Five Restaurant Trends We Can Live Without, 2014 Edition

Thumbnail image for BosscatBrunchPoutine.jpg
Photos by Dustin Ames

This needs nearly no introduction: food trends evolve. A while back, it was cupcakes and stuff stirred into mac 'n cheese; before that, it was reinvented comfort food and moonshine. Many of the items on this list appeared years ago in Los Angeles. As with many things, it took a while and now it's started to appear in the desolate stretches of South Orange County.

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An Open Letter To Chefs Who Update Comfort Food

Categories: Indigestion

Photo by some OC Weekly intern or other
And let's not even get into meatloaf...

Dear chefs who keep reinventing comfort food:

Twenty years ago, the idea that a restaurant would cook things you could make at home was novel; we were fresh out of the horror show known as nouvelle cuisine, where tiny bites of food were presented on table-sized white plates, and the other horror show known as fusion, where chefs suddenly discovered Asian flavors. "Comfort food" was a return to things Americans could pronounce, with the deft hand of a professional chef making up for Mom's kitchen shortcuts like bouillon cubes and saltine crackers. Lines were out the door at places like Kate Mantilini in Beverly Hills.

Flash forward to 2014, and now "updated comfort food", which is still all over fully half the menus in the country apparently means adding bacon and braised short ribs to everything. Braised short ribs used to be a meal all their own, and they overwhelm absolutely everything they touch. Bacon ends up everywhere, including on dessert and in places where it has no business. I kind of blame Animal, the meat-centric restaurant in Los Angeles, for this obsession with the enmeatening of restaurant food. Every chef in the country is copying their menu, except most of you can't cook like Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo can.

The rule for updating classic comfort foods ought to be simple: if you can't make an absolutely flawless version of the classic, don't claim to "update" it. An ounce of braised short ribs covers a myriad of you-can't-actually-cook sins.

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Mai Nhu Nguyen Gets 30 Months for Seeking Cash and Egg Rolls from Immigrant Applicants

Categories: Indigestion

OC Weekly archives
Bribery never tasted so good.
An immigration service officer who accepted bribes of thousands of dollars and hundreds of egg rolls from people seeking citizenship and resident status was sentenced Monday to 30 months in federal prison, according to government officials.

United States District Court Judge Josephine L. Staton handed that term down to Mai Nhu Nguyen, 48, of Irvine, who worked eight years in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office in Santa Ana before she was placed on leave.

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Cal State Fullerton Sorority Dinged for "Taco Tuesday" Event Involving Sombreros, Cholo-Wear

Is the red cup part of the Mexi costume?
Not since 'Seniores and SeƱoritas' day at Canyon High School in 2012 had there been Mexi mocking at a school sanctioned event in OC, but it happened again. Back in August, the sisters of Cal State Fullerton sorority Alpha Delta Pi (ADPi) held a Taco Tuesday recruitment party that went horribly wrong. As the Daily Titan reported earlier this week, the majority of Alphies dressed up as "Mexicans": sarapes, sombreros, and chola clothes, all things they'd never dare do down the street in Tokers Town!

"You can have a Taco Tuesday without being racist," says C@SA (Chicana Chicano Studies Alliance) Co-Chair Martha Contreras in the common-sense line of the century. "Just serve tacos."

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Company Recalls Nut Butters Sold at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Others Due to Salmonella

Categories: Indigestion

Photo by Cleo Tobbi

Careful before you snack everyone, there's another nut butter recall going on. nSpired Natural Foods, a food company that produces nut butters for Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Kroger, and a bunch of other stores issued a voluntary recall Tuesday over some salmonella concerns.

The recall affects peanut butter sold in the United States, as well as Canada, Hong Kong, the UAE, and the Dominican Republic. The nut butters were also available online.

Of note: Those of you with peanut allergies aren't safe. Multiple almond butters are also part of the recall.

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San Clemente Jarred Food Recalled After Two in Ohio Fall Ill with Botulism

Photo by Nan Palmero
Behold, the Mason jar menace!

Wuh-oh. VR Green Farms in San Clemente is recalling some of its jarred foods after two Ohio residents visited Orange County and then came down with botulism after they returned.

Specifically, VR Green Farms is voluntarily recalling its Pine Nut Basil Pesto, Pickled
Farm Mix, Old World Tomato Sauce, Sundried Tomatoes in Olive Oil, Tuscan
Grilling Sauce and Pasta Sauce, reports the City News Service. The food was being sold in Mason-style glass jars with screw-on metal lids and has a VR Green Farms label, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

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OC Register Food Critic Brad A. Johnson is Obsessing About French Fries a Mexican Restaurant?!

Categories: Indigestion

Tortas Sinaloa web page
Dem fries!

Okay, I have a million other stories I have to get to before I go on vacation next week, and I should REALLY concentrate on them. But I nearly choked on my morning bourbon this morning when I saw Orange County Register food critic Brad A. Johnson's review of Tortas Sinaloa in SanTana, a place I reviewed way back in November.

First off, Johnson reviewing an OC restaurant? A rarity nowadays, ever since his corporate overlords asked him to focus more on the Los Angeles Register--so much for caring about OC, eh Aaron Kushner? Johnson couldn't even be bothered to do a full review of Tortas Sinaloa, devoting one of his Short Orders. The place definitely deserves a write-up--but then Johnson let the darker angels of his soul take over.

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Where Your "Craft" Whiskey Is Distilled Is Essentially Unimportant: A Rebuttal to The Daily Beast's Eric Felten

Colin Smith, CC-BY-SA 2.0
Stills at the Glenfiddich Distillery in Scotland
Eric Felten, writing for the Daily Beast, has stumbled upon the worst-kept secret in the liquor industry: much of the craft whiskey, especially rye, that commands high prices comes from a giant, intensely ugly building ten miles west of the Cincinnati airport. Cue the clutching of pearls, the shattering of dropped tulip glasses, the rending of lapels, the wailing of women. How could we all fall for this?

He is correct on the facts: a former Seagram's distillery called MGP, located in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, furnishes much of the American whiskey we see on our shelves. Bourbon and rye flow from the industrial stills. He is correct that when you see a whiskey older than the company selling it, those barrels were bought from elsewhere.

Here is the entire reason MGP exists, in ten words: Our thirst for whiskey has overwhelmed the number of distilleries.

Does it matter? Not really.

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[UPDATED with FDA Response] First Our Guns, Now Our Cheese: Is the FDA Cracking Down On Using Wood To Age Cheese?

Categories: Indigestion

Flickr user USDAgov--yes, that's right.
The best part about this photo of cheese aging on wood is that it's from the USDA, with a caption about how traditional it is.
UPDATED June 10, 2014, 3:15 p.m. The FDA responded to our questions. See the update at the end of the post.

Back in 2011, President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act, which aimed to make the government agencies proactive rather than reactive when it came to securing the United States' food supply. There have been many changes in the food production world since then, and the latest may be a direct assault on American artisanal cheese.

According to the Cheese Underground (which would be an outstanding name for a raw dairy cow share), the Food and Drug Administration has taken control of cheese inspection back from the states, and cited a New York dairy for using wooden boards to age their cheeses.

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Stop Over-Distilling Tequila, Or Why Ambhar Is The Worst Tequila To Enter The Market Since Cuervo Gold

Categories: Indigestion

Distilled an unnecessarily and arbitrarily high number of times.
Because I get so many pitches from public relations people whose approach to their career is to employ the steamroller approach to e-mail communication ("Dear Food Writer and/or Blogger"), it's hard to remember which clueless human megaphone sent me the e-mail about Ambhar tequila. I do know that, as with nearly all the non-targeted e-mail I get, I threw it out as soon as I glanced over it. It was the usual rah-rah spiel, this time about some new tequila.

New tequilas are about as newsworthy as the opening of a Starbucks. "It's distilled five times for exceptional purity and smoothness," crowed this particular press release.

Then I was walking through a liquor store and I saw it, so I--do I dare admit this to the ravening hordes of public relations people?--picked it up and looked at it. It is, indeed, distilled five times. It has a jewel-like clarity (and it had damn well better with a foofy name like "platinum"). It was in a very nice-looking, surprisingly heavy bottle.

So I bought it. I plunked down $35.99 of my corporate overlords' money and I took it home and I opened it and I drank some.

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