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10 worst dining trends of the last decade: Cupcakes, Kobe, Foam...

The Chicago Tribune published a short article and slide show of the "worst dining trends," culled from chefs, consultants and "normal folks."

David Chang is one who contributes -- though this list is different from what he and Anthony Bourdain slammed last Friday night -- saying The Cheesecake Factory and Kobe beef were among his biggest gripes. He goes on to say: "Bad trends were usually good trends. They just got watered down into a really bad, overdone trend."

http://www.chicagotribune.com/enterta...

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  1. Great article! Number 1 is number one with me and deserves to be quoted here:

    <<Said Joyce Goldstein, a San Francisco-based chef, cookbook author and restaurant consultant: "I do not want a poached egg on top of carbonara sauce and the pasta on the side. I don't want the ingredients laid out before me anymore. I want a chef to show me how it is brought together. Cooking has become an intellectual thing, but it's not a sensual thing. We have all gotten so smart about food, we are losing touch with sex appeal. Everything else is getting so exhausting -- a lot of chefs saying, 'Look at me,' and 'Look at this technique,' and, next decade, I would prefer not to look at them for a while." >>

    Beautifully stated. And number 2 re "the chef as media whore" was comical...and true!

    52 Replies
    1. re: kattyeyes

      Nothing wrong with that remark except that carbonara sauce with pasta on the side is impossible, but Joyce Goldstein talking about who belongs on a ten-worst list is pretty ironic.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Hey RL, Whaddaya have against Joyce? I used to like her columns in the Chronicle and her food always seemed pretty straightforward and not "fussed over". Care to elaborate?
        adam

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I've cooked with Joyce. She's an amazing, cerebral chef - who had absolutely no patience with the dreamy culinary students who chopped garlic as if they were painting watercolors.

            Actually, I've had some pretty amazing deconstructed carbonaras, including at least one where the pig component consisted of aerated jamon Iberico fat blast frozen into Dippin' Dots.

            1. re: condiment

              There was also Michael V's deconstructed carbonara on Top Chef with the frozen egg yolk in ravioli then cooked. I thought it was clever.

              1. re: condiment

                I'm sorry, but just reading that made me wince. Aerated jamon iberico fat blast frozen into Dippin' Dots? What is so wrong with actually making food? Make an amazing carbonara and do it absolutely perfectly.

                That you've had more than one deconstructed carbonara weird me out. I've missed several of these "worsts" because I don't eat in places fancy enough to do such things.

                I just want real food. I guess I suck at being a foodie.

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  what makes those things less "real"?
                  why are they not-so-much food?

                  is it ok to render fat and use it as an ingredient? to crisp bits of fat and use them as ingredients? If those are legitimate, why is frozen fat a verboten process? where is that line drawn that makes one food "real" and another "fake"?

                  1. re: thew

                    Wherever you choose to draw it, and wherever I choose to draw it.

                    I don't appreciate much novelty in classic dishes. If you want to serve me bacon fat ice cream and baked tomato concasse and noodles and a fried egg all in separate heaps, go right ahead, but don't call it carbonara.

                    Fortunately, the restaurants in which I dine habitually wouldn't ever serve such a thing, because I can't afford to dine in experimental new places, and that suits me just fine.

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      that's a very different stance from the above, when you said it wasn't real and wasn't food.

                      i also asked where YOU draw the line, as i already know were i draw it.
                      I really am not trying to be obnoxious, but trying to understand - why is rendering fat OK, but flash freezing it not?

                      furthermore it wasn't called carbonara, it was called deconsructed carbonara. different name for a different dish - and yet a name that tells you fairly clearly what to expect.

                      1. re: thew

                        I want food to be recognisable as what it is, and I don't like it when things happen to food that I don't think are necessary. The description of the fat above seems tortured to me.

                        Cut from the animal, cured, then aerated, then dropped on an anti-griddle, when just slicing it after the cure would be good enough.

                        It's hard for me to answer your question, because I wouldn't consider rendered jamon iberico in my "carbonara" acceptable either. Now if we were discussing bacon bubbles versus lardons, my direct answer would be because the classic recipe calls for meat in a carbonara, not just fat, and raw bacon is neither advisable nor especially palatable.

                        "Deconstructed" to me means that you take the normal ingredients and separate them out on a plate. If I saw that on a menu I would expect a pile of fresh noodles, an egg, some bacon pieces and a bit of cheese (the ingredients of a classic carbonara). "Deconstructed carbonara" does not tell you that you are about to be presented with aerated, frozen ham bubbles. The point is somewhat moot because it would be unlikely in the extreme that I would order "deconstructed" anything.

                        In short, carbonara is fresh noodles tossed with eggs and bacon and a little cheese, and when you deconstruct it, it is no longer carbonara to me, so I don't like seeing it being called carbonara, whatever they may do to it. It is not a real carbonara.

                        This ties into my dislike of another item on the list, foam. I like my food to be substantial, and I like to feel like I am eating food rather than inhaling a series of wispy flavours. This is also, incidentally, the reason behind my impatience with things like 27-course tasting menus. The art of the four-hour dinner is completely wasted on me.

                        I know that I'm a food Luddite, and I think I don't care, as long as I can continue to find things that I love to eat. Others can go for the bubbles and the foams and the air under glass, and if that's what thrills your taste buds, I say go for it. For that table, I won't be competing, that's all.

                        1. re: thew

                          Rendering fat has been done for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, and all it requires is a fire, a pan, and some fatty meat.

                          Flash freezing has only been around (in restaurants, not frozen food factories) for a few years, and requires sophisticated equipment not found in the average kitchen.

                          I can't speak for Das Geek, but to me, real food is food that could have been prepared 500, or even a 1000, years ago. Granted, our modern devices like freezers, microwaves, instant read thermometers, food processors, etc., make cooking much faster and easier today, but Italian cooks could make pasta by hand during the Renaissance that I doubt we could differentiate from today's versions. If you need liquid nitrogen, or acrylic sheets, or ultra-high speed blenders to make your dish, it's not real to me.

                          1. re: FrankD

                            Indigenious people of the Andes "discovered" (and have since used) flash freezing in their making of chuno 100s of years ago.

                            1. re: FrankD

                              so - no tomatoes in italian food, no chili peppers in any food from outside south america for you, as those could not have been prepared 500 or 1000 years ago?

                              No ice cream? sad. very very sad. No foods that need to be flown in using refrigerated trucks? also sad

                              and i suppose you don't use zippers, or cars, or airconditioners, either?
                              that wouldn't be real closing, real travel, or real temperatures, because we couldn't do it 500 years ago?

                              i guess i have never understood a longing for a golden age that never existed, nor saw the virtue of ignoring progress in everyday life choices.

                              to me real food is food that tastes good and has some nutritional value. and even the latter isn't absolutely necessary, or i'd have to cut out some very fine desserts.

                              In fact i hope tomorrow they figure out some even newer techniques so i can eat some other new real food i've never tasted before.

                              1. re: thew

                                "so - no tomatoes in italian food, no chili peppers in any food from outside south america for you, as those could not have been prepared 500 or 1000 years ago?"

                                If you read my post carefully, I was referring to technique, not ingredients.

                                "No ice cream? sad. very very sad. No foods that need to be flown in using refrigerated trucks? also sad"

                                That no one figured out to make ice cream until lately isn't the point; all the technology was available 1000 years ago (ice, salt, churn, cream, fruit).

                                But I would like to see one of those flying refrigerated trucks.

                                "and i suppose you don't use zippers, or cars, or airconditioners, either?
                                that wouldn't be real closing, real travel, or real temperatures, because we couldn't do it 500 years ago?"

                                I believe this is called a "straw man" argument. I never said any of those things, or even implied it. So, you allege that I wrote something ridiculous which I manifestly did not, and then say because of that, my real point is fallacious? Do study Rhetoric 101, will you?

                                Sam F, your definition of "flash freezing" clearly differs from mine. I'm referring to " the process in various industries whereby objects are quickly frozen by subjecting them to cryogenic temperatures." I doubt anyone in the Andes had cryogenic anything, so I think we're talking at cross purposes.

                                1. re: FrankD

                                  The air in the Andes is extermely dry and cold. For decades the method for making chuno has been recognized by fiood scientists as freeze drying. The stomped on potatoes are completely and very quickly dehydrated and frozen - and they can last for years. Delicioius as well.

                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    I'm sure the process of dehydration of potatoes works well in the Andes as it would in any normal freezer. Problem is it takes place over period of days/weeks versus seconds (flash frozen) or hours (freeze drying).

                                    1. re: Pollo

                                      NO, it is virtually overnight. The air is not like in your freezer - unless you pump it out. Remember we're talking about very high altitude. You need to see it done and sample the chuno yourself.

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        Are we talking potatoes in a form of paste?

                                        1. re: Pollo

                                          No, you break them up with your feet. They turn out to be blackened slightly lumpy chips of various sizes. Look like dried turds, acutally. But delicious.

                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            I thought you were being sarcastic (re the description) till I saw Robert's link to Amazon below. Glad they taste better than they look! HA HA! Guess you can file them under "good shit."

                                            1. re: kattyeyes

                                              Well, I just ordered some -- have no idea what I'll do with them, but any suggestions would be appreciated.

                                        2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                          Do I have to travel to the Andes to sample this delicacy? I suspect these potatoes are not available on Amazon. Don't know if I'll ever get there.

                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                            Bolivia is still one of the "magic" countries in the world, well worth visiting.

                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                              Actually chuño is available on Amazon:

                                              http://www.tienda.com/food/products/l...

                                              I saw some the other day in at the Mi Tierra grocery store in Berkeley, CA.

                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                Not at all. They serve them at a couple of Peruvian places in LA.

                                              2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                This was on a show recently. I can't remember if it was Extreme Food on Food Network or something on Bravo but it was very interesting. They cooked up a stew after that the host said was delicious.

                                                I found a link to it:

                                                http://www.foodnetwork.com/extreme-cu...

                                          2. re: FrankD

                                            Not to mention a "red herring". As you pointed out there is the "argument from fallacy" that you you were referring to cooking then, exactly as today, when you were talking techniques then, versus today. Good rebuttal, Frank.

                                            1. re: FrankD

                                              <That no one figured out to make ice cream until lately isn't the point; all the technology was available 1000 years ago (ice, salt, churn, cream, fruit). >

                                              If you consider Caterina de'Medici's time "lately,"... her chef brought ice cream with them to France when she married Henri II.

                                              1. re: ChefJune

                                                Wasn't ice cream invented in ancient Rome, they ran the ice down from the mountains (the slaves, that is) to make it.

                                                1. re: coll

                                                  Actually, the Chinese were making it long before the Romans...

                                2. re: condiment

                                  It's literally impossible to make carbonara sauce on the side. If the eggs aren't raw when they go on the pasta and aren't cooked by the heat of the pasta, It's not carbonara.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Thank you for the voice of sanity. Carbonara is a recipe with a somewhat limited scope for invention, because at some point your invention stops being carbonara and starts being something else.

                                    I had this argument in person last night with someone and he said that as long as the ingredients are the same, you can call it by the name of the dish. I asked him whether something with mustard, olive oil, vinegar, turkey, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and onions was a chef salad or a sub sandwich.

                                    To thew: if you can't wait, more power to you. I am not into avant-garde food and the few times I have had it I felt unsatisfied after.

                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                      just to say one more time - i agree it is not a carbonara. but the name "deconstructed carbonara" tells you it is not a carbonara, but a different, albeit related, dish.

                                      and yes i was being intentionally facetious earlier. i seriously do not understand your use of the word "real" or why something that couldn't be made 250, 50, or 5 years ago is less real. i really do not get it. i'm trying to convince you to eat anything you do not want to. i just have zero understanding of your stance

                                      1. re: thew

                                        And once more in reply, "deconstructed carbonara" does not tell me what is going to arrive on my plate, other than that it will not be a carbonara. Real carbonara is hot pasta and bacon tossed with a little cheese and some beaten raw eggs. Things that claim to be carbonara that are not hot pasta and bacon tossed with a little cheese and some beaten raw eggs are not, in fact, real carbonara.

                                        Given that I have explained my thoughts at length, I'm giving up explaining it again as a bad job, because I suspect you aren't trying to understand it.

                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                          i am trying, but you keep saying nothing more than "that's not carbonara" i agree it is not carbonara
                                          this did not claim to be carbonara. it claimed to be a deconstructed carbonara.

                                          as i said above i make a deconstructed pesto sometimes. it is delicious. carries all the flavors of a pesto genovese, with a lighter taste and mouth feel. i would never call it a pesto as it wasn't a paste - but deconstructed pesto gives you s hint to the flavor profile and is not as unwieldy as saying "pasta tossed with basil, pine nuts, olive oil and cheese)

                                          what i don't understand is your use of the word "real"

                                          1. re: thew

                                            The original quote didn't say "deconstructed." It said "a poached egg on top of carbonara sauce and the pasta on the side."

                                            Real carbonara is so simple and specific that if you deconstruct it you have something else entirely, like scrambled eggs.

                                          2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                            I agree very strongly with your notion of the importance of words. Most terms have very specific meanings, and it seems that many chefs and restauranteurs either do not learn these meanings or just don't care. The one that gets me the most is when a place bills itself as serving tapas, but really they are just serving small plates.
                                            However, deconstruction is not the problem here; the problem is the misuse of the term deconstruction. You're right that "deconstructed carbonara" is not likely to tell you much about the dish, but, in my experience, that's because almost no one in the culinary world (chefs, diners, critics, et cetera) seems to know what deconstruction is. The chefs that do understand it often turn out remarkable dishes.
                                            The difficulty is that deconstruction began as a school of critical analysis about 40 years ago, primarily in literature and philosophy. It's not easy to translate that critical lens to the creation of a dish. It is not about just leaving certain components uncombined, or playing with the textures of certain components, or any of those things that so many seem to think are at the heart of deconstruction. In literature, deconstructing Hamlet does not mean rewriting Hamlet; it means divorcing oneself from any preconceived understanding of each aspect of Hamlet and understanding these aspects individually. The classic example there is simply asking, "What if the Ghost isn't really Hamlet's father?" Now, how do you apply that to carbonara? I have no idea, but I do know it doesn't involve a poached egg. And I know a talented enough chef could figure it out.

                                            1. re: danieljdwyer

                                              I and a few friends called it the "D" word back in school and in regards to formal critique and art/lit stuff. It's been awhile since, not a big fan of it due to some of the intellectual masturbation that can accompany it...but it can be a strong tool. It can help you see hidden meaning/elements and a "alternative" view of sorts...deeper meaning (okay this works for some things, not for others).

                                              Re: food deconstruction...big word for a stripping down ingredients and processes. I think it's a natural for the curious and a way to understand ingredients and processes better and apply them to other foods/recipes. I think every chef does this, one way or another, either by deduction, reduction or pulling the recipe apart.

                                              1. re: ML8000

                                                When I was in school we could not deconstruct anything. It wasn't the answer from the book or the teacher it was wrong. I have been trying to learn that to some things there is no right or wrong answer, and that people can have different opinions on things. As far as the deconstructed carbonara goes I don't think that I think that it is interesting, but I am a fan of whole food with a limited amount of processing. I think the more that a food is processed the more it resembles it's macronutrient content and not any real food at all. Am I saying that there any processing is bad, no I am not but I think that less is more.

                                              2. re: danieljdwyer

                                                I agree with your definition of deconstruction, but I'd like to take it a step even further. When you've deconstructed Hamlet, you (if you've done it right) gain an immensely deep understanding of what it is makes that play tick.

                                                So now I want to know, if you deconstruct carbonara, are you then suddenly capable of making a much better "real" carbonara, because you theoretically understand what makes each component "tick"?

                                                I'd love to see "reconstructed deconstructed carbonara" on a menu. I would laugh my adipose cheeks off.

                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                  That's an interesting question, and really I think the very definition of deconstruction relies on it. If a dish has been successfully deconstructed, both the cooking and the eating of it will indeed lend a deeper understanding of the original dish. That's why I say that most of what gets called deconstruction just isn't. If it isn't lending that critical insight into the original dish, how can you name it after either the critical insight or the original dish?
                                                  It's a very abstract qualification, but deconstruction is one of the most purposefully abstract schools of thought. Often, true deconstruction is not even achieved with the intention of deconstructing, but simply as the result of seeking deeper understanding. I never sat down in college with the intention of writing a paper through the lens of deconstruction (except in the Critical Theory class where each paper had to be written through the lens of a particular school of critical theory), but usually what I ended up writing could be categorized as such.
                                                  Also, I wouldn't say that successful deconstruction of carbonara necessarily has to translate to an increase in ability to execute the original dish. I can certainly deconstruct Hamlet quite thoroughly, but I sure as hell couldn't do a thing to improve the text in any way.

                                                  1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                    Egad. I was an English major back in the late 60's when this deconstruction nonsense became fashionable. It did no good for literature, IMO, and it will do no good for cooking. Taking a classic work and glorifying some second-rate worker bee's ideas as oh-so-insightful was nauseating then, and remains so.

                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                      Hey, pika, you and I may disagree about what real food is (and I still want to see a flying refrigerator truck!!), but we are alike on our distaste for the "deconstruction" of literature.

                                                      Chowhound: food for thought, and thoughts for food!

                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                        A lot has changed in 40 years. Had you been a student of physics in the nineteen twenties and then walked away from it, you would probably think quantum mechanics was bunk too. To reject deconstructon is to reject nearly all of the liteary theory and great literature of the last three decades. But even in the 60's, nobody with a lick of sense would have called Jacques Derrida a second rate worker bee.

                                                        1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                          He should have stuck with philosophy. IMO, he set the field of Literary Criticism back a generation. Thank God he never (as far as I know) trained his sights and excessive verbiage on food.

                                                2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                  As '80s literary theorists applied their theories to comic books and romance novels, mostly because they worked more consistently than they did with Proust, so do modernist chefs apply new techniques to carbonara.

                                                  It's a newish dish - there are obvious roots in things like amatriciana bianco and spaghetti a la Gricia, but a lot of people date it to the waning days of WWII, when the occupying GIs had plenty of eggs and bacon - so there is less tradition to uproot. Everybody knows what the flavor profile is supposed to be. And the ingredients are made from useful molecules, easy to play with - it's not hard to make the noodles from egg protein and the emulsion from pasta flour, for example, or to gell a bacon stock, or to aerosolize cheese. When done brilliantly, as in a dish I once tasted at Marchesi, the flavors do recombine in ways that crystallize the essence of the dish. When done poorly, it tends to be at least amusing.

                                                3. re: thew

                                                  Goldstein didn't use the word "deconstructed." She said, ""I do not want a poached egg on top of carbonara sauce and the pasta on the side."

                                                4. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                  <I asked him whether something with mustard, olive oil, vinegar, turkey, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and onions was a chef salad or a sub sandwich.>

                                                  Since this something has no bread, I'm gonna go with chef salad.

                                          3. re: adamshoe

                                            Square One and the short lived Square One Cafe were my favorite restaurants, and her original Mediterranean Kitchen is still one of my favorite cookbooks. The take on a Sardinian stuffed game hen I had there on my birthday one year is still memorable.

                                        2. re: kattyeyes

                                          Oh, I'm so in agreement with #1. Unlike GHG, I never knew people couldn't stand deconstruction (especially as it was a challenge on Top Chef a few weeks ago).

                                          I will say this about molecular gastronomy -- if it's done appropriately you wouldn't know it was cooked using those techniques. The best meal I've ever had was at Pierre Gagnaire. I loved every single thing about it. The thing is I didn't even know he was a chef who did a lot of mg until I saw an interview with him. He used these techniques to enhance the flavors of the food. This meal contrasted greatly to my meal at wd-50 with Wyle Dufresne where I felt that the techniques came first, then the food.

                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                            You know, with all this deconstruction going on, they might use CONstruction as a challenge for Top Chef or NFNS or the Next Iron Chef. That might throw the contestants into a tizzy.

                                            1. re: Miss Needle

                                              Actually, the challenge was to put the chef's own spin on a classic dish. In the end, most of the chefs DID deconstruct (or try to) the various dishes, but the judges were angry about that. They said that deconstructing a dish was NOT the same as coming up with an 'original' take on that dish. A couple of the chefs WERE successful at 'deconstruction', but, for the most part they were 'epic fails'.

                                          2. great list, thanks for posting the link.

                                            my favorites:
                                            #4 - Foam. As i said in last week's Top Chef thread, i'm really not interested in eating something that resembles the saliva of a rabid dog)
                                            #6 - Proudly obnoxious fast food options...made even more offensive by the soft-core porn ads used to promote them.

                                            molecular gastronomy & deconstruction certainly weren't surprising choices, and i personally think #10 should have been a more general catchall for deep-fried excess, period. i'm thinking of candy bars, Twinkies, sticks of butter, et al, not just onions.

                                            1. Foam foam foam. I cannot wait for that trend to die. It takes a lot to gross me out, but I'm gagging even thinking about foam right now.

                                              1. Brilliant. And putting Rocco up front as the poster child for Chef as Media Whores is dead on.

                                                1. I don't like food that is arranged for height on the plate.

                                                  18 Replies
                                                  1. re: Sensuous

                                                    I hate that as well. It's not like all 6" can fit onto my fork or into my mouth in that configuration.

                                                    It also seems to be a fairly recent trend that restaurants that allow you to choose a side seem to offer a total of one or possibly two vegetable options and 10 starch options. Mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, french fries, au gratin potatoes, baked potato, jasmine rice, wild rice, macaroni and cheese or vegetable of the day. If you'd like to substitute a salad because you're dissatisfied the 8 starch options, it's another $3.

                                                    1. re: queencru

                                                      I don't think that's a recent trend. I remember 15 years ago going to a chain restaurant in the South (which shall remain nameless because it was one of the worst meals of my life), where dishes came with a choice of two "vegetables" from a long list, only a couple of which weren't starches (since when is macaroni and cheese a "vegetable"?).

                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                        That's the way things were in the south. Meat and two sides are de riguer for southern restaurants. I don't remember ever calling them vegetables, just sides.

                                                        1. re: Phaedrus

                                                          Yeah, I ran into it in several places.But I'm pretty sure the menu said "vegetables" which is why it stuck in my mind, when "sides" wouldn't have.

                                                          ETA: Here's the menu from the chain's website (it has more actual veggies than I remember, maybe they've improved!):

                                                          "With a HUGE selection of homestyle veggies prepared fresh daily, it's no wonder people keep comin' back! Here is a list of our veggies available every day..

                                                          Fried Okra
                                                          Po-Tater Salad
                                                          Cottage Cheese
                                                          Macaroni n' Cheese
                                                          Cole Slaw
                                                          Mashed Po-Taters
                                                          Cabbage
                                                          Sliced T'maters
                                                          Applesauce
                                                          Baked Po-Tater
                                                          Red Beans n' Rice
                                                          Baked Apples
                                                          Green Beans
                                                          French Fries
                                                          Black-eyed Peas
                                                          Corn on th' Cob
                                                          Turnip Greens
                                                          Rice n' Gravy
                                                          Baked Beans"

                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                            Yes, that chain is terrible. Intentional "dialect" menu misspelling is a big tip-off for me!

                                                            1. re: meatn3

                                                              Why the big secret? Is it Cracker Barrel? Tell me, I can handle it. The suspense is almost killing me.

                                                                1. re: grampart

                                                                  Are they still around? There was one here, but it closed years ago.

                                                                  1. re: grampart

                                                                    Yup. As one of my "veggies" I chose applesauce and had to send it back because it had started to ferment.

                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                      A sort of Bartles and Jaymes you can eat with a spoon? I would have kept it.

                                                          2. re: Sensuous

                                                            <I don't like food that is arranged for height on the plate.>

                                                            That started well before the current decade. In fact, it's VERY old news.

                                                            1. re: ChefJune

                                                              Some traditional dishes have quite a bit of height. I remember loving the tauhu telok at an Indonesian restaurant back home in Singapore that was probably best known for their rendition of bean curd/tauhu/tofu fried in beaten egg that was several inches high -- it puffed up beautifully during the deep frying process and became very light, had it been short (and denser) it would not have been nearly as delicious. Taller souffles tend to be better texturally too.

                                                              Also had an awesome fried shredded potato dessert at a Beijing restaurant in SF thanks to some SF chowhounds. The crispy potato sticks were loosely stacked up to nearly a foot above the plate.

                                                              1. re: limster

                                                                Yes, I agree, and sometimes there's a point to it, like when you're supposed to mix the centre tall piece into the surrounding soup, or as you say, a soufflé where you're really paying for the light-as-air texture that requires height.

                                                                But it's really frustrating to be wearing a white shirt at a business dinner and then be presented with a pile of potatoes surrounded by red wine sauce and topped with, say, venison medallions, on top of which repose a couple of stalks of tempura asparagus, topped with potato sticks, with a sprig of rosemary sticking out of it. How exactly am I supposed to "deconstruct" this sculpture without getting sauce all over the tablecloth and my clean shirt?

                                                                Yes, height looks dramatic on the plate, but there needs to be a limit—maybe four inches—and I don't ever, ever, ever want to see a raging priapus of onion rings on a shaft ever again.

                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                  "I don't ever, ever, ever want to see a raging priapus of onion rings on a shaft ever again."

                                                                  Snort....new keyboard time! Thank you very much for the much needed laugh!

                                                                  Priapus...now that's a word I didn't expect to read on CH.

                                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                    Tall food was a rather specific fad that peaked in the early 90s - it doesn't seem to be coming back. As properly executed, in the kitchen of its innovator, Alfred Portale, the idea was a dish that didn't exist until the diner toppled the tower and brought the flavors and textures together herself. It was rather brilliant, and very over-imitated by chefs who didn't understand the processes involved.

                                                                    1. re: condiment

                                                                      So really just a tall deconstruction.