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Simple is better than exotic for some foods

I like a chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting.
I don't want a key lime cupcake with pomegranate/coconut filling and strawberry balsamic frosting (a la Cupcake Wars.)

I like Belgian chocolate gelato, sweet cream or peach ice cream.
I don't want burnt caramel ice cream with chocolate covered sea salt pretzels and swirls of coconut marzipan.

I like a honey dip donut or maybe a jelly stick.
I don't want a chocolate cake donut covered in white chocolate, drizzled with mocha and topped with espresso bean

Some foods just shouldn't be gussied up!

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  1. Generally simpler is better, but variety and having options is good too.

    Honey dipped donut? Never seen that. That's too fancy and exoctic for me. :-)

    9 Replies
    1. re: dave_c

      "Honey dipped donut? Never seen that."

      Whaa? I was eating those as a kid and most of my ties are probably older than you : )

        1. re: grampart

          Looks like a raised glazed.. so honey is part of the glaze?

          1. re: dave_c

            I'm sure there's no honey in it, I think it's just a regional name for the glazed donut. Exactly the same thing. Maybe they used honey once upon a time but I'm sure they don't now.

            1. re: Jpan99

              I think you are mistaken. A bit of honey added to the glaze isn't very difficult.

              1. re: grampart

                in my area, honey dipped = glazed as it relates to donuts. I

                1. re: grampart

                  It's not about difficult it's about cost. I'm sure the little bakeries don't bother adding expensive honey to the glaze which is powdered sugar and water, maybe with vanilla flavoring.

                2. re: Jpan99

                  Tim Horton's have always had them as far as I can recall and long before tim in the '50s they were available here in Ontario.

                  The menu below lists both honey and sugar glazed.


              2. re: grampart

                That's a glazed donut! Regional names, no doubt.

            2. You have a gussied up donut as your icon. ;-) (kidding!)

              I often feel this way. A simple grilled steak is a thing of beauty. So is beautiful fried egg. Or a still-warm tomato, just picked from the garden.

              But as dave_c says, options are cool, too. Sometimes I want an avocado. Sometimes I want a seven-layer dip.

              2 Replies
              1. re: pinehurst

                My donut icon is classic! Actually a simple chocolate iced raised donut with a little maple drizzle! ;-) Aside from jelly I hate the filled donuts and aside from some cream I hate filled cupcakes with a million flavors going on.

                I do like exotic too, but I find that as I get older certain foods taste better in the simplest of forms. I used to enjoy all the wild Ben & Jerry's flavors of ice cream. Now I find they all taste too sweet and overpower. I just want a something simple and usually one flavor.

                1. re: Jpan99

                  I am with you on the ice cream. I too loved those B&J's flavors 20+ years ago. We used to ski in that area and every night we all sit around with various pints, yumming it up!

                  Now I like just plain ice cream.

              2. Agreed! Gussied up mac & cheese is a pet peeve. Worst case was a Creme Brulee with shredded coconut in the custard served at the Disney Resort in Wabasso FL.

                6 Replies
                1. re: grampart

                  You forgot to tell those kids to get off your lawn!

                    1. re: grampart

                      Reference to a Clint Eastwood movie (Gran Torino) in which (super simplified summary follows) he plays an older fellow who hates his 21st century life and relishes his classic car, hand tools, and what he views as "the good old days"

                      "Get off my lawn" is a sound byte from the movie, in which a gun-toting, fearless Clint tells a gang of Hmong thugs to do their thuggery elsewhere.

                      1. re: pinehurst

                        Oh. Yeah, that sounds like me though better played by Walter Matthau than Clint.

                        1. re: grampart

                          I think Clint's movie stole the line from common usage.

                      2. re: grampart

                        It's a classic phrase used to demonstrate that a person has become old, crabby, and intolerant and therefore never wants the neighborhood kids to touch his lawn, much less walk or play on it.

                  1. I think both styles can be good. Like everything else, it's not necessarily what you do, it's how you do it.

                    Simply and beautifully done is yummy. I agree that for the most part the "fancied up" "flavored up" stuff is poorly done. But when it's done right, more complex things can be amazing.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sandylc

                      Oh, I should add that a lot of people screw up "simple", too.

                      I'm an individual case person here, although I really do know what the OP means.

                    2. Just the other day I had French toast with a fried egg cooked in the middle covered in sliced strawberries and chunks of battered chicken with a bbq maple syrup drizzled over it all. Freakin' awesome and I wouldn't have changed a thing. Part of dining out is gaining insight into others' creativity. Far from being "gussied up" this dish was clever, delicious and threw flavors together in a non-obvious way.

                      1. I can and have eaten foods with lots of ingredients & exotic complex flavors. And I have enjoyed most of them. But it's not really my thing. I always tell people about my cooking "it's really simple - if there's more than 5 ingredients forget it."

                        1. For sushi, I really do believe simpler is better. I like the more traditional simpler sushi than the newer sushi rolls with tons of special sauces.

                          Southern BBQ same thing too. Just timing and temperature and selection of the meat. Let's not hose the meat with a lot of sauces.

                          So many things are like these.

                          1. I feel this way about corn. I don't think it needs much besides butter, salt, and pepper. Same with popcorn - I don't want sriracha-lime popcorn or cinnamon toast popcorn - just butter and salt. BUT that's just my taste and preference. I think corn is pretty great on its own.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: NonnieMuss

                              I agree with simple for corn. So much so that I don't use salt or butter. Its fine on its own when its ripe and sweet.

                            2. I hate fancy cheeseburgers. I want meat and cheese on a soft white bun. Lettuce, tomato, pickle, sometimes onion. Bacon is okay too.

                              I don't want chipotle aioli, pate, micro greens, ground lamb, goat cheese, roasted beets, or any other nonsense.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: jpc8015

                                Ah, this is one area which I appreciate some creativity. I like old fashion simple hamburger too, but I don't mind the creative stuffs like salsa sauce or onion ring or guacamole.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  Now that I think long and hard about it I guess there are some other things that I do like on a burger; a fried egg or guacamole for instance. But...I have seen far too many burgers turn into something that they shouldn't be.

                                  1. re: jpc8015

                                    Maybe I was from California. The idea of putting guacamole and avocado does not even seem unusual to me. Whereas bluecheese burger or is a bit more unusual to me than an avocado burger. Really. I would say avocado is probably one of the normal burger toppings because of my upbringing.

                                    Tomato, lettuce, onion, pickle, bacon, avocado <-- ranking of what I consider to be most normal toppings.

                                    I tried fried egg on a burger a couple of times. I actually like it.

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      Me too, CK. But I was barely an adult (27) when I moved to CA. A totally normal burger for us is grilled onion, tomato, avocado slices, s&p. Oh, yeah, and cheddar cheese (that can vary).

                                2. re: jpc8015

                                  That's a funny statement to me as my wife hates a burger that's been gussied up with

                                  Lettuce, tomato, pickle, sometimes onion, and especailly bacon.

                                  She likes it on a bun with cheese. Anything else is too much.

                                  1. re: jpc8015

                                    A recent epiphany for me was that I love all the fancy burger toppings, but not on the burger. I want to be able to taste the meat when I have a burger. And maybe on the side a salad of micro greens, goat cheese, and roasted beets dressed with chipotle aioli!

                                    1. re: P_penelope

                                      Great point! When the bread is amazing and the beef is especially great quality and is beautifully cooked, all that is needed beyond these is salt.

                                      A side of lovely greens and/or veggies is perfect.

                                  2. Comparisons might be better made between simple vs complex, exotic vs familiar, or traditional vs creative.

                                    Exotic is only a measure of how unfamiliar an eater is with a food in question, not one of simplicity. Tostones are extremely simple, but still plenty exotic to my MIL. A panang curry or certain mole sauces might contain 30 ingredients or more, but are far from exotic to many Thai or Mexican people.

                                    Personally, I think there are plenty of great foods that are complex, or exotic (unfamiliar to me), or creative. But it might be easier to make pleasing foods that are simple, familiar, and traditional. For some foods, like sushi as mentioned above, I've yet to run into creative, complicated, and untraditional I've enjoyed as much as the simpler executions (and even then, some of the traditional sauces are more complex than they're often given credit for). Which isn't to say that it can't be done.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                      You said what I couldn't figure out to say. I've made foie gras which is flat out simple but somewhat exotic.

                                    2. Sometimes I like simple, sometimes I like fancy...its not an either or proposition. Good is good.

                                      1. I disagree. Variety is the spice of life!

                                        There are foods that I *prefer* in their most simple form, corn of the cob being one, but that doesn't stop me trying (and loving!) other versions. Roasted corn with lime butter and cojita cheese is amazing.

                                        If my whole life was nothing but plain chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting, Belgian chocolate gelato, sweet cream or peach ice cream and honey dip donuts I would die from boredom.

                                        I bet I could start a war by posting that my <insert family/inlaw member> will only eat chocolate cake and insists it be served at every <insert holiday>. Not matter what else I cook she won't even touch it stating its "too fancy". LOL

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: foodieX2

                                          This is my father in law. He is a total meat and potatoes kind of guy. My wife once tried to put some onion in something and it didn't go over too well.

                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                            I just listed three food types that I like plain and simple. I love plenty of exotic tastes, but I don't want that in a donut. To me a donut is simple. I want to hear the crunch of a well fried cake donut and taste the hint of nutmeg. I love the texture of a good yeast donut, soft but with a little chew and a simple sweet glaze that doesn't overpower.

                                            Not trying to live a life of simplicity, just want some of my "old fashioned" foods to stay that way and not be gussied up!

                                            1. re: Jpan99

                                              Ever make donuts? My family did once. What a chore and a mess. Simple it was not. Simple to buy, not to make.

                                              1. re: Bkeats

                                                It's been on my mind to do. I think I will in the fall. My mom used to make donuts when I was a kid. The cake kind. They were so good.

                                              2. re: Jpan99

                                                I too love a simple old-fashioned donut that is well made, not mass produced. But that doesn't mean I don't enjoy other flavors. A puffy glazed, an apple cider one in the fall or even a well made cruller. I don't consider those "gussied up", they are just variations on an item.

                                                To me your "gussied up" seems to imply anything that is "different then I am used to/grew up with". Who ever said "get off of my lawn" hit the nail on the head On how I was reading your post.

                                                My take is there are some things that *can* be improved upon but I won't know which ones work or not if I don't keep my mind (mouth?) open to trying new things.

                                            2. For a very long time my mantra has been, "you can do anything, so long as you do it right."

                                              This REALLY applies to food, IMO. If a dish has tons of ingredients, say like a good curry, and is done well, it's delicious.

                                              One reason people might be disinclined towards foods with lot of ingredients is because the more things you add, the more likely you are to get it wrong. Or, you might not improve the flavors enough to justify the additional time, money, and work.

                                              Another reason is that many restaurants are on a trend to look fancy, look indulgent, look like they're offering great value, etc., based upon the great number of wonderful things they're willing to pile upon their food - isn't it exciting! Ugh.

                                              The ice cream places that take their cheap, gummy, artificially flavored ice cream and pile on the candy bar pieces and gummy bears and cracker jacks, etc., are a fine example of multiple ingredients gone wrong. But to many people, this looks so exciting! Look at the indulgence! Look at the value! Ugh.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                "This REALLY applies to food, IMO. If a dish has tons of ingredients, say like a good curry, and is done well, it's delicious."

                                                This is a huge reason I'm a recipe follower. Some of those things that the "big girls" create are a marvel of subtle flavors. I can look at the ingredient list and think 'really?' but I follow the recipe and can often be pretty blown away.

                                                Love the ice cream example. One scoop of wonderful ice cream is better than a half gallon of schlock.

                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                  <<For a very long time my mantra has been, "you can do anything, so long as you do it right.">>

                                                  Exactly! Would I have ever tried a bacon chip donut at Dunkins? Not on your life. But when I was in PA a few years ago we stopped in at an Amish Market and they were making them fresh right there. Traditional cake donut with small crumbles of bacon through out. Savory and sweet yet subtle. It was one of the best combos in a donut I ever had.

                                                  I recently made Thai Basil ice cream after my SIL had it as part of dessert in a small little place near her. She raved about the combo so I tried it and it really was good. If Baskin and Robbins added it to their menu, I wouldn't bother.

                                                2. I think there's room in the world for both trends. Personally, I tend to like and respect simple quality foods though sometimes some over the top mixed up stuff is great too.

                                                  1. Absolutely. I enjoy simpler things more. It is not because I like it boring, rather, when there are fewer ingredients I can enjoy the subtlety and complexity of each ingtredient more. Too many things = too much distraction. Ice cream is a great example. I especially strongly dislike chunky stuff in it. It ruins the texture. I tend to enjoy single fruit juices more too. There are certainly some classic combos, but rarely do I find new combinations that become iconic.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: mimolette

                                                      Has it been mentioned here that the fewer ingredients the better they should be?

                                                    2. I find as get older, I am starting to prefer simpler and simpler.

                                                      I think because I'm realizing that it's a lot harder to produce simple because there's less going on to hide lousy ingredients and incompetent preparation.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                        Watched MC last night. They were attempting to make 'club' sandwiches.
                                                        Oh dear what a mess!
                                                        Way too many ingredients.
                                                        Like a burger with a regular size bun with six inch high ingredients.

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          Me too.
                                                          That's why I've gone back to old school cooking. Simple best quality ingredients served with authentic 'Escoffier' sauces.
                                                          Now that would make quite the restaurant.
                                                          The irony is many home and professional cooks believe 'Escoffier' sauces to be too complicated. In fact the opposite is true.
                                                          Take his basic salad dressing: Simply 6 parts of best olive oil and 2 parts wine vinegar. S&P To this you can tweak the dressing VERY sparingly in a thousand directions.
                                                          Here's some examples: Add french mustard or capers or anchovies or sugar or fresh herbs fine chopped. The sky is the limit.
                                                          You want to taste the olive oil and the wine vinegar not just use them as a carrier.

                                                          1. re: Puffin3

                                                            oh, a dijon vinaigrette is our standard house dressing, usually whisked up in the bottom of the bowl and tossed with the lettuce just before I set the salad on the table.

                                                            It always kind of amazes me how fabulous a well-roasted chicken can be, and how much it blows people away when you set a golden-brown bird with roasted veg on the table.

                                                            Far more praise for the cook than the most fancy frou-frou stuff I used to make in the 90s....

                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                              I am with you 100% on the salad dressing. I haven't bought bottled stuff in years (with one exception) and I find we eat far more salads since i learned to make my own.