6. Chef overreach: Congratulations, chef. You have managed to lay your hands on a stash of puntarelle, the rare, incredibly labor-intensive chicory shoots that until recently were found nowhere outside of Rome, where they are always served raw, dressed with anchovies. It is not necessary to make a statement by grilling them until they resemble charred radicchio.
7. Tuna surprise: There is no law that a chef memorize every species on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch list. But surely we can agree that bluefin tuna is hurtling toward extinction, orange roughy is depleted, shark stocks are plummeting, and Chilean seabass is not dull, but endangered. A chef careless enough to leave vulnerable species on his menu is unlikely to mind his pots with the diligence one might prefer.
8. Truffle oil: Real truffles, whether the white ones from Alba or the black ones from the Périgord, are miracles of gastronomy. Truffle oil, a wholly synthetic substance that has come no closer to actual truffles than it has to the surface of the moon, is not. Ever smelled the deer musk that hunters like to smear on themselves during rut? Now imagine that on your next $18 plate of pasta.
9. Third-wave coffee: Do we applaud fair-trade, sustainable farmed, shade-grown joe? Sure. Why not? But when we sit down to a cup of coffee in the morning, we are not particularly interested in the blueberry, caramel, or tomato soup nuances a dedicated roaster can coax out of a bean, nor in the intricate ballet of the four-minute pour-over or the Eva Solo flagon. We want coffee that tastes like coffee, and we want it now.
10. Better living through chemistry: Some people call it molecular gastronomy. Chefs prefer Modernist Cuisine. Whatever its name, although we have seen the best
minds of our generation destroyed by the quest for hot ice cream, or for a soft-boiled egg with the yolk on the outside, the
effects can be stunning when executed by a master. Still, this in no way accounts for foie gras cotton candy, the Viet-No-Jito,
or jellied collard greens that look and taste like drips of hardened Prell.
Jonathan Gold is restaurant critic for the L.A. Weekly, where he won a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. He also won the 2011 James Beard M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.