Comfort Food In Dallas: What Comforts You

comfortfood_cvrI am getting a little uncomfortable with the direction comfort food is taking. Can I blame it on the Gen Y population? Sure, why not. They don’t read SideDish. Gen Y’ers are more Britney than Julia.

While the overall trend in dining today is to eat sloooowly, the Gen Y’ers I know are more content to snack quickly. What happened to the good old days of turning on The Thorn Birds (before you knew Richard Chamberlain was gay), grabbing a spoon and a half gallon of ice cream, and eating the whole thing? Once, after I got turned down for what I thought was my dream job, I went back to my apartment, made a three-layer German chocolate cake, and ate every last crumb. Did I feel better? You betcha.

What is comfort food? At home it is one thing, but now restaurants are trying to comfort us in public. Take Kent Rathbun. (beat, beat…) He has gourmet comfort food. He isn’t alone; there are lots of folks making their mortgage payments by selling upscale mac and cheese. Isn’t gourmet comfort food an oxymoron? If you agree, then WTF is healthy comfort food? A lie? You betcha.

I was curious to see if there were any distinctive differences between generations when it came to constant cravings. I didn’t have to Google far to find this little salty tidbit. Jump with me.The following is copied and pasted from the “Generational Comfort Foods” trend mapping report from the Center for Culinary Development (CCD) and Packaged Facts. (I am not making that up. Someone got paid a lot of money to come up with that. Packaged Facts is going to be the title  of my autobiography.) And here they are:

CCD’s national online survey on the topic (3,700 respondents) found that sweets dominate category choices regardless of age. Nearly half (46%) of men and women across the Boomer, Gen X and Gen Y segments say they turn to baked goods, sweets and desserts for comfort, versus 19% who cite entrées, 14% salty snacks, 13% side dishes, and 4% breakfast foods.
Women favor sweets even more than men (51% of women cite sweets as comfort food, versus 36% of men). Among respondents who cite sweets, 26% chose ice cream as their top comfort food, 23% chocolate and 21% brownies.
Within entrées, roasted meats are the top choice across generations; within side dishes, macaroni and cheese and potatoes are nearly tied in popularity; and within salty snacks, chips rule (cited by 60% of total respondents, followed by popcorn and cheese, at 10% and 8%, respectively).
Cheese — either by itself or with a bread or starchy food — seems to elicit the most “passionate” response across generations, but with generational nuances (Boomers citing artisan cheeses versus Gen X’s cheese crackers, for example).

The research also identified top trends in comfort foods, including:

* Breakfast for dessert. Gen Y pastry chefs and a desire to start the day with a “protein burst” are driving this just-emerging trend. Boxed cereals, already found in snack bars and frozen yogurt shops, are now turning up in desserts, along with desserts such as “glamorized” versions of French toast, waffles and doughnuts.
* Madeover meatloaf. Regional restaurants, nouveau diners and sandwich shops are featuring meatloaf offerings with fuller flavors and natural or leaner meat blends. Boomers like the healthier versions of this nostalgic favorite, while Gen Y is drawn to bolder taste variations.
* Artisan pies. The pies now seen in specialty cafes and fine restaurants reflect the “artisan sprit” of inspired pastry chefs and are not only fresh and “home made,” but “full of good things,” CCD reports.
* Pho/Vietnamese beef noodle soup. First spotted as an emerging trend in 2005, this soup’s popularity has now spread, particularly among ethnically diverse Gen Y consumers. In addition to small shops and Vietnamese restaurant chains, it can now be found in mainstream soup restaurants and Pan-Asian noodle houses. The appeal: flavors that translate well to American tastes, combined with “infinite customizability” via fresh garnishes like sprouts, herbs and condiments.
* Asian curries. Very big among Gen Y and also popular as one-pot dishes among Gen Xers who are cooking meals for growing families. CPGs are beginning to offer curries with new simmer sauces and curry meal kits and frozen entrées.
* “New” casseroles replacing processed ingredients with fresh ingredients, including vegetables and “contemporary” proteins such as turkey, crab and shrimp.
* Mac ‘n cheeses featuring natural and organic ingredients and other flavor twists.

Hmm, is this interesting? Not really, but it is a nice primer to get you in the mood to tell me your guiltiest pleasure(s). When you are down and troubled and need a helping hand, what do you want in that helping hand? Lines are open 24/7. Dish it.

23 comments on “Comfort Food In Dallas: What Comforts You

  1. The fact that women favor ice cream, choc, and brownies really surprises me. They all seems to fall w/in a similar category to me. I’m a candy girl. I reach for Smarties, gummi bears, or Jolly Ranchers…things that last a while, ya’ know?

  2. The portion of this study you quoted doesn’t seem to have anything to do whatsoever with your generational claims about eating. I don’t know if I count as “Gen Y” (whatever that is) or not – I’m 31 – but I can say without question that I come across more people in my age group who are passionate about food, cooking, and restaurants than I do older folks with the same interests. In fact, a lot of our passion seems to be a response to the “quick” food our parents fed us when we were kids – a lot of it packaged, a lot of it so-called convenience food, and a lot of it purchased at the supermarket with no trace as to its origins. I disagree with you fairly strongly.

  3. Maggie makes a good point. But I really just love the way she says, I disagree with you fairly strongly.

    haha

  4. Cheese. By itself or with some crusty bread or crackers. Also, mac & cheese. But not the blue box kind. No the really good made with cream kind.

  5. IfI want edible comfort, I get the FRIED seafood platter at Dodie’s on lower Greenville. It’s the size of an oversized throw pillow and every crisp bite makes me recall the childhood splendor on that beach beneath the full moon eating moon pies between bouts of heavy petting.

    Then when I really need to eat and pass out…call it the Rawlins version of Propofol: A Wingfield’s cheeseburger dipping those greasy fries in mayo a la Amsterdam after gratuitous salt flurries.

    If Michael Jackson had tried the above, he would have never had suffered insomnia.

  6. PS: Bacon added to anything. Including that Wingfield’s two-hands behemoth.

  7. for the hangover:

    taco delite. nachos with jalapenos. meat burrito with sour cream. aspirin.

  8. There is no better comfort food in my book than a grilled cheese sandwich, yellow bag of Lays potato chips and a chocolate malt – all from the Highland Park Pharmacy!!

  9. I don’t mind “gourmet” comfort food as long as it’s not overwrought. The mac-n-cheese at Hattie’s is fancier than say Norma’s Cafe. Yet I still love it. I also adore their shrimp and grits. For down and dirty comfort, give me the fried chicken livers at Bubba’s. Mmmmm….

  10. I’m in the same boat as Maggie apparently.

    I don’t turn to food for comfort. I might eat when I’m bored, but when I’m depressed or whatever, there’s no particular food that “comforts” me. I’d rather just go get a good meal and be comforted in the fact that I can have something that’s good and prepared by people who give a ****. Eating junk food makes me feel worse, not better. Instead give me some booze and easy women, that lifts my spirits every time.

    But in this whole restaurant “comfort food” thing…I don’t think it’s what people are eating to lift spirits. It’s not “comforting”, it’s “what’s comfortable”. It’s what non adventurous people can eat without being put off because they don’t know all the ingredients, or whatever it is that keeps people from trying new stuff. Maybe they’re willing to try sushi or pho or something at the urging of a friend, but most of the time they’d rather have a slight variation on something very familiar (and then loudly proclaim that “it’s to die for”).

  11. Somehow I always find Mango’s Sticky rice with mango dessert comforting. I confess to driving across town to pick it up.

    Also, very comforting to those who are sick, Neiman Marcus’ Sunshine Basket (they will deliver), with their famous rolls and strawberry spread, salads and a chicken broth that is the best I’ve ever tasted.

  12. Kraft macaroni and cheese. With a cut-up hot dog mixed in if I’m feeling dangerous. Puts a smile on my face and reminds me of my carefree childhood days. THAT is the point of comfort food.

  13. @Luniz: Comfort food and junk food are not the same thing. They can be. But they don’t have to be. I don’t think eating mac n’ cheese makes me non-adventurous. It just means I like mac n’ cheese in addition to my meals at York Street, Nana, and Local. A true gourmand can appreciate a meal whether it be plebeian or patrician as long as the food is up to snuff. Sometimes it’s okay to get down and wallow in the cream gravy.