When it comes to the culinary movements, hardly a meal goes by without a term being dropped. Sure, you know you like the burger you ordered, but what does “a New American” style burger even mean? What is the difference between farm-to-table food and locavore-friendly fare? Check out below for some simple definitions so you never again have to spend a meal wondering what the heck slow food is.
Haute cuisine – in French, this term literally translates to “high cooking.” Though the average eater might associate all fine dining with this term, haute cuisine actually refers to a French style of cooking. Thus, this term is now considered fairly outdated; though many high-end American institutions may be narrowly defined as haute cuisine due to the usage of classical French techniques, this term is less common to use. Instead, “fine dining” is more often used in America.
Tasting menu – Tasting menus are du jour these days in the fine dining scene in many major cities, especially New York City. Though rather expensive, a “tasting menu” is not just a meal – it’s a dining experience. They are leisurely, often pricy meals lasting for hours with multiple courses. They consist of a fixed-price meals with various, chef-created courses of small portions artistically created. For example, Per Se, a famous New American and French restaurant in Columbus Circle, offers two different nine-course tasting menus each day for $295.
Farm-to-table – Big names in the farm-to-table movement include Alice Waters and Michael Pollan. If you haven’t heard of this culinary movement, it’s as simple as the name sounds: basically, serving fresh – often organic or sustainably produced – locally-sourced produce, meats, cheeses and other products with as little processing as possible. The method also champions the farmer and all workers within the agricultural industry, thus re-establishing a symbiotic relationship between producer and consumer. Think Friend of a Farmer, a restaurant in Gramercy Park, or ABC Kitchen in Union Square.
Slow food – It’s the opposite of fast food, of course! Founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986, this movement is the basis for farm-to-table because it glorifies sustainable cooking practices and close relationships within the food production industry. Petrini, an Italian revolutionary who fought against the opening of a McDonald’s branch near the Spanish Steps in Rome, sought to quell the rise in the globalization of agriculture. Slow food is an international movement, but in NYC famous slow food restaurants include Bubby’s in TriBeCa (slogan: “defending the American Table”) and Colicchio and Son’s in the Meatpacking District.
New American – Any New Yorker that likes to brunch has eaten “New American” even if they haven’t heard of it. This upscale cuisine puts a new spin on old American standbys with a flair for the international and an eye on classic techniques. Though hard to define, take the a basic burger, but put a New American twist on it – instead of a regular ground beef patty on a roll, maybe a slice or two of iceberg, and mayo look at a “New American” burger from somewhere like Williamsburg’s DuMont burger. House-ground choice beef patty on a locally sourced sweet roll, Bibb lettuce, organic tomato and red onion, and housemade pickles.