The 13 Most Overcooked Food Trends of 2013
Amy's Baking Company Makes TV a Little Too Real
By turning reality TV upside down, blowing up the Internet and doing little to help the stereotype of ladies with cats, Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, owners of the now-infamous Amy's Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizona, managed to do to Western civility what the KFC Double Down did to sandwiches. In May, the high-strung couple and their restaurant were featured -- none too positively -- on the season finale of Kitchen Nightmares, during which incredulous viewers watched chef Gordon Ramsay do something he hadn't done in the series' more than 80 episodes: walk away. After the episode aired, the Bouzaglos took to the Internet, where a social media meltdown of epic proportions took place in the form of trading insults with commenters, then claiming their sites had been hacked, then launching a grand reopening campaign to little fanfare. Following news of Samy's possible deportation to Israel, and just when the country (and, by now, certain parts of the world) thought the curtain had finally closed on the Amy's Baking Company shit-show, the Bouzaglos announced a second act: their own reality TV series. Our eyeballs are scratched forever. Meow. -- Laura Hahnefeld
Overpriced, Pretentious Wine/Beer Pairings
I enjoy tasting menus, long lunches, and dinners that give a kitchen staff ample opportunity to demonstrate its inventiveness and technique. Of course, wine is a must with such meals. Often, a lot of wine. A table of four can easily empty three or four bottles during the course of a tasting menu. And it is fun to peruse a good list and select a bottle or two. I prefer to find a wine that originated near the restaurant in which I am dining. At Arzak, I drank Basque wines and one from Rioja. In this manner, one can locate value wines and bottles that, more often than not, sing with the food. (And at Arzak, I was not even told about the wine pairings, but was, with grace and respect, allowed to read it on the menu all by myself.)
Lately, however, I have noticed something extremely annoying: an overabundance of overpriced wine and beer pairings that are "curated" and pushed on diners in an aggressive and pretentious manner. A recent example: A bar that serves food put on a beer dinner that included a six-course dinner paired with six beers and charged people $130. For bar food. On another recent evening I sat down to an eight-course tasting menu and, before I could even unfold my napkin, was forced to sit through a lengthy explanation of the restaurant's wine program, and told that only by ordering the pairings (at $110) would I be able to fully appreciate the food. Listening to this somm (which is how I imagine he refers to himself), I got the impression that the food was playing second fiddle to his magnificent selections. After politely enduring the presentation, I ordered bottles of white and red, selections that I knew to be of good value. The meal was fine, and I was able to enjoy a few hours of stimulating conversation, all uninterrupted by the incessant switching-out of wine glasses and dissertations on terroir and the merits of biodynamic agriculture. I hope, for the sake of knowledgeable diners everywhere, that this trend is short-lived. -- James Brock
As of this writing, there are nearly 300 results for "restaurant" on Kickstarter.
Although giving a leg up to fledgling restaurants can mean great things for chefs and diners alike, 2013 was the year Kickstarter became fair game for just about anyone with enough time and ideas. Home cooks turning their baking chops into bakeshops, a band of enterprising dumpster-divers planning a "freeman" cafe -- all found themselves but a few keystrokes away from no-strings-attached financing. Sure, many (many) Kickstarter campaigns failed, but some succeeded: to the tune of $180,000 above the goal amount in the case of Travail Kitchen in Minneapolis. In just under six hours, Travail's loyal fans blew the initial $75,000 fundraising goal out of the water, emptying their wallets with an enthusiasm to make any struggling nonprofit squirm. It turns out diners will throw down boatloads of money for cool kickbacks like line-skipping privileges and private dinners for contributors. And the awards only got cooler, and weirder, from there: Travail offered up a "2014 Travail Sexy Chef" calendar for backers of $50 or more; Commonwealth in Cambridge, Massachusetts, promised a rooftop pig roast for contributors in the $10,000 range; and a SoCal cereal restaurant advertised that, for $2,500, contributors would get "a mural of a cheetah with a unicorn horn, a cereal party for 20 and a live music performance." If dropping $2,500 on a cereal restaurant seems silly to you, welcome to the wild world of Kickstarter. Still, we'll take it, if it means more talented chefs in the kitchen and more good food on the table -- but we reserve the right to roll our eyes at the rest. -- Hannah Sayle