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February 28, 2006



We are rather fond of leeks vinaigrette chez nous also. I didnt think to add paprika. Fred loves paprika. I will try that with them next time.
In my experience I have found the US to be not very leek-centric.
We would eat leeks every week in the winter when I was growing up in the UK, sometimes just with a simple cheese or mornay sauce. My dad used to grow them on his allottment. Unlike most vegetables my mum cooked, these ones I loved.


PS maybe if you had have called it "leeks vinaigrette"? That would have struck a bigger chord (well with me anyway) because it is a dish I find almost irresistable. (depending what else was there to tempt me on the menu of course) 'Marinated with paprika' doesnt sound quite the same.


The only thing that irritates me more than lengthy menu descriptions is the recitation by a server of the same. Listen, I am obviously not a callow young diner who doesn't know what the terms mean. I try nodding quickly to indicate that cooking methods and exotic veggies are familiar, but they rarely take the cue. Ah, me. What are we to do??

But leeks: yes! I discovered them as a callow young diner eons ago in those cheap little French places down near the waterfront on Manhattan's West Side. I was always torn between ordering one of two classic starters: leeks vinaigrette or envdive (same). I adore them for their sweetness and their silky texture, fixed that way. Without them potato soup would be the poorer, and chicken soups would be much less flavorful. Keep them on the menu and keep quiet about it, I say.


Sam: You are of course right about the leeks vinaigrette part. See, I was trying to circumvent the clientele that doesn't know what leeks vinaigrette is and trying to describe the dish by its components rather than relying on the (too often forgotten) classical description. We'll try that on the next reprint.

Also, the tuna dish on this menu has red wine vinaigrette, so I was also trying to break up the fish/vinaigrette thing on the printed menu.


Well, put me on the short bench: I love leeks.


It's a pity about the scallops. We even got A to eat them, and she is a self described scallop hater. She was delighted with them as I was, and she even tried a bit of the tuna tartare. Them there scallops were some good eatin'.

I didn't spot those sneaky leeks. Next time I'm in I'll have to get that, since I adore leeks vinaigrette. Leeks are delightful and a gift from God, green and splendid. I had some with lunch, as a matter of fact. I fear the person who would be allergic to them.

I think a lot of diners around here are afraid to explore, afraid they won't like a new flavour experience. As a result, they short change themselves on a lot of delicious foods. Sometimes I want to sit them down and start force feeding them, I tell you.


its good to see u concern both on guests needs and ur own needs as a chef and owner....looks like a lot of peep are turning off from food that sort of garlicky or onion smells. Even here in Malaysia, ppl are turning away from that and with the word tartare - its even worse....they are just so scared of food poisoining as they dont truly understand the preparation..well, thats life, aint it ?


It is a tough one. Personally, I prefer brevity on the menu but I can see why it's in your interest as the owner, to list the ingredients and keep the customer fully informed. As and when the lesser know leek allergy rears its ugly head, I'm sure paranoid sufferers will quiz their waiters and ensure that their dish never shared the same work surface as a leek.

From a lot of what I've read on here, it looks like you've got a decent FOH team. Could you not pare down the menu and let them explain the details of individual dishes if customers ask? That way, you could surreptitiously serve them things they wouldn't otherwise order, but they'll suddenly discover they love. Thus allowing you to wear your toque and owner hat at the same time.


As someone who eats out far too often, I prefer the short description. I don't mind being surprised--I'll ask about an item if it interests me--and I hate it when a dinner companion freaks out when they hear something as innocuous as "potato galette."

"Shut up!" I say. "It's not a shit burger! Eat it!"

There's a joint in my neighborhood in St. Paul, MN, called the Barbary Fig. Yes, shameless plug here, because the chef/owner, who goes by "Hadj" is a slave to the place. Hadj is from North Africa, trained in Southern France, and he whips out the best tagines...well, I'd say anywhere. I bring everyone visiting from out-of-town there. The servers are decriptive, but not overly so, and it's great, because many of my dining guests will be amazed at a flavor and feel compelled to ask the staff. Then they're wowed again, because they would have never put it in their mouth had they known. I'm with Silverbrow: the food allergy people always ask. If not, what's a little anaphylactic shock among friends?

I can make that joke because I have to carry around an Epi-pen myself in the summer, so BACK OFF you sensitive types.


3 (probably) useless suggestions:

1 - Trot out "poireaux". Sounds better than "leek".

2 - Get all Keller. Like "Cod Springs a Leek" or something.

3 - Get all post-Keller. Julianne them and call it "Ling Cod with Red Leek 'Pappardella'"


I second johng's suggestions, any of them. I'm partial to 1, but I'm French. Then again, it would most likely get people to ask what exactly is a poireau: "oh, it's very good" should be the explanation.

Dr. Biggles

Yeah Lewis!

Screw the customer. I say, make up a name, translate it in to French or Italian and serve it. If they want to know they can damned well ask.
This is one of the things I enjoy about Fatted Calf. Their newsletter rolls out with names I've never heard of and I google. Nada. That's right, nada. Perfection. It's a mystery that needs to be solved by Sherlock Pork!


Thanks for all the bon mots. I really love that we are now living in a "post-Keller" age.

Of course after I write the piece cod sales picked up. It's always hard to gauge what will be selling after only a day or two of the menu. Especially when you're in the absolute S-L-O-W-E-S-T time of the year.

On the next reprint we'll change descriptions and I'll let you know how it works out.

One interesting thing has been brought up. What things do you see on a menu that make you say, "Oh yeah, I'm having that?"

David Blaine

Is the post-Keller age a time when we can do away with "essence". Menu description are getting too long with every ingredients farm of origin listed. Adding useless terms like "lemon essence" only muddles up people's understanding of what the food will taste like. That is why people read menus, right? Furthermor, I have been backing away from unnecessary foreign terminology because sometimes calling crostini "fancy toast" can show a necessary sense of humor that puts diners at ease.
As to the question of menu descriptions that draw my attention, I look for dishes that provide a hint that this isn't just a space filler menu item but a plater of passion for the Chef. Nobody makes their own charcuterie because they need another meat dish, they do it because that is what they enjoy.


I wrote post-Keller cause it sounded post-cute, but it is not really accurate. The kind of "in quotes" menu item I used it to describe is used by many chefs, in particular, my friend Hiro Sone of Terra and Ame, who has been at it as least as long as Keller.


Very true John, but post-Keller does indeed sound post-cute. And I for one, love it.


Sincerely, since I have been taking cooking classes, the things I order have changed dramatically from "same old things I know and love" to "exctiting adventurous things I have never had before" or brave food that takes me outside my comfort zone" or "well that sounds ointerest and I wouldnt make it at home"

I didn't make any resolutions for 2006, but if I had made one "to expand my palate" then so far I am still doing very well.


I'm very much in agreement with Sam, esp. in ordering things I don't cook at home. That's the best reason to go out, no?

I mean, I don't think I would want roast chicken (well -- maybe Zuni's) or simple pasta, both of which show up all too often in my own kitchen. I love trying things that take forever to cook (cassoulet, confit, et al) or things that require really wizard technique.

Often, just one unexpected ingredient in a menu description will prompt a "Hmmmm" reaction and usually an order.

While I almost never eat dessert chez moi, I find adventurous endings to a meal a right treat,


What triggers choice on a menu... Here we can all say we go out to eat things we wouldn't cook at home (which is exactly what I do) yet every restaurateur (at least here in the Midwest) knows that if things are too outlandish, the general public won't eat it--I'm talking the white diners here, mind you. Our minority communities are expanding exponentially in the Twin Cities, and they are bringing all their regional flavors to the scene, thank the lord. But we've got several "traditional chefs" here who are also expanding the traditional Minnesota palate in both sneaky and over-the-top ways. From the over-the-top category: one of the hottest joints in town where suburbanites like to rub against each other serves Cui (guinea pig) and a variety of bugs, in addition to the other, more-familiar-but-jazzed-up-slightly items. I suppose the mammoth-sized, foo-foo mixed drinks help those few eaters (they have to order well-ahead for the guinea pig; he doesn't keep 'em around) be less averse to risk taking, but the chef's the real deal, and that's his goal. To expand horizons.

But, yeah, for all the experimentation, sometimes I just want a pot roast, and I don't feel like cooking it.


My suggestion is to add bacon somehow.

Adding bacon can sell anything,
except maybe dessert

(unless you're in Spain.)


David: I agree. Personally I never met a piece of seafood that wouldn't benefit from a piece of pork. Perhaps the only good thing to come out of the Inquisition was this seafood/pork combo thing.


I'm kinda torn here. Leeks are a great vegetable(?), they add a certain twist to a recipe when substituted for one of their onion relatives, so for the most part i have no problem with your idea of not telling the audience who's playing the part of those green things.

On the other hand, I may love leeks, but leeks dont like me very much. When i put them in a chicken soup, I have an enjoyable meal, with a little discomfort. Now, if I line my roasting pan with them and lay a chicken on that, or put leeks in a salad...its pretty much near-comatose time. I have a hard time breathing, feel disoriented and depressed and have weird aches, pains and breakouts.

I say, maybe you should tell your customers about the leeks, you dont have to go indepth, maybe just put it in between two commas on the menu. It sounds odd but, I hadnt even heard about the existence of leek allergies until i connected the dots of my cooking and symptoms. The allergy might not be common, but you never know, maybe theres someone out there that has a leek reaction similar to those with peanut allergies.

but thats just me

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