What is Degustation? A peak inside the world of culinary delight and sample degustation menus
Degustation is an exalted activity for the select few who have the opportunity of tasting small portions of the chef's specially prepared exotic dishes. Let's take a look into what degustation is all about, its history and a sample degustation menu. Fasten your seat belts for an armchair culinary roller coaster.
What is degustation?
Pronounced as 'dee-gus-stay-shun', the meaning of degustation is basically 'small amounts to taste'. It modern times, degustation generally involves a multiple course meal that highlights a Chef's talent and creativity. The portions are generally small and the purpose of a degustation experience is to taste, rather than to simply eat. Degustation is not simply limited to saying "Mmmm, this is good." You must swirl and savor the food in your mouth, give out elaborate descriptions of the palette about how intricate the combination of ingredients were, appreciate the culinary gifts of the chef and interact with the elite company around you. Degustation menus can also include savories, cheese, dessert and wine amongst many other edible items. Ladies and gentlemen - welcome to the art of tasting.
History of degustation
Food historians and food critics believe that the origins of degustation can be traced to the Middle Ages in France where Chefs had 15 to 20 courses to degust. The degustation experience early evening only to end in the wee hours of dawn. There are others who also believe that degustation has run down from the eccentricities and passion of the great French chef Georges Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935). It is believed that Escoffier kick started the tradition of combining unprecedented flavors and ingredients such as Beluga caviar with turtle soup and lemon ginger sorbet.
Escoffier was known to satisfy the whims and fancies of his haughty royal European guests. He was unknowingly developing a style of cuisine that came to be known as cuisine classique in the 1900s. The master chefs of the 1960s rebelled against the obnoxious and preposterous combinations of Escoffier. This gave birth to a style called nouvelle cuisine. What is now known as a degustation dinner or a degustation menu originated from these very traditions of gastronomic delight.
Degustation: Interesting facts, trivia and more
- Degustation menus usually include 8 to 12 courses and are accompanied by a wine or dessert degustation.
- Degustation in the modern landscape of the hotel and culinary industry allows chefs to experiment with their creative best. It is also a growing sign of customers being more open to a range of cuisines and wild concoctions.
- In the 21st century, degustation no more remains the pursuit of the elite and the haute couture of the culinary arts. Having entered the public domain, degustation dinners are held frequently and many a times are open to public on invitation. All degustation menus are no longer excruciatingly expensive.
- The chef's ability of creating a perfect degustation menu is also judged by the fact that you are not left overfed and overstuffed after finishing 12 courses. If someone suggests you to get a shot of Macchiato or a gourmet ice cream on your way home, you should be perfectly willing to do so.
- Restaurants that present degustation dinners will generally provide elaborate and detailed information regarding the seasons in which the produce was grown, the production techniques employed, a few statistics about the rare ingredients, how the dish attempts to create a balance of taste and so on.
- The famous UK restaurant Fat Duck headed by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal holds degustation dinners that last for more than 4 hours! He is known for his molecular gastronomy and unusual, unheard-of exotic preparations.
- There is an unspoken protocol to be followed while attending degustation dinners. You must book prior for being served a degustation menu or you should pick a set aside degustation night. A degustation will be typically long, so be ready to be seated from 4 to 5 hours. Do not wear heavy perfume that may interfere with your own or someone else's sensory experience.
Food items from degustation menus
Check out a few names of the items that feature on degustation menu from around the world.
- Vietnamese gazpacho and cinnamon with anise-scented pork hock terrine
- Kingfish with crab and fennel salad
- Malt-sugar coated oyster
- Wagyu Beef
- Murray cod
- Quince ice-cream with petals of elderflowers
- Chorizo with a ginger glacée and a touch of 100% Ivory Coast cocoa
- Chilled cucumber soup with sheep yoghurt ice cream
- Fillet of mulloway with asparagus and pil pil, braised ox tail, sea cucumber and yuzu
- Sorbet of Pione grapes with a summer pudding
Sample degustation menu
Here is a glimpse of what a 5 course degustation menu from an Australian restaurant in Brisbane looks like.
- Amuse bouche
- Native plate: our signature selection of native game meats, fruits, nuts, berries, spices with damper bread all prepared in house by our chefs
- Ceviche of Cairns farmed Crocodile with a strawberry gum and tonka bean cure, raspberry vinaigrette and watercress salad
- Palate cleanser
- Seared Queensland Kangaroo fillet with lemon myrtle jus, pumpkin puree, braised spring onions and gremolata
- Your choice of mixed dessert plate OR Chef's assiette of cheese
Source: Tukka Restaurant Brisbane, Australia