Summer has snuck into fall, and comfort foods are replacing light, crisp dishes on restaurant menus. It may have to do with the temperatures dropping; it may have to do with the recession. Or, it may be the simple desire to feel good.
“Comfort food, just like it sounds, is something that makes you feel good when you eat it,” Mike Holman, chef at Americana, said. “It brings back memories from childhood. It’s nostalgic.”
Classic ingredients in comfort foods — melted cheese, gravy, slow-cooked meats, warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, and casserole dishes — make you feel safe, warm, satisfied. It’s the stick-to-your-bones kind of meal that, despite being notoriously high in fat and calories, you feel good about eating.
Holman, the man behind Americana’s dressed-up menu of comfort foods, said even though more restaurants offer them in the cooler months, he thinks it’s a food trend, too.
“It’s what people like now. It used to be new age and fancy, difficult-to-eat foods. Now we’re in a trend of eating food that just tastes good.”
In addition to the classics on Americana’s menu (pork chops with chorizo cream sauce, mac and cheese, vegetarian lasagna, duck and eggs Benedict), the restaurant has introduced a fried chicken dinner, offered Monday evenings.
“We thought it was something that goes well with what we do here,” Holman said. “Plus, it’s that time of year to get a big basket of fried chicken, some cornbread muffins and mashed potatoes.” (The $13 dinner is all-you-can-eat, and also includes coleslaw.)
Holman grew up with four younger brothers, and dinners made for five hungry men.
“We ate a lot of comfort foods,” he said. “It was always a big batch of whatever dad made — mac and cheese, chili. Mac and cheese is something no one will ever get sick of. If there is mac and cheese sitting in front of you, you’re going to eat it.”
Holman’s love of pot roast inspired the beef short ribs on Americana’s menu (served with sweet potato mash in a spicy Tabasco barbecue sauce with tropical salsa and toasted coconut for $18). “It’s very similar to what you’d find in a crock pot, just a little more intricate.”
In addition to the cooler temperatures, Holman can’t deny that the economy may have a little to do with the comfort food craze, saying it’s much easier to validate spending $30 on a meal versus $75.
True, but apple pie is apple pie, and when you’re craving the comforts of home, the affordable price tag is just a happy coincidence.