The 13 Most Overcooked Food Trends of 2013
Truffle Oil on Everything
Enough with the truffle oil. It's not bacon. It doesn't actually make everything taste better. In fact, it ruins more dishes than it improves. Did macaroni and cheese need to be improved? Was the greasy, salty, crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside glory that is the French fry missing something? No. But add the word "truffle" to the description and an inexpensive side dish doubles or triples in price. Not only does the taste and scent of the truffle oil completely overwhelm the dish it's meant to enhance, but the vast majority of the time, the cloying substance is actually olive or grape-seed oil with a chemical additive. This is not news: A 2007 piece in the New York Times revealed that chefs knew perfectly well that the cheap substance was just olive oil with 2,4-dithiapentane added to it. And how could they not, considering that actual truffles cost somewhere around $60 an ounce? Apparently, however, the restaurant industry is, like, competitive and junk. After all, 2,4-dithiapentane is an odorant found in some truffles, so it really just "democratizes" truffles so we can all "enjoy" their flavor. But, as world-renowned chef Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago told the the New York Times, "It doesn't even taste like truffle." Since most people have never tasted the real thing, a massive fraud continues to be perpetuated on the nonelite eating public who don't know the difference. So, no, that food truck that just charged you $18 for stinky mac and cheese is not investing in fungi rooted up by pedigree pigs being shepherded through the French countryside by men in charming berets. It's just cheap oil made to smell expensive to trick you into paying more for the honor of eating it.
-- Rebecca Dittmar
Nanette Gonzales Ikemen's ramen burger at the Los Angeles Ramen Yokocho Fest.
In the modern era of the food mashup, crowbarring one dish into another has become a kind of performance art, like competitive eating recalibrated from quantity to thought piece: your dinner as a Jeff Koons balloon. Some of these mashups work; some of them should be banned by the FDA. But a rare few of them are genius, not so much edible cultural fusion as a rip in the space-time continuum. The ramen burger is one of the latter -- very silly, but genius nonetheless. It's pretty self-explanatory: a bun woven from ramen noodles and pan-fried, a burger made with chashu or beef, scallions, and all kinds of special sauce. Sure, that sound you hear is purists screaming, but they scream a lot. This high-concept take on lowbrow food was dreamed up by Keizo Shimamoto, a computer programmer turned food blogger (aren't we all), who then brought his dream to the public. A large public. When he popped up with his burgers in a south Los Angeles food court, 1,000 people waited in line, starting at dawn, like the dish was a K-pop band. It has since turned up at food festivals and L.A. ramen shops, made by ramen chefs alongside their repeating bowls of tonkotsu. There are even rumors of a ramen burger shop coming to Hollywood. Will a ramen burger be as ubiquitous as gyoza and takoyaki on ramen shop menus? Highly doubtful. But it will be a very fun ride. -- Amy Scattergood