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Apr 9, 2011 07:49 AM

Can you name foods and drinks where the original recipe has almost disappeared from mainstream restaurants?

There are foods and drinks that, due to cooks' (or restaurant owners') laziness or cheapness, have almost disappeared from mainstream restaurants at the expense of deliciousness. I find this very sad. Below are a few examples. Can you name some others?

1. Margaritas--It is almost impossible to find a Margarita on the menu in a restaurant bar that does not contain sweet and sour mix. This is not part of the original recipe and is included to reduce the cost of the drink because sweet and sour mix is cheaper than Cointreau, Grand Marnier, or even Triple Sec, as well as bottled/fresh lime juice. The laziness comes in the form of no need to squeeze fresh lime juice--just pour that sweet and sour from the bottle. When "top shelf" Margaritas started appearing about 15 years ago, I thought that would solve the problem. No way! Press your server or your bar tender and he/she will admit that even in the top shelf drinks, sweet and sour mix STILL makes an appearance.

2. Caesar salad--Today's Caesar salad is a mild ranch dressing-like bottled "Caesar" dressing over iceberg or romaine lettuce with some preshredded mild white cheese and prepackaged croutons on top. Garlic, worcestershire sauce, parmesan, egg, and even salt and pepper fail to make an appearance. In other words, anything with flavor has been eliminated. Don't get me started on the lack of anchovies which, I realize, is technically non-traditional if added whole, but still ought to be included, at least in the dressing (where anchovies are traditional). Again, including the ingredients I have listed above increases the price greatly, as well as the time necessary to make the dish, and who would want to sacrifice time and money for--uh--flavor?

What really bugs me about these modifications to traditional recipes is not that they exist but that they have crowded out a restaurant patron's ability to get the real thing.

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  1. +1.
    One time my husband made a big batch of margaritas- our 3-2-1 Tequila/lime/cointreau mix that we'd experimented with and decided on. His coworkers lo ved the taste and were pounding them down like they were the usual quasi-Mexican restaurant variety and several got sick. So from then on we made a note of informing people that they were about ten times as strong as the ones you usually get in restaurants.

    1 Reply
    1. re: EWSflash

      Just to clarify: Is it a 3-2-1 ratio? As in three parts tequila, two parts lime juice and one part cointreau?

    2. The limes were fresh, BTW :-)

      1. Housemade dressings (blue cheese, ranch, etc.) although most places will make their own vinaigrettes.
        Desserts bought from restaurant suppliers. These are usually cheesecake, molten lava cake,
        not to mention pies. I wouldn't mind, but I wish restaurants would find a GOOD bakery to get their desserts. I hate looking down and seeing my slice of pie oozing Comstock filling.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Michelly

          Funny, I used to make all dressings from scratch working in a restaurant which I almost never do at home. For Ranch we used chicken consomme (who knew?) and for blue cheese would put crumbled blue cheese in the oven just long enough for them to start glossing up and releasing the yummy oils into the dressing before adding it to the dressing. It was way better dressing but then again not something you would want to leave in your fridge for a month like the bottled stuff.

          1. re: Michelly

            Ugh, desserts from restaurant suppliers! The funny thing is, you often see these in display cases. When i see a whole cake sitting in a display case mechanically divided into 16 slices with a piece of paper in between each slice, it's like the KISS OF DEATH. I'll never understand why the owner wants to trumpet having ersatz desserts, when he could easily remove the paper.

            1. re: sbp

              But wouldn't a professionally baked cake, well chosen by the restaurant, be superior to a home made mediocrity, if baking is not the restaurant's forte?

              1. re: therealdoctorlew

                Yes, but a professionally baked, well chosen cake wouldn't be pre-sliced and "papered" by any reputable baker.

            2. re: Michelly

              Speaking of salad dressings, I haven't seen Creamy French (not like "real" French Vinaigrette) in years. The late LA restaurant Nickodell's had it. Okay, it's only ketchup, mayonnaise, etc. but I still miss having it in a restaurant.

              1. re: gordeaux

                i agree - martini...
                i cringe when a bartender asks "what kind?" or "vodka?"

                  1. re: Sue in Mt P

                    Sounds like you are a Prescriptivist.

                    Probably most of the comments in this thread will be from Prescriptivists, people who are a certain that there is one correct way of preparing an item.

                    One strength of the Prescriptivist position is:
                    " Finally, there is the bracing sense of keeping the barbarian at the gate, of shielding a flickering flame of culture against the gusts of fad and fashion."

                    1. re: paulj

                      I am curious: if I get annoyed when I order Mashed Potatoes, and get Whipped Potatoes, does that make me a Prescriptivist?

                      I hate Whipped Potatoes.

                      1. re: DougRisk

                        There's a difference between having a preference (even a strongly held one), and insisting that there is only one correct way of preparing potatoes (or a Martini).

                        While I have my preferences on many items, I'm more of a Descriptivist when it comes to cooking terminology and names. I'm more interested in the history and range of use of a term or dish name than I am in defining its boundaries.

                        1. re: paulj

                          There are plenty of correct ways to prepare potatoes, and there are a huge variety of drinks that can be served in a cocktail glass. But Stouffer's Scalloped Potatoes aren't Pommes Anna. And a Martini is gin, vermouth, and an olive or a twist. Period.

                          Yes, I **am** a prescriptivist. And the barbarians **are** at the gates. Fortunately, the resurgence that classic drinks are seeing in geeky cocktail bars is making some headway into the mainstream.

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            Well, then I guess I'm a prescriptivist too. If something deviates from the original recipe, it's an adaptation, and that should be noted. As they say, "don't feed me bs and tell me it's chocolate cake." I haven't any problems with adapted or revised recipes, but please: don't do me the insult of telling me it's the real deal when it's not.

                            1. re: mamachef

                              Don't feed me s*** and tell me it's peanut butter!

                              1. re: flavrmeistr

                                They treat me like a mushroom: feed me sh*t and keep me in the dark!

                      2. re: paulj

                        Agreed. There is one martini. Period.

                        Other drinks are merely served in martini glasses.

                        1. re: JudiAU

                          You've obviously never heard the joke, if there's only one, it's a martinus

                          1. re: JudiAU

                            Although if we want to go truly original, it should be made with Old Tom gin and sweet vermouth...

                            1. re: alanbarnes

                              <sigh>...people always look at me like I have three eyes when I suggest that this is how I REALLY like my martinis. :( With a dash of orange bitters too, please.

                              So does it make me a prescriptivist if I wish I could walk into a bar and ask for a simple cocktail like a daiquiri or a martini without having to specify a recipe?

                              1. re: Wahooty

                                Don't forget the maraschino liqueur! Originality has nothing to do with standardization. A martini as it currently is (or IMO should be) defined has nothing to do with the "original" recipe.

                                Arbitrary? Probably. But that's my story and I'm stickin' with it.

                      3. re: porker

                        As someone who worked as a bartender while in college at a restaurant with michelin stars, I can say most bartenders know what a traditional martini is. We ask because its not proper form to tell the customer they are wrong and that if its not gin its not a martini.

                      4. re: gordeaux

                        Any old style drink, the bartender either does not have the ingredients or needs to look it up. Old Fashioned. Rob Roy, Rusty Nail, Stinger, Manhattan, Side Car.

                        Try ordering a "Traditional Margarita Over Ice Not Frozen" and see how many times you get a frozen margarita.

                      5. I see the problems you cite as the indicia of a poor restaurant. Such places are also prone to make martinis with vodka, cook barbecue in an oven, and use the microwave. I'm sorry to hear that they are the mainstream anywhere.