The 5 Great Food Luxuries
Posted: Apr. 13, 2018
As Jonathan Swift said, “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.” Ever since that early act of bravery, oysters and other epicurean delights have provided countless moments of gourmand gratification.
Yet among such gourmet foods, for instance, caviar and prosciutto, flavor profiles range widely. Freshness certainly plays a role in taste, but that is just one part of the magical recipe for deliciousness. Where a gourmet item is sourced is also a pivotal factor. Depending on where an ingredient is grown, cultivated, or raised, it can go from tasty to divine.
The nature of this kind of product sourcing is often more expensive than other food sourcing, as a result of the limited quantities that an area can produce. Yet from coast to coast, and worldwide too, critical opinions are unanimous: The higher prices for these delicacies are worth it. The taste and quality are just too good to argue with.
Despite imitators (many poor, some that come close to the real thing), there is no way to replicate such delicacies. To get the best, you have to go straight to the source. Below we check out five of the most popular delicacies around the world, and where they come from.
Although it isn’t edible, champagne might be the most popular delicacy known around the globe. The drink of choice for celebrations of any kind, from anniversaries to job promotions, champagne has been in existence for over 400 years.
Champagne is made in Champagne, France, a region that was distilling popular wines for French royalty long ago. Toward the end of the 1600s, the monastery Abby of Hautvillers (which was already producing popular wines) began to introduce a new, sparkling wine to the area. The bubbles in the wine are natural, given the cold climate and short growing time of the grapes in the Champagne region. Here enters the most famous champagne maker of all time: Dom Perignon, who was responsible for overseeing the cellars and winemaking. To this day, the Dom Perignon champagne brand continues to be the most prestigious, and the preferred choice by critics.
Real champagne can only be from Champagne. Champagnes that come from outside the French region are called “sparkling wines.” While delicious, it is impossible for these brands to replicate the flavor of the real French champagne, because the soil and climates are different.
There are the fish roe that cover a California sushi roll, and then there are the fish roe from a sturgeon—otherwise known as caviar. This delicacy did not become popular until the 1800s, when refrigeration methods were invented for travel. The French began to import the sturgeon caviar from Russia. Like most French fads, this one spread like wildfire among cultivated circles.
Caviar is traditionally served with toast, a boiled egg with the whites and yolk separated and crumbled, a small dollop of sour cream, white onions, and a shot of vodka. There are many who just skip out on the other food aspects, pairing the fish delicacy with vodka alone.
The best of the best caviar comes from one type of sturgeon, though: a beluga from the Black Sea, Caspian Sea, Adriatic Sea, or their rivers. One pound costs $3,000 and can be difficult to find. Only certain retailers carry caviar at all, as it is one of the most expensive food products on the market. The type of plankton the particular sturgeon feeds on, mixed with the minerals of the waters, creates a taste that cannot be imitated. If someone offers you hybrid or farm-raised caviar for this amount of money, hide your wallet.
There are hundreds of varieties of oysters, many of them delicious. Yet if you ask an oyster connoisseur where does one find the best oyster, you can be sure the answer will be: somewhere with cold waters. The colder the water, the crisper in flavor and texture the oysters will be—and the better they’ll taste. Oysters spawn in warmer temperatures, which changes both the consistency and flavor. Oysters from the Gulf of Mexico are always available, but they are incomparable to oysters that come from cold waters.
There is an old saying that you should only eat oysters in months with an “r”; otherwise, it’s just too warm. The saying dates back to a time before refrigeration when oysters would spoil quickly. Nonetheless, it still rings true. With summer coming to a close, now is a great time to source cold-water oysters and add them to your menu.
Prosciutto di Parma
Many producers offer a dry-aged ham that is thinly sliced and market it as prosciutto, yet none bears resemblance to the smoky, salty, and fragrant prosciutto from Parma, Italy. Its reputation dates back as early as 100 BCE, where Cato the “Censor” shared stories about eating an air-dried ham with extraordinary flavor.
This delicacy is on the cheaper end of the scale—compared to other gourmet items—yet there is a notable price difference between prosciuttos from Parma and those from elsewhere, which are cheaper. The scents carried by the winds—flowers, woods, grass—are particular to the Italian region, contributing to a singular flavor that has made it the most famous of all varieties.
To some, lobster is synonymous with delicacy. It’s a dish that is always received with wide eyes and childlike anticipation as it arrives steaming and bright red, with a side of melted butter (and hollandaise, depending on where you’re eating). Ordering a lobster for the first time is almost a ritual experience as if you finally reached adulthood. The irony is that all the while, you are also wearing a protective bib like a baby.
Ordering just any lobster is a mistake, though. A lesser quality of lobster can be used if mixed with mayonnaise and onions; from a puritanical standpoint, however, lobsters sourced from only two or three places will do. Maine lobsters are the most famous in the United States and deservedly get a place on this unofficial Best Lobsters list, in addition to lobsters from Norway.
One last piece of advice: When you have a chance to source Moroccan lobsters, jump on it. The waterways around Morocco happen to produce the best-kept secret in the food world. These crustaceans are so good that even our friends in the Northeast wouldn’t be able to help but indulge in one or two (secretly!).
Fine foods deserve the finest restaurant point-of-sale system.
Posted: Apr. 13, 2018 | Written By: Emma Alois
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