…But Can You Take It?
By Ashleigh VanHouten
Recently, the Wall Street Journal said that “Bowls are the New Plates,” so it must be true. Look around: quinoa bowls, rice bowls, burrito bowls, acai bowls, breakfast bowls. Ramen, congee, hotpot: all bowls. It’s like the vessel is more important than the food it contains, and sometimes, that’s true. Consider the sensory experience of eating a burrito: heavy, log-shaped, portable. It’s completely different than eating that burrito’s deconstructed parts in a bowl; then it becomes a prettier affair, something to sit down and marvel at, arrange artfully and post on Instagram. And a bowl is often seen as a healthier option, since you’re often forgoing wrappings such a tortillas, tacos or bread. If nothing else, eating your food bowl-style shows that you care more about what you’re eating, and if there’s one thing that’s trendy about food it right now, it’s caring a lot (too much, maybe) about it.
Bowls abound: at fast-casual Indian spot Inday near Flatiron you can choose a base of rice, grains or veggies and build on top with a protein and various chutneys and spices. At Navy on Sullivan Street you can order the egg bowl, a delicious and pretty sophisticated mix of coconut quinoa, veggies, chickpeas, seeds and sorrel yogurt. Popular brunch spot Egg Shop in Brooklyn has an entire section dedicated to bowls called “Cruisers (it’s in a bowl!)” and the inescapable coolness continues with names like Yo!Guurrll which is basically a bowl of yogurt, fruit and granola—but it’s “ambrosial granola,” so there’s that.
Combining trends, juice bar Juice Generation makes a variety of acai bowls, with blends of the fruit, peanut butter, almond milk, granola and cacao nibs for a beautiful, if not exactly low-calorie post-workout snack. (Just to burst the bowl bubble a little, it’s worth noting that while they’re usually touted as a healthier option, in reality bowls are often just larger containers for whatever vice you’re into. Need you be reminded, ice cream also comes in bowls).
At Dimes, you can order a mango pitaya breakfast bowl that contains dragon fruit, a superfood and a seriously photogenic carb if ever there was one. In Greenwich Village there’s even a tiny, cozy little spot dedicated solely to oatmeal. The “world’s first oatmeal bar” offers sweet and savory “signature bowls”, like The Canadian which consists of cinnamon roasted apples, cheddar cheese, bacon, maple syrup and sea salt, and Banana Cream Pie which mixes Nilla wafers, banana, brown sugar and heavy cream. Continuing the breakfast bowl trend, Kith Brooklyn is home to New York’s first cereal bar, an uber-trendy black-and-white stylistic approach to literally mixing Froot Loops with milk just like you’ve always done. Customers choose up to three different services of 23 different types of cereal, and because it’s Brooklyn you can choose from five different milks and up to 25 assorted toppings. According to the website (because I have yet to travel to Brooklyn for the express purpose of eating cereal), orders of two or three servings is presented in a “Cereal Box Set”, a custom container for “mixing, eating and travel.”
If you care less about trendiness and more about a warming, nutritious meal, there’s always soup: the matzo ball soup at Jack’s Wife Freda is made with roasted chicken broth and dill and the matzo is rendered in duck fat. Mission Chinese Food’s rice porridge bowl offers diced rare steak, trout roe, and a slow-cooked egg in creamy rice. At Dirt Candy, the only vegetarian restaurant delicious enough that carnivores go willingly, you can get the cabbage hot pot: smoked cabbage broth with ramen style noodles, pickled ginger and something called “kale dough” that despite common sense is most likely delicious.
Right now, the bowl is king. It’s pretty to look at, allowing you to see all the colorful, textural elements of your dish. Bowls can also lend themselves to well-rounded mix healthy proteins and carbs, allowing our increasingly adventures palates to try a number of new things at once, although I’m not sure why the same meal on a plate just isn’t as appetizing. And look, it’s great to enjoy and care about your food: how healthy it is, how sustainable and ethical it is, its impact on the planet. Of course it’s also possible to care too much about your food—how pretty it is, how enviable and how trendy. One way to care too much about your food is how it’s presented to you: how it’s plated, put together, how it’s made to be consumed, not just with your mouth but with your credit card and your social media accounts. Some food for thought—maybe put that in your bowl and eat it.