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Oct 29, 2012 05:53 PM

Ingredients Not Found at High End Restaurants

Today I was slicing some okra into a stir-fry when I realized something: I've read many reviews of many high-end restaurants/tasting menu tours/etc. And I don't think I've ever seen okra used.

After some googling it turned out I was wrong. Thomas Keller seems to have used it a couple of times. But that made me wonder: are there any other ingredients which are very rarely/never seen in high-end dining?

(I don't mean prepared foods, like saltine or jello. I mean natural, normally eaten stuff (like okra) that somehow never makes it into tasting menus or their ilk.)

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  1. I doubt you'll find any vegetable that hasn't been used in a fine dining establishment.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ferret

      Agreed, but broccoli rabe seems to be hard to find, especially in non-Italian places.

      1. re: njmarshall55

        Not in Pittsburgh. Rapini is currently on the menu at at least 6 of the top 25 restaurants in town (only two of which are Italian)..

    2. Rare to see tongue. I do a lot of menu reading and it almost never appears.

      In France you will see all kinds of liver, sweetbreads, tail, snout, kidney, but even there... tongue doesn't make it.

      7 Replies
        1. re: Steve

          It may be becoming less rare: I just had a really nice app of corned beef tounge sliced very thin that was outstanding at Copperleaf in Seattle (Seatac).

          1. re: akq

            Yes, I had a pastrami tongue at Rogue 24. Anything to hide the fact that it's tongue....

            1. re: Steve

              Has anyone pointed out to them (regarding their website) that it is "Prix fixe" and not "Pre-fixe"?

          2. re: Steve

            tongue is very popular in Mexico. It's even in every meat market and supermarket.

            1. re: robt5265

              I imagine so! Your post reminds me about the wonderful and tasty tacos de lengua I can get for almost no money at a local Guanajuato Supermercado in their food court. Also popular in various regional Chinese cuisines. Sichuan comes to mind as one... However, I think the question here is whether it would be on the menu (tasting or otherwise) of an expensive high-end fancy restaurant. Perhaps there are such restaurants in Mexico?

              1. re: huiray

                It would be on a menu of a high end restaurant for sure in France and many other European countries. Think tongue in aspic, a dish that goes back atleast to the 19th century French haute cuisine.

              1. re: pmarie1

                High-end Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc etc restaurants would use it, I would think...

                  1. re: pmarie1

                    Two high-end restaurants in the San Francisco area (Manresa and Coi) offered house-made tofu recently. It was delicious.

                  2. re: meatn3

                    I completely agree about the cottage cheese comment - and I have to say it kind of made me sad. I'm a big fan of cottage cheese (and living in Israel - it's far more popular in the diet than in other parts of the world) - and it would be interesting to see what an actual chef would do with it.

                    1. re: cresyd

                      I wish cottage cheese didn't vary so wildly by brand. Hood whole fat is one of the best out there but the market is very limited. Surprising since their other products seem to have a farther reach. I would definitely be interested in a restaurant using good cottage cheese is some way.

                      1. re: melpy

                        I don't know enough about how cottage cheese is made to make a serious recommendation - but I wonder if even the notion of a restaurant making their own cottage cheese and providing it as special in that way? Sort of like places that do the 'homemade poptart' concept. Either way, I'm a big fan and would be interested to see what a refined culinary mind would do with it.

                        1. re: cresyd

                          I had cottage cheese as an appetizer at an expensive steakhouse in Washington DC. It was very delicious, topped with a couple of simple ingredients.

                          Though as you point out, it is a rarity.

                          1. re: cresyd

                            Two weeks ago we had homemade cottage cheese at an upscale restaurant in Croatia. It was made even more spectacular by using their own fresh, green and peppery olive oil. Surreal! It was one of their starters. Brilliant.

                              1. re: melpy

                                Oh, it was. Although that meal was superb, it is their cheese and olive oil that are most memorable.

                                1. re: chefathome

                                  In Israel, cottage cheese with olive oil and/or olives is fairly common, but basically in a home cooking sense. I'd really love to see it dressed up.

                                  1. re: cresyd

                                    Yes! It is so refreshing to taste this type of offering in a fine restaurant setting. The particular Croatian restaurant I mentioned also grows/uses their own figs, walnuts, peaches, most vegetables and herbs. They make other cheeses as well. We had some of their whipped ricotta that was out of this world!

                        2. re: cresyd

                          Well, that's because Israeli cottage cheese is so good that everybody eats it. American cottage cheese, for the most part, is so bad that nobody eats it unless they're doing it because they think it's a low-fat diet food. As an American, I've hated cottage cheese since childhood, when Mom made me eat it. Living in Israel, I love having it every day for breakfast. On the other hand, israelis can't seem to make a decent hotdog. Go figure.

                          1. re: emu48

                            Out of curiosity - what milk fat percentage do you prefer? I think often that the praise of Israeli dairy has to do with the fact that there's more fat in the products.

                            1. re: cresyd

                              3 percent and 5 percent milkfat cottage cheeses are most common in the Israeli stores where I shop. Both taste rich and creamy and I'm happy with either.

                              1. re: emu48

                                Just curious, I just moved in with a new flatmate - and while I am mostly a 3% milkfat cottage cheese person, he only eats the 9% variety. Which I find way too fatty. But on the plus side, minimal risk of us eating one another's food.

                            2. re: emu48

                              Croatian cottage cheese is vastly superior to North American, too. I cannot bring myself to eat it here in Canada unless it is homemade. I am unsure of the fat content in that made in Croatia but it fuller fat, that is for certain. It is common there and everyone (and/or their grandmother!) seems to make it.

                        3. Black rice, which I think should be used in more sushi restaurants. It's amazing stuff.

                          The only time I see okra is in gumbo.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Tudor_rose

                            Uh, remember that black rice is also called forbidden rice because its consumption was limited to the Chinese emperor. Can't get more high end than that.

                            1. re: Tudor_rose

                              The Blue Talon in Williamsburg, VA uses black rice in several dishes.

                            2. Dry herbs/spices. No garlic powder, dry parsley flakes, etc.

                              3 Replies
                                1. re: bobbert

                                  Dry herbs have their places in longer cooked dishes.

                                  Dry spices (?) are used everywhere, or are you thinking about somethig else?

                                  1. re: Maximilien

                                    Thought I might get called out on that. We'll just say "in general" where fresh should be used they usually do not use dry. Garlic salt. Garlic powder. That chopped garlic stuff in the jar. Dry parsley. Not so much as the fresh stuff.