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An amuse bouche, which translates to "to please the mouth," is a tempting appetizer that a chef usually supplies at the beginning of the meal. Different from hors d'oeuvres, this dish is the greeting of a chef, an acknowledgement of a diner's patronage, and also a way for the chef to show customers just how creative he or she can be. The alternate expression amuse gueule is often avoided because gueule translates to specifically an animal’s mouth.
This appetizer is typically bite sized, small enough to pop in the mouth, but interesting enough to prepare the palate for the rest of the meal. Diners will typically find chefs serving them in finer restaurants, especially those that offer pre-fixed meals or meals of several courses. What is included in this tiny tidbit can vary considerably.
Some of the more adventurous chefs start meals with an amuse bouche that is served in a tiny cup or spoon. It could be a small spoon of a delicious soup, a salmon mousse, or a demitasse of mint sorbet. Presentation is a valuable part of the experience, and so many ideas are used for keeping presentation beautiful and thought provoking. As well as spoons or cups, some chefs use the larger Chinese spoon, skewers, or even easy to handle fruit or vegetable slices as the base for a mousse or topping. A baby potato or a homemade cracker or crouton might also easily inspire a dish.
Home cooks can often easily construct appetizers based on this principal. Any dish that requires one bite only qualifies, but if the cook chooses to call an appetizer an amuse bouche, it should be plated singly and served formally, instead of being presented on a tray. Items served on a tray are hors d’oeuvres or appetizers.
There are many ideas for this little taste online and in cookbooks. Alternately, cooks can start experimenting with different taste combinations to see what develops. People shouldn't forget items like sushi pieces and dim sum as possible candidates. They can be very popular and memorable beginnings to meals.
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