Food View; A Year Of Surprises (Published 1985) (2024)

Magazine|Food View; A Year Of Surprises



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By Bryan Miller

Food View; A Year Of Surprises (Published 1985) (1)

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December 8, 1985


Section 6, Page

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NINETEEN-EIGHTY-FIVE took me by surprise. This is not easy for a food critic to admit - after all, we are supposed to be experts in our field. Yet looking back over these 12 months and, by my rough calculation, well over 400 restaurant meals, I must concede that my crystal ball was a bit foggy. In fact, I was fairly sure that the fervid pace of restaurant growth, in New York City as well as in other major cities, would begin to wane. And at the same time, near-fanatical public interest in the goings-on of chefs and competitive dining rooms, I believed, would decline to a more sober level.

Of course, just the opposite occurred, as is evident to anyone who strolls along Columbus Avenue, upper Broadway, lower Broadway or some of the formerly desolate industrial sections of TriBeCa. Restaurant mania continues to swell like a Grand Marnier souffle as America's love affair with food remains as torrid as ever. Before touching on some gustatory highlights of the past year, first an observation about the rapidly changing eating habits in this country.

Americans spend about 40 cents of every food dollar in restaurants -I venture that this figure is higher in New York City. Many industry observers see the continuing restaurant boom - and a concomitant decline in home cooking among young urban dwellers - as a direct result of the maturing of the post-World War II baby-boom generation. Today's young professionals, whether they are called Yuppies, the Me-Generation or the New Conservatives, are now in their prime restaurant-going years. They work long hours, delay marriage and parenthood, and have no qualms about spending money on creature comforts, including restaurants. If they are interested in so-called ''gourmet cooking,'' it is done on weekends, for fun, not during the week for sustenance.

Urban Americans are gradually becoming more European in their attitudes about restaurants of all types; for many, dining out is now routine, not a special occasion.

As for the highlights of 1985, there was, foremost, Paul Prudhomme, the rotund king of the Cajuns, who seemed to have made the cover of just about every publication in America. The horse-and-pony show from K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen in New Orleans rolled into Manhattan last summer, and for about a month offered an unalloyed taste of the real thing. Those patient souls who cooled their heels on Columbus Avenue for up to three hours were treated to one of the few truly distinctive, indigenous cuisines in America.

Nineteen-eighty-five might be dubbed the year of the blackened fish, or anything else that fit in a red-hot skillet. I have plowed through blackened tuna, blackened snapper, blackened eggplant, blackened steak, you name it. Some of it was well prepared and served with appropriately zesty sauces that set off the smoky flavors; the majority of these dishes, though, tasted as if Dad had been set loose on the barbecue after one too many vodka and tonics.

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Food View;   A Year Of Surprises (Published 1985) (2024)
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