March 29, 2010
Enough already? Are restaurants over-identifying ingredients?

A couple of years ago, The Bee published a story about how local restaurants were celebrating the locavore movement by identifying the names of farms where the meat and produce originated.

Then, more restaurants jumped on the bandwagon. Now, the inevitable saturation. Are we naming so many names on menus that it no longer means anything. I went to a high-end steakhouse recently where the server started to tell me about the ranch where the meat was raised, fumbled over the name, grabbed the menu for a look, then told me. I had never heard of it. As someone who sees lots and lots of menus, I still like to see the sources mentioned on occasion, and I do like to know if I am getting organic food and meat raised without steroids. But it should be done selectively or all those farms just becomes a blur.

At least one prominent chef in town is putting on the brakes, it seems. I spotted this little missive by owner/chef Rick Mahan of the Waterboy and the new and wildly successful OneSpeed. He does make an important observation -- more and more patrons want to know where the food comes from, and the servers need to be able to tell them.

Mahan writes: It's become pretty common to walk into a restaurant, look over a menu and read all about (in every dish!) farmers and ranchers supplying the great ingredients used by the restaurant to produce their food. This is a great, albeit over-done, practice. I know, I'm guilty of it, I've done it, I'm trying to do it less because I'm beginning to find it distracting and also think it's becoming cliche; I'm just leaning towards educating my staff as best I can so they'll be well equipped to answer all the questions you, our guests, may have pertaining to where, how and when the ingredients were brought to us.

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