How to: Navigate a Fancy Restaurant Menu

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You’re on the classic romantic date. The one with the roses, the suit and tie, the little black dress, the bottle of wine, the fancy car, the expensive restaurant and…the cryptic menu of exotic-sounding dishes that you both pretend to understand in order to impress the other. So you order the duck confit with vanilla balsamic reduction and shaved fennel to seem refined, and because duck, like chicken is a light meal choice. So you think. And unbeknownst to you in your little black dress, you will consume almost 1000 calories, much of it fat. Because confit refers to a method of preparing meat by preserving it in its own fat and cooking it in the fat over low heat.

So if you want to continue to fit into that little dress for dates beyond Valentine’s day, check out this list of fancy terms that I have put together to help you (and your hips) navigate the fancy dinner menu. You might also want to take a crash course in French to impress your beau.

And remember—everything in moderation! If you find ten of your favorite fancy foods listed below, don’t forgo them completely. Just envision that little black dress and consider not licking your plate.

**Menu Words to Think Twice About**

ailoi. garlic mayonaise, delicious on french fries, but definitely up there in the calorie department.

bard. wrapped in some sort of fat, like bacon, to prevent it from drying out while roasting

beurre. butter. don’t let them fool you, butter has just as many calories in French as it does in English.

confit. as mentioned above, the fattiest thing on the menu, literally. It is generally duck leg (the fatty part of the duck), preserved in its own fat, then slowly cooked in the fat.

creme fraiche. like sour cream but fuller and richer tasting, made with heavy cream

en croute. to wrap or seal in pastry, no need for dessert then…

foie gras. fattened goose or duck liver, and if that doesn’t get you, it smells and looks like cat food to me!

feuilleté. flaky pastry, (ex: cheese feuilleté). It’s deceiving because it sounds so light and airy.

guanciale. basically pure pig’s fat. It’s unsmoked pig’s cheek. I almost ordered it before my waiter told me it’s as soft as butter.

hollandaise. this classic eggs benedict sauce can also sneak onto the dinner menu. It’s made from lemon juice, butter and egg yolk.

offal. not necessarily high in fat but something to be aware of. It is also called sweetbreads or variety meats, or more commonly, brains, heart, kidneys, liver, tongue and tripe.

rissolé. fried to a crisp.

velouté. French for “velvety” or “creamy”, made from white stock and roux (butter and flour thickener).

Alexia Detweiler is a freelance writer based in Lancaster, Pa. She studied French in college only to enhance her culinary knowledge, but also found it useful when she studied abroad in Brussels.

Originally posted on Thursday, February 9th, 2012

3 Responses to “How to: Navigate a Fancy Restaurant Menu”

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    February 19th, 2012

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