Overcooked: Food trends we loved and hated in 2013

"The banana split? Excellent choice, sir! Would you like an egg on that?"
"The banana split? Excellent choice, sir! Would you like an egg on that?" Tom Carlson

Overcooked: Food trends we loved and hated in 2013

The Cronut Craze: By his own account, Dominique Ansel opened a bakery because he saw gaps in New York's pastry offerings, and he was eager to expand the sweet horizons of his fellow New Yorkers. After capturing a loyal local following with his freshly baked treats, he began thinking about how to elevate the doughnut; two months of experimentation begot the "Cronut," which he unleashed upon the city back in May. Twenty-four hours later, the mania began — and with it came lines so long you'd think the guy was giving out money. If mimicry is the highest form of flattery, Ansel had fervent admirers: Knockoffs proliferated so quickly that he was forced to trademark his invention's name (check the aisles at Schnucks for the "Cro-so-nuts"). That fans still flock to his tiny shop daily for one of 450 treats is testament to the staying power of the original. Ansel is a pastry genius, and he's humble about his success — so we'll happily ride his train until it leads us to the next mania-inducing snack. As for the knockoffs? We'll be happy to see those die. — Laura Shunk

Putting an Egg on Everything: With apologies to Dr. Seuss, the extent of our frustration can really only be expressed in rhyme:

"Do you like sunny eggs on ham?"

I do not like them, Sam I am.

I do not like them on my lox.

I think I need an egg detox.

See Sam, this trend, it has to die.

I don't want runny cum on rye.

It's pretty in a picture, true,

But quickly turns a dish to glue.

Just cut it out! This has to stop.

Runny eggs turn food to slop.

I do not like them on a salad,

They are not for every palate.

A salad ought to be refreshing.

Please, God, just give me normal dressing.

Not à la carte or with fixed prix,

We're sick to death of eggs, you see.

'Cause eggs are served not here or there.

Eggs are on everything, everywhere. — Jessica Lussenhop

Haute Chicken and Waffles: This once humble fried fare has found its way onto the chicest menus in town. Sandwiched somewhere between foie gras and truffles, chicken and waffles has achieved haute status. No longer is simple maple syrup sufficient for such an elite dish. Now highbrow, they come topped with everything from poached quail egg to sriracha aioli. There are online resources dedicated to chicken-and-waffles wine pairings, and even the venerable Thomas Keller has gotten in on it. Granted, some of the world's most notable dishes had humble beginnings — think cassoulet or pizza — but this seems like more of a short-lived trend than a permanent fixture on upscale menus. Any excuse to don evening wear and dig our manicured fingers into a platter of diner food is good by us, but being charged a week's salary for something we can get at IHOP feels a bit like a ripoff.  — Cheryl Baehr

Truffle Oil on Everything: Enough with the truffle oil. Did macaroni and cheese need to be improved? Was the greasy, salty, crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside glory that is the french fry missing something? No. But add the word "truffle" to the description and an inexpensive side dish doubles or triples in price. Not only does the taste and scent of the truffle oil completely overwhelm the dish it's meant to enhance, but the vast majority of the time, the cloying substance is actually olive or grapeseed oil with a chemical additive. This is not news: A 2007 piece in the New York Times revealed that the cheap substance was just olive oil with 2,4-dithiapentane added to it. And how could they not, considering that actual truffles cost somewhere around $60 an ounce? As world-renowned chef Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago told the New York Times, "It doesn't even taste like truffle." Since most people have never tasted the real thing, a massive fraud continues to be perpetuated on the nonelite eating public who don't know the difference. So, no, that food truck that just charged you $18 for stinky mac and cheese is not investing in fungi rooted up by pedigree pigs being shepherded through the French countryside by men in charming berets. It's just cheap oil made to smell expensive. — Rebecca Dittmar

The Gentrification of Mexican Alcohol:Time was when tequila was nothing more than a punchline to country songs, a requisite at sorority parties, and the fuel for too many frozen margarita headaches to remember. And Corona, of course, invented Cinco de Mayo and spring break. But Mexican alcohol's reputation in the United States has irrevocably changed for the better — and that's not necessarily good. Now, everyone from Justin Timberlake to Carlos Santana is hawking tequila, and hipsters and bros alike throw around phrases like "triple-distilled 100 percent blue Webber agave" as if trying to resurrect Jose Cuervo himself. And even mescal, the moonshine of Mexico and a drink reserved there for the lushes of lushes, is a craft-cocktail fave, commanding upward of $20 a shot and $40 a bottle — and that's when you find it cheap. The results? More tequila is being produced than ever before — but most of it is going to gabachos in the U.S., and it's put the tequila industry in such a precarious position that scientists told Businessweek that the agave plants from which tequila and mescal comes originates could disappear forever if just one infestation hits the crop. Poor Mexico: so far from God, so close to tequila-loving pendejos. — Gustavo Arellano

Kickstarters: Although giving a leg up to fledgling restaurants can mean great things for chefs and diners alike, 2013 was the year Kickstarter became fair game for just about anyone with enough time and ideas. Home cooks turning their baking chops into bakeshops, a band of enterprising dumpster-divers planning a "freegan" café — all found themselves but a few keystrokes away from no-strings-attached financing. It turns out diners will throw down boatloads of money for cool kickbacks like line-skipping privileges and private dinners for contributors. And the awards only got cooler, and weirder, from there: a Minneapolis restaurant offered "sexy chef" calendars for backers of $50 or more and a SoCal cereal restaurant advertised that, for $2,500, contributors would get "a mural of a cheetah with a unicorn horn, a cereal party for twenty, and a live music performance." If dropping $2,500 on a cereal restaurant seems silly to you, welcome to the wild world of Kickstarter. Still, we'll take it, if it means more talented chefs in the kitchen and more good food on the table — but we reserve the right to roll our eyes at the rest. — Hannah Sayle

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