Jonathan Gold Weighs in on LA Food Trends

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Los Angeles, like most major cities, is continually flush with the latest food trends. Some, like bacon in everything, reach a fever pitch and sweep the nation before burning out from overexposure. Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times restaurant critic, is predictably in tune with what’s happening in the LA food scene. Over Labor Day weekend, he’ll be co-hosting the “Dinner with a Twist” and “Flavors of LA” events during the LA Times’ The Taste. He will also be leading a panel discussion on the trend of serving “Things in a Bowl” with Alvin Cailan, Christine Moore, and Minh Phan.

We talked to Gold about what trends he can’t get enough of, and what trends he wishes would go ahead and kick the bucket.

Paste: You’re hosting a panel coming up on the topic “Things in a Bowl.” Is this an LA food trend you can get behind, and what are some of your other favorite things happening in LA right now?

Gold: Things in a Bowl is good. In a way, it is a panicked reaction to certain Angelenos’ extremely specific dietary needs, but given enough chile and minced herbs, even a salt-free, gluten-free, high-protein, low-fat combination of whole grains, unseasoned vegetables and lightly poached egg can be made palatable. I’m also liking the introduction of Asian vegetables onto non-Asian menus, the mandatory chicken liver dish, the sashimification of non-fish appetizers, Israeli-style oven-roasted vegetables, and the mania for burnt edges.

Paste: What international food trends—things you’ve noticed during your travels—are making their way into the LA food scene?

Gold: Global food trends tend more to come out of Los Angeles than work their way to our tables. That being said, the tendency toward narrower and narrower regional influences here, so that a new Chinese restaurant may serve the food of Dalian or Tsingtao rather than simply of the north or even Shandong, or a new kind of burrito can be traced to a specific neighborhood in Zacatecas—this inevitably leads to good things as the styles get absorbed into our mainstream.

Paste: What trendy dishes do you think need to rotate off the menu already?

Gold: I am on record as saying that the time of put-an-egg-on-it has long past, although I see few signs of the trend abating. As much as I like them, it may be time for the mandatory kale salad, main-course carrots, grilled shishito peppers, and roasted Brussels sprouts to take a few years’ hiatus. And pork belly has had its run.

Paste: What’s a classic part of LA food and dining that you hope will never fade away?

Gold: Whatever was on the menu at Spago in 1986. I’m kind of a nostalgist that way.