Foodie Lingo!


Pretentious: attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc, than is actually possessed.

One of my pet peeves is a very pretentious dinner menu.. Pretentious meaning a chef will take 2 sentences to describe shrimp cocktail or something... Here is an example of an extremely pretentious menu item: "Cannon of English Lamb stuffed with Wild Woodland Mushrooms and Truffles, imprisoned in a pastry cage with a Sauce of Wild Rowan Berries and a Plume of French Bar-le-Duc
Black Potatoes from the Ardennes
Bundles of Vegetables gathered fresh from the garden"


Although there are entire websites dedicated to food definitions I thought I would shed some light on the most commonly asked questions I get on menus by fellow diners:

Here are some general foodie terms to help you decipher fancier menus:

  1. Abalone: A mollusk which must be pounded to tenderize before cooking
  2. Apértif: this is an alcoholic drink that is usually served to stimulate the appetite before a meal, contrasting with digestifs, which are served after meals.
  3. Agnolotti: Traditionally square in shape, this pasta is very similar to ravioli. The difference is agnolotti contains meat and ravioli is without meat.
  4. Aioli:  is a sauce made of garlic & olive oil. Normally egg is added and there are MANY variations such the addition of mustard. Aioli is traditionally served with seafood but in recent years aioli is a great dip for fries!
  5. Al Dente:  Cooking your pasta or vegetables to "al dente" means to cook until tender but firm to bite
  6. Amuse bouche: is a single, bite-sized appetizer which are served to excite the palette and get you excited for what is to come... make your hungrier for your meal 
  7. Antipasto: means "before the meal" and is the traditional first course of a formal Italian meal and you will often see it in the appetizer section at Italian restaurants OR an assortment of Mediterranean marinated vegetables with Italian cold cuts.
  8. Bisque:  smooth, creamy, highly-seasoned soup of French origin, classically based on a strained broth of seafood. It can be made from lobster, crab, shrimp or crayfish.
  9. Boar:  a species of pig that has a gamier and more robust flavor
  10. Bocconcini:are small, semi-soft, white and rindless mild cheeses... I like to refer to these as "baby mozzarella's"
  11. Braised:  combination cooking method using both moist and dry heat, typically the food is first seared at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid.
  12. Cassoulet: rich, slow-cooked bean stew or casserole
  13. Ceviche: citrus-marinated seafood. 
  14. Charcuterie:  Very trendy as of late; charcuterie means the processed meat of any animal including beef, veal, lamb, poultry etc. You can order a "charcuterie platter or selection" and choose a variety of cured meats which will normally also be served with cheese, crackers and different compotes.
  15. Confit: Pronounced "con-fee" is a generic term for various kinds of food that has been immersed in a substance for both flavor & preservation. The most common is duck confit and this is prepared by taking the legs from the bird which are then seasoned & slowly cooked in its own rendered fat.
  16. Compote: Fancy word for jam... or the technical definition is whole fruits which are immersed in water and with sugar and spices added to the dish over gentle heat.
  17. Demi-glace: is a rich brown sauce used in French cuisine by itself or a base for other sauces
  18. Flambé: Pour small quantities of hot liquid containing alcohol over food and then set alight.
  19. Foie Gras: food product made of the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened. 
  20. Frutti di Mare: Fruit of the sea aka. seafood! in Italian
  21. Garganelli Pasta: Very similar to penne
  22. Gorgonzola: is a veined Italian blue cheese made from cow's or goat's milk. Milder than the usual "blue cheese" I normally suggest this for people who do not normally like blue or goat's cheese.
  23. Gnocchi:  Pronounced "N'yo-kee" are generally eaten as entrees and are potato pasta or potato dumplings. Classic accompaniments include tomato sauces, pesto and melted butter with cheese.
  24. Insalata: Italian for salad
  25. Panko: Very popular as of late; panko is a flaky bread crumb used in Japanese cuisine that works as a crunchy coating for fried foods... even chicken is great with panko rather than bread crumbs!
  26. Pesto: Many people think that pesto is the basil form that you often see.. Pesto is in fact a sauce originating in northern Italy and is a generic term for anything which is made by pounding. Traditional pesto consists of basil leaves, pine nuts and olive oil but can vary to many different flavors.
  27. Pomme Frites: French Fries! Pomme Frites is the Euro way of saying it. 
  28. Scampi: Smaller species of lobster about the size of jumbo prawns
  29. Sorbet: Often used as a palette cleanser between courses, sorbet is a frozen dessert made from sweetened water flavored with fruit, wine and/or liqueur.
  30. Tempura: Popular Japanese dish for seafood or vegetables that have been battered and deep fried. 
  31. Zuppe: Italian for soup


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