If there’s one thing we humans have in common, it’s that we all gotta eat.
And since I have yet to master the art of cooking anything beyond a can of soup and the occasional Toaster Strudel, for me this means eating out. A lot.
Lately, I’ve been noticing some strange menu items on my pilgrimage across the many hipster bistros, brasseries and gastro-pubs of this fair city. Obscure ingredients, pretentious food-related adjectives, you name it. So much so that I have often had to consult Google, and on more than one occasion have been reduced to simply pointing at dishes I dare not pronounce.
This, my friends, is embarrassing. And extremely damaging to my hipster cred. So to save the same fate from befalling you, I thought I’d share with you all a few hipster menu items I have successfully decoded.
1. “Heirloom” Tomatoes
While I have since come to love these multi-coloured, misshapen delights, the first time I saw “heirloom tomatoes” on a menu, I had a number of questions. Like:
- Who keeps a vegetable (fruit?) as an heirloom?
- Won’t it go bad?
- Were these tomatoes bequeathed to the chef personally? Or were they purchased at auction? (and if the latter, why haven’t I seen a TLC show about this yet?)
…. And, most importantly:
4. How much is this sh*t gonna cost me?
My fears of mouldy $300 tomatoes, were, however, dissuaded by a quick Google search, which informed me that heirloom fruits or vegetables are actually old varieties of plants that were commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but are not used in modern large-scale agriculture today. The seeds of heirloom tomatoes, in particular, have been passed down through generations due to their distinct color and sweeter taste.
Huh. Who knew?
2. “Massaged Kale”
When I’m too lazy to make my own lunch (aka: every day) there’s this yuppie salad place in my office building I sometimes like to go to. It’s one of those Organic/Wheatless/Meatless deals, where everything on the menu somehow involves Tempeh or Quinoa, and the motto is “Substitutions Welcome!”
Anyway, recently, they introduced a new $14 “seasonal hot box” which featured “Marinated Sesame tofu, served over a bed of massaged kale”.
Uhh.. massaged what now?
Apparently, however, kneading kale in your hands for a few minutes prior to preparation helps the tough cellulose structure break down, which turns the coarse, hard leaves soft and silky (and easier to eat without breaking a tooth). The pronounced bitterness also mellows, and the kale reveals some sweeter flavours.
Man, no wonder this place is so expensive. They have to pay some mustachioed hipster just to stand out back and rub kale leaves all day! (I picture him listening to Bon Iver while he does it. He might even close his eyes). Oh well, that sh*t is delicious so I guess what I really mean is, massage on hipster gentleman – massage on.
3. “Artisan” Bread
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about/have eaten “Artisan Bread” recently.
The image of a young minstrel in medieval attire springs to mind; whipping up loaves of designer ciabatta in one hand; strumming a lute with the other.
As it turns out, “artisan” is really just a fancy word to describe bread that is crafted, rather than mass-produced. In theory, artisan bread differs from prepackaged supermarket loaves in its lack of preservatives, fresher ingredients, and a special attention to detail.
Given the number and variety of places offering these loaves, however, I’m guessing this definition hasn’t been strictly adhered to. ‘Cause while I’m sure your local Subway Sandwich artist likes to think of him/herself as an “artisan”, I have my doubts.
4. “Craft” Beer
The first time I saw the word “Craft” on a beer menu, I didn’t think much besides:
But as I started hearing it referenced more and more in popular culture, my interest was piqued.
Craft beer, or “microbrew” as it’s sometimes called, is any beer with a distinctive flavor, produced in small quantities and distributed in a particular region. (Generally by bearded,-plaid shirt wearing men who also specialize in witty Facebook statuses, amateur furniture making and liking everything “before it was cool”)
Ok so I can’t back that last part up. But it’s probably true.
5. “Deconstructed” Anything
Recently, I attended a work dinner where the dessert course was a “Deconstructed S’More“. This consisted of an “organic graham cracker”, “house-made marshmallow” and a block of semi-melted Valrhona chocolate.
While it was delicious, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. I mean, isn’t the whole point of a s’more, it’s entire essence, in its construction? That ooey-gooey, sticky handed goodness?
Alas- I’m going to have to deal, because deconstruction- the idea of breaking apart ingredients traditionally combined together to make a dish, and serving them separately in a unique way- is a trend I’ve been seeing a lot more of lately.
Deconstructed cakes, deconstructed sandwiches, you name it. Someday soon I fully expect to be buttering a plate of yeast and enriched flour and calling it “deconstructed breadrolls”.
Mark my words.