I had braised beef cheeks from Hillcrest Artisan Meats for lunch today, with Gruyere cheese and caramelized onions on a crunchy, chewy baguette. It was glorious. If you’ve ever eaten slow-cooked beef cheeks, then you’re thinking about how wonderful the silky, tender meat tastes and how rich and savory a sandwich it would make, especially paired with a mild, nutty cheese and the sharp, sweet kick of onions. If you’ve never heard of beef cheeks, you might be skeptical, or even a little repulsed at the idea of eating a piece of cow facial muscle. I can understand that, and while I’m one of those people who will try pretty much anything, I know that there are folks out there who don’t feel the need to stuff themselves with strange and exotic things. That’s fine. There are also folks out there with allergies to certain foods, and that’s the most legitimate reason to avoid a food I can think of. But there’s one group of folks out there who infuriate me, and they suffer from the Burger King mentality.
What I mean by Burger King mentality is people who go into a restaurant and immediately start picking apart the menu in order to get it “their way,” for no other reason than they feel entitled to having it “their way.” Fast food restaurants have made this a selling point for their swill, and since it really doesn’t matter as far as flavor goes what members of the “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame-seed bun” group you actually choose to scarf down on your lunch break, people have begun to think that having it “their way” is the only way. These people are wrong.
Any restaurant worth your patronage is staffed with people who know what they’re doing. They’ve got a chef, or a cook, or a griddle guy who knows how to execute his menu in a way that makes the food work together. In the front of the house, there is a wait staff who are knowledgeable about their menu and capable of answering any questions about the ingredients used. If a restaurant lacks these things, it should probably also lack you as a customer. So given that you’ve chosen a place worthy of you, why not be the kind of customer who is worthy of the hard work that goes into a place like that — by ordering a dish from the menu prepared exactly how it’s supposed to be prepared. Again, I’m not talking about people with allergies, I’m talking about the people who would have ordered the beef cheek sandwich above without onions, or with added mayo — in other words, people who think they know the chef’s business better than he does.
So if a dish has onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, or any other thing that you think is icky, you’re better served just ordering something else. Asking the chef to prepare a dish without a certain ingredient is like asking your mechanic to just put three tires on your car because you’ve just never developed a taste for that one on the passenger front. Just like a house needs all its load-bearing studs and walls, so to does a well-crafted dish need all its ingredients. It might not hurt your Whopper to pull the pickles off, but it will certainly detract from a pate sandwich or a well-grilled Cuban. And while the reconstituted onions on your Big Mac are just an afterthought, that beef cheek sandwich I opened with wouldn’t be the same without them. Be adventurous, and follow my mother’s rule: you’ll never know you like it if you never try it. Cheers.