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Everywhere I look I see fried chicken …

Everywhere I look I see fried chicken ?

… On waffles, on magazine covers, on menus and as part of newly sprouted restaurant concepts from South Beach to L.A. A trend is a trend when everyone starts doing it, and fried chicken is no different than any other. Or is it? 

For 10 years, “comfort” food was listed as a food “trend.” We have gone through just about all of the usual suspects: mac and cheese, pot pies, meatloaf, spaghetti and meatballs, et cetera, et cetera. Each reinvention took on a new twist, adding truffle to the mac, lobster pot pies and buffalo meatloaf. But when Thomas Keller made a splash with fried chicken at Ad Hoc, using a classic method, suddenly fried chicken was back. And along with it comes all the fixins — biscuits, greens, hominy and grits, creamed corn, black bottom pie and, of course, sausage gravy. Small plates give way to sharing portions here.

So, now we also hear that some of these “comfort” foods can be linked to an increasing segment of the population experiencing health issues. In fact, and as publicized recently, TV food stars have quietly had health issues while touting the goodness of comfort cooking and butter. I won’t take a side on the issue, except to say that moderation is trumped by health, and if you shouldn’t eat fried chicken, then there are other items well suited to your dietary needs. Look at the great menus of HOT new restaurants like South Beach’s Yardbird and San Francisco’s Hops & Hominy. They’re not that far off from long-term icons Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles in Los Angeles or Gladys Knight’s place in Atlanta. Today’s cooking needs balance, and I am glad that chefs like Keller can start the conversation to recreate tradition with a modern approach.  

The message really is this: If your menus do not have a balance of healthier selections — even if you are a fried chicken joint — you may very well be missing half of the typical four-top’s needs … and may struggle to get them back. 

But serve the fried chicken. It’s too good not to.

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