Restaurant 101: Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche– [ah-myooz boosh] — is a word you may have heard bandied about in restaurants. As it is French in origin, it can sound like a bit of secret code when it falls from the lips of a discreet maitre d’ or a waistcoated server , especially when re-purposed as a verb as in “Has table twenty-two been amused?”

While it is possible these theoretical staff are wondering how the maitre d’s starchy humor landed on a group of diners, it is more likely they are discussing a bit of service business.

An amuse bouche is simply a bite-size dish from the chef meant to stimulate your palate. An amuse bouche typically appears at the beginning of a progressive tasting menu with several courses.

A great amuse is true to the origin of the french word– to cause a person to muse, to ponder. Perhaps to ponder what is in store in the meal to come, or perhaps to be amused by a particularly stunning flavor combination that they would never have imagined enjoying.

An amuse need not be overly complicated. It can be more like Ikea furniture; well designed and easy to assemble. So easy, fact, that you can easily arrange some at home.

If, for instance, you are throwing a dinner party, you can elevate your game by arranging slivers of several elements from the meal in a stack, on a spoon, or threaded on skewer.

Think tiny, and think piquant flavors that will make an impression.Wrap a nibble of mozzarella cheese with a fresh basil leaf and tuck it into a grape tomato. No basil? Use prosciutto. No Prosciutto? Drizzle with a kiss of balsamic vinegar.

Dollop a single crisp round of sweet potato with greek yogurt and a sprinkling of smoked paprika.

Or, in a popular combination of high and low brow, a dollop of caviar on a potato chip always does the trick.

Roasting a chicken for two? Scoop out the oysters from the back of the chicken and skewer them with a strip of crispy chicken skin and a nibble of something tart, like a cranberry or a green apple slice.

Don’t stress yourself out about it; the whole point is to make it entertaining. Experiment! And have fun amusing yourself and your guests.

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