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Classic Recipes Misrepresented

I have a question I want to pose to all you Chowhounds.

Is it cool if a restaurant offers a classic recipe on their menu but serves it fundamentally different?

The specific example is fettucine alfredo. On the menu it's labeled "Fettucine Alfredo" That's a classic dish right? You kind of know what to expect. Under the title, it said it was served with butter and cheese, no mention of cream. I'll admit, I didn't read that part too close. I figured, the title says it all. Classic dish. This actual dish was served with fettucine lightly coated with butter and a little sprinkle of parmigiano on top.

So back to question at hand. Do you think the restaurant should have called it something else? Because pasta with butter and cheese is more like a recipe for a 5 year old not what you'd expect in pretty fancy restaurant. And have you run into this before?

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  1. I believe that without cream is true to the original recipe. But if it weren't I'd simply ask the waiter to ask the chef if it was possible to toss on some cream.

    30 Replies
    1. re: Chinon00

      The 1964 edition of Joy of Cooking, under 'Fettuccini al burro' writes
      "Alfredo II came to Cincinnati to demonstrate the making of those noodles which brought both him and his father fame ...."
      This recipe just has the noodles, butter, and cheese, no cream.

      Also look at


      1. re: paulj

        The "true" recipe according to MSNBC is 6oz cheese and 6oz butter. That creates a creamy type sauce. This recipe was a light coating of butter with some shaved on cheese. Definitely an interpretation that is closer to a child's dish.

        1. re: snackventurer

          Actually I think that a "child" could make it either way. Both preparations would be pretty simple don't you think?

          Btw, did it taste good?


          1. re: Chinon00

            I agree, both preparations are simple and delicious if done correctly. This one was not done well. It did not taste good. After bite three or four, it was just some butter on pasta. Not my idea of a great meal when paying premium dollars.

          1. re: justagthing

            Doppio Buerro. Double butter. A key to the recipe, in lieu of cream. Now this gives me the drive to make the classic no cream recipe.

            1. re: snackventurer

              The dish was the classic Italian dish called "Fettuccine al Burro" and was served in many restaurants in Rome during Rome's "La Dolce Vita" days - the 1920s. It contained fettuccine, butter and Parmesan cheese - no cream. It was served at Alfredo's restaurant, whose clientele included politicians, movie starlets, roving reporters and noisy tourists. In 1927, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks ate there, eating it with gold forks. After their visit, the restaurant renamed the dish "Fettuccine al Burro Alfredo's," which eventually was shortened to "Fettuccine Alfredo's." Shortly later, the dish made its way to America. But American butter, which contained only 80 percent butterfat, was no match for the Italian "double" or "triple" butter with much more butterfat. So to compensate for American butter, American restaurants added heavy cream to the recipe.

              1. re: Potomac Bob

                potomac bob: you da MAN!

                ps, know about chicken gismonda? (another thread's inquiry)

                1. re: Potomac Bob

                  How much more butterfat is there in double or triple butter? 80% for the normal US butter. 90% has 12% more. Clarified butter 25% more. Why not just add 25% more butter to make up for the lack of butterfat? I don't see how using 35% butterfat cream will make up for the lower butterfat in US butter. Using cream would reduce the butterfat concentration, not increase it.

                  I had just read that Alfredo's innovation, relative to al Burro, was to use extra butter.


                  1. re: paulj

                    Using more U.S. butter to compensate for not having European higher fat content butter just doesn't work. But it does remind me of the time years ago I sent my Turkish housekeeper to the Turkish store to buy some Turkish 20 volume peroxide to dye my hair. They didn't have any, so she bought 2 bottles of 10 volume! LOL

                    Same deal with butter. In the U.S., the cream isn't allowed to rise to the surface of the milk long enough before being skimmed off to make butter, and that results in butter with a lower fat content than European butters. If someone wants a higher fat content butter, you can buy French, German, Danish, and other country's butters on line. I think they start at about sixteen bucks a pound, but hey, that's cheaper than truffles!

                    Edit: Did a little Googling and found out there IS a U.S. made butter (therefore it might be more available) that is 86% butterfat the same as most European butter. It's Pulgra, and you can read about it here:
                    And it isn't that U.S. buttermakers don't let the cream rise long enough, they ADD WATER when making butter. <sigh>

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      lurpak is nice, and available at harris teeter

                      they also carry kerry gold

                      for you in texas, kerry gold is at:
                      Whole Foods
                      Tom Thumb's
                      Central Market
                      Super Target

                      fortunately, at least here in northern virginia, neither lurpak nor kerry gold is anywhere near $16 a pound. maybe $7. tj's and whole foods are also good for euro or higher fat butters.

                      1. re: alkapal

                        Thanks! My newest quest is for organic butter from grass fed cows. Butter the way butter USED to be...! Omega 3s and all that good stuff.

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          caroline, maybe you already came across this, but sorry it would be mail order to texas

                          now if you're really hungry ;-

                            1. re: soupkitten

                              Thanks! For some reason my local markets stock lots of organic milk, but organic butter is hard to find.

                        2. re: Caroline1

                          I was at Bristol Farms today and found many different varieties of European butters. I also like Kerry Gold, which was also there, but I have purchased it at Wild Oats, which is now Whole Foods.

                          1. re: Caroline1

                            Wow, what a difference, 80% v 86%! How about if I melt some butter, and keep it on a low flame while some water evaporates? I still know see why adding cream helps.

                            I tried Pulgra a while back, and didn't notice a significant difference. I'm happy with the TJ house brand.


                            1. re: paulj

                              Sure. You can do that to get the water out. It's called "drawn butter". '-)

                              1. re: Caroline1

                                caroline, could you clarify (no pun intended) the difference between drawn butter, clarified butter, and ghee?

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  Hey, intend the pun. Phsychologists say puns are a sign of intelligence!

                                  Drawn butter, clarified butter, and ghee are all the same thing. It's "butter" with the milk solids cooked out, which reduces it to an oil. Sometimes I jokingly call it "cow oil." '-)

                                  The term "drawn butter" is almost always used for accompaniment to seafood, but there are also "butter sauce" recipes that include flour and water along with whole butter that are called "drawn butter," as well as just plain melted butter without the solids removed. But clarified butter is most commonly called drawn butter today.

                                  Ghee is clarified butter used in India, for religious purposes, cooking, and also for makeup. When I went to college the first time right out of highschool, my best friend was an exchange student from India, and her mother made a compound of ghee and soot as eye makeup (I can't remember what it is called) that she applied by dipping a sterling silver rod into the mixture, then sliding it against her eyes with the lids pressing against the rod. In time, it also stains the sclera. The ancient Greeks and Romans also used clarified butter to cook with and to clean their bodies with, in addition to olive oil.

                                  Clarified butter has a much higher smoking point than ordinary butter. It can be stored at room temperature for quite a long while. It will turn solid when refrigerated. Hollandaise sauce is basically mayonnaise made with clarified butter.

                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    thanks for that clarification.


                                    we have ghee in the cupboard. btw, that "makeup" routine sounds a little daunting....ghee and soot -- i'm sure fda would have a field day.

                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                      Clarified butter/ghee is also what the theaters use for "buttered" popcorn.

                                      1. re: steinpilz

                                        do they? i never get the "butter" on popcorn, always assuming it was some flavored oil concoction.

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          There's a recent thread about sources of popcorn flavorings.

                                          Straight clarified butter does not have a strong 'butter' flavor, since it lacks milk solids. Items with a strong 'butter' flavor probably include a synthetic flavoring.


                                      2. re: Caroline1

                                        So is there a term for the milk solids that are cooked out? My BF and I actually like a butter that has more milk fats, but he was wondering if could get just the milk fats for dipping his crab/lobster in. When I melted my American butter, there was very little milk fat. But when I melted my KerryGold, wow, so much more and better. Yum!

                                  2. re: paulj

                                    The difference between "standard" American butter and an 86% butter is not likely to be noticeable in the traditional fetucchini Alfredo, where you cold-blend the cheese and butter, then melt them into the lightly drained fetuccini. Any excess moisture in the butter will be absorbed by the cheese during blending.

                                    High fat butter is a boon to bakers however. Especially when making puff pastry because the higher the butterfat, the more maliable the butter is at colder temperatures.

                                    I'm not absolutely certain Trader Joe's is one of them, but there are several chain supermarkets in this country that sell 86% butterfat butter as their house brand. I tend to think TJ's is one of them, but not sure. I think Whole Foods is another. Read labels! But if TJ's is one and you normally shop there, it would explain why you din't find Pulgra very different.

                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                      caroline, i'm guessing then that the labels tell the amount of butterfat? i hadn't noticed....

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        Seems to me I've seen some butters that have the amount of butterfat listed in plain English on the front of the carton, but maybe I'm remembering an ad? Anyway, if your math is much better than mine (and whose isn't?), then you should be able to figure it out from the nutrition facts panel. All I can figure out from the brand of butter I have in the house is that 2 grams of every tablespoon of this butter is probably water. I say probably because it fails to tell me how much of the butter is milk solids and how much of the butter is fat. So much for nutrition panels! <sigh>

                                  3. re: Caroline1

                                    Just for clarification in case anyone is shopping, it's "Plugra", not "Pulgra". We have it locally here in the Carolinas at The Fresh Market.

                      2. snackventurer, this is a good point, and all too common. I have found that restaurants, while trying to put their own signature on a menu, all too often fundamentally change the 'classic' recipe and turn it into something else...(this is not to say that the changed version is not sometimes better)...another example of this premise is 'Veal Saltimbocca' or 'Chicken Scarpariello'...there are so many variations of this dish being served in my area that it is hard to remember what the original was...this is why you get wacky titles on menus like: 'Veal Sara', or 'Chicken Louis'...they are actually excuses for changing the original recipes...By the way, I do not mean to stay with just the Italian, this phenomenon is true of all cuisines...

                        14 Replies
                        1. re: gutreactions

                          Gutreactions, you are bang on. I'm all for changing recipes and liberal interpretations, but when you're using a classic recipe title and fundamentally change it, it's kind of misleading.

                          They tried to use a classic take on classic dish and failed miserably.

                          1. re: snackventurer

                            You must've missed my mega-rant re: "carpaccio" that I was served at an 'Italian" place around here.... which turned out to be thinly sliced roast beef (!). After inquiring, I was told that 'most customers prefer their meat not to be raw'. WTF.

                            1. re: linguafood

                              Then I suppose most customers don't like carpaccio.

                              1. re: snackventurer

                                I guess so. However, why a restaurant that advertises itself as "authentic" would bow to customers to change one classic dish (it's not the only appetizer on the menu, ya know) is beyond common sense. But then they also offer a few gnochi (sic) dishes.

                              2. re: linguafood

                                That's hilarious! I have never sent a dish back (athough the waitsaff has insisted for me) but if that happened to me, I definitely would.
                                I remember eating at "Chartiers" in Paris, and the North American woman next to me ordered Tartare. When it arrvied, she was horrified. The man with her called the waiter over and said "This beef isn't cooked!" and the waiter said "Yes. It's tartare." and walked away. I laughed. Neither of them tried it.

                                1. re: miss_bennet

                                  This is why I find it so amusing that 'Filet Americain' is thus called. Then again, I think most Belgians find that amusing, which may be the reason for the name? Probably not, but I've never looked into the etymology of that one.

                                  1. re: Lizard

                                    The etymology of "Americaine" is a change in spelling that occurred over time. The word was originally Armoricaine (according to Gourmet magazine, February 1959, as well as the Horizon Cookbook (1968). Armoricaine is the ancient name for Brittany. The 1975 edition of Joy of Cooking called the dish "Lobster Americaine or Armoricaine." As Gourmet said, "it has nothing whatever to do with America."

                                2. re: linguafood

                                  I ordered carpaccio recently, only to have the server on three separate occasions ask me (with a horrified look on her face)

                                  "you Do know that's RAW, don't you??"


                                  1. re: purple goddess

                                    i had that happen and then it came out thickly sliced and medium. it was like they assumed because im a small young lady and had no idea what i was getting myself into...

                                    1. re: purple goddess

                                      You know, though, they probably *do* avoid a lot of surprises by mentioning that up front.

                                    2. re: linguafood

                                      Speaking of carpaccio, what would you expect if you saw, "Boursin Stuffed Kangaroo Carpaccio Nachos with Avacado Relish and Spicy,
                                      Sweet Habanero Sauce" on a menu? It's from an actual menu, and I have a real problem wrapping my mind around it.

                                      Well, if you really want to know, it's from Chef Tim Love's "Lonesome Dove" restaurant in Fort Worth. He's the one who beat Masiharu Morimoto on the currently running Iron Chef America. I will take Morimoto ANY day....!

                                    3. re: snackventurer

                                      I've been served roast duck parts under the misnomer "confit." I love duck in any guise, so I didn't have any problem eating it. Still, last time I checked, "roast" and "confit" are radically different preparations. But which sounds classier?

                                      1. re: rockycat

                                        I'd send it back if I got roast duck under the guise of "confit". Classy or not, or tasty or not, the expectation is wrong. I think this is radically different that getting a fettucine alfredo with or without cream, as both are well known variations of the recipe. Confit is not a matter for interpretation. As far as I'm concerned this is like ordering chicken soup and getting a piece of fried chicken.

                                        1. re: ESNY

                                          Absolutely true. That is a complete misrepresentation and not a "variation". The OP is desirous of "what he/she wants" and not of the "classic", and that is her right. But roasted versus confit are too wholly different dishes.

                                  2. There is a restaurant here that describes fish en papillote on their menu as fish cooked in an aluminum foil pouch.

                                    Would real parchement paper that much harder or more expensive?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: beachmouse

                                      foil pouch? "en papillote"? when is parchment paper made from aluminum? ack!!! although..... real parchment is made from sheepskin....
                                      but plant-based parchment is used in cooking applications. (wiki article notes why wax paper is NOT a substitite for parchment paper in baking, too


                                      foil pouch cooking is for home, or the campground fire.

                                      what next: "sous vide" from a boil-in-bag?

                                    2. At a recent lunch, we ordered gazpacho and received chilled cream of tomato soup.

                                      I ordered Salad Nicoise and got greens drowned in olive oil, studded with olives, and topped with a scoop of tuna salad. Honestly, I quit reading the salad description after "ahi" since--I assumed--that the term "Salad Nicoise" was definitive. Ditto the gazpacho, only there was no description for us to read since it was a special.

                                      A nice, classy, little, positively-reviewed, bistro-esque place. Big disappointment.

                                      I'm all for expiramentation and variations on a theme, but I like to know what I'm in for.

                                      10 Replies
                                      1. re: mamaciita

                                        I often make a salad at home of boiled new potatoes, green beans, cherry tomatoes, olives, and tuna on a bed of romaine, topped with my "Champlain dressing" (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, and some herbs). It's a great summer salad, and if you're at all artistic, it's not hard to do a "salad composee" that looks and tastes great.

                                        But whenever anyone asks me what it is, I say it's "a tuna-potato salad in the Nicoise style"; I'd never call it a "Nicoise" salad. That would be wrong.

                                        1. re: KevinB

                                          I wouldn't call it 'Nicoise' either - but that is because I don't know how to pronounce it :)

                                          So what is the key deviation in your version? Wrong kind of olives? Wrong brand of tuna? wrong lettuce? honey in the dressing? (if it matters I am comparing your description to the recipe in 1997 Joy)


                                          1. re: paulj

                                            The Orford dictionary of food and drink defines it as
                                            "E20 French (= salad from Nice (in southern France)). A salad usually made from hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, black olives, tomatoes, etc."
                                            I've always had it with tuna, egg, green beans, black olives and an anchovy-dijon vinaigrette.

                                            1. re: miss_bennet

                                              You're so right - I forgot the hardboiled eggs, sliced. I usually prepare it with the beans radiating out from the centre, likes spokes of a wheel, on the bed of lettuce. Then I alternate the tomatoes, halved potatoes, egg slices, and olives between the spokes. Then I take the tuna (fresh if it's nice, baked and crumbled, or tinned if I'm pinched for time - but only water-packed, and well drained) and distribute it over the plate. Finally, I drizzle the dressing over top - it really looks like quite beautiful with all the colour contrasts - green, red, white, yellow, black, pink.

                                              Paulj, the major variations of my recipe are first, the potatoes - no true Nicoise contains those. And, while the addition of the honey was an inspiration in my view (I had to concoct a dressing late one night at our cottage on Lake Champlain, and after putting in the only olive oil we had left, I added a bit too much balsamic vinegar - and I wish to confirm that the unsteadiness of my hand had *NOTHING* to do with the quantity of adult beverages consumed earlier - and happily found that the honey balanced the acidity nicely.), I'm pretty sure the people of Nice would be horrified.

                                              It's still a very tasty, very pretty salad, but definitely not true to the standard definition of Nicoise, which is why I picked my circumlocution.I do think, when you can get new potatoes, and fresh tomatoes and beans, that it makes a beautiful addition to a table. Try it - I think you'll like it!

                                              1. re: KevinB

                                                The French wiki article also rules out the green beans and any cooked vegetables (at least that's what I think it says)

                                                "la salade niçoise ne contient jamais ni riz, ni pommes de terre, ni haricots verts, ni aucun légume cuit."

                                                The English wiki translation is similar, but the linked recipe does include the potatoes and beans.

                                                Maybe we should call this type of salad, using lightly cooked vegetables like beans and potatoes, an Ecuadorian or Quito salad, or 'Ensalada Mixta'. :
                                                )E Ortiz (Latin American Cooking) writes "Of all the countries in Latin America, Ecuador has the most imaginative and original approach to vegetables. ...", and goes on to outline 7 variations, including the basic one of greens, eggs, potaotes, green beans and vinaigrette.


                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  On at least 2 seperate occasions in Provence(1 actually in Nice, the other in Marseilles, I have been served a salade Nicoise with potatoes in them. So maybe there is a variable there. As to the pronunciation, I would spell it phonetically thus; neeswaz.

                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                    For the record, Julia Childe uses potatoes in her salad Nicoise, and I couldn't believe my eyes when I read the recipe in my venerable 1960s first English translation of Larousse Gastronomique! It says:
                                                    Nicoise salad, Salade Nicoise -- Mix equal parts of potatoes and French (string) beans, both cut in dice. Season with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Arrange in a dome in a salad dish. Decorate with fillets of anchovies, olives and capers. Garnish with quartered tomatoes. Sprinkle with chopped chervil and tarragon.
                                                    So what do you think about that? NO TUNA!

                                                    My Encyclopedia of European Cooking calls for new potatoes, black olives, well washed anchovies and sliced onions. Again no tuna, and no tomatoes, and no green beans!

                                                    Escoffier did not stoop to mention it in his cookbook at all.

                                                    Oh, and I did not think a whole lot of the Wikepedia version of Salade Nicoise as a salade composee with seared tuna. Give me a break!

                                                    But there is an amusing article and recipe for salade Nicoise that looks pretty good to me right here: http://tinyurl.com/2bqye5 Yay, England!

                                                    I suspect that "salade Nicoise" may not be the classic we all have been thinking it is. There seems to be no agreement on ingredients anywhere!

                                              2. re: KevinB

                                                In my opinion, yours should be called Nicoise. Close enough!

                                                Of course, I now have the "tuna salad scoop" incident for comparison.

                                                1. re: KevinB

                                                  How many of the classic French dishes are misnamed or represented?

                                                  Does espagnole have anything to do with Spain?
                                                  Hollandaise with Holland?
                                                  Crème anglaise English?
                                                  Sauce Américaine?
                                                  sauce au curry India?

                                              3. Mexican Cuisine comes from a completely different paradigm.... since many Classic Dishes predate the Culinary Codifying era... there is a culture of loosely defined, flexible dishes... I have come to expect everyone to just apply their own twist, based on locale specific techniques, ingredients & traditions... and so for me its perfectly normal... and I look forward to each cooks personal signature.

                                                1. Hell!!

                                                  look what I was recently served when I ordered Eggs Benedict..

                                                  **warning: pics may make you vom**


                                                  9 Replies
                                                  1. re: purple goddess

                                                    keeping to the subject of this thread, at least it was poached eggs with Hollandaise(even if badly made) with Canadian bacon of an English muffin(now accepted as an alternative to the original Holland Rusk. I have been served so many oddball combo's called Eggs Benedict, that I've lost count. and don't get me started on what gets called a Martini these days. Aargh! It is a result of marketing people writing the menus instead of the cooks, because they "know what sells"

                                                    1. re: chazzerking

                                                      Martini! ARGHHH! I order a martini, I don't want to be asked if I want Apple, or Chocolate, or any such nonsense. I want a Martini. Gin. Vermouth. Olive. That's it. Maybe, if I request it dirty, a little of the olive juice.

                                                      I do not want vodka. I do not want cocoa powder. I most certainly do not want a Cosmo.

                                                      Should I even mention the time they made my martini with sweet vermouth?

                                                      I could have cried.

                                                      1. re: tzurriz

                                                        Reminds me of the recipe for a "perfect martini"; where I read it some 40 years ago, I can't remember, but it stuck with me.

                                                        Open a 40-oz bottle of gin. Open a bottle of dry vermouth. Fill the cap of the dry vermouth bottle with vermouth. Place on the counter exactly six inches away from the gin. Wait twenty minutes. Pour vermouth back into vermouth bottle. Close gin bottle, and voila! 20 perfect martinis.

                                                        1. re: tzurriz

                                                          Kevin jokes, but the original recipe for a Martini (actually a contemporaneous variant) called for sweet vermouth, and the real original adds orange bitters to the gin and vermouth, which were equal portions of the drink. Anyone who likes martinis should try an original recipe one. But I feel your pain, as chocolate, apple schnapps and cranberry juice has no place in a martini. they may be interesting coctails, but have some imagination, make up a new name and for god'ssake don't call them martinis.

                                                          1. re: chazzerking

                                                            Let's extend your "Call them Martinis" Rule to Eggs Benedict too. You said above that it was the damned marketing people. NO, it's not. It's people with limited vocabulary and less imagination.
                                                            If it's poached eggs, it's gotta be Benedict - right? Nooooo.

                                                            Call them something different and add some excitement to those booooring brunch menus. Add spinach, Eggs Florentine. Add artichoke bottoms, Eggs Sardou. A little crabmeat, Eggs Nouvelle Orléans. Eggs Rossini with foie gras.
                                                            Of course, then they'd raise all the prices and mix up those recipes too.

                                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                                              I agree wholeheartedly, but you left out one of my favorites; eggs Hussarde

                                                              1. re: chazzerking

                                                                One of my faves too, but do we really want to trust the trendy brunch set with marchand de vin sauce? Got knows what will end up on the out-of-season tomatoes under the hollandaise?

                                                                Seriously, there are so many astonishingly good egg dishes. Why do they all offer only E. Benedict or call anything with 2 Poachies E. Benedict? Is it because that's all that average diners know or will order? Eggs by any other name are yucky?

                                                              2. re: MakingSense

                                                                The wiki article lists 17 variations. For some the name change makes sense, for others it is as obscure as 'benedict' itself. I would guess the spinach due to standard use of 'florentine'. 'sardou' is completely new to me.

                                                                Coming up with a good name for a variation on a classic tricky. Should the name link it to the original? be totally unconnected (e.g. named after your patron)? sound like an Iron Chef describing a dish?

                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                  Well, that's our dear Wiki. I guess I best know the classics that are on the New Orleans menus (where I'm from) that are pretty much standards, i.e. you know what you're getting when you order them. (Sardou is with artichoke bottoms and creamed spinach.) Some of them are on the Wiki list but under different names. I never quite thought of Egg McMuffin as a variation...

                                                                  The Larousse Gastronomique has pages and pages of variations on egg dishes with sauces, all on top of various ingredients. Seems like restaurants could do better than they do. No reason why a chef couldn't create a tasty combination as a signature and name it after his restaurant or anything/anybody he wanted.
                                                                  It really is "The incredible edible egg" because you can do so many creative things with it. People are just stuck in a rut.

                                                      2. How much you like a meal is (at least partially) a function of your expectations. Let’s assume that the restaurant for example featured their fettuccine pasta (and let's assume it’s artisanal and hand-made) as the feature or focus of the meal, and therefore wished not to subsume the fettuccine in cream, or heavily in butter or cheese. No matter how beautifully made the fettuccine, if your expectation is for a very creamy and cheesy sauce (and the pasta for you is an afterthought) then you will definitely be disappointed.
                                                        I’ve heard of Americans returning from Italy for vacation saying that the food was awful. This to me must be a function of expectation. I believe that in this case so many of us are raised eating Italian-AMERICAN food (i.e. Baked Ziti, Chicken Parm’, Veal Marsala, Stuffed Shells, etc) that our expectation in Italy are for heightened and/or extraordinary versions of the same or similar dishes. An when we reach Genoa for example and are inundated with all types of seafood (and no Chicken Parm’) or Florence with its beans, and steak, and white truffles (and no Baked Ziti) no matter how well the food is prepared, if your expectation is for “great stuffed shells” then it’ll be a fata compli.

                                                        1. The old sushi-sashimi confusion, now also appearing in Belem, Brazil. I ordered a sushi plate,then thought a bit and ordered some sashimi and hot gohan. Big mistake--the mixed sushi plate included sashimi.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                            Here in Boston I hear that one of my favorite spots now uses brown rice for sushi (!), I don't think I'm going to like that.

                                                            1. re: steinpilz

                                                              Maybe they can replace miso-shiru-with-tofu with boiled green soybeans.

                                                              1. re: steinpilz

                                                                Love brown rice, love sushi. But the two together? No. No I say.

                                                                Brown rice will not form nice little balls as easily as regular sushi rice. So that begs the question: Are they also using cream cheese to hold the stuff together???

                                                                (sound of moh choking on her own tongue as she goes into an apoplectic fit...)

                                                                1. re: steinpilz

                                                                  There's a place near me that does brown rice sushi and other than the rice, it seems very traditional.


                                                              2. You have hit on a pet peeve of mine. I hate when restaurants do this, and I run into it all the time. Tomatoes added to Caesar salad or even worse, ranch dressing used and the salad still referred to as Caesar. Or, as someone mentioned above, the term "saltimbocca" seems to be used interchangeably with other dishes quite often. I've seen what is actually closer to a classic recipe for chicken picatta or chicken cordon bleu both referred to as chicken saltimbocca. And I once was served the strangest version of osso buco I ever hope to see.

                                                                1. I've reached the point where I ask a LOT of questions about any classics on a restaurant's menu before I will order it. I love reading restaurant menus on line because you can often tell which ones to avoid. Mercyteapot mentions the abuse of osso buco. That's a traditional dish that *cannot* be made with beef shanks! I ran across a menu last week that included "carrot confit" as an accompaniment. Where in hell do you find carrot fat to make a carrot confit? They may serve potted carrots, but they do not serve carrot confit! The reall killer came last week when I ran across "Hamburger Rossini" on the menu of a fancy NYC restaurant. Give me a break!

                                                                  I blame it all on fusion. The restaurant world is not only mixing up and confusing the foods of the world, they are also turning the vocabulary into gibberish!

                                                                  16 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                    Re: carrot confit.
                                                                    It could be trendy ignorance, i.e. we can sell them anything if we call it confit because they don't know the difference and/or we don't either.
                                                                    OR, they may be using the word "confit" in the classic sense of "confiture" or "to preserve" which would mean that they're preparing the carrots in the manner of jam, jelly or preserves.

                                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                                      There is a difference between "confiture of carrots" and "carrot confit." But then I am quite admitedly a traditionalist. My definition for "confit" comes from the old Larousse Gastronomique. No idea what the current revision says.

                                                                      And while we're talking about updates and such, I read a complaint against the revisions of Larousse Gastronomique the other day (I am sooooooooo bad at remembering names, but he is a recognized "authority") that remarked to the effect that updating LG is like updating the Bible to include Darwin or quantum theory. I tend to agree.

                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                        I used to have a copy of LG, but lost it in a fire. I've been debating getting a replacement copy of a 1960s edition ($20 used).


                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                          Oh, yeah... Go for it! It's fun reading, and I use a lot of the recipes. Well, the easy ones anyway. '-)

                                                                          Really sorry to hear about the fire but the great news is that you're still with us. Hope I'm not opening wounds...

                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                            That was a long time ago. I still have cookbooks that survived with damaged spines, and a scarred but functional 'Moulin legumes No 1' (food mill), so you didn't open any wounds.


                                                                        2. re: Caroline1

                                                                          I looked up 'carrot confit'
                                                                          "Make carrot confit by slow-cooking carrots with olive oil, orange juice, cumin, lemon juice, and garlic"
                                                                          That's just one of many google finds.

                                                                          A number of places attribute a carrot confit to Jean-Georges Vongerichten, as in this red snapper recipe

                                                                          And Food & Wine quotes Spanish Chef jose Andres
                                                                          "In Spain, we typically confit in olive oil rather than in duck or goose fat, as the French do."


                                                                      2. re: Caroline1

                                                                        Are you saying that you can't cook beef shanks in the same way you cook veal shanks, or that if beef shanks are used, you shouldn't call it 'bone hole' (or any other allusion to the marrow)?


                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                          osso buco can be made with beef shanks. any bone with a hole (marrow). it's a very good use of an "undesirable" cut from an older animal. some people don't eat veal-- in fact the original osso buco was certainly not a veal preparation, and certainly not made with tomatoes.

                                                                          Mercyteapot--i once ordered a caesar salad, and the server asked me what kind of dressing i would like on my caesar salad. after blinking at her for 10 seconds i smiled, politely canceled the salad order and got a baked potato instead.

                                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                                            Damn, damn, damn! I had a fairly long response to both you, soupkitten, and paulj completed and was proofing it when I hit a wrong key and WHOOOSH! it's gone. Dinners ready, so I'll rewrite it later. It includes an old (well, 1962, which isn't all THAT old in my book) recipe for ossobuco you might enjoy. Hate it when this happens!

                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                              I think there was some debate on a osso buco thread as to whether Italian veal is as young as American veal, or as old as American beef, or somewhere in between.


                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                There is beef called vitellone (baby beef) that is slaughtered at 14 to 16 months. It's tougher than veal but more tender than beef which is slaughtered at about 2 years. It's sold in some Italian communities. We had it in New Orleans. Often called red veal. I saw it in Argentina and of course in Italy. Not familiar with other places...

                                                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                  It's my understanding that baby beef doesn't happen intentionally. It's a byproduct of market conditions - e.g. drought - where it doesn't make good economic sense to raise the animals to regular market size.

                                                                                  1. re: Sharuf

                                                                                    That can certainly happen but there are also other cases where that particular thing, in this case vitellone, is something that a particular group finds desirable. "Red veal" was regularly available regardless of weather conditions in stores when I was growing up because it was what people bought for certain dishes. It was more expensive than beef but less expensive than veal certainly not something sold to cut losses. It was a specialty item.

                                                                            2. re: soupkitten

                                                                              Okay, second try at responding. If I hit a wrong key this time and everything disappears, forget it!

                                                                              I have some pretty old cookbooks (not all of which are unpacked, unfortunately) and I've never seen an OLD recipe that calls for anything except veal for ossobuco. But that doesn't mean I've seen every old recipe there is. I'm curious where you found the information that says the orignal recipe didn't call for veal? Beef shanks are just so much tougher than veal and require such a long cooking time.

                                                                              Anyway, I have seen recipes for "ossobucco" that called for diced celery and carrots (a minor travesty). I've been served "ossobuco" in (obviously bad) Italian restaurants that came with carrots, onions, and roasted potatoes. And tomatoes obviously in the broth. They called it "ossobuco," I called it "pot roast." Traditional ossobuco alla Milanese (and what other kind of ossobuco is there?) is served with saffron risotto and made with veal shanks that are cut into thick slices.

                                                                              Here's a recipe from my "ancient" copy (1962) of The Encyclopedia of European Cooking, edited by Musia Soper, published by Spring Books, London. I will paraphrase to avoid copyright infringement, except for the final line.
                                                                              OSSOBUCO ALLA MILANESE

                                                                              2 or three rounds of veal shank per person cut 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick
                                                                              2 or 3 ounces of butter
                                                                              1 gill (5 ounces) dry white wine
                                                                              1 Tbsp chopped parsley
                                                                              1 anchovy
                                                                              grated zest of 1/2 lemon
                                                                              veal or chicken stock, or water
                                                                              1 clove garlic
                                                                              salt and pepper

                                                                              Melt the butter in a pan that will hold all of the veal shanks in one layer. Coat the veal well with flour and brown both sides in hot butter. Season with salt and pepper, add the wine and cook until the wine has nearly evaporated. Add the stock or water to just cover the meat . Seal the pan, either with aluminum foil or a tight fitting lid and cook slowly for at least an hour or until the veal is tender, adding more water or stock if it looks like its drying out. While it's cooking pound the garlic, anchovy, lemon zest and parsley to a paste with a mortar and pestle. Five minutes prior to serving, push veal aside and stir anchovy paste into the pan gravy with a wooden spoon, then either serve from the pan or it may be transferred to a suitable serving dish. "It is customary to serve ossobuco with a plain risotto coloured with saffron. This, incidentally, is the only instance of rice served with a meat dish."

                                                                              Guess I'm a non-traditionalist after all. I love plain boiled rice with roast pork and gravy! Anyway, when I make this ossobuco, I do garnish the final presentation with a scattering of chopped parsley and an added scraping or two of lemon zest from my Microplane. And I'm the Queen of Lazy! I have a batttery operated machine that stirs the risotto for me! How good is that?

                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                looks like a good recipe to me--i'm sure it is delicious! i don't have a reference i can necessarily cite to you, but in pre WWII italy there was very little beef consumption & the recipe would more likely have been applied to shanks from old, used-up dairy cattle, in a "food of the poor" sort of way. when the italian-americans came to the u.s., they embraced the plentiful beef supply here, and applied many of the old country's cooking methods to veal, which believe it or not was once a much cheaper meat, and accessible to their urban communities. certainly one person's "traditional" recipe is "new-fangled" to another, and every transplanted people will make ingredient substitutions according to what is available (and cheap) to them. Osso buco literally translates to "bone with a hole." the hole in the shank bone contains the marrow which is considered necessary for the character of the dish, and can come from an animal of any age, or even extend to oxen, etc. veal shanks or knuckle may be the current standard for the dish for the tender qualities you describe, but older versions of the recipe don't exclude other cuts from older animals-- that was the only point i think Paulj and i were trying to make.

                                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                  Just for the record, and not necessarily to split hairs or hares, the recipe I cited is from Italy, by way of an editor living in England, published by an English house but printed in Czechoslovakia. It's not an "American" recipe. And have you ever tasted the marrow from old animals? '-)

                                                                          2. My personal pet peeve in this department is cassoulet. I'm a big fan of the real stuff, and it just ticks me off how some places seem to think that any dish with white beans and some sort of meat is a cassoulet, regardless of how it's cooked.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: BobB

                                                                              In a restaurant size serving, how would you identify a properly cooked cassoulet versus one of the imitators? If it is cooked and served in an individual size ramekin you could judge the crust, and lining. But those features might be missing if your serving were spooned out of a large casserole.


                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                It's not that hard when you know what the real thing tastes like, and I've eaten enough of them in and around Castelnaudary to know.

                                                                                Here in the States I've been served chicken stew with white beans as cassoulet, undercooked (!!!) white beans with meat added afterward as cassoulet, and other horrors. As well as some delightfully authentic versions.

                                                                                1. re: BobB

                                                                                  reminds me of the hell's kitchen episode where the wannabe chef confused the terms casserole and cassoulet-- he wanted to call mac & cheese a cassoulet on the menu because "it sounded classier!" i about coughed up a kidney i was laughing so hard!!! if you don't know, use your 1st language. . .

                                                                                  otoh i've eaten some "vegan cassoulets" that had very fine execution & i think it's fine when a good cook references classic recipes and names the new interpretation after the older recipe. as long as everyone is on the same page, there is no foul in my book.

                                                                            2. 2 things: Read descriptions and send it back! Don't let hack cooks and undiscriminating owners mislead customers and get away with it!

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: ChefDude

                                                                                better yet, threaten not to leave until they make a correct cassoulet, from scratch !

                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                  Pauly baby, don't you think that if they COULD make a proper cassoulet, they already would? It's obvious that there's a lot that they can't do, so they try to pass off badly misrepresented interpretations, and I say PASS IT BACK! Take 2 bites, and if you don't like it, call over the waiter and send it back. If you eat it, you'll have no recourse, other than not going back for another visit.

                                                                              2. Okay. Another one of my pet peaves. Beef Stroganoff! It's a true Russian classic. It is NOT supposed to be made with filet mignon. It is NOT supposed to contain any tomato products. It does NOT have a brown gravy base. I was taught to make it a long time ago by a very old Russian lady who had walked from Moscow to Istanbul as a young bride to escape the Bolsheviks. The method Tensela taught me:

                                                                                *Fatty beef, such as from a 7 bone roast, sliced bacon thin and about the size of 1/3 rasher of American bacon
                                                                                *An equal amount by volume (not weight) of sliced onions and sliced mushrooms to match the volume of meat
                                                                                *Fresh unsalted butter
                                                                                *Sour Cream
                                                                                *salt, pepper, a dash of fresh ground nutmeg

                                                                                In a heavy frying pan saute the onions until just soft, remove to a holding bowl. Add more butter to the pan and saute the mushrooms. They'll drink up all the butter, but just let them sweat a bit, then remove to bowl with onion. Add more butter to pan (but don't wipe the pan first) and over high heat brown the meat stirring quickly. You don't want to cook this beef too long or it will turn tough, so don't be concerned about a bit of pink. It's also important not to sweat the beef, so depending on the quantity you've decided to make, you may need to cook the beef in batches, removing each batch to the holding bowl as well. Reduce heat to medium, return onions and mushrooms (and any meat) to pan with meat, stir in a cup or two of sour cream. The goal is to use enough sour cream to make a nice sauce. It will darken and turn grayish as it picks up the pan bits. Turn off heat. DO NOT BOIL or the sour cream will break. Season with salt and pepper. Grate in a bit of nutmeg and taste. You don't want a strong nutmeg flavor, but just enough to mellow the beef flavor. Serve immediately over buttered noodles.

                                                                                Tensela said this is a very old, very traditional "farm" recipe known in Russia for centuries. When I told her that many restaurants in the U.S. add tomatoes to the sauce, or serve it in a brown gravy, well, I don't want to tell you what she said about American cooks and chefs who do that... She was old. She was wise. '-).

                                                                                Oh, and if you have a cholesterol problem or are trying to lose weight, this is obviously not the recipe for you. But it is sooooo good!

                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                  There's a fine line between being traditional and being "modern", or modern interpretations of classic dishes. Over time, many of these interpretations became the norm. I like to use the example of strawberry shortcake. But there are hundreds of examples I'm sure. And I'm not talking about the dishes that a stray restaurant may (badly) reinterpret. You want classic beef stroganoff? Go to Russia, a classic Russian restaurant, or your own kitchen table. Don't get me wrong - you're valid in being peeved, but it's something we're forced to accept. I'm careful about ordering certain items at some restaurants.
                                                                                  How far do we go? We certainly aren't the type of culinary society that thinks inside the box. There is a plethora of outside-the-box thinking...So how do we reconcile this?
                                                                                  Do we say that "Blackened Steak" must be prepared with specific spices and done in a cast iron skillet? I answered that at a meditteranean-influenced restaurant where I recently worked and put a North African spiced blackened ribeye steak on the menu. I think there ARE a number of classical dishes that, if they're played with, reinterpreted or whatever, it needs to be stated so on the menu, so as not to surprise customers.
                                                                                  But it's also up to the culinarily knowledgeable to ask and inquire before ordering.

                                                                                  1. re: ChefDude

                                                                                    Okay, but what did you call the North African spiced blackened steak on the menu? If you represented it as Caribbean, then shame on you, but I suspect you didn't do that. Believe me, when I see a classic dish on a menu, I ask a LOT of questions before ordering it. But what good is it to have a culinary language when so many restaurants turn it into gibberish?

                                                                                    Example: I live in Plano, Texas, and there are several Greek resturants here. I have tried three of them, and all three make tzatziki with sour cream instead of yogurt. I won't go back to any of the three. Call it a sour cream and cucumber dressing but DON'T call it tzatziki because it is not! I don't want strawberry ice cream to taste like bananas. I don't want chocolate cake to taste like French toast. I don't want my coffee to taste like tea. And I don't want restaurants to lie to me about what I'll get when I order a classic they have listed on their menu.

                                                                                    "In the style of" is quite an honest thing to say. I can even go along with "deconstructed," though I did see a "deconstructed chocolate cake" on a blog today that I would be damned ticked off if it was served to me! LOL! God, I hope it was a joke. I thought it was funny, even if it wasn't.

                                                                                    A friend stopped by for coffee today, and I was telling him about this very thread about gastronomic "misnomers." He's an art buff, and said the same kind of confusion is present in the art world. We ultimately decided that somewhere on the face of the planet there is a loose thread just sticking out of the ground. If someone ever finds that thread and pulls it, the whole world will come unfaveled! When I'm served sour cream based tzatziki or Stroganoff with tomato sauce in it, I get the feeling somone has found the loose thread to the food world and pulled it. We're unraveling and no one cares! '-)

                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                      I called it: North African Spiced Blackened Ribeye Steak. It is a Mediterranean-influenced restaurant, after all. And for the record - This 12oz steak outsold the 12oz grilled ribeye (even though "mine was $2 more), and was very well received.
                                                                                      And plenty of people care. But fact of the matter is, plenty of people don't.

                                                                                  2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                    I think you're right, Caroline, that many modern interpretations of classic dishes cross the line between updating them to modern tastes and losing their integrity. I think of things like simple Shrimp and Grits with the modern use of huge shrimp rather than the Low Country fisherman's small shrimp topping plain grits, not fancy cheese grits with asiago as sometimes offered today. So many Creole and Cajun dishes have been altered radically from their simple origins and have become almost unrecognizable. None of us in Louisiana would ever have put lump crabmeat into gumbo.
                                                                                    Of course, do we have to go into "confit" that now means little more than duck legs that were cooked this morning? Or your favorite "carrot confit," whatever that is?

                                                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                      ooooh, Gulf shrimp! When my first husband was in air traffic control school in Biloxi, the house we rented had a washer but no dryer. Quite often (maybe once a week?) when I was out hanging clothes on the line, the neighbor over the back fence would call me over, then pass a HUGE bucket of shrimp over the fence to me with a "Y'all have a nice dinner tonight..." He was a shrimp boat captain, and would bring those shrimp home for us. I was so touched! And they were delicious! We would have a bunch of other Air Force students over and pig out on peel and eat shrimp. You know the neighbor on "Tool Time"? You never see his face, just his eyes peering over the fence? That was my shrimp boat captain! What a lovely guy!

                                                                                      We were poor, as students often are, and I would ice the shrimp to keep them overnight in the refrigerator, then spend the next day baking French bread, toss a green salad, and boil at least ten pounds of Gulf shrimp. Sometimes I would boil them in beer with a clove or two of garlic and some parsley. The rest of the time I would just boil them in as little water as possible with a bit of salt. It was a feast! Oh. And about three pounds of butter for the fresh hot bread. Lovely memories of great, simple food and a very generous neighbor.

                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                        It's hard for those who live away from fishing areas to realize that shrimp, crab, oysters, clams, fish, etc., are free food for some of us. I grew up catching them and taught my kids how to do it. My neighbors on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay still drop off things on their way home from fishing that would cost big bucks if I were buying them back in Washington. And then when hunting season comes!!!!
                                                                                        I can remember my next-door neighbor complaining about being tired of crabmeat and rockfish.

                                                                                    2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                      Thanks for the great recipe and story.