What perks up your taste buds? What does it take to get you salivating? There is an art to describing foods, from menu creation and product promotion to the writing of restaurant and food reviews. Every word should hold a promise, a reward for your taste buds.
You need to know your stuff. That means understanding food at a level more than the simple act of gulping it down and asking for the dessert menu. To describe a dish, you need the subtlety of an artist, using words to create delicate brushstrokes of flavor and aromas, colors, textures, presentation and of course, method of cooking.
Descriptive words for reviews
You can roam the alphabet and find words like aromatic, acidic, ambrosial and airy. Then wander along to bursting (with a flavor of course), bitter, buttery, and citrusy. Crisp works well, as do chewy, creamy, crunchy, crumbly, comforting, cooling, dry (but we hope not), drizzled (for dressings), delicate, dainty and enticing. What about fresh, fiery, fudgy, fruity, flaky or forgettable? Then we have grated, shredded and mashed, just for variety. And don’t forget gooey, a great word for calorie-packed fondants. And we all love generous portions!
There are words to capture sweetness, such as sugary, syrupy and honeyed, or hot, intense, spicy, rich, refreshing, zesty or tangy for a bit of excitement? We can all go a bit nutty of over nuts as well, they add a lot to many dishes. Words can express unpleasantness, like acrid, burnt, cloying, curdled, mushy, pungent, singed and undercooked. And who can resist a tender, juicy, succulent steak? Or a silky-smooth custard?
The joy of food lies in the way it is prepared, not just the ingredients. From braised, baked, blanched and boiled to sautéed, toasted, roasted, glazed, fried, poached, scrambled, steamed or sous-vide, there are a multitude of ways to prepare food, each method bringing out different qualities. We go for battered, basted and bread-crumbed, and caramelized goodies that win our hearts on most occasions. The cream is best when whipped and marinated food is infused with flavors. A coulis enhances many dishes, and where would the world be without a jus or sauce?
How is it presented?
We eat first with our eyes, so the more attractive and appealing a dish is, the more eager our anticipation. Food can be stacked, enveloped, encased, or bathed (in a sauce), it can be scattered (over), balanced (upon), resting (on), wrapped, twirled or swirled. And each dish may be accompanied by some tasty sides.
Which review writer never fails to entertain and entice?
It is not just about the food, the experience counts for a lot. The ambiance, the service, and at the end of the day, value for money. Here is an excerpt to savor from one of our favorite critics.
“The kitchen that Hix installed has at its heart a charcoal grill and Clarke puts it to good use. From the small plates, the menu comes beetroot, roasted over the coals. It’s served with snowy peaks of soft sheep’s curd and a sweet-sour dill dressing, much like the mustard sauce you find with gravadlax. On another plate, leeks grilled until soft are paired with the crunch of almonds and then enveloped in grated truffle. There are also finger-sized ox cheek croquettes with a lightly fermented pineapple pickle underneath and a spoonful of a butch chili aioli on top. Clarke’s flavors are reliably huge. At lunch, there is a list of possibilities piled on top of heat-blistered naan bread for between £10 and £12: lamb shoulder with labneh and pickles, a mushroom and celeriac shawarma and, the one we have, sweet and salty tangles of shredded Tamworth pork butt and pickles on top of herbed crème fraîche. Tear and fold. Now wipe your hands. Clarke’s long experience at the fancier end of the business is most obvious in a pitch-perfect plate of grilled hake with roasted leeks, spun through with crab meat and aioli and nutty cocoa beans. The skinny, seasoned chips come skin on; the hispi cabbage has been grilled to a chopped and gloriously buttery mess.
The dessert menu is short and to the point. An intense scoop of chocolate mousse comes perched on a bowl full of salted caramel cream, with crisp wafers of dark chocolate. It’s a steal for £5. Our other dessert is the niggling thing that Niles and Frasier Crane liked to pick at in an otherwise fabulous meal. It’s listed as quince and rose trifle and if there was a Trifle Defence League, I imagine they would be raging outside the doors of the Tramshed on Rivington Street with burning stakes guttering at the windows, albeit in a gently polite way, given the demographic of trifle lovers.”
Jay Rayner – The Tramshed Project, London: ‘It’s so now’: restaurant review in The Guardian
While there is no doubting that everyone has different peccadillos and foodie favorites, to share the details, and the feeling, your need to have an expansive, and sometimes expensive, grounding in the culinary world. Munch and brunch on, we say, and work towards a thickening waistline and a host of sublime memories to share.