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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.

                                2. Ground beef (other than burgers), canned tuna, evaporated milk

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: escondido123

                                    Not sure about the evaporated milk. Other than more "common"/low-end uses, this is used in various E/SE Asian dessert recipes, including Almond Jelly, which may be offered at various high-end Chinese restaurants, but it may be that they make it without that ingredient...

                                    Oh, BTW, nothing in the OP limits the discussion to Western-European/strictly USAmerican-Caucasian restaurants.

                                    ETA: Depending on what you consider "high-end", I think variations of Mapo Tofu (using both tofu [see above] and ground meat), for example, would be available even in "high-end" Chinese restaurants. Also, ground beef *is* indeed the main component of "beef balls" in dim-sum in any high-end Chinese place that serves dim-sum. Or "beef cheong fun" also in dim-sum. Etc etc etc. I think you will find "ground beef" in Michelin-starred restaurants in Hong Kong and other places. :-)

                                  2. Huitlacoche, because they don't know where to get it or how to use it.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      Was just in SF, where 'white corn ravioli, huitlacoche butter, and smoked goat cheese' is on the menu at SPQR. And, a few summers ago, we (work) got some from one of the organic farmers we worked with, don't remember what, if anything we did with it. You're right, it is rare to see and is generally not on non-Mexican menus, but with the close relationships so many chefs and farmers have, it might not be so hard to find after all.

                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        I'm really feeling good about Pittsburgh dining on this thread. We're 4 for 4 so far (okra, rapini, tongue, huitlacoche). Heck, Salt of the Earth alone used all four this year.

                                      2. Maybe, these are processed: bologna, wonder bread (or similar), macaroni & cheese without truffles or lobster, potato chips as a side to sandwiches.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Wawsanham

                                          Actually my younger sister ordered 'wieners and beans' with some potato chips on the side in a 'fancy' Parisian restaurant once. She was served, tarbais beans in what looked like a cassoulet with the pork sausages minus the duck and a huge plate of 'frites'. Beverly asked for some ketchup. The waiter looked like he was going to weep. He brought what looked like some tomato puree in a small bowl.

                                          1. re: Puffin3

                                            That is a great story! I love the weeping waiter.

                                            1. re: Chowrin

                                              Ugh. Let's keep it that way. Haven't seen pudding meat, pon hoss, hog maw either but I'm not complaining!

                                          2. You'd be likely to find okra on menus of upscale south asian restaurants. A place I know has a listing of "kararee subziyan" - a Punjabi dish described as "crisp fried okra with carom seeds and lotus stem with peanut and coriander". Another place serves the Parsee dish of khara bheeda nay papeto - where okra and potato are flavoured with cumin, coriander seed and leaf.

                                            1. Ingredients Not Found at High End Restaurants

                                              No such thing.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                I'll just say that I share the same position and back out of this thread instead of saying "no" to every item nominated.

                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                  Yeah, I vacillated myself as to whether I should even bother replying because now I'm stuck with this thread under my profile forever ...

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit


                                                    Of late I've hesitated to post on many threads because of that concern. (And TPTB won't do anything about enabling a capacity to ignore threads that one no longer wishes to "follow".)

                                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                                  There are many ingredients that are rare at high end restaurants.

                                                  1. re: Steve

                                                    What are your nominations for these? Are these places strictly Western/European-origin/USAmerican places or do they encompass the wide range of high-end places found throughout the world?

                                                  2. That rarity of all rairities, glorious "SPAM"

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: malibumike

                                                      That might be the closest to something not found in high-end places anywhere on Earth as I have seen here on this thread. Maybe. Oh, it's a beloved ingredient in many dishes in many places but at a level below "high-end"...

                                                        1. I know you can find some of my list somewhere on a high end restaurant menu but what I'm thinking of I've never seen and might be scarce.

                                                          Black Eyed Peas
                                                          Iceberg lettuce - probably for great reason. :)


                                                          Cottage cheese as mentioned above
                                                          American Cheese

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: Sandwich_Sister



                                                            BTW are you saying that "Cheese" - just "Cheese", as you propose - is NOT found nor served in high-end restaurants?

                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                              I think you missed my point as "cheese" was the ingredient category under which cottage and American fell in to.

                                                              Maybe I didn't make that known better, sorry, but there is no way to make a heading here under which items can be listed.

                                                              1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                                Oh, OK.

                                                                Actually you can. A colon after the "cheese" could be used then bullet-point the list entries (option-8 on a Mac will give you • ), for example.

                                                            2. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                              a lot of high end steakhouses serve the wedge salad made with iceberg lettuce

                                                            3. Oddly enough salsifies, a high end ingredient based on the price for canned ones, are something I haven't seen in high end restaurants. Ditto, at least around here, gooseberries.

                                                              1. Gooseberry fan here. The only time I have seen them on a higher-end restaurant menu was at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Enlgand. The item was a take on a fool. And it was delicious!

                                                                9 Replies
                                                                1. re: chefathome

                                                                  You'll regularly find gooseberry on British menus, when they're in season. As you found, it's often as a fool, or similar concoctions, although it is a classic sauce to go with mackerel. I have a sense that chefs move on to gooseberry when rhubarb goes out of season, so they retain that sharp sweetness

                                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                                    Ah...although I did know that gooseberries are prevalent and loved in the UK, I did not realize it was common on the menus. I will pay particular attention next visit!

                                                                    1. re: chefathome

                                                                      Certainly here in north west England, chef.

                                                                      By the by, the village of Goostrey (which is only a few minutes from me) still holds an annual gooseberry competiiton to find the biggest berry. Such competiitons used to be quite common. http://www.goostrey.info/local_inform...

                                                                      I'm not sure whether this BBC clip will be viewable to people outside the UK but here goes:

                                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                                        Sorry, I get a "media selection request failed" message emblazoned across the incipiently-loading video. In the USA here.

                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                          I thought it might not be viewable to non-UK people.

                                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                                            ...which raises a perennial question regarding UK videos that are non-viewable elsewhere - WHY NOT!?? Nothing to do with you personally, of course.

                                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                                              It has to do with the licensing of commercial content, which is often done by territory. Virtual fences or blocks are raised in the absence of borders on the Internet.

                                                                              And as outraged as you are about the inability to watch things streaming from UK sites, do not kid yourself that the US is open and accessible to anyone who wants from anywhere in the world.

                                                                              Also, to keep it about food: I'm with Melanie and Ipsedixit: None. Things fall in and out of favour, but I seriously question the idea that there is a never. I'm sure anything nominated can easily be rebutted by someone who has dined on such a thing.

                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                I suspect much might relate to the BBC being 100% funded by British taxpayers (paying through the TV licence fee). Except and in so far as the BBC offers programmes through its international channels (such as BBC America), which operate commercially and are outside the licence remit. I don't know what the situation is regarding viewability, or otherwise, of programmes made by British commercial TV channels - such as Channel 4 or ITV.

                                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                                  @Harters & Lizard: I suspected so too, but still wonder in a general sense why selected programs - especially those** that might bring good publicity to the UK - would not be made available internationally, as a "public good" of sorts.

                                                                                  Lizard, indeed I am aware that US TV content is frequently not available outside the US, just as Canadian [private] network content is often also not available Stateside & etc. (e.g. Top Chef Canada :-) ) (some CBC videos - "national type" like CBC News, e.g., but not most (all?) TV shows - are viewable in the US)

                                                                                  **OK, I suppose the show you were referencing (regarding culinary uses of gooseberries) might not be the best example of something that ought to be internationally available...

                                                                    1. re: paprkutr

                                                                      On that note I guess we could include Miracle Whip!

                                                                    2. I have yet to see whole coelacanth, Loch Ness liver or yeti burgers. Yet I persist in the pursuit.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. I'm going with iceberg lettuce. Haven't seen that on a high end menu around here in a long time.

                                                                        You'll see it as a 'wedge' salad at some of the old school institutions, but otherwise not used (I'm not counting as a wrap for a Vietnamese roll or part of a taco filling).

                                                                        1. Velveeta, I should hope.

                                                                          1. <And I don't think I've ever seen okra used>

                                                                            There are probably exceptions, but you are generally correct.

                                                                            <are there any other ingredients which are very rarely/never seen in high-end dining?>

                                                                            Sure, anything which they deem contradict the meaning of high end. If high end means expensive Western restaurants, then my guess is that you won't find many vegetables which are popular in the less expensive restaurants. For example, I think you will rarely find collard green, turnup green in high end restaurants. I also think you will not see many ethnic vegetables in a high end Western restaurants. For example, Chinese broccoli or Japanese Daikon.

                                                                            26 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                              Let's not limit ourselves to Western expensive restaurants. As I said elsewhere here, nothing in the OP says we have to. :-)

                                                                              BTW, I remember seeing daikon on menus in Western high-end places.

                                                                              p.s. This place is an International Place, is it not? ;-)

                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                <Let's not limit ourselves to Western expensive restaurants>

                                                                                But it is so much easier to answer the question that way. :)

                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                  But why would you, when the world's cuisine includes SO MUCH more than what is found in USAmerican/Western cookery and the OP does not limit us so?

                                                                                  I also refer you to ipse's post above: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8755...

                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                    Shark's Fin, or Sea Cucumbers; or Birds' Nest, Abalone, etc etc - these are things that would be unlikely to be found in Western/USAmerican-European dishes in high-end places...but they would form the backbone of many high-end menus in places in HK or China or SE Asia and where they do not cleave to the limited and politically-correct menu options of a USAmerican menu.

                                                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                                                      <do not cleave to the limited and politically-correct menu options of a USAmerican menu.>

                                                                                      However, these ingredients are not used in Western menu has more to do with cultural and traditional difference, not political correctness.

                                                                                      Most elite restaurants try to avoid using ingredients which are considered cheap. For example, whiting (fish) is considered cheap, so I can imagine that elite restaurants would avoid using whitening. Same for collard green or turnip green.

                                                                                      For Chinese elite restaurants, they like to serve live ocean fishes. Yet, fishes like flounders or catfishes are not as popular in elite Chinese restaurants.

                                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                        I don't call it political correctness. I call the preservation of endangered species a moral imperative.

                                                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                                                          Whatever you may consider -- political or moral correctness. It is not why these ingredients were not used. There certainly wasn't a heavy sense of political correctness or moral correctness in 1800's, and Western restaurants just never all into using these strange ingredients.

                                                                                          Chinese also serve chicken feet, turtles and frogs too, which are not endangered. They are just too strange in a Western restaurant.

                                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                            Occidental tastes may not embrace all asian traditions. That's the way it is. Works both ways. Say cheese!

                                                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                              You'll find turtle soup on the menu at some of the fanciest restaurants in New Orleans. Turtle soup was once fairly common in the US. It became less so due to turtle populations decreasing and eventually conservation laws enacted.

                                                                                              Frog legs were once found frequently in higher end US dining establishments.

                                                                                              All three of these items would have been eaten in rural households 100 years ago.

                                                                                              1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                Yes, you are correct about the turtle. As for frog and chicken feet, maybe 100 years ago in elite restaurants. As of now, I have never seen them in my menu -- not high end restaurants.

                                                                                                <All three of these items would have been eaten in rural households 100 years ago.>

                                                                                                Rural households do not count. We are talking about high end restaurants. I also cited that I don't see collard green and turnip green in high end restaurants, but they are very common dishes in not-high-end restaurants like BBQ joints, soul food restaurants.

                                                                                                Ok, I am sure sure there are the high end expensive soul food restaurants and high end BBQ restaurants.... but.

                                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                  I mentioned rural households since your post seemed as though you felt there was general western aversion to the items. Frog legs were on fancy menu's in the US within my life time and I'm not close to 100!

                                                                                                  1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                    No, I mean mostly modern high end restaurants. You probably didn't catch everything I said, and only noticed one of the posts.

                                                                                                    "Sure, anything which they deem contradict the meaning of high end. If high end means expensive Western restaurants, then my guess is that you won't find many vegetables which are popular in the less expensive restaurants. For example, I think you will rarely find collard green, turnup green in high end restaurants. I also think you will not see many ethnic vegetables in a high end Western restaurants. For example, Chinese broccoli or Japanese Daikon."

                                                                                                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                    I've had mustard greens in Volt before. Deep-fried kale elsewhere. Marvelous simply deep-fried smelts at Naha. Etc etc.

                                                                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                                                                      I think Volt using many interesting lesser used ingredients.

                                                                                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                      We can get frog legs at a higher end restaurant here, same restaurant only has four main entrees: whole snapper, veal, frog legs, and quail.

                                                                                                      The have other entrees that are in a different section as well.

                                                                                                      1. re: melpy

                                                                                                        I tried frog legs a few times (less than 3 times, I think), and I am just not all that into them. Just saying.

                                                                                                    3. re: meatn3

                                                                                                      What's the third? My buddies ate frogs' legs at my Tiki bar this afternoon. Woody's River Roo in Ellenton, FL. Not at all higher end, though.
                                                                                                      Turtle soup is out of bounds, but I have fond memories of it in Mazatlan in the late 70's. Turtle meat was like flank steak, but tastier.
                                                                                                      Times have changed.

                                                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                        Chicken feet.

                                                                                                        My father's family considered the chicken feet removed from the stock a treat. I feel certain they would have been an ingredient in US fine dining, but am unaware of them being served on their own.

                                                                                                        I'll try to look up Woody's next time I'm in the area. I haven't had frog legs in a while!

                                                                                                        1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                          Chicken feet.

                                                                                                          The train from Monterrey to Mexico City on my winter college break, 1972, landlubbing from Connecticut to Acapulco, stopped many times, and vendors came aboard selling food. I was hungry. A woman passed through selling a tray of tacos. I was very much ready for this occasion, until I saw a chicken foot dangling from several of her offerings. I passed. And I was hungry.

                                                                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                            Chicken feet.

                                                                                                            My parents honeymooned in Mexico City and Acapulco - I'll have to ask my father if he indulged. They are a standard ingredient in my stock. The sight of them swirling slowly about looks a bit macabre though. I have tried eating them in other guises but they just aren't for me.

                                                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                That's great! The colors are fabulous together.
                                                                                                                I would eat it!

                                                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                  HA! That's exactly what I thought of re: this subthread!

                                                                                            2. re: huiray

                                                                                              People can only speak from their experience. Many of us have been to very few or no high-end non-western restaurants. I appreciate you sharing your wider perspective.

                                                                                          2. I haven't seen tripe in any high-end places (DC area).

                                                                                            1. I don't really see bigger birds, like goose or turkey. Maybe b/c they don't lend themselves to individual portions well? I had goose in a lovely country hotel once, but I've never seen these two items in high-end restaurants I've been to.

                                                                                              1. Chicken gizzards. On very few menus, period.

                                                                                                1. Last night,12 at the table,all over 60 with many banquets,Michelin stars and equal under their world travel belts.Several memories of ALL OFFAL,feet,jowl,tongue,brains etc,frog legs etal of the rarities in this thread,EXCEPT curds,cottage cheese.There was only one example and it was house made,served with salty pickle sort of condiment.