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A Guide to Some Basic Menu Items

By D Magazine |

Your old college roommate, who has spent the past 12 years in the foreign service, is in town. Eager to impress, you have taken him and his wife to your favorite restaurant.

“Oh, how charming,” she says. “It reminds me of the little place outside of Dijon where we had that wonderful paté d’ alouettes en pantin.” Her French sounds as elegant as a chanson by Poulenc.

“Funny you should say that,” he says. “I was thinking of that restaurant on the Loire where we had the quenelles de brochet à la lyonnaise.” When he speaks French he sounds like Jacques Brel. Then they turn to you. “Why don’t you order for us? I’m sure you know what’s best.”

How can you admit that when you come here you usually point to items on the menu and generally put yourself in the kind hands of the waiter? Once again, you resolve to take that crash course in French at Berlitz.

The following glossary won’t transform you into Craig Claiborne overnight, but it may make you feel a bit more comfortable the next time you face an unfamiliar menu. The pronunciations are good healthy American equivalents. It’s well to remember that French, unlike English, is a relatively unaccented language – that is, each syllable of a word gets almost equal stress.

There are some items you encounter on almost every Continental menu, but sometimes the more familiar an item, the more timorous one becomes about asking what it really is. Here are some standbys that everybody ought to know about.

Bouillabaisse (boo-ya-base): A fish stew – and there the definition ends and the controversy begins. What kind of fish? What else? Garlic, herbs, tomatoes? Purists say the only real bouillabaisse is to be found on the Mediterranean around Marseilles. Nevertheless, there are some more than reasonable facsimiles around town.

Cassoulet (cass-oo-lay): Nothing more formidable than a bean stew that formed a mainstay of peasant cooking in Languedoc. A good cassoulet is made with pork or mutton and sometimes also sausage, duck or goose.

Coq au vin (coke oh van): Chicken cooked in wine with bacon or pork, herbs, garlic, and mushrooms.

Coquilles Saint-Jacques (coke-eel san zhock): Scallops, usually served in the shell with a variety of sauces and garnishes.

Crepes (krep – not “crapes”): Thin pancakes which can be wrapped around everything from spinach to strawberries. Crepes Suzette, delicately seasoned and flamed in liqueurs, were created for that famous roue, Edward, Prince of Wales, and named for a young lady in his party. Thus ended the Victorian era.

Pate (pah-tay): Literally, a pate is a pie, a pastry shell filled with a fish or meat mixture. If it doesn’t have a pastry shell, it’s a terrine (teh-reen). Obviously, there can be an infinite variety of pates and terrines. The most famous, of course, is pate de fois gras (duh fwah grah), featuring the liver of a force-fed goose.

Quiche (keesh): Quiche is the first French food since the crepe to catch on big with Americans. It hasn’t achieved Dallas has for many years taken pride in the quality and variety of its restaurant fare. Whether one is a newcomer, an oldtimer, or a visitor to our city, one soon discovers that dining in Dallas is a matter of too many good choices rather than too few. Our city-wide menu ranges from chicken-fried steak to Beef Wellington, from Peking Duck to Spanish paella, from herb omelettes to lobster crepes.

D Magazine and the Dallas Chamber of Commerce therefore take great pride in presenting our official Dallas Restaurant Guide, a handy reference we hope you will use often. With a circulation of 150,000, this is the biggest and best dining guide in the city. We hope our guide will help you to enjoy all that is best about dining in our Southwestern and cosmopolitan city, whether you want authentic Texas barbecue or fine continental cuisine.

Wick Allison

Editor and Publisher

D Magazine

Dan Petty


Dallas Chamber of Commerce

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