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Saying Goodbye to the Last Decade - How/What/Why/Where We Ate

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What was good? What sucked? What broke ground? Where did you just have to go and have a meal?


What will influence restaurants from here on out?


Do we care?


Wells does, and did, in a somewhat interesting way.


In his (perhaps penultimate of the decade) piece, 8 Ways Restaurants Have Changed in the Past Decade, he implores others to answer the question. 


Recently, I asked Twitter to help make sense of the American restaurant scene, 2010 to 2019. 

Pete Wells   @pete_wells

OK all my Zeitgeist-surfing food media friends: What the hell WAS the past decade in restaurants all about? Sum it up so I don't have to write a 2000 word essay about it.

He got plenty of answers, and threw in his own thoughts as well. On the often loathed by myself and others small plates, for instance:


At restaurants like Estela and Wildair in New York and hundreds of others across the country, the new paradigm meant that it could be hard to tell whether you were in a wine bar, a tapas bar, some other kind of bar or even that antiquated institution known as the restaurant.

A multiplicity of plates eliminated “entree fatigue,” the condition of growing bored after just a few bites of a massive pork chop; suddenly, you never had to move past the appetizers. Small plates were supposed to encourage sharing, too, although some kitchens seemed to forget that as they carefully arranged three anchovies on a dish that was going to be enjoyed by four people. 

Yet somehow, as this fashion became mainstream almost everywhere, servers still felt they needed to waitsplain the concept.




Nos. 7 & 8 are good too: "7. The future looked grim.  8. And yet, everybody agreed that there are good restaurants almost everywhere."


And now I'll go one further and also ask what changed about the way you cook and eat at home? 


Some people began cooking more, some less. Some went keto, some went vegan. You know, that sort of thing. 


Me - I started using a steam-injected countertop oven for the first time in my life, and it has changed how I cook at home.  Sous vide, though these day I use it less and less. More beans; thanks, Rancho Gordo.  Stopped trying to bake breads at home (exceptions would be focaccia and pizza). Bread baking is a pain in the ass, and there's really good bread available to buy, so really, why bother? Started drinking wine more than cocktails. Tried Fresh Direct - once, and while it may certainly come in handy down the road, not my cup of tea. Have never used a delivery app (Grub Hub, et al.).


Any takers?

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I'm keeping Wonton Amera all to myself.

Sell tough, chewy beef kebabs. Doner Shula’s.

Just don't have an MRI of your lower back; it's practically guaranteed to show other "issues," even if they may not be affecting other "parts."

I think a lot of it is generational.  I cook more at home for my own personal reasons, a lot of them age-related.  I can't generalize from my experience, and doubt it's of interest to anyone else.


You know, the same way that to Ryan Sutton, every culinary and cultural trend is rooted in the crash of 2008.  Whereas you and I have seen a lot of crashes and recoveries.

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I'm certainly cooking at home more, and dining out in New York a lot less.  Maybe it's being jaded after more than 20 years (10 of which I spent eating to write a blog, even if the rate of meals slowed drastically towards the end). But there are other reasons.
"(I)t could be hard to tell whether you were in a wine bar, a tapas bar, some other kind of bar or even that antiquated institution known as the restaurant."  That's got something to do with it. I kind of like that antiquated institution, which is probably why I got excited about Otway. While I don't mind a wine bar or a tapas bar or casual dining, I resent them when they charge like a restaurant. The ROI on eating in New York just isn't great these days.


But I'm lucky enough to travel, and I still eat on the road out of curiosity as much as necessity. And then I do find bargains, for example the off-strip restaurants in LV which Evelyn finally forced me to explore; or eating in New Orleans which is, of course, more fun at a lower price.


Ironically, keto doesn't have much to do with this, as it's pretty easy to do keto at the kind of restaurants I like.

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I kind of like that antiquated institution, 


Yes, me too.  Doesn't even have to have tablecloths.


You don't get entree fatigue because you don't get food.


Right. I also don't get "fatigue" when my main is as good as the hors d'oeuvre or entrée or primi. 

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Cooking at home a lot more. We used to look forward to trying new places and as most of the new places just aren't very good, we're down to maybe three favorites at home plus two others for takeout, we save our $$$ for dining while traveling.


We are drinking more cocktails at home (we're just getting better at making them) and drinking more wine and beer.  :ph43r: 

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Restaurants forgot that tablecloths and napkins (other than polyester) exist - with rare exception.


My goal for 2020 is to only dine at restaurants with real tablecloths and napkins.


Obviously I mean upscale dining.

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I've had to shop, prep, cook and clean all of my life so I have it down to an art.    I'm ashamed to admit that I take bad restaurant food as a personal insult.   If I've never been able to get away with turning out swill, why would I be happy to pay someone else to.  


Not signed "Poor Pitiful Pearl", but admittedly someone from a previous generation.

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