So You Want To Be A Waiter

The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

Tag Archives: foodie

I’m still here!

Yes, dear reader, I’m still around…

You see, at the moment I’m stuck without an actual internet account.  I’ve got this way cool new Droid X which is a lot easier to type on than the ole Eris, which was a perfectly fine phone but a little too small to type on. This is better but it’s still a bit of a chore to type a substantial post on it.

But I thought I should at least check in to my loyal readers.

For a little real content, I thought that I’d mention that Charlie Rose did a food oriented show tonight (4.14.2011), interviewing Gabrielle Hamilton, the owner of Prune, the acclaimed NY restaurant, who has written a memoir, Jonathan Waxman, chef/owner of Italian restaurant Barbuto, and one of the most inspired chefs in the world at the moment, Spanish chef Ferran Adria.

It’s a show worth checking out on his site in the next couple of days.  Rose is someone who relishes gastronomy and believes in the power of communal dining. I suspect that he wishes he could have spent time at table with Dorothy Parker in her prime.

Anyway, this modest post has taken almost 20 minutes to thumb out on the virtual keyboard (I don’t text so I’m not one of those speedy thumbers) so I think I’ll call it a night.

I’ll be back soon. Indeed I will…

Update on May 13th (Friday the 13th)…apparently this post never made it out of the draft status. Hence another downside of trying to update this sort of blog on a mobile device, no matter how hand it is. I”m at a real keyboard right now on an actual internet account and as I check the blog, I find that the original update never made it to blog.  How embarassing.

I still haven’t picked up a broadband account for my home yet, so it will still be a while before I get back to posting regularly. So I suppose I should exhort you to check your uniform, continue to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and contine to dive into the archives.

In the meantime, hang in there waiting tables. May the fork be with you.

You know you’re a foodie when…

…you’re watching Tony Bourdain in Vienna and you say, “He’s drinking out of a Spiegelau wine glass! It’s an “Authentis” Burgundy glass! Why is he drinking white wine out of it? And hey, I’ve even got one of those glasses”!

That’s when you say to yourself, “Have I’ve gone too far? Am I a lost boy”?

That’s on top of me going to a new Vietnamese restaurant this afternoon and being disappointed with the  Bánh mì sandwich and the vermicelli dish that you find in most Viet restaurants (you know the one – it’s got cut up pieces of spring roll, cilantro, grated carrots, “BBQ pork”, ground peanuts and a side bowl of sweetened fish sauce. First of all, the Bánh mì barely had any crunchy bits like cucumber and carrots, and had some very stalky cilantro stuck in the middle. The pork was the requisite reddish color but had hardly any flavor. Plus, it wasn’t even cut in the middle. Sad. Then, the vermicelli dish had some sad bits of cilantro and a sprinkling of carrots and almost indiscernable cucumber, the fish sauce tasted more vinegary than sweet, and the spring rolls were basically Chinese spring rolls (I don’t know what makes them different, but the Vietnamese spring rolls you usually find in the dish are far more succulent and tasty). But the final insult was the fact that the vermicelli was overcooked and comprised most of the bowl instead of having a good ratio of noodles to “good bits”. Oh wait, I forgot – I had to send back the lemonade because it was a commercial mix  instead of that really good “homemade lemonade” that you find in a good US Vietnamese restaurant. Hell, it even said “homemade lemonade” on the menu. I told my waiter that it tasted like Countrytime and she told me that it was actually Minutemaid.

I turned into one of those passive-aggressive diners that we waiters all hate, only I dropped the “aggressive”. I couldn’t bring myself to tell the very nice, accommodating waiter that it wasn’t her fault but her restaurant’s cuisine sucked eggs. I was hard enough for me to send the flipping lemonade back ($2.75 – are you kidding me??!!??)

I feel badly because I won’t be going back, especially since there are three good Vietnamese restaurants within 3 blocks of there. I feel especially bad because I didn’t have the heart to tell my waiter. I’m a baaaaddd diner.  But even worse, I feel weird that I had such emotions over a $10 lunch. I guess that makes me a foodie of sorts – a foodie on a budget.

God, somebody please help me…

Dish of the day – crudo

Crudo is the Italian combination of the two culinary concepts sashimi and ceviche. Obviously, it involves raw seafood and it made with some acidic component, olive oil and sea salt. Ceviche differs in that it’s actually a cooked dish, the cooking coming from marinating seafood in an acidic liquid, usually citrus based. It’s usually cut into smaller pieces or is assembled from various raw seafood such as small shrimps, calamari or small, bite-sized pieces or fresh fish. Crudo, on the other hand, isn’t actually marinated in anything other than olive oil. The acidic component is added at the last minute, whether on the plate or drizzled over the fish or actually applied by the diner fresh from the fruit. Any additional ingredients other than what I outlined are usually limited to some sort of aromatic herb such as basil, parsley or fennel. Also, it’s usually presented more like sashimi, with slightly larger pieces. Ceviche, on the other hand, features smaller cuts of seafood, either diced or cubed in order to facilitate the “cooking process”. It also usually features onion or shallots and can also have additional ingredients. Different regions have different variations, including ingredients like corn, chiles, etc. Sashimi is basically just raw fish, sliced to show off the grain of the fish and is served with minimal accompaniment, i.e. a little sliced daikon, cucumber or ginger and usually is served with a dipping soy-based sauce that might or might not include wasabi

Crudo is simpler than ceviche and slightly more involved than sashimi.

As more and more chefs discover crudo as a “new”, “fresh” culinary product, the tendency has been to add additional components, or use crudo as an ingredient in a larger dish. I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing, but the key to a successful crudo is two-fold, find the freshest saltwater seafood (because, let’s face it, raw seafood is potentially dangerous), and the KISS concept, Keep It Simple Stupid. The star is the seafood, not the things that you might pile onto it. Well, that and the combination of the olive oil, sea salt and acidic component. It’s almost like a very simple, deconstructed citrus viniagrette, or gastrique. Some chefs also use various vinegars in addition to the citrus juice.

If you keep in mind the simple concept that ceviche is actually a cooked dish and sashimi doesn’t have a “sauce”, but a dipping sauce, it’s easy to keep them separate.

Not many restaurants serve crudo, but who knows? You might encounter it some day and I hope that you get the chance to try it at some point. It’s a fresh, clean dish that is almost a palate cleanser.

Traditional crudo

Hamachi crudo with avocado

Culinary term of the day – miso

Miso. A simple thing, this aged, pureed soybean paste. And yet, it is quite complex in its own way.

According to the book, “How To Cook With Miso” by Aveline Tomoko Kushi (©1978, Japan Publications, INC, ISBN 0-87040-450-4), miso “contains living enzimes which aid digestion, and provides a nutritious balance of natural carbohydrates, essential oils, vitamins, minerals, and protein”.

Miso is also in integral part of Japanese culture. Not only is it seemingly ubiquitous, it also plays an important role in the harmony that the Japanese follow in food preparation and consumption. It is an important ingredient in the concept of yin and yang in food (that is a subject that is beyond the purview of this article; if you are interested, I suggest that you do some Googling). It also has impact on health, as it can be used as a healing paste, or as a tonic to counteract the effects of too much alcohol or tobacco use.

But we in the West seem to only encounter it as the broth in starter soups at sushi restaurants.

I predict that miso will become a “buzz ingredient” in the near future. We’re already seeing some forward-thinking Western chefs incorporating it in more and more dishes. We’re seeing it incorporated in salad dressings and fish broths. It’s a flavor that hs been recognized as a great carrier for “umami”, the famous “fifth flavor profile” of savoriness. When miso broth is augmented with kombu (a specific type of dried seaweed) and dashi (dried bonito flakes), umami is allowed to bloom, especially when you add mushrooms, another ingredient with massive umami characteristics. Addionally, miso has its own umami flavor components.

This is the form that we see it in the sushi restaurant starter soup, that cloudy, rich broth with a couple of slivers of shiitake mushroom and scallions. This soup usually starts with a kombu and dashi stock, and miso is added to give it body.

But miso is more than just a great addition to soup. In the sushi restaurant, we often see it as a major component of the dressing that tops the simple starter salad that accompanies many meals. Restaurants as mainstream as California Pizza Kitchen and Applebees and high-end places like The French Laundry and Nobu have incorporated miso into their menus. Many mainstream restaurants have an “Asian salad”, and it’s almost a certainty that miso is used in the dressing. It gives that slightly earthy quality that one prizes in Asian dressing. And  Nobu Matsuhisa, chef-owner of famed restaurant Nobu, has a signature black cod and miso dish that has become famous.

So, how do you encounter miso in the wild? It’s normally found in plastic wrapped bricks. It almost has the feel of fresh mozzarella; a sort of sensuous pliability. It’s both soft and firm.

What kinds of miso are there?

First of all, it doesn’t have to be fermented soybean, although that’s the most common type that we encounter. It can be made from fermented rice or barley or several other grains, and any of these grains can augment soybean miso. The two most common types of miso that we find in the US are red and white miso. However, as I’ve said, there are several versions of miso. Miso is often made in Japan according to family traditions and each family has their own way of making miso. Here are the different kinds:

Kome miso (rice miso), mugi miso (barley miso), misozuke (miso with pickled vegetables), name miso (salt and eggplant or melon), Tyougou miso, (mixed miso, or miso made from multiple sources), red miso (aged miso), and white miso (normal miso). Occasionally, you come across yellow and black miso as well.

Each miso has its own flavor characteristics. Most of the time, US chefs and cooks will choose between red and white miso. However, don’t be misled, “white” miso isn’t usually white. It’s a lighter shade of “red”. Actually both kinds of miso usually appear to be red-brown. White miso usually looks more beige than white while red miso is more brick-red. And there are variations in all colors, depending on the type of processing and aging involved. white miso is usually sweeter, while red miso has the earthier flavor and lasts longer in storage. white miso usually has a higher proportion of white rice and is better suited for dressings, while red miso has more soybean content, is aged longer and has a more robust and complex flavor perfectly suited for hearty soups and can be used in sauces and braises.

And I think that it’s in main dishes that miso will become a star performer in the future as Western chefs learn its unique properties. Here’s a good example of miso being used as a glaze for halibut:

http://www.grouprecipes.com/46666/citrus-red-miso-ginger-glazed-halibut.html

How is miso made?

It starts with koji, a “starter” of fermented barley, rich, wheat or soybean. Koji is roughly akin to sourdough starter, or the yeast/grain/carbohydrate combo in alcoholic products. The ingredient that koji is made from determines the type of tofu because soybeans usually comprise the bulk of the miso. Koji is then combined with soaked and steamed soybeans and salt. Depending on the type of miso being made, the levels of the various types of koji are adjusted up or down. All miso is aged to a certain degree because additional fermentation is required. For white miso, fermentation is limited to a few weeks, while red miso can be aged up to 18 months.

So, what is the takeaway from all of this?

Miso is an ingredient that will become increasingly prominent in Western cooking and more and more of the general public become exposed to it in mainstream restaurants. We’re already seeing it happen. As a waiter, you should at least know what it is, what its flavor profile is, how you can use it tableside to market dishes that include it. Many of your guests have heard the name but have no clue what it is. It’s your job to gently educate them.

And I hope that more and more of you home cooks incorporate this lovely and nutritious ingredient in your own cooking.

New blog added – Culinary Grammar

This is a nice blog for foodies. There’s enough food porn to keep the “gourmand” in each foodie happy and there is a personal touch that marks the best private culinary blogs.

The author is/was in Nashville, so there’s that. There’s lots of local color that she exposes to the rest of the world. She is a graduating student who is moving to Dallas to teach, so this might explain why the last post was back in April. Perhaps she graduated back in the spring and she’s getting established in her new career. I suspect that she will pick back up when things get stabilized because she obviously has an affinity for talking about food. I know all about having to take a break, although my recent break was less to do with recharging and more to do with taking care of business. I normally don’t recommend dormant blogs, but I just get the feeling that it’s a temporary condition.

Perhaps I’ll do a post in the near future recommending truly dormant blogs because there are a few that remain relevant, funny and interesting even though the author might have left the food industry.

So, let’s drink a nice sweet tea over our plate of collards and welcome Steph to the fold!

Here’s a pic from the blog (I reduced the size – it’s bigger there). It’s a nice table of food from my friend and great chef Margo McCormack’s lovely restaurant, Marché:

Photo from the blog “Culinary Grammar”. Photo presumably from the author of the blog.

http://culinarygrammar.wordpress.com/about-2/

Cognac

Sometimes I do a post that I have every intention of following up on. But then, it falls through the cracks. Here is that very post:

https://teleburst.wordpress.com/2009/12/29/brandy-vs-cognac/

Last year, I wrote about brandy and cognac. I mentioned that I’d be getting a little deeper into the cognac thing, so, half a year later, here we are!

As I mentioned in that post, cognac is a subset of brandy. It’s named for a small mercantile town just north of the Bordeaux region of France. Cognac sits on the Charente River, which empties into the Bay of Biscayne at Rochefort , just north of the Gironde estuary, the site of the most fabled (if not the most “grand”) Chateaux in the world such as Margaux, Latour and Lafitte.

In the middle of the last millennium, the Charente was a somewhat significant river for shipping, sending barges laden with casks of brandy to the world and receiving spices and other exotica from around the globe. Cognac was a natural river port, but actually, the town further upstream, Jarmac, current home of Courvoisier, was on track to be the “home of cognac” that Cognac itself eventually became. According to Nicholas Faith’s great book on cognac, which, sadly, I can’t put my hands on at the moment, Jarmac was a more significant port, but a nobleman who had influence (perhaps it was Louis XIV) decided to show favor to Cognac over Jarmac (I’m going by memory here). Hence, most of the “houses”  ended up in Cognac proper, formerly a large salt distribution center. It’s quite possible that without noble intervention, we could all be drinking jarmac today.

Most people aren’t aware that cognac is like blended scotch in that most of the cognac that we consume is blended from many different barrels. Each “house” has its own flavor profile that it keeps standard through the use of the cellar master (Le Maitre de Chai – yes, it’s still very much a man’s game), but it is based on as many as a hundred different sources. There are a handful of producers that make a product similar to a single malt scotch, but they are very rare.

Cognac was designated a wine growing region on May 1, 1909. It took another 30 years for Cognac to be declared a Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) or Controlled Appellation of Origin.

The region itself is broken down by zones  which roughly correspond to the geologic tendencies. there are six such “growing areas” ranked in order of quality and considered “crus” under the AOC –  Grande Champagne (GC), Petite Champagne (PG), Borderies, Fines Bois, Bons Bois, Bois Ordinaries. Finally, there’s an oddball designation, Fine Champagne, which is a blend of the top two crus.

Don’t be confused, the word champagne has nothing to do with the bubbly chardonnay drink that we pop on special occasions. In fact, cognac must be made from at least 90%  Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanché or Colombard. 

The four predominate soil characteristics of the region are chalk, clay, limestone and sand. Each of the regions has a specific composition that sets it apart from the others. This helps distinguish the flavor profiles as much as the blending does.

Here’s a map of the region. You’ll note that it looks roughly like a target:

Map courtesy of the Borderies distillers Domaine du Buisson and can be found here:

http://www.v-c.vc/tessendierusa/domainedubuisson/index.html

This is a small distillery that blends from their own vineyards, so they are closer to the spirit of the single malt scotch distiller, although they still blend from various casks. They just don’t buy from a variety of producers like the major houses do.

Anyway, getting back to the map, you can see that the highest designation, Grande Champagne, comes from a roughly round region that would be considered the “bulls-eye”. Some call it “The Golden Circle”. This is the home of the biggest distillers and the source of the highest quality raw stock. Its soil is mostly chalk, clay and limestone. It is this composition that gives the best cognac its renown for consistent quality. However, as in the case of Domaine du Buisson, excellent cognacs can be found outside of the region, although they can be hard to find in the US. Also, there are some blends that rely on grapes from outside this region, such as Martell’s Cordon Bleu, which relies on the nutty and floral characteristics of grapes grown in Borderies.

Now that we’ve briefly discussed the regions, lets delve into the various quality designators and the production of cognac. 

First of all, you should know that if there’s an age designate, the age refers to the youngest vintage used. the minimum age requirement is two years, but this is virtually never used. Distillers usually start at 12 years and go up from there. Until it’s blended, the wine is known as eau-de-vie (waters of life). Cognac is twice-distilled, normally in pot stills, also known as alembic stills. These are onion shaped copper pots.

http://blog.cognac-expert.com/distilling-cognac-pot-still-alembic-charentais-french-alambic/

The ratio of eau-de-vie to cognac is roughly 9 to 1.

The various initials that are supposed to designate quality are sometimes confusing to the novice. The lowest quality cognac is called VS, or “very special”. I don’t know what makes it “very special”, since there’s no S rating, but there ya go. Here they are in order from bottom to top:

VS – very special. This is the “youngest” of the cognacs. Minimum age of the eau-de-vie is 2 years old.  Technically, you could have 95% of the cognac being 50 years old and only 5% 2 years old, and it would still be considered VS. Theoretically, this could be far superior and pricier than a VSOP or XO.  Obviously, a distiller would be out of his or her mind to do this. VSes are generally made from the youngest of the usable vintages. The fact that it’s the lowest designation doesn’t mean that it’s bad, just that it won’t have the distinctive and rich flavor profiles of headier blends.

VSOP – very special old pale. Sounds very British, doesn’t it? I suspect that they are responsible for the designation, especially since the acronym refers to English words. This is the next step up in quality and price. The minimum age of the  eau-de-vie is 4 years old. Generally, you’ll see the average age of the eaux-de-vie ramp up as we go up the rungs.

XO – Extra old. Minimum age is 6 years old. Now we’re talking mostly old vintages, some of which can be a half a century or more old. This is going to change to 8 years in 2016, assuring an even more exclusivity.

You also have other qualifiers. Napoleon falls somewhere between VSOP and XO. It must be as old as an XO, but presumably, the average age will be lower, so it won’t be quite as expensive as an XO, but it demands a premium above VSOP.

Hors d’âge (beyond age) is basically a premium XO.  Louis XIII de Rémy Martin and Hennessey Richard (pronounce it ri-CARD) are examples of this. For example, Louis XIII uses 1200 different eaux-de-vie, some of which are 100 years old.

Extra – older than XO, you might think of this as an XXO. This can command a premium double that of an XO.  Rémy Martin even has an “Extra Perfect” that almost  doubles the price of Extra.

There are a couple of other more obscure designations that we’ll let slide.

There is one maker who is famous for ocean maturation – Kelt. They send barrels on a 3 month tour (as opposed to the three hour tour that Gilligan and his mates made). Unlike the Skipper and Maryanne, these barrels come back at the end of their voyage. This is done to pay homage to the origins of brandy and cognac as well as possibly introduce the variations in temperature and the influence of the salty sea air.

Cognac is traditionally served in a warmed brandy snifter, although Riedel and others have designed dedicated cognac glasses that look more like larger port glasses. Warming the glass allows the aromatics to be released, giving the taster a profound nose of rich scents. Whenever I serve a cognac, I give it a little swirl on the table to encourage this aroma. there are even nice devices that perform the function of warming that you are unlikely to see in most restaurants.

Cognac should be savored at the end of a meal and not drunk in conjunction with food, although any rule can certainly be broken. If you drink cognac with savory dishes, both will suffer. I really don’t even suggest serving cognac with sweets. That’s better left to sweet dessert wines. While some drink it with various juices, if you’re going to mix them, you should stick with cheaper brandies. It’s a waste of your money and the quality of the spirit.

Well, I hope that this very large thumbnail sketch gives you a better appreciation for this fine spirit. As a waiter, you should always keep cognac in your back pocket for those guests who clearly have an eye for quality. A little prompting could add another $10 – $300 to the check and provide the guest with a taste of luxury so often lacking in today’s dining.

http://blog.cognac-expert.com/farmers-resellers-players-structure-of-cognac-business/

A rumination on the scrubbing if the line cook/chef pirate image

Photo Salon/AP

At Salon, Francis Lam is worried about the kitchen.

And probably for good reason:

Ten years ago, Anthony Bourdain became a star when he released “Kitchen Confidential,” his restaurant-as-pirate-ship memoir, and pretty much single-handedly defined our image of the “real life” of restaurant cooking: a manly adventure of hot-shit line cooks and sodomy, rum and lashes of cocaine. It’s an intense world where the abuse comes from all angles, and, as in sports or war, is filled with heroic, violent mythmaking.

So when a chef in Canada got canned last week for speaking a little too frankly to a journalist about life in his kitchen, Tim Hayward speculated in the Guardian that the chef may have just been trying to join Bourdain’s party: “By telling the gritty truth like ‘chef’ [Gordon] Ramsay does it, surely he should have expected admiration, kudos and unlimited girls …” But for the chef’s sake, I hope not. Because that ship has sailed — a culture drowning, ironically, in the very waves of celebrity Bourdain helped to create.<snip>

The article is headed by:

Why kitchens stopped being like pirate ships

10 years after Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential,” the bad-boy chef is an endangered species

The post is a must-read, and you are hereby commanded to go here:

http://www.salon.com/food/francis_lam/2010/04/01/bourdain_kitchen_confidential_no_more/index.html

Famed chef Thomas Keller eats some of the best chicken wings anywhere in Nashville

From The Tennessean:

Chef Thomas Keller braves the heat at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack

By Jennifer Justus • THE TENNESSEAN • March 31, 2010

The meticulous French-style chef, one of the most respected in the nation, has intense dark eyes that could sear a sloppy line cook faster than a filet in a hot pan.

But sitting across from him at the lunch table, I watched as a single tear rolled down his cheek.

He dabbed it with a paper napkin.

And then he reached for another bite of hot chicken.

I didn’t mean to make him cry. Really. But I admit that when I heard the famous chef — he of the James Beard accolades, the Michelin stars and the collection of posh restaurants from Napa to New York — was headed to Nashville for a book-signing, I knew Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack was where I wanted to take him.

No question, fried chicken is hot right now. Just last week, movie star Gwyneth Paltrow gushed about eating fried chicken in Nashville on her GOOP.com blog, and glossy national food magazines have devoted photo-laden spreads to the humble bird.

But in Nashville, chicken has always been hot. Spicy hot, that is — the kind of heat that comes with a Scoville rating. So I was keen to hear what Chef Keller thought about our version. I also hoped to hear more about his Buttermilk Fried Chicken, a recipe that has its own cult following, and the emotional significance of chicken, which he talks about in his latest book, Ad Hoc at Home (Artisan, Nov. 2009, $50). Chicken, after all, is the last meal he ever prepared for his father, and the first recipe in the book.

Read the rest of the article here:

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20100331/FEATURES02/3310340/Chef-Thomas-Keller-braves-the-heat-at-Prince-s-Hot-Chicken-Shack

This article about the famed chef-owner of The French Laundry and Per Se is really a good read and has a nice ending, so I recommend that everyone read it.

Menu loyalty

What does this mean and what does it mean to a waiter?

Basically it means using your menu knowledge in order to build guest loyalty.

It’s loyalty to the menu from the waiter which in turn builds guest loyalty to the menu and, by extention, to the restaurant. while service is generally considered to trump the food in a restaurant (this verified by countless surveys and studies in the industry), the food is still where the rubber meets the road.

When the waiter can communicate the passions of those who create the food through their hard labor, they complete the package. Not only do they represent the Chef and his crew, they also represent the guest in that they can act as a guide to offer the exact meal that satisfies the guest. Too many waiters take a passive approach and this does no service to the guest, the kitchen and the restaurant itself.

By knowing the menu and the components that create the synergy of a meal, the great waiter acts as a tour guide and consultant – the goal is to match the guest’s preferences, biases, and intention with the menu. When you can identify those needs of the guest and pull from an extensive menu the perfect meal, the waiter performs the ultimate service. It isn’t enough to act as entertainer, babysitter and order taker. To put the cherry on top of the sundae, the waiter must discover the perfect meal hidden in that menu.

How does the waiter do that?

By creative and accurate descriptions of the food through “selling the sizzle”, answering questions about exotic ingredients, identifying potential landmines such as allergies, dislikes, and, dare I say it, weaknesses in certain dishes. they do it by highlighting standout performers, using descriptive and mouthwatering adjectives and passing along an enthusiam for the food and talent of those who have created the food.

You can only do this is you have a mastery of everything that goes into each dish. Once you gain this knowledge, you can effortless communicate the quality of your menu offerings, whether it be the humble hamburger or the most elaborate iconic dish. You bring your knowledge to bear in order to bring the menu to life.

Never let your responsibility in this regard lie fallow.

Culinary term of the day – gastrique

No, gastrique isn’t a digestive aid. Well, not in the traditional sense, at least.

Gastrique is a sauce variation, created by the reduction of vinegar and sugar and usually includes a fruit component. The sugar is usually caramelized. Sometimes a gastrique is simply vinegar and caramelized sugar and it’s added to a fruit component that exists in a dish (for instance, you might have duck with cherries and a gastrique is added in order to combine with the cherries and bridge the gap between the fruit and the meat) and sometimes fruit juice or straight fruit is added directly to the gastrique to creat a “fruit sauce”. Occasionally, you might find the addition of wine or port to the basic gastrique.

The most common fruits used are lemon, oranges and tomatoes, although virtually any fruit can be used.

Gastriques aren’t usually “sweet”, per se. When you caramelize the sugar, it reduces the sweetness.

A gastrique is useful for adding acidity to a dish and is a nice change from heavy cream or roux-based sauces.