad thing (which of course doesn't always happen).

                  2. AGE, experience and refined tastes are the culprit. I have pondered this too, while the coffee was brewing. I have about six coffees I drink, mostly in a defined rotation, from mild to bold. I let hazelnut in to pinch hit after SO has been particularly nice to me, if you know what I mean. I now grind all my coffee myself.
                    On and on. So and I are constantly on quests for better chips, ice cream, hot sauce, places to eat and things to drink (usually in the wine catagory). She likes "Parker wines". Bigger, fatter, zingier Zins, massive Malbecs and so on. I'm looking for better stouts, ales and IPAs. You couldn't get me to drink a wimpy mainstream lager. That's why I threw such a fit that Red Stripe was all I could get in Jamaica, recently.
                    Yes, I'm jaded and getting old. I need more bang for my tongue. I now can't hardly eat plain, steamed vegetables without a sauce and some fancy sea salt! I cooked steak the other night and put all the seasonings on it that I put in my chili, save tomato sauce...
                    I'm a lost cause. I cook what I want and seem to always be ratcheting things up. I'll make a good, if not great osso bucco and want to add something to give it more "bam".
                    Going to good restaurants doesn't help. They use ingredients that are not wholesome and it make me want to be unwholesome, too; not that I ever was.
                    You are not alone and I'm not interested in joining you in a twelve step program unless it leads into a sausage in squid place.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Scargod

                      "I need more bang for my tongue!" Wonderful!

                      Yes, agree to the ratcheting up. I call it flavor development, or creation of flavor intensity. That becomes a big deal when pairing wine, especially massive wines because you need enough "bam" in the food to equal that of the wine or the pairing won't work.

                      1. re: Scargod

                        Scargod, did you add gremolata (lemon zest, parsley, and raw garlic) to your osso bucco? I always top mine with gremolata before serving, and that's what gives it brightness to contrast with the depth of the long-simmered flavors.

                        1. re: Niki in Dayton

                          I often do but forgot this time! That might have done it! Damn! Thanks for reminding me.
                          I usually pair it with simple, creamy mashed potatoes and a Caesar salad or sauteed asparagus with balsamic vinegar.

                        2. re: Scargod

                          Having said that, I made a deliberate attempt to have a simple dinner meal. Grilled chicken, with McCormick's Smokehouse Pepper (applewood flavor), and "greek" seasoning. Leftover wild rice, with duck juice flavors, and plain, fresh, green beans. We marveled at how good the beans tasted! Nothing on them but pepper while steaming and sea salt at the table.

                        3. Yeah, I kwym. Love this meta-thread. :-)

                          I think everyone has a different take on this - Scargod wants complexity. Maria Lorriane & others mention "big". Someone was talking about novelty. Other people find they just can't tolerate crap, or have lost interest in simple "body fuel". It's influenced by temperament, access, skills, what we're reading, who we're cooking for/eating with, new nutritional ideas, etc.

                          I can relate to all those things; I cook whatever ideas I'm messing with; sometimes I don't even care about the result so much because I'm busy learning about the process or the ingredient or whatever.

                          I like the idea of looking critically at the ideas of constant desire, consumerism and "enough"... but on the other hand, if you are the one doing the cooking (and maybe growing), not just the eating, it's not strictly mindless consumerism. Cooking and eating are culture, and it evolves - maybe a lot more rapidly than in previous generations, but change is a constant.

                          1. Gimme chiles! Chiles and eggs, chile and turkey sandwiches, chiles rellenos, enchiladas, tacos, turkissh lamb with... chiles. Peanut butter and chile sandwiches?

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                              If you've eaten chiles long enough you can even eat peanut butter. Peanut butter and jalapeno jelly sandwich! I have both!!

                              1. re: Scargod

                                Jalapeno, peanut butter, red onion & mayo!

                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                  Seriously?? Mayo, too?? What kind of bread, or do you use a flour tortilla? Fresh jalapeno or pickled?
                                  (If you're serious, I'll try it.....)

                                  1. re: Scargod

                                    Whole wheat? It's a variation (I added the pickled jalapenos) of the favorite sandwich of a famous new anchor whom I've forgotten his name. Dan Rather? Try both ways w/ the mayo. Sometimes I use it some times, not, But I do like mayo.