The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2014

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4  /  the tasting panel  /  december 2014 LETTER FROM THE EDITOR I'm not really a curmudgeon, but I play one in this column. So as a December wrap-up, I thought I'd vent on a few ridiculous or over- rated restaurant trends I've taken note of over the past year. Raw kale is ubiquitous in restaurants these days. The epicenter of the kale epidemic may be Brooklyn, where a kale Caesar is de rigueur on any trendy locavore menu (one assumes this loose-leaf cousin of cabbage is being grown on brownstone rooftops or in community gardens). Earthy Millennial moms and tattooed dads in Park Slope are probably using raw kale to teeth their babies by now—that may be the only good use for this stuff. But there's plenty of the green menace running ram- pant on the West Coast, too—in Beverly Hills, for example, where supermodels can be seen ruminating on tough kale leaves in sidewalk cafés after Pilates like so many stylish Guernseys chewing cud. I've got nothing against kale itself, mind you, or any other plants in the brassica family. I happen to love Brussels sprouts and sauerkraut (especially the French version, choucroute), and what's a pulled pork sandwich without coleslaw? But raw kale has the consistency of a vinyl pool cover and is about as appealing to have in a salad or on a sandwich. There seems to be some theory that if it's bitter, challeng- ing to chew and difficult to digest, it must be good for you. Can we move on to the next trendy veggie, please? Now that culinary foams have gone the way of sauce ravigote and molecular cuisine has fizzled like a flopped middle-school science project, most kitchens are putting out pretty sensible food these days. But that leads me to concentrate on the dining rooms. Why does every restaurant that opens nowadays look like a repurposed garage furnished by West Elm? Industrial surfaces abound, which are hard on both ears and rears. If I wanted to dine at a communal plank table with bearded bald guys named Ghislain or Matthias, I'd join a monastery. Can we please return to the actual comfort of dining? And one last thing: mandatory gratuities. Whether or not you believe in the American system of tipping servers in restaurants (and there are certainly good arguments to be made for the European model), "manda- tory gratuity" is a contradiction in terms. It's not up to the restaurateur to tell the customer how much he or she should tip for good (or not tip for bad) service. And now diners are being stuck with tacked-on charges to cover employee health insurance to boot! In 2015, maybe I should just eat at home . . . . Happy holidays, all! CONTRIBUTORS Adam James has been a professional photographer for eight years, doing everything from taking stills on film sets to covering stories about the best bars and restaurants in Los Angeles. Originally from Griffin, Georgia, he now resides in Orange County, California with his wife Vanessa and dog Lucy. In his spare time, he can be found at local museums finding inspiration or scuba diving in the cold coastal waters. Genevieve Davis graduated from the School of Photography at Orange Coast College with a Certificate of Photography and a Digital Technician Certificate in 2013. Since then she's developed a unique perspective working in front of the lens as a model and adjacent to the lens as a photographic assistant concurrent with her favorite position—behind the lens as a photographer. Enamored with light, she feels very fortunate to have found her passion in photography. Brian Smith is a freelance photogra- pher based in Boston, MA, who primarily shoots people on location for various editorial and corporate clients. His work has been featured in numerous national publications such as Business Week, Forbes, Fortune and Time. Recently, he has begun shooting videos as well. "I really enjoy the process of trying to make people comfortable in front of the camera be it a still shoot or video shoot." When not shooting, Brian loves sailing and can be found on his catboat around the waters of Nantucket Sound. Rebecca Peplinski is a full-time photogra- pher who loves action verbs and document- ing proper nouns. Her focus encompasses many fields of photography including wedding, editorial, portrait and corporate shoots. With her eye as a photographer and skills in design, her shots look like something made for a frame. When not capturing moments, she's making them in Chicago: biking alongside Lake Michigan, rocking out at music festivals and explor- ing all the city's exceptional gems. Over-Rated, Ridiculous and Just Plain Dumb

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