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Is it important to give your dishes a cool name?

p
phan1 Jun 13, 2008 03:11 PM

OK, there's this thing that's been bugging me and it all started with Richard from Top Chef giving whimsical names to his dishes. It seems like a very modern trend. He calls his cut bananas "banana scallops". And he had a poultry dish with different parts of poultry and called it "which came first". Throughout the whole season, he comes up with whimsical names for his dishes.

Of course, it's more than just naming the dish; it's adding some humor and personality to the dish. Thomas Keller has a super-fancy "Coffee and Doughnuts" and has his "tongue in cheek" dish as well. But I think there's a limit to what you can do. "Banana scallops" is OK if the dish looks like it came out of the ocean with foamy sauce and panko crumbs for sand. But by itself, it's a bit much. C'mon, it's a F'n cut up banana! And in themed restaurants, you'll have a "jungle salads" and stuff like that. What's your opinion on making up names for dishes? Cool or uncool?

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  1. limster RE: phan1 Jun 13, 2008 03:22 PM

    My personal feeling is that the deliciousness of the food is paramount, the name doesn't affect the deliciousness significantly. There are dishes with names that might have historical or biographical interest, which might be fun, again has no big impact on deliciousness.

    1. Miss Needle RE: phan1 Jun 14, 2008 04:32 PM

      I agree that taste is the most important thing. However, I find "intellectualizing" food can be fun, but only if it tastes good.

      At Fleur de Lys in San Francisco, I had their dessert burger which was comprised of chocolate ganache as the patty, sweet brioche as the bun, strawberries for tomatoes, kiwi as the pickles, mango jelly for the cheese. It was accompanied by fries made of ice cream and a shake. Was it cute? Yes. Was it humorous? Well, not a big guffaw humorous, but, yes, it made me chuckle. Yes. Was it tasty? No. And I will never order it again.

      1. meatn3 RE: phan1 Jun 14, 2008 09:45 PM

        I used to do recipe development for a grocery chain and did quite a bit of demo's to support the program. I'm pretty straight forward with titles - personally I'm interested in the flavor, method, nutrition, etc. A catchy name isn't really a draw for me. But once they had a marketing person create the names for my recipes and jazz up the descriptions it did make a huge difference in the number of participants who came to the demonstrations. (She was really into the naming - for kicks sometimes she would propose a name & I would use that as the starting point. Made it interesting when the assignment was something I just wasn't excited about!)

        If you are fairly serious then a name isn't going to really have much effect. If you are just somewhat interested, then a catchy name is like a good shop window - it might persuade you to check it out, but the goods still have to be good for you to buy.

        It was an interesting learning experience. I'm better at the names now, but it still is contrary to my nature.

        1. BobB RE: phan1 Jun 16, 2008 07:46 AM

          Important? Not in the least. Depending on the wit of the chef it could be amusing or it could be just tacky, but either way it's absolutely unimportant.

          Personally I have only two "named" dishes, both perennial favorites with my friends: Bob's Serious Chili (says it all), and Bob's Balls, a name given by my friends, not by me, to my go-to party dish of green olives baked in very spicy cheese pastry.

          7 Replies
          1. re: BobB
            cheeseguysgirl RE: BobB Jun 16, 2008 10:50 AM

            Would you post your olive recipe on the Recipe section and then place a link to it here? The Balls sound tasty.... wow, I can't believe I typed that.

            1. re: cheeseguysgirl
              BobB RE: cheeseguysgirl Jun 16, 2008 11:52 AM

              I tried to use the Post A Recipe feature but couldn't get it to work (it froze up after I had finished writing it - very frustrating!), so I gave up and posted it in Home Cooking at http://www.chowhound.com/topics/529606

              Let me know how they come out. I've had a couple of friends ask for the recipe and they got mixed results. One thing to watch is that everything must be completely at room temperature before you start, and the other is that the type of baking sheet you use has a tremendous effect on the baking time and how likely they are to burn. I've found I get the best results with double-layer insulated non-stick cookie sheets (mine are Ecko Baker's Secret).

              1. re: BobB
                cheeseguysgirl RE: BobB Jun 16, 2008 01:04 PM

                I tried your link above, and cannot get it to work. Maybe this one will-- I really look forward to trying them-- thanks!!

                http://www.chow.com/recipes/12097

                1. re: cheeseguysgirl
                  BobB RE: cheeseguysgirl Jun 16, 2008 01:15 PM

                  Wow, looks like my original attempt to post it worked even though my page froze up. That's the right recipe.

                  The link above didn't work because it included the period I typed at the end. I just tried to correct iot and it got even more messed up.

                  1. re: BobB
                    grayelf RE: BobB Jun 17, 2008 05:33 PM

                    Bob, I've been making that recipe for (eek) nearly 15 years at my parents open house on Boxing Day. We call them cheese olive balls but I like your name much better :-).

                    BTW they freeze well -- just pop them in on the cookie sheet before cooking and transfer to a container when frozen.

                    1. re: grayelf
                      BobB RE: grayelf Jun 18, 2008 05:12 AM

                      I know, I didn't invent it, I just spiced it up. As I recall the original had only a few drops of Tabasco and no cayenne.

                      1. re: BobB
                        grayelf RE: BobB Jun 18, 2008 12:40 PM

                        I'm going to try them with more spice and some Worcester next time and serve them as Bob's Balls in your honour. Here's the recipe I use:

                        Cheese olive balls
                        makes 6 dozen


                        1 cup flour
                        2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
                        1/2 cup butter, softened
                        1 tsp paprika
                        1/2 tsp salt
                        1/4 tsp Tabasco
                        Well drained stuffed green olives

                        Combine all ingredients except olives and mix well. Wrap each olive with 1/2 to 1 tsp of mixture. Freeze uncooked if desired.
                        To bake: Bake in 425F oven for 10-12 minutes, longer if frozen

          2. babette feasts RE: phan1 Jun 16, 2008 06:51 PM

            OK if it's smart and clever, like 'Thomas' English Muffin' at FL, seriously annoying if it's just trying to be cute, like a dessert called www.chocolate.com.

            5 Replies
            1. re: babette feasts
              Ette1010 RE: babette feasts Jul 17, 2008 07:59 PM

              The first thing you read about a dish is its name, so I am of the opinion that the name is very important. This extends beyond restaurant food as well; in Peter Singer's "The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter", he includes the renaming of Patagonian toothfish to...Chilean sea bass. He, and whatever marketing scheme came up with this, seems to think people would be less inclined to eat something called "toothfish." I agree.

              1. re: Ette1010
                alkapal RE: Ette1010 Jul 18, 2008 02:25 AM

                i wonder if they'll rename sheepshead fish --- http://images.google.com/imgres?imgur... (read the comments for a laugh)

                1. re: Ette1010
                  Will Owen RE: Ette1010 Jul 19, 2008 04:53 PM

                  Too bad they didn't keep the original name; we might not have been running out of them by now.

                  There's an idea: when a food species becomes endangered, name it something dreadful or disgusting!

                  1. re: Will Owen
                    m
                    MrsT RE: Will Owen Jul 22, 2008 10:02 AM

                    I grew up in Sheepshead Bay. The some of the local fisherman used to say it became extinct by over fishing/pollution/development. I didn't think it still existed.

                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheepshe...

                    1. re: MrsT
                      alkapal RE: MrsT Jul 23, 2008 04:11 AM

                      my nephew served sheepshead five years ago, caught in the gulf of mexico, off sw florida. he loved his fishing hobby, but is giving it up because of all the government regulation. very sad for me ;-(

              2. t
                tmso RE: phan1 Jul 18, 2008 02:12 AM

                If it's actually a dish (as opposed to a sliced banana), I don't see why it shouldn't have a good name. Italians have all sorts of clever names for dishes, and the Chinese even moreso. Not to mention American cutesy names for foods -- unfortunately the first one to pop to mind is Pigs in a Blanket, but I'm sure there are less gross examples.

                1 Reply
                1. re: tmso
                  Gooseberry RE: tmso Jul 22, 2008 02:08 AM

                  I once absent-mindedly referred to 'toad in the hole' as 'pig in a shed' (I think the pigs in a blanket confused me). So now that's what everyone in my family calls it. Which works fine for us, but of course has nothing to do with sausages baked in yorkshire pudding batter.

                2. stellamystar RE: phan1 Jul 18, 2008 01:01 PM

                  Raw Food Chef, Julian, said he had a apple/beet smoothie servied at his cafe. It was called "apple smoothie - or something similar." Nobody wanted it.
                  Then, he changed the name to Blood and everyone wanted it.

                  I like clever names as long as there are proper descriptions with the names.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: stellamystar
                    limster RE: stellamystar Jul 18, 2008 02:03 PM

                    That's clever packaging/marketing.

                  2. s
                    swsidejim RE: phan1 Jul 18, 2008 01:11 PM

                    I dont name my dishes, and it kind of strikes me as pretentious, kind of like Peggy Hill on King of the Hill, and all her goofy names for her dishes like "Spa-Peggy and Meatballs), etc.

                    1. thew RE: phan1 Jul 18, 2008 01:27 PM

                      marketing and style do count.

                      paintings and poems are named for a reason - they add another layer of understanding to the creation, whether a nod to origins, or creator's intentions, or whatever

                      1. babette feasts RE: phan1 Jul 18, 2008 08:08 PM

                        I've always wanted to name a dish 'Bob' or 'untitled # 27.'

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: babette feasts
                          BobB RE: babette feasts Jul 21, 2008 02:30 PM

                          I resemble that remark! (See my first post above).

                          1. re: BobB
                            babette feasts RE: BobB Jul 23, 2008 04:02 AM

                            I'm thinking more like a chocolate torte or a plum frangipane tart listed on the menu as

                            Bob
                            served warm with ice cream and caramel sauce
                            $9

                            Just 'cause sometimes I get tired of finding accurate yet alluring names for desserts.

                        2. Veggo RE: phan1 Jul 19, 2008 07:14 AM

                          When I alter a recipe with a known name, I think the new version's name should be tweaked a bit lest I be accused of culinary plagiarism. My version of "Steak Oscar" with a substitute of pork tenderloin medallions is called "Pork Felix" (quite tasty). I am hopeful that economic times don't get so rough that I must concoct a "Spam Pigeon Sisters".

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Veggo
                            Veggo RE: Veggo Jul 19, 2008 09:35 AM

                            Missed the edit window....Cachetes and I have collaborated on a name for a poultry sandwich which comprises a picked and pulled rotisserie chicken, 4 ounces of mole paste, a cup of chicken stock, one chopped vidalia and 2 minced jalapenos, sauteed. Mix and warm all ingredients, serve on hamburger bun. Name is "Jose desmadroso" -a mexican sloppy joe. Pretty tatsy, actually.

                            1. re: Veggo
                              BobB RE: Veggo Jul 21, 2008 02:30 PM

                              That does sound good!

                          2. Bob Martinez RE: phan1 Jul 22, 2008 09:47 AM

                            If you start down the road of cutesy names pretty soon you arrive at Outback's Bloomin' Onion.

                            1. d
                              Dan G RE: phan1 Jul 22, 2008 10:30 AM

                              I occassionally re-name things when I adapt them to accommodate local ingredients. Recently I've been experimenting with varous kofta recipes using ground bison (buffalo), and called it bufta. Soon, i may attempt it with elk, but elkta doesn't sound right, so we might have to go with some variation based on the alternate name wapiti.

                              We also do loosely Korean-style barbecue (gui) with meats probably not found in Korea (bison, elk...) so have named them gui elk, gui bison, etc, poorly mispronounced as gooey...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Dan G
                                BobB RE: Dan G Jul 22, 2008 02:18 PM

                                And I suppose if you used your bison to make doner kebab you'd have to call it...er... never mind. Ouch.

                              2. madgreek RE: phan1 Jul 22, 2008 10:32 AM

                                Well it shouldn't be important, but it is. Actually, it's not unlike beer names. If you come up with something witty and original, that might be enough to get people interested in it. Case in point: Arrogant Bastard Ale made by Stone Breweries. Good stuff. I bet many people wouldn't be as interested if it didn't have the original name and logo: http://www.stonebrew.com/. On the other hand, A good local brewery goes by the name of Hoppin' Frog. They have very good beers as well. Problem is, their logo and name seem a bit amateur: http://www.hoppinfrog.com/ . It's all about marketing. The product can't only be good, the marketing has to be good as well. This holds true for anything you want someone to pay for.

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