You’re not a real foodie unless you know enough gourmet food terms to be slightly annoying. But hey, if you’re calling yourself a foodie, you might as well sound the part, right?
Fortunately for you, we’re very supportive. Below is a list of food terms to expand your already almost-encyclopedic knowledge of haute cuisine, plus impress whoever you’re bringing to a restaurant (or maybe the waiter).
Affogato – say it with me: ahf-foh-GAT-toh. This is a nice dessert, a shot of hot espresso poured over creamy vanilla ice cream. Sometimes chocolate ice cream is used, in which case it’ll be, you guessed it, affogato mocha.
Aglio e olio – AH-lyoh ay AW-lyoh in Italian simply means “garlic and oil”. You’ve seen this enough times in menus: it’s an almost plain-looking pasta with bits of garlic scattered through. Don’t be fooled, though. The saying that “more is less” is also true with food, and garlic and olive oil are one of the best combinations you just don’t mess with.
A la carte – when the lady over the phone says “ah a la carte lang po” when you say “just the cheeseburger without the fries and drink”, they’re actually correct. A la kart is French for literally “by the menu”, and it means dishes separately priced and part of a set meal.
Antipasto – you’ll risk getting called antipatiko when you say this (sorry, couldn’t resist), because really, it’s just Italian for appetizer. In Spanish, it’s tapas like the nice ones they serve at Spanish restaurants, and in French it’s ors d’ouevres (or-dervs, see below). In Filipino, we call it sabaw. Heh.
Arugula – hipster-y before it became popular, you’ll find these green leaves in almost any restaurant now. They’re also called rocket (cooler name, no?), and they’re great in salads and pizza, like this one from Sunshine Kitchen.
Carpaccio – pronounced kahr-PAH-chee-oh, this is like sashimi but levelled up, because it’s raw beef instead of fish, served as an appetizer. The beef is drizzled with olive oil and and lemon juice and topped with capers or onions.
Chiffonade – sounds fancy, but shihf-uh-NAHD only means thin shreds of vegetables. In French, this literally means “made of rags”. Chefs usually do it to leaves by rolling them up and then slicing very thinly.
Coq au vin – kohk-oh-VAHN simply means chicken cooked in wine, usually red, with bacon, mushrooms, and pearl onions. All delicious things on their own, and even better together. One Way Restaurant has a very nice version that you should check out.
Creme fraiche – krehm FRESH is a thick cream that has a tangy, nutty flavor and velvety texture, almost like sour cream or yogurt. It’s a delicious contrast to sweet desserts like fresh fruit or warm cobblers, and is also used in scrambled eggs.
Demi-glace – demi-GLASS is a thick, rich sauce traditionally served with red meats (like steak). It takes a very long time to make because it’s basically a reduction (simmering off water) of brown sauce and other good stuff. Not recommended for the home cook, but foodies don’t really follow those silly rules, right?
Gravlax/ Gravadlax – these are whole salmon fillets usually cured with salt, sugar, and pepper, then flavoured with dill. It’s then sliced thinly and served with bread, sour cream, capers, onion, and lemon. One Way’s Salmon Gravlax and Mango Salad is delicious and healthy.
Hors d’ouevres – French for appetizers, see antipasto.
Infusion – this means extracting the flavour from an ingredient by steeping (aka, soaking) them in liquid. Tea is made this way, and so are herbed vinegars and garlic oil.
Pomodoro – basically a tomato sauce, that’s all. So the next time you see “pasta al pomodoro” on a menu, you’ll know that the restaurant just ran out of creative ways of naming that dish. Trivia: pomodoro literally means “golden apple” in Italian, because the first tomatoes in Italy were yellowish.
Prosciutto – this is literally just Italian for “ham”, but when you say proh-SHOO-too, you usually mean parma ham from Italy. It’s seasoned, salt-cured, and air-dried, and then sliced paper-thin, then served as appetizer, or on a cheese board with wine, or used as topping for a lot of delicious things, like pizza.
Ragu – a thick, full-bodied, slow-cooked meat sauce that contains ground beef, pancetta, tomatoes, onions, celery, carrots, and garlic, plus wine, milk or cream, and seasonings. This sauce originated in Italy’s Bologna region, which is why when you see “Bolognese” on a menu, it’s a pasta with ragu.
Rib-eye steak – also known as beauty steak, market steak, delmonico steak, scotch filet, or entrecôte, this is one of the tastiest and more high-end cuts of beef. It’s got a lot of marbling (fat scattered throughout the meat) which gives it that signature beefy flavor. AWant more restaurants you can practice your foodie knowledge in? Check out our partners.
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