Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Death of the Entree: Part 2

Four years ago, I declared the death of the entree. Now Pete Wells of The New York Times is trying to bring it back from the dead. "Very few small plates really lend themselves to sharing," he writes in his blog this week. "Either they look like a car crash by the time you’ve divided them in four, or your portion ends up being so small you hardly get to know it before it’s gone." No, what Wells really wants is a good old fashioned large plate entree: "When I really like a dish, and I’m not obsessing about my calorie intake, I tend to want to eat more of it. "

Besha Rodell of the L.A. Weekly took issue with Wells and came to the defense of tapas-style plates:
The tapas trend has done for American dining what no other trend has done, at least not as pervasively, and that is to make eating out more communal and less formal. . . . like Japan and sushi, Spain's way of eating has infiltrated to the point where we claim it as our own. And much like sushi, there will be a period of derision and then it will be such an integral part of our dining culture than people will cease to comment on it at all.
Now, John Kessler of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has jumped on the bandwagon, too. He has always liked the smaller sizes as a restaurant reviewer because they allow him to sample more things on a menu. But now, he notes:
Everyone else is starting to eat this way as well. Stick a fork in your main course, and then pass it along. The entree is just about dead. . . .  Now, I’m seeing so many menus that offer a couple dozen starters to consider and then maybe a handful of entrees. I look around and I see forks flying at many of the tables around me.
And here I was thinking I had settled this whole issue four years ago. Back then, I made the case that, after all the variety of a splendid appetizer line-up, an entree is often just a let down. And, unlike Mr. Wells, I'm not so sure having a huge portion of something is such a great thing:

There's an old show business adage that you want to leave the audience not quite satisfied, so they walk out wishing there was just a little bit more. For some reason, that doesn't seem to be the goal for restaurant dining. "I was still hungry when I left," is not an endorsement--it's the kiss of death. 
Maybe it's time to change that. Why shouldn't we leave restaurants wanting just a little bit more rather than feeling so bloated and full that our middles hurt and all we want to do is lay down in a cool, dark room?

My experience over the past four years has done little to change this conviction. In fact, I've noticed again and again entrees that are having to really stretch to be a big, whopping meal: the groaning mounds of mashed potatoes, piles of veggies that taste just fine on bites one and two but get tired and dull after a dozen forkfuls. And those proteins: massive double-cut pork chops, two filets of fish when one would do, half a large chicken. Who eats that much at a single sitting?

I've come not to praise the entree but to bury it. And this time it better stay dead.

No comments:

Popular Posts