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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

BBQ, Smoke & Mirrors - So right and so wrong

Bar-B-Q Shack. 

The dangers of simply following a trend and sticking that item on your menu has never been more apparent.

While it is all to easy as a consumer to get excited about selecting an eatery on the basis that it serves that dish you recently discovered that works so well, it can often lead to bitter disappointment.

Take the following items, for instance...

Salted Caramel
Pulled Pork
Hot Smoked Salmon

All of them you have probably seen on several menus over the past twelve to eighteen months. All of them, if prepared authentically, are wonderful. All of them, however, have been bastardised to such a degree that while the essence & taste may be in tact, the soul (if you will) has been ripped from it.

My first salted caramel experience was in the form of a salted caramel rolo, in Hawksmoor, Spitalfields. It was wonderful. After a luxuriously greedy meat feast, when you certainly couldn't manage a pudding, these little fellas were just the ticket.

But since then, it has appeared left right and centre, most notably at coop in the form of a "cheesecake".

The most devastating though, the one that really grates on me, the the pulled pork explosion.

Brought to my attention via Guy Fieri on the food network. Diners, Drive ins & Dives across the states have been producing this dish as long as we've been battering cod. But they've been producing it with heart, passion, sweat and soul, literally.

From the amorous yet delicate blends that go into a pre-rub, to the temp and duration of its smoking - you just can't help but fall in love with the process.

And I appreciate not everybody is as romantically involved with food as others. I know that to many, as long as it tastes good, what's the bother? My concern is that is we're not careful, the over-saturation will end up destroying the original product. The genuine geniuses who put these on our plates with passion and enthusiasm, will not longer be able to afford to do it.

My most recent example of this stems from somewhere I nearly worked for. A new operation, I was afforded the opportunity to discuss 'menu direction' with the incoming head chef. I had a knowledge of the area, clientele etc, and therefore was asked for my input. On suggesting house-smoking joints of meat, like pulled pork.... "Pulled what?" Said the chef.

Anyway, I didn't work there in the end. But I popped in when it opened to read the menu. Alongside a very 90's menu of Thai curries, overpriced steaks and pastas, platters of smoked brisket & pulled pork. No wording on the process. No option for the sides. No selection of house sauces. No soul.

I write about this because I think people, consumers, diners, are more in tune with authenticity now. Like shopping for antiques, we can spot a dusty old gem through a pile of rubbish, over a cheap knock-off.  We just have to do a bit of research first!

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