This needs nearly no introduction: food trends evolve. A while back, it was cupcakes and stuff stirred into mac 'n cheese; before that, it was reinvented comfort food and moonshine. Many of the items on this list appeared years ago in Los Angeles. As with many things, it took a while and now it's started to appear in the desolate stretches of South Orange County.
1. Unnecessarily expensive filtered water
Remember the famous water upsell in nice restaurants? "Still or sparkling, sir?" intones the server. "Still," you say, and then you discover that it's $5 a bottle and they like to open a new bottle when yours is still a third full.
Well, Americans caught on to the restaurateurs' little shenanigans, and started snarling, "Tap!" before the server could even finish the hated question. The quest for filthy lucre being what it is, there's now there's an even bigger rip-off: water filtration systems. These are fancy taps that connect either to the city water and filter it in-line, carbonating it if requested, or they're connected to pointlessly huge and heavy glass jugs.
It's one thing when it costs a quarter for as much as you can drink, like at Border Grill. When it's $4 a cup and $2 for each refill, you're just giving your clientele the middle finger. Besides, shouldn't "the cleanest, blah blah blah" water on Earth be served in appropriate glassware?
It's water. It's gone through a jumped-up version of a Brita filter. No one yet has died from drinking tap water in a California restaurant, and no one is likely to.
Also in this category: alkaline water. Hippie bro science at its finest. Water shouldn't make you feel thirstier when you're done drinking it. Water shouldn't make you run for the bottles of Miller High Life your weird great-uncle left in your fridge.
2. The salt trolley
Having an array of salts on hand to accentuate the particular aspects of a dish is a great idea. Huge flakes of fleur de sel de la Camargue atop a fresh heirloom tomato? Yes, please. Crunchy crystals of Alaea pink salt accenting a nearly-melting chocolate-covered caramel? Oh, yeah.
A tray of eight different salts wheeled around on a trolley designed from crèmes caramel, apple tarts, and cheesecakes? Just the height of pretense. Put the salt that goes on the dish on the dish, and leave the snotty descriptions to the menu writer.
3. Artisanal toast
I love toast. I love great toast. I love a huge piece of pain de campagne or ciabatta that's been crisped next to a fire (and, if you're at Sotto, spread with housemade lardo). But like everything else that's been re-thought, artisanal toast has started to lose its meaning.
Just because you take a piece of bread that isn't pan Bimbo and scorch it on a pan, though, does not make it artisanal, and it certainly doesn't mean anyone wants to pay $4 a piece for it.
4. Mason jars
WE GET IT. You're down home. You are down with the rednecks. You are lashing out against the type of restaurant that has forty kinds of stemware because God forbid you should serve Côtes-du-Rhône in a Bordeaux glass. You are the kind of restaurateur who concentrates on the flavor, not the presentation.
You're driving the cost of Mason jars up, you idiot, and those of us who actually still make our own preserves (it's not trendy anymore, see) hate you for it.
Oh, and if you're the bastard who serves absolutely insanely good pâté in a swingtop Mason jar without a flexible utensil to get every last delicious liver-y morsel out of it, you're going to have a lot to answer for when we come to power.
Poutine is college drunk food, if you happened to go to McGill in Montréal. It's a heavy, rich dish, perfect for the kind of night where you walk the long way home because it keeps you in the Underground City longer.
Climate differences notwithstanding, it was a natural fit for SoCal: fries, cheese, gravy; like New Jersey diner disco fries, but fancier. Then the guys at Animal did it with a bunch of meat and everyone went gaga over it, because it was actually inventive, a nod to Au Pied de Cochon and their foie gras poutine.
It's jumped the shark. Now everyone is combining terrible frites with cheese curds rejected by Wisconsites and salty gravy, and then scooping whatever they feel like on top of it. It looks like vomit. Please stop doing that. Je vous en prie. And don't you dare bastardize the donair, either, eh.