Amuses bouches have hit the unhip boroughs of our fine country (read: not New York). Now, everyone is amusing their bouches with them. Frankly, they’ve been uncool since 2002 among the hipsters, but since we don’t orbit in that galaxy, Daddy-o, we shall press on.
Trying to be hip myself (and thus always already outmoded), I’d say they are Derridean food, but it’s easier to prove and more 2008 if I just spit it out: they are tiny mouthfuls of fun that precede the appetizers in your fancy restaurant meal. Like appetizers, but smaller and more liberated, contradictory even — more fanciful, less leaden and less predictable. Amuses bouches are like the Beat Girl of appetizers:
(Yes, I watched this last night. You’re seeing the best of it. Well, maybe a café scene or two is better, especially since they use two of my husband’s favorite phrases, “you wanna fight? Then join the army,” and “aw, nuts.” He’ll be pleased to know the former phrase contained an even better ending: “you wanna fight? Then join the army! That’s what all the squares are doing.”)
But ANYWAY. Amuses bouches come from Paris, like Gillian Hills, the star of Beat Girl. There, they’re often called amuses gueules by the French poodles, which is too hard to say for us squares, so they became known as amuses bouches.
I translate these amusing mouthfuls most often when I have a very rich or very garlicky dish. My cream of kabocha pumpkin soup with bacon, for example, served at Thanksgiving. Or two or three strange flavors that might be overwhelming if they were served in larger portions, like this seared flank steak with Fraga Farm raw milk goat feta, boysenberry, and homemade blackberry-thyme vinegar. Just one mouthful, that’s the ticket, dad, something that makes your tastebuds sing. And sing they did: the metallic tang of the meat, the funk of the creamy fresh cheese, the tart musk of the berry, and the echo of vinegar.
Needless to say, with les amuses bouches, one needs to use absolutely pristine ingredients. Shell out for grass-fed local beef, Oregon Tilth (the big organic certifier around these parts) cheese, and just picked berries that you’ve rushed home from the vine. Your guests will be wild for those kicks, even if you’re a bit behind the times, verging, dare I say it, on square.
And that’s what I’ve got for you today. I’m gonna fade out, doll. Zero.