We eat for sustenance, but we dine for pleasure. There are many factors that contribute to an enjoyable dining experience. The atmosphere, service, and menu selection each play an important role, but ultimately it is the taste of the food we look forward to most of all. For avid diners, that fleeting moment of instant gratification when our taste buds jump to life in euphoria as one of our favorite foods dances across our palate is pure ecstasy. In previous posts we’ve talked about pairing seafood with beverages to bring out the flavor, but there is something else you can do to perk up your palate with or without alcohol.
There are five categories of taste: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. The latter is a Japanese word used to define a specific taste found in foods like shrimp, spinach, and certain cheeses. By choosing a food that represents each category, we can create a meal that will ignite the palate. Using our seafood dinner menu, if we start off our meal with a couple of appetizers, ordering shrimp cocktail and stuffed mushrooms gives us a snippet of each flavor. The shrimp cocktail is accompanied by cocktail sauce which is tangy, a flavor that is slightly sweet, bitter, and sour because of the spices used to make it. The shrimp and mushrooms provide the salty and umami flavors which complete the circle of flavors to round out the taste on the palate.
Staying with the same idea when we order dinner, choosing the Surf and Turf with a side of Asparagus Hollandaise achieves the same objective. The Florida lobster tail is mildly sweet and salty with umami coming out as the predominant flavor. The New York Strip or Filet Mignon is activates the salty part of the palate and is also moderately umami. The bitterness of the asparagus and sweetness of the hollandaise sauce brings the whole meal together. Entrees like the Chicken Teriyaki paired with rice pilaf, or the Fresh Fish of the Day Caribbean style will accomplish the same goal.
If there is room for dessert, the Key Lime Pie has all the flavors except bitter. Ordering coffee and a glass of Chateau St. Michele Riesling to be sipped between bites, is superb for conjuring each of the five tastes to the surface. When chocolate is your vice, the Chocolate Thunder, a dark chocolate cake layered with fudge and topped with pastry cream requires a nice Wente Estate Vineyards merlot and coffee. A split of champagne with the Cheesecake or is a perfect pairing and a cup of black coffee with the Candy Apple Walnut Pie is also a great choice to hit all five flavors.
We tend to believe that we lean more toward one type of flavor over another, but tasting elements of each flavor category can actually make for a much more exciting meal. The next time you come in to dine with us, try ordering for all five tastes and experience the difference. Sampling a different category with each bite will enhance your meal even further!