Amusing the Palate?

This article in the New York Times from a few months ago (I think it is restricted-acess for Times subscribers; sorry) about amuse-bouches at first had me thinking the phenomenon is just another “foodie trend.” Who would make small-scale tastes of soup and little bites just so guests could have a pre-dinner, post-drink sip or chew? Wouldn’t the meal suffice? Why go overboard — and create more dishes — just to impress our guests? Are we home cooks in serious need of an ego check?

But in the closing paragraph, the writer, who had helped her friend prepare for a dinner party and thus witnessed the amuse-bouche dithering first-hand, mentions that re-using leftover soup can be the perfect way to impress your guests with the newest gourmet craze. This makes much more sense! While I like the concept of presenting diners with a taste of something a bit more exotic or special than ordinary dinner fare, to make seven tiny plates or espresso cups-ful of broth seems extraordinarily time consuming. Looking at it as a way to recycle leftovers, though, is quite appealing. My future guests may soon find themselves dipping miniature spoons into delicate bowls of, for example, leftover soup such as the creamy sweet potato with lemon I made for Sunday’s dinner.

The thing is … I’m not sure this is quite what the amuse-bouche is intended to do. The concept of turning last night’s mashed potatoes into today’s potato hash rings of the stodgy, and we urbane young things are far too hip to re-make last night’s tired meal. Yet the idea of mincing and chopping vegetables to make a garlicky mushroom “taste” can be daunting, especially if you’ve already planned a four-or-five-course offering.

Knowing myself as well as I do, I’ll probably end up making a plethora of little sips to entreat and entice, even if it adds a few hours to my dinner preparations. It shall be the newest challenge — and I do so like a challenge.

nicole spiridakis © copyright 2023