Succulent. Juicy. Savory. Luscious. Tender. Tantalizing. Full bodied. Orgasmic…
Words that evoke physical feelings of pleasure from the tips of your pretty pedicured toes to the top of your finely coiffed tresses make you pause and take notice of the subject in question. If you sit and contemplate the word, odd things may happen: you lick your lips, you run your fingers through your hair, a flirty smile passes over your face… physical manifestations of whatever private thought that is flickering from your memory to your conscious mind when you ascribe that one little frisky adjective to an unsuspecting noun. In short, you have a blissful response that encompasses your mind, body and soul.
While some of your minds are now in more carnal places (don’t deny it, I can tell), my true foodies out there applied at least one of those lovely descriptive words to some type of gastronomic creation (well, at least eventually you did). A succulent, juicy steak with a tantalizing and savory Marchand de Vin composed butter paired with a full bodied Merlot is so much more enjoyable than just a NY Steak with a sauce and some wine. Notice the difference? When you describe the eating experience to the diner before they have fully decided on what they would like to explore with their palate, they begin eating with their eyes and applying all of their five senses to the vision of the food in their minds. As the chef, you have already set yourself up for culinary success by causing your guests to embark on a road to their own blissful food response before you have even turned on the oven.
That is the art of menu writing. In my humble, yet royal, Princess opinion, the difference between a list of food options, an index of ingredients and a menu is the experience it provides to the diner. Assuming you have equally delectable entrees, the one that will cause more enjoyment at the earliest point in the dining experience is the one that sounds so good on the page that the guest waits with fervent expectation from the moment they place their order until their much awaited selection arrives to their table.
A good menu plays hard to get. It is like a woman whose mother trained her well: it gives you just enough to get you interested, keeps you wanting more, doesn’t give up all the goodies until you make your final purchase and keeps you satisfied for an extended period of time. While a good menu should employ the tactic of a few carefully selected specialized adjectives to peak your interest, it should also use its wiles to craft a well-rounded flavor profile from hors d’oeuvres through dessert. In a true fine dining experience, each course should be portioned to be satisfying, but not overwhelming. We all know that an overly attentive (aka nagging) woman is a lonely woman and the same principle applies to a menu. The food should fulfill the patron’s needs, but keep them craving what’s next. Even after the dessert, your guest should want to return to see what new experience awaits him next time. In the patron’s absence from your table, some of those lovely adjectives should linger in his mind and on the tip of his tongue, driving him to return in the near future.
You may not own a restaurant or catering establishment that produces menus on a regular basis, but try writing a menu for your next dinner party or event. Use quality paper, take time with the layout concept, employ some juicy adjectives and artfully construct a complete flavor profile that will wow your guests. Assuming you have the cooking skills to back up all your fancy talk, your menu could be the difference between a polite smile and an anxious lip nibble.
Explore food with all your senses, understand that food is pleasure and stay blessed!