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Frame: The “T” Word

September 25, 2010

“Trend” is a dirty word.

I ran across this article in the New York Times today, in which Daniel Patterson bemoans boring food trends in both New York and, from an older article referenced in the piece, California.  In particular, he believes tuna tartare, bacon, and fried chicken are far too prevalent in New York, and that while California thinks very highly of herself, she isn’t actually all that innovative. Citing the major restaurant players in both cities, he points to the tediousness of forced (un)originality. Trend fatigue, if you will.

But, like any place, if you just go to the Slanted Door’s and Zuni Cafe’s (or, in Boston, the Rialto’s and the L’Espalier’s), you’re only listening to the top twenty market. Ever wonder why radio in a big city is so bad, playing the same popular songs over and over?  In a top twenty town, radio stations play the big hits ad nauseum because of the ad revenue they’re getting due to the amount of people they reach.  And the biggest dollars come from the trendy, flashy, flavors of the week. In a smaller city (say my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA) the radio stations are different because nobody cares what they play, so they can actually highlight new or underground artists. The monetary incentive to follow the trends just isn’t there. Similarly, in a bigger city, at big name restaurants, you will inevitably get the food that the people in the “Seen” section want to eat. In a lesser market, actual originality can surface from true creativity.

Last month, in New York Times Magazine, Amanda Hesser wrote: “Most trends arise not from inspiration but from indignation.” I would argue- most original ideas arise from indignation, but most trends arise from oversized, egocentric renditions of the pilot concept. Real innovation is small change progressing over time, a murmuring that leads to a gradual unfolding.

To that end, here is a short list of some of the quietly inspired venues on my list to visit or re-visit in the near future. These places are just out there doing their own thing, concerned with their own flavors, not with being flavor of the week.

Bergamot               Sweet Basil                Tupelo                 TW Food             Sofra

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Danielle permalink
    September 25, 2010 12:47 pm

    A few more for your list:
    Oleana
    Hungry Mother
    Craigie on Main

    • bestthingslicedbread permalink*
      September 25, 2010 12:49 pm

      all of those are true favorites of mine, and i visit them all frequently! but at this point they all fall into the overexposed or at least well known category, not the quiet category.

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