Sometimes when you go out to eat, you need a Rosetta Stone to decode what the hell the menu is trying to get you to order. What's "Parmesan snow"? And sometimes the descriptions are the most precious, twee, overwrought descriptions of food ever put to paper. Food critics see these descriptions too, as they're often eating out. Here are the most annoying dishes on menus, according to food critics from across the country.
"My friends and I saw 'Parmesan snow' on the menu and immediately assumed that it was regular old grated Parm. Parmesan snow is, in fact, a distinct thing -- there are recipes online that involve blitzing the cheese with lemon and gelatin -- but restaurateurs need to bear in mind that if you use language like that, ordinary folks, and even fairly sophisticated diners, might assume that they're being conned somehow." -- Brian Reinhart, Dallas Observer
"I don't quite understand when restaurants list this or that item as 'fresh.' If you list the rock shrimp and turbot as 'fresh,' am I to take it that the kohlrabi and Swiss chard you're plating it with have been sitting around since last week? It's another one of those words, like 'natural,' that restaurants like to use to make diners feel better, and perhaps deploy to tack on an extra dollar or two to each plate." -- Zachary Fagenson, Miami New Times
Any dish described with a ton of ingredients
"I can't pick just one because too many food menus read like 'craft' cocktail menus, listing every last ingredient. I might appreciate what a particular salt or spice could do to a dish, but I don't think the majority of diners care. Nor should they have to study up on names of local purveyors in the litany of sources. If chicken is raised nearby on organic feed and allowed to roam free, isn't that the server's job to tell me about it? There is something to be said for simplicity. You sell fried chicken? Call it fried chicken." -- Ligaya Figueras, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"As diners we expect restaurants to be restaurants, not grocery stores, and therefore use their kitchens to make things. Sure, brag a bit if you've made your own duck prosciutto in a custom curing closet or cultured yogurt, but 'house-made' fries? Mayo? Puh-lease." -- Laura Hayes, Washington City Paper
"I don't want to think of any food as being massaged. I get the reasoning behind it -- the breakdown of fibers and tenderization of the greens -- but still. Hands off!" -- Amanda Faison, 5280
"Living terrarium of foie gras"
"Locally (in NOLA), the most ridiculous one I tend to think about is was when I had 'a living terrarium of foie gras' at Root, along with foie gras cotton candy and foie Pop Rocks as part of their playful foie trio. But it strangely wasn't overwrought as much as it was accurate. You really DO get what appears to be a frog or chameleon habitat that just happens to also be edible. And contains foie gras. It's bizarre and hilarious, but that's what they were going for. So really, it's a WYSIWYG menu item. Cue the golf clap." -- Scott Gold, Extra Crispy
"Separating nachos into perfect bites assumes that everyone deserves equal pleasure from it. That burnt chip with one shred of cheese and a split black bean is for your moocher best friend and your ex. God intended nachos to be payback." -- Brandon Watson, Austin Chronicle
All dishes that contain "torn mint"
"Here's something I've seen recently, and a few other times in slightly different iterations. When listing out all of the ingredients in a dish (in itself, kind of annoying), I've come across things like 'torn mint.' Come on, do we really need to know that level of detail about an herb?" -- Nicole Sprinkle, Seattle Weekly
Anything "fresh" or "curated"
"'Fresh'? I should certainly hope so. (Chefs, gratuitous use of this word makes us think you're protesting too much.) And as for 'curated' -- these cheeses were not 'curated,' they were chosen from your purveyor's checklist." -- Katherine Spiers, LA Weekly
Any dish that's described as "farm-to-table"
"I've been over 'farm-to-table' for so long that I'm actually starting to be over being over it. After a decade of overuse, many restaurants have decided that the practice should just be the norm whenever possible and have begun to call out the farmers on the menu instead of patting themselves on the back for cooking a carrot that wasn't grown in a petri dish like Soylent Green. Tell us who grew it, not that you bought it." -- Chris Chamberlain, Nashville Scene
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