On July 24, the national foodie website Eater.com published the following spoof menu satirizing the ubiquitous farm-to-table dining trend that has by now seeped into nearly every corner of the country:
The timing of this post couldn't have been more fortuitous, as Mrs. Hackknife and I had just recently supped at a local Tampa restaurant that was decent, but not great, and furthermore left me with nagging hesitation about how exactly to write up our experience. The place in question, named Boca (901 W. Platt St. in South Tampa), almost perfectly meets the stereotypical definition of hipster trendy, from the water served in Mason Jars, to the on-site "market" (actually just a small display plopped in the middle of the dining room), to the numerous Wilco concert posters - the type of joint where there's even a listing on the menu to buy a beer ($3) for the kitchen staff (presumably either to get them drunk or help them nurse the hangover from last night's patron offerings). Once I read Eater's spoof menu a few weeks later, I knew that I had an instant connection to my subject eatery; however, I didn't quite realize just how appropriate the comparison was until I placed the two bills of fare side-by-side. To my abject horror, they had no less than eight (8) things in common. The first thing we ate was the best dish of the night and it actually wasn't represented on the satire menu - a knockout version of fried green tomatoes with pimiento cheese spread, tomato jam, and house-cured bacon:
Our middle course consisted entirely of spoofed food - Mrs. Hackknife had the evening's fish special, a black grouper (aka the "gnarly looking whole fish with half of a charred lemon") and I tried the free-range chicken breast (aka the "amish chicken in the big city") on a bed of fingerling potatoes and swiss chard, while we shared a crock of brussels sprouts hash (aka the "unconventional riff on brussels sprouts"). The sprouts were great and the fish/chicken entrees certainly looked the part, but both were surprisingly bland and lacking, well, soul, for lack of better term.
We hemmed and hawed on dessert, with the missus opting for a disappointing chocolate skillet cake (served in a tiny cast iron pan, so trendy that no irony was needed) and me only slightly blissing out on some sort of PB&J stack (pictured below):
I give the Boca folks credit for trying, but it's becoming increasingly obvious to us that the top-tier of farm-to-table restaurants in the greater Tampa area goes only 2 or 3 deep (there's the Refinery, Edison, Elevage, and that's about it). Still, this experience will not deter us from further sampling the local goods to identify the best "tarted-up pork belly" (in Eater parlance) out there...