Lucy Junus

It has happened to us all. We open the menu, read a mouthwatering description of a meal, and, when we go to order, have no idea how to pronounce the name of the dish. In the cosmopolitan foodie scene of San Francisco, dinner is a global affair, after all. Never fear. You can put away those pocket translators. Here are over 25 of the most common terms defined. After this, you’ll order like a well-traveled menu pro, or at least an adorable tourist.

Aperitif: French for “to open.” A light alcoholic beverage drank before meals to whet the appetite. Not to be confused with a digestif, consumed after meals to aid in digestion. Two fine-dining excuses to drink before and after your meal

Bocconcini: A delicious mouthful in Italian. Usually used to spruce up menu descriptions for bite-sized morsels like fresh mozzarella cheese.

Bottargo: Poor man’s caviar, cured and dried roe sack from mullet or tuna. The hard, salty roe is generally grated or sliced very thin over dishes to add a sea-salt flavor.

Brioche: A buttery, eggy, light, and puffy bread of French origin, aka the world’s best french toast ingredient.

Gelee: French for a type of gelled fatty liquid of meat, vegetable, or fruit variety — sometimes also known as aspic. Don’t be tripped up by the name: This is not your grandmother’s preserves, and it’s more likely to be made with calf’s feet or veal knuckles than with strawberries.

Gremolata: A traditional Italian condiment of lemon zest, chopped parsley, and garlic.

Haricots Verts: French green beans, plain and simple. Longer, more tapered, and harder to pronounce.|

Kobe + Wagyu: Japanese beef cattle that have been massaged with sake, fed a diet high in beer, and basically had a more charmed life than most people you know. Also high in omega-3s.

Lardon: Another French term, this time for small cuts of bacon or another high-fat meat cooked to a crisp. Seen tossed on salads, in pasta, or atop steak, “to lard the meat”—aka the Michelin-approved version of Bacon Bites.

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Panzanella: Bread salad. Stale bread
soaked in oil and vinegar along with
vegetables. This used to be a smart
way to use up stale bread in a cheap,
filling meal. Now it will cost a lot more,
but at least you’ll know now that
you’re ordering a bowl of old bread.

Papillote: Italian for “in parchment,”
a method of cooking in sealed parchment
paper to reserve juices. Makes your meal
look like a present.

Pistou: French word for pesto

Reconstituted: Describes food rehydrated to its original state from soaking it in water, stock, or wine.

Remoulade: Tartar sauce with a kick. A mayo-based sauce invented in France and popularized in Louisiana, it’s sometimes doctored with curry, pickles.

Succotash: Cooked sweet corn and beans mixed together for a fresh, filling salad. A staple in the Great Depression because of its affordability.

NOT BREAD. Thymus glands of lamb, veal, or Ms. Piggy baked until crisp and juicy.

Tapenade: A Provencal condiment dish made of pureed olives, capers, anchovies, and olive oil.

Vandyke: This is the name of decoratively cut vegetables with the zigzag edges.


This article was published:
Food Issue - Released October 2012
Issue 6 / Version 2 | Buy print copy here
Issue 12
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