I found myself on a recent evening dining with a friend at a “fine dining” establishment. You know the type; valet only, low lighting and a piano player. One that has “$$$$” listed next to the name on Urbanspoon. The server presented us with a binder (it was just the wine list) and two heavy menu books, before striding away to get us “tap” water. We turned our attention to peruse the menu.
There was a silence before my friend asked, “Um, so this may be stupid, but what is fromage blanc?”
A few seconds later she asked, “Sorry, what is a remoulade? Or a soffrito?”
I do my research on food, so I was able to answer her questions, but it made me realize how intimidating menu lingo can be. I think of Octopus Bar, an insider spot with items like “sake-marinated ikura” and “tongue of fire beans.” If only I could bring my “Food Lover’s Companion” with me. Sometimes to humor myself, I’ll pull out my phone under the table and Google the foreign terms.
If you want to eat adventurous, you’re bound to encounter a list of terms that sound more like prose than a plate of food. I often have trouble distinguishing if it’s a distributor or variety. “Freemantle octopus” (distributor) or “perigord black truffle” (variety.)
How do you handle a fine dining menu? Do you ask the servers to clarify? Or do you just wing it, placing your trust in the restaurant’s positive ratings?
-By Alexa Lampasona for the Food & More blog