I have never claimed to know everything, but there are many food issues I feel strongly about.
Whether it is the cheese for a burger or just whether or not mayonnaise ice cream is a good idea, food and debate go together as well as peanut butter and jelly. Or, peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. Or, peanut butter and honey. You get the idea.
So here are some random food thoughts I wanted to share, and I would love to hear back from readers if you disagree or have another debate you want my take on that may be included in a future column.
Things I know
There is no such thing as a boneless chicken wing. You can bread and fry pieces of breast or tenders, but you cannot remove a wing's bones and keep the meat intact. And while we are on the subject, no standard wing should be breaded or battered. Frying until the skin is super crispy is the only proper way to make a Buffalo wing.
It is grilled cheese – not a toasty – and the cheese has to be the star. I am all for some bacon or tomato, even a little pulled pork or short rib on my grilled cheese, but it better be mostly cheese and that cheese better be oozing for you to call it a grilled cheese. I have had several so-called grilled cheeses that have huge piles of meat or vegetables and like two slices of cheese that you barely notice. I also have never made a grilled cheese in a toaster and you do not make toast by putting it on a griddle with butter until it browns.
A hot dog is not a sandwich. Sorry. But you can make a hot dog sandwich by splitting two dogs lengthwise or using four whole dogs if you dare and putting them between slices of bread. If you think a hot dog is a sandwich, then you have to think a taco or a gyro is a sandwich and I never hear anyone debating that. Also, you can put ketchup on a hot dog if that is what floats your boat. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't.
Sliders, what about waffles? The news that P.F. Chang's is coming to Fort Wayne brought up all the questions of why other big chains aren't here. The most puzzling to most and one I am asked about more often than any other is White Castle. But I want to know why we don't have a Waffle House. I love the little onion-soaked burgers at the Castle, but they are not even as good as Powers so I can still get my fix. But nobody here offers me cheap, griddle-seared pork chops with eggs, scattered-smothered-covered hash browns and, of course, a big tasty waffle as good as the House does.
Bacon or belly? Pork belly has grown in popularity recently and I am all for it. But a lot of restaurants don't seem to understand what it is. Bacon is made by smoking and curing pork belly. If it says pork belly on the menu, it should be uncured belly that is more like fatty pork roast. I have had way too many “pork belly” sandwiches that are simply thick-cut bacon sandwiches. I love bacon, but trying to be fancy by calling it belly is wrong.
Nobody craves a grilled chicken breast. We might order them because we don't want to clog our arteries, but I have never had anyone tell me I need to go try a regular grilled chicken breast at any restaurant. If it is topped with chorizo, shrimp or sauce, that is a different story, but regular grilled chicken may be the most boring restaurant meal ever.
Tails do not belong on shrimp. Unless it is a cocktail or simply fried. If you put shrimp in a pasta dish, stir fry or especially a soup, take those tails off. And don't even think about leaving the mud vein in them. That is just gross.
Pie is best served cold. Unless it is a la mode.
Here are some food trends I am totally over:
Avocados. Look, they are creamy and wonderful in many ways and I love them, but let's calm ourselves down. It is not like they are a new creation. I don't need them on toast and I don't need them in my smoothie anymore. And dressing some thing up with fresh avocado is not a novel idea. Authentic Mexican restaurants have been doing it for decades.
Brussels sprouts. Don't act like you are the only one serving these once-despised little cabbages because you aren't. I enjoy them, but have had my fill for a while.
Burgers. They will never not be a great thing to eat, but enough already. I get that you are using Wagyu and I get that you think yours is the best, but how about you try specializing in something that I can't get at like 147 places in Fort Wayne. And I am still not willing to pay $20 for one when I know so many places that do them as well or better for a sliver of the price.
Salted caramel. I have had enough. If you do make it, mix the salt during the production. Sprinkling a few bits of coarse salt on top of regular caramel is not really making salted caramel.
Farm-to-table. It is not a bad thing, and I don't ever want people not to try to source locally, but say you are “locally sourced” instead of bragging about being “farm-to-table.” When you get right down to it, all food comes from some sort of farm, even Spam. And if your signature dish features a seasonal ingredient, find a reasonable alternative to local during the offseason. Nothing is worse than falling in love with a dish that you can get only two months in the summer.
Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.