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Old as dirt. Twice as gritty.

Restaurant menu decoder

 
When you eat out, you are served food that is many times more expensive than the food you eat at home. So why do you do it? Where is the value in that? Well, there’s the ‘treat’ or ‘celebration’ aspect, and there’s the ‘I’m not even going to try making that at home’ aspect, and the ‘I’ll be damned if I’m going to cook tonight’ aspect, but once there, you may start noticing the prices on the menu, and that’s when you need some words to make the financial medicine go down easier. And for that, you probably need another decoder, one that will ‘pair’ with your Holiday Accommodations Decoder (see previous column).
 
 
Restaurant Menu Decoder
 
Fresh
This is the restaurant equivalent to ‘nestled’. Pretty much all food is now required to be called ‘fresh’, ie “Fresh-from-the-garden beets” instead of “beets found in the bin under a bunch of other stuff that had gone a bit off”. Are you going to eat at a restaurant that claims its food is ‘maybe fresh, maybe not, depends on the mood of the chef’? I might be wrong, but I don’t think so. 
 
Today’s Special
At times this is something special, othertimes it’s the ‘what the hell was the chef thinking?’ dish. Its state of health is failing fast after a few days of nobody ordering it, so it has been renamed ‘Today’s Special’. On its last legs, it is either going to be turfed at the end of the day or eaten by you.
 
Pan-seared
‘Pan-seared’ is the new ‘Sautéed’ which was once the new ‘Fried’. Fried is cheap, unhealthy and for red-necks. Pan-seared is expensive, healthy and for when you’re all dressed up. Sautéed can go either way. For your ordering convenience, all three are exactly the same.
 
Heaped with
‘Heaped with’ usually refers to a sauce, ie ‘heaped with our special sauce to hide the fact that our meat is two days past its prime’, or french fries ‘here’s your fish, yes it is in there, you just have to dig around a bit, it is hard to find because . . . it has been ‘heaped with’ french fries’.
 
Hand-battered
The hand goes into the Shake-N-Bake, removes a handful and batters the meat up one side and down the other.
 
Homemade
Sure. The chef rushes home, prepares the dish at home, then rushes it back to the restaurant.  
 
House-made
This means ‘made at the restaurant’, and you’re wondering, ‘isn’t all food made at the restaurant?’ Yes and no. A good deal of restaurant food comes in great big vats from food supply places. The chef can toss some random new ingredient into the vat food and voila, it becomes ‘house-made’. 
 
Chewy goodness
Will break teeth. 
 
Complemented by
If your food is ‘served with’ vegetables. prepare to pay a normal price. If the same food is ‘complemented by’, prepare to pay more.
 
Fiery
You will die if you eat this.
 
Piping-hot
‘Served hot’ means your food will be served hot. Served ‘piping-hot’ means you’re in for a real treat because . . . well, your food will be served hot.
 
Mouth-watering vs Palate-pleasing
‘Mouth-watering’ is the default term and refers to food for regular folk. If you dress up and pay more, the food automatically upgrades to ‘palate-pleasing’. 
 
Dainty
A much prettier way of describing ‘That tiny spot on your plate? Yep, that’s it, sucker’.
 
Warm
Refers to the water served with your meal.
 
Melt-in-your-mouth
Ice will do that.
 
Zesty
Salty.
 
Hardy
Wear stretchy pants when ordering anything hardy.
 
Subtly-favoured
Has no discernible flavour
 
Moist
A word that sets everybody’s teeth on edge yet is still widely used. Nobody knows why. 
 
Bite-sized
When you want to pretend you’re three again.
 
Fire-roasted
Cooked.
 
Fire-grilled
Cooked.
 
Flame-broiled
Cooked.
 
Flame-grilled
Cooked.
 
Pairings
If a restaurant threatens to ‘pair’ wine to your food, you are definitely about to do the fine-dining thing. Prepare yourself for French words and high prices. But if you’re cheap, like me, just grab yourself a box of rotgut red and ‘pair’ that puppy to some peanut butter sandwiches and serve it ‘al fresco’ at ‘la maison’. 
 
“So delightfully fresh, with a frisky, almost frenzied, overbite, this August 2012 box of rotgut red pairs perfectly with our hearty house-served pain coquant heaped high with a palate-pleasing cacahouéte ‘smash’, served with complemented by bite-sized morsels of sel de la mer pommes crisps, ironically served in an authentic original ‘Lay’s sac de plastique’.”
 


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About the Author

This bio was written by Jo Slade. As you can see she has written about herself in the third person. What normal person would do that? They just wouldn't. Who knows how many other persons might be involved in this thing, a second person? Another third? I worry about it. I - she - we - can't even keep it straight, this paragraph is a damn mess, there are persons all over the place. Round 'em up and shoot 'em. That's what I'd do, and by golly I think that's what Jo Slade would do as well.

Biographic nutshell: Jo has been messing around with words for a long time. Sometimes she'll just say words instead of writing them, it saves on paper.

This column: The columns that will appear here are of a highly serious and scholarly nature, therefore it is advised that you keep a dictionary and ponderous thoughts nearby.

If, after reading the column, you find yourself tossing and turning at night, burning with the need to email me, just do it. I answer to [email protected]




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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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