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Have you ever been in a fancy restaurant and right after you place your order, the server brings you something on a small plate that the chef has created? It is tiny—usually a piece of something with something else squeezed on it, and topped by a mini-dollop of something and maybe a garnish like a leaf. This is an amuse-bouche and there is nothing more appropriately named. To me this item is totally amusing, especially after hearing that the chef has specially prepared this. He could have used a thimble as a utensil.
There is nothing wrong per se with the amuses—after all they come at no extra charge and they provide evidence that the chef is more than a burger flipper, but someone skilled in the art of fine cuisine. It is a badge of honor for the chef. The only problem is that the amuses are just so tiny it is hard for the taste buds to grasp a flavor to send to the brain to trigger the senses to launch a “wow!” For amuse bouches to make a sensory impact, they would have the be served just as the French serve escargot, “by the dozen.”
We honor Best New Restaurants in this issue. Just for fun, I wondered if I were a new chef what my amuse bouche would be. Well, since many involve raw fish, I would use an oyster. For the cracker I would use a saltine on which the oyster would be placed. As sauce I would look for something red and tomato-based. Then for that extra touch, I would add a squirt of lemon juice. If a seed should fall on the oyster, so much the better. Americans might recognize this as a raw oyster on a cracker, although to be amuse, I would use the French: huître crue sur un biscuit. A bottle of bière froid on the side could be as effervescent as champagne.
Ingrid Rinck was one of the honorees in the June issue Top Female Achievers feature. Her business, as listed in the article subhead, is now properly known as Sensible Meals.