Are big flavors ruining the American palate?

Spicy burger

Sriracha, once an obscure ingredient, now makes the headlines when there is a potential shortage in the U.S. Advertisements for food frequently use words like bolder, spicier and tangier. Food and Wine's Kate Krader wonders if this trend toward big flavors means more delicate foods will fall by the wayside.

Krader, whose colleagues call her neverending quest for bigger and bigger flavors her "culinary arms race," interviews chefs who seem to agree that American's cravings for spicy and tang have made some once popular foods less appealing, at least at their restaurants. "People are looking for a bigger blast when it comes to flavor," says Vinny Dotolo, chef and co-owner of Animal restaurant in Los Angeles. He posits that small plates and shared dishes contribute to this trend, because if you only have a tiny portion of food, it has to make an impression. Chef Andrew Caramelli, owner of a brasserie in New York City, says that they had to amp up the flavor of their rotisserie chicken to match diners' tastes. 

America has long had a reputation for "bigger is better," so it comes as no surprise that some Americans pursue bold flavors. The trend to hot food is not new: for years, chicken wings have come in flavors described with words like "atomic" or "blazing." Americans have also become more adventurous in their eating and are now more willing to embrace funky fish sauce, and as Krader points out, the "hot-and-tangy trend extends to cocktails, too. Chile-spiked drinks are hugely popular; so are pickleback shots (whiskey with a pickle-juice chaser). Sour beers are trending, as are extra-tart wines like Riesling." But does this really mean that we are losing the ability to enjoy delicate foods with simple flavors?

2 Comments

  • Rinshin  on  5/1/2014 at 6:49 PM

    I think this is true.

  • boardingace  on  5/4/2014 at 11:52 PM

    I don't understand this argument at all. That is, why on earth it would be something to worry about. If people are getting used to spicier foods, then they just want their spicy food spicier, not everything to be spicy (I think). And if we're not just talking about spice, but strong flavors in general, how is that a bad thing? I'm thinking of the French strong blue cheeses versus our baby swiss...if we move more towards strong flavors, that seems like a positive thing to me.

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