When I was a kid, going out to dinner was a big deal. It usually meant getting cleaned up, which for me was a big deal because I truly believe dirt was part of my skin. After the outer layer was scrubbed, it would be clean shirt and shoes and my “table manners” for a couple of hours spent counting down the seconds until the bill came to my dad.
Even if it was a family pizza parlor night, dining out was a special event. Menus were bigger than me and in the fancy places, French names like coq au vin or escargot seemed daunting. Not only was I clueless as to what they were, I didn’t know how they were cooked or even if it was going to be hot. For a kid, that’s pretty scary.
Today, we not only have smaller menus but the calories are listed right beside the item. Talk about killing a big appetite! But one thing today’s chef’s have is a true understanding of how important things like “seasonal” and “sustainable” are in cooking for the public. We not only want to know where our greens come from but it’s important we don’t eat fish that has been restricted by law and by thoughtless purchasing.
Twenty-five years ago, we were happy with an iceberg salad drenched in French dressing. Now we can order “seasonal mixed greens from Joe’s Farm in Encinitas.” This new crop of thoughtful farmers, ranchers and fisherman have taken a page from the Ecology movement in the past and become increasingly aware of where and how they purchase menu items for consumers. Chilean seabass is delicious but due to overfishing and pirate fishing, it has become a bit rarer than before. If you want fresh seafood, do your research because it’s not necessarily available year-round anymore. And for good reason!
Farming has evolved as well. Not only can you get tomatoes, you can buy heirloom tomatoes, made from seed passed from generation to generation. These delicacies are being carefully cultivated so they can continue to please diners with their rich taste and funny look. And I will bet when you were ten you had never seen a “baby carrot” before. I still haven’t figured those out. Yummy but how do they grow them so small?
Our GreenScaped Buildings crew built an edible wall for the chef’s at Seasons 52 restaurant in Century City. In keeping with their commitment to fresh, seasonal ingredients, their chef’s can “harvest” herbs from an enclosed, climate controlled edible living “wall” of greenery. Diners can watch as their dinner order is prepared with careful thought to the freshest of product. Each menu item is no more than 475 calories. I am still amazed by this. And we built the wall!
We’re a long way from the menus of my childhood. In my mind, I am glad. I never liked Escargot anyway.