March 2004 Edition
Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche

by Susan Wesenhagen

Not quite an hors d'oeuvre and certainly not an appetizer - amuse bouche are bite-sized pre-appetizers that are showing up on fine dining menus from coast to coast.

Serving amuse bouche (ah-myuz boosh), literally translated as "fun for the mouth" or "mouth amuser" is a French culinary tradition. Because they are most often diminutive in size, the amuse bouche does not satisfy hunger. Unlike most menu items they are designed to amuse the palate rather than satiate a patron. Known as amuse bouche in most restaurants, they are familiarly called amuse-guele at home.

Restaurants offer an amuse bouche to stimulate the appetite and provide a teaser for the meal to follow. Most often created as a token of appreciation by the chef, amuse bouche do not appear on the menu and are usually complimentary. They are a welcoming gesture and because they are an unexpected feature of the meal, they are an ideal way to flatter the customer and generate customer loyalty.

An amuse bouche should be pleasing to the palate as well as amusing to the eye, and their artful nature should reflect the personal expression of the chef. For this reason no two amuse bouche are alike. The focus is on improvising to create an entertaining and tasty bite-sized morsel that will tempt and delight diners. And, while recipes for amuse bouche do exist, chefs are much more likely to create a different amuse each day, often using elements of the meal to follow, or a mix of seasonal fresh ingredients. In fact, most amuse bouche are created with just a few ingredients and concentrate on presentation, and subtle flavours.

Amuse bouche may be served up on small plates but are at their most delightful when an inventive serving dish is used such as small silver spoons, espresso cups or martini glasses which highlight their whimsical attributes.

With an amuse bouche, chefs are able to utilize their playful side while providing the discriminating gourmand with that something extra that is sure to keep them coming back again and again. ยจ

Creating an Amuse Bouche

DO use seasonal and local fresh ingredients.

Do use as few as 4-5 ingredients of high quality.

DO dare to be different. This is the opportunity to offer the unexpected - things the customer won't see on the menu.

DO use inventive dishes and serving containers.

Do have serving staff explain what an amuse bouche is and that it is a complimentary gesture on the part of the chef.