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Enough With Girl Dinner, Let's Bring Back The Amuse-Bouche

Revisiting the art of the OG appetizer.

“Amuse-bouche” is French for “girl dinner” — or, at the very least, you could be forgiven for believing as much. The two culinary isms, however dissonant in vibe, share the same basic premise: curated snacks (anything from loose string cheese on a plate to, say, Pecorino Romano PDO gildas, skewered with olives and fresh anchovies).

Translating more literally to that which amuses the mouth, an amuse-bouche offers a more poetic, intentional take on the TikTok dining craze (the likes of which often boils down to a rogue selection of proteins and pickles arranged haphazardly on a platter). That said, low-maintenance as girl dinner may be, perhaps there’s some merit to taking a more conscious, intentional approach to our pre-meal consumption.


Sure, the concept of amuse-bouche might sound distinctly similar to an appetizer, or an hors d'oeuvre — but the idea here is not to sate hunger. Rather, it’s to wake up the mouth, amuse, prepare the palate for the novelty of what’s to come throughout the course of the meal. “The biggest difference between an amuse-bouche and an appetizer is that the amuse-bouche is very small, usually only one-to-two bites and, accordingly, free,” says Connie Chung, chef and cofounder at Milu (formerly of Eleven Madison Park fame). “Amuse-bouches can be very hard to create because you have to pack a lot of flavor into a very small, yet somehow complete dish. It can also be an opportunity for chefs to show off a bit, with unique flavor combinations or techniques.”

She’s right: Typically designed to be consumed in one bite — and/or with your hands, much like a canapé — the morsels tend to come as complimentary *gifts of the house* in restaurants. Think of them as a meal’s pre-game — but fully comped: Something as simple as sliced apple with shaved Pecorino Romano PDO, and a dab of fig jam. “It’s all in the title: Amuse. You’re giving people something to eat that’s exciting, that’s entertaining the palate,” says Feisal Lagos, a chef and creative consultant, who cut his culinary teeth at veteran New York spots like Roberta’s, Empellon, and Uncle Boons. “You’re waking up both the mouth and the stomach. It’s not about filling up on cheese and crackers — it’s about introducing some flavor.” 


And the benefit is not merely hypothetical: According to Lagos, a flavor-balanced bite can induce the production of saliva — which, by nature, helps prepare the palate (and the stomach) for heartier fare. “An amuse-bouche is your first bite, which sets the tone for the meal,” adds Chung. “At a fine-dining restaurant, it’s usually something ultra-refined. At a more casual restaurant, it’s often made with the trim from other dishes. Either way, it should be super flavorful and indicative of the meal to come. 

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Rather than a grazing board of meats and cheeses, you might find an amuse-bouche in the form of a thimble-sized shooter of gazpacho. Maybe a hard, nutty cheese like Pecorino Romano PDO whipped with olive oil into foam, atop a single wafer. “A well-rounded meal is good for the soul, and [an amuse-bouche] is a part of that,” says Shenarri Freeman, chef at L.A.’s new Ubuntu. “And for chefs and diners, stepping outside of your norm can be refreshing.”

While the notion of more mindless picking has seemingly consumed the internet (pre-dating girl dinner: butter boards, charcuterie overload, tinned fish, the list goes on), the amuse-bouche project is far more intentional. It’s a vehicle of presence — a single bite that begs your full attention for however long it takes you to chew and swallow. “It can be a multitude of things — but in my experience, it’s an opportunity for chefs to play with some really out-there, specific flavors,” Lagos adds. “You can go high salinity, salty, creamy, acidic — but often, you’re messing with a mix of all of the above. For instance: A potato chip with crème fraîche and caviar. It’s an interplay of textures, and flavors, and really all you want is one bite.”


So how, exactly, do you go about crafting your ideal amuse-bouche? Well, according to Lagos, it’s often about style. Without presenting a full-on course, it’s a way for chefs to play around at the drafting board, to flex knife skills, to make use of refuse or an excess of any given seasonal ingredient.

Au contraire, an amuse bouche can also be as simple as pure, unadulterated cheese. “Pecorino Romano PDO is so flavorful, it can simply stand alone. It has main attraction energy. So don’t be afraid to serve is at the start of a meal as its own dish,” says private chef and TikTok personality, Kara Fauerbach.

“It doesn’t have to be a wild, overwhelming experience — it can just be about picking something super intentional to snack on while you’re cooking, or to feed to guests before a meal,” Lagos adds. For Chung, too, that ethos prevails. An amuse-bouche need not be some obsessive, high-caliber endeavor. “As far as making an amuse bouche-style bite at home, there’s nothing wrong with riffing on childhood snacks,” she explains. “Everyone loves a cracker with some cheese and/or meat. I’d add a pickle (or something pickled) for punch.” 

For Lagos, then, fresh husk cherries from the farmer’s market are often enough, or seasoned slices of orange. “When I was a kid, growing up around Latin American cuisine, my mom would give me a fresh-made corn tortilla with cultured butter and salt before dinner was ready,” he shares. “I still believe that’s a perfect amuse-bouche.”


Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or of the granting authority. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

For further amuse bouche inspiration, check out the Pecorino Romano PDO Instagram account:

Or, try out this recipe for red beef carpaccio with citrus fruits and Pecorino Romano PDO:

Ingredients (for 4 people):

  • 320 g of defatted red beef fillet
  • 2 porcini mushrooms
  • 60 g flakes of Pecorino Romano DOP
  • mixed cut salads
  • wild fennel
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 orange
  • Salt and Pepper To Taste
  • extra virgin olive oil to taste


Cut the fillet into thin slices of approximately 2 mm, place it on a tabletop plate, garnish with the salads, the sliced ​​porcini mushrooms, the flakes of Pecorino Romano DOP and the fennel. Season with the previously prepared citrus emulsion composed of: juice of half a lemon, juice of half an orange, a pinch of salt, pepper and 60 g of extra virgin olive oil.

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