Amuse-bouche: Chefs delight diners with inspired, palate-pleasing bites
It’s such a pleasure when dining out, to be presented with a little dish to snack on before a meal.
This delightful bite is an amuse-bouche (pronounced amuse boosh). Literally meaning “to amuse the human mouth” in French, it is a bite-size hors d’oeuvre that’s sent from the chef free of charge. Its purpose is to not only cleanse the palate, but also to give a preview of the chef’s cooking style.
In Pittsburgh, it’s not a widely served course, but there are a handful of restaurants preserving this charming French tradition.
At East Liberty’s The Twisted Frenchman, chef Andrew Garbarino has a wonderful appreciation for these “free little gifts” from the kitchen. Garbarino serves an amuse-bouche about 80 percent of the time, when time and resources are available. They are always made from ingredients that will be found in a French kitchen, he says.
For him, it’s an opportunity to not only tantalize diners’ taste buds before their ordered courses arrive, but also to give new dishes a test run before appearing on the menu. A cucumber, melon, smoked trout roe and prosciutto shooter, which once served as an amuse-bouche, has become a featured dish on the menu as a compressed melon salad.
Though amuse-bouche are typically served at the beginning of a meal, Garbarino says he’s “a rebel” and likes to challenge tradition.
In addition to serving an amuse-bouche before or during the coursed service, Garbarino also serves a mignardises (pronounced min-yar-DEEZ), a tiny pastry or sweet served with coffee after dessert. At The Twisted Frenchman, it’s always a chocolate truffle.
Around the corner in East LIberty at fellow French restaurant Paris 66, chef Larry Laffont serves his amuse-bouche in the form of a light, airy foam usually made of an in-season vegetable, cream and salt and pepper. These little bites are typically vegetarian and gluten-free.
He gets more adventurous during Paris 66’s Tour de France Sunday dinner series and creates amuse-bouche representing various regions of France. Some have included chicken liver mousse on toast from the Aquitaine region, black olive and anchovies tapenade and a feuillete (stuffed puff pastry) representing the Provence region, and yogurt prepared with shallots and chives served with toast from the Berry region in central France.
Kristin Butterworth, chef de cuisine at Nemacolin’s Lautrec, says an amuse-bouche is an opportunity to get guests excited about what is to come. Like Garbarino, Butterworth serves several amuse-bouce throughout the meal, regardless of diners’ menu selections.
Meals start off with a traditional amuse-bouche palate cleanser, which she changes daily so repeating guests get a different experience each time. Her favorite amuse-bouche of all time — and a customer favorite — is her version of chip and dip: creamy French onion dip piped into a caviar tin, covered with Osetra caviar and served with house-made salt-and-vinegar potato chips.
Each guest also receives an intermezzo, or pre-dessert course: a tiny soda bottle with a red-and-white-striped paper straw filled with a seasonally flavored soda or something fizzy.
Mt. Washington’s Altius also keeps guests guessing by serving a different amuse every day. Executive chef Jessica Bauer prepares tiny, flavorful bites that leave you wanting so much more.
Her favorite way to serve an amuse-bouche is a flavorful liquid shooter — like blackberry, mint and ginger — or fresh, seasonal vegetables, such as a tomato-mozzarella bite.
She plays with traditional food, too, like steak and potatoes or a BLT, and turns those into comforting amuse-bouche.
At Spoon, executive chef and owner Brian Pekarcik uses an amuse-bouche to acknowledge VIP guests for their continued support of the East Liberty restaurant. He says most people really appreciate the special acknowledgement from the chef.
Spoon and Eleven, in the Strip District, both include an amuse-bouche as part of the tasting menu. When Eleven first opened, says Bill Fuller, Big Burrito’s corporate chef, several amuse-bouche were served as part of the regular meals.
But after a while, Eleven excluded them from everyday service, because diners weren’t particularly interested in a long, three-hour dining experience. Now, these tiny bites of intense flavor are served exclusively as part of the tasting menu, ordered about 50 to 60 times per week.
Executive chef Edwin Smith at Monterey Bay Fish Grotto on Mt. Washington sees this course as a means to “push the envelope creatively and come up with different combinations,” oftentimes, creating on the fly.
Not only does preparing amuse-bouche allow him to have fun in the kitchen, it allows him to delight guests with a special “thank you” for dining at his restaurant.
Read more: http://triblive.com/aande/diningout/8982140-74/tomato-amuse-east#ixzz3lMuuuM5h
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