After looking over the cocktail list at a hip, new restaurant, I made my choice and sat back, ready to be pleased.
Then the cocktail arrived, in a small rocks glass with a giant ice cube almost as big as the glass. The cube was so big, I couldn’t take a sip without sliding my nose over the ice. Is this cocktail hour or tryouts for the Olympic curling team?
A cold, wet nose is a fine thing if you’re being greeted by a golden retriever. It’s not so great if you’re dressed up and out for a nice dinner.
Sadly eying my lovely cocktail, I realized I’m over the giant ice cube. The idea is that it will make your drink cold without diluting it. But too often, it just makes it hard to drink — and a little dilution is a good thing in a cocktail.
So I’ll add giant ice cubes to my list of Food Trends I’m Over for 2016. What else is on the list?
▪ Too much vinegar. I love a hint of vinegar in many dishes. It makes your mouth water and makes you want to eat. A little vinegar and butter makes an amazing sauce. A shot of balsamic can liven up a soup that seems flat.
But with so many menus now focused on small plates, too many vinegary dishes in the lineup can make your tongue feel like corrugated cardboard by the time you get to dessert.
▪ Cryptic dish descriptions. Menus that just list the ingredients may look contemporary, but they don’t give you a clue what to expect. “Pork — benne — pumpkin.” Is it going to be a soup or a bruschetta topping? Maybe it will turn out to be a taco. Help me out here, menu designers.
▪ Cocktail menus that don’t name the liquor. If you’re charging me $12 for it, don’t make me ask whether it’s Bulleit rye whiskey or Larceny straight bourbon. Yes, it makes a difference.
▪ Cookbooks that are more chef than cook. I pick up a cookbook because I want to be inspired to cook, not to see pictures of the boy wonder and his friends cavorting on the beach. Put down the camera and pick up a pot and spoon, already.
▪ Salads that are really big leaves of lettuce you’re supposed to pick up with your hands. It’s sort of fun when I’m at home, but out in a nice restaurant, not so much. And at a dinner party? Don’t be cruel. Drippy dressings and clean shirts don’t mix.
▪ Too-hard field peas. With so many local and regional ingredients showing up on menus, I’ve been thrilled to see the return of great heirloom field peas, like lady peas and pink-eyes. But not when they come to the table a little hard in the middle. If the center isn’t creamy, the peas aren’t done.
So what am I looking forward to in 2016? Cooking. Always cooking. Homemade pasta, with the duck eggs I’ve been finding at local farmers markets. Simple breads, inspired by warm milk bread. Winter stews when real winter ever arrives.
And nothing cold that rubs against my nose. Unless it’s peppermint ice cream — if I can wait until next December.