Tastebud: Venerable, Imitable, Spreadable Camembert


Presented to Napoleon III on the inaugural day of the 1855 World’s Fair, Camembert first appeared during the late 19th century in the Norman village of the same name. Bloomy, fruity, and prone to spoilage, Brie-like Camembert stayed a local favorite for decades, until the invention of its signature wooden box and the advent of the railroad could carry the downy wheels to Paris and beyond. So en vogue was the cheese that it became the most copied in the world, prompting the French government to award Normandy-produced Camembert its Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée in 1983.

Aside from inspiring imitations, the cheese has also been an unlikely muse for the arts: a limp, sun-melted wheel of Camembert moved Salvador Dali to paint the famously languid timepieces in his Surrealist masterpiece, The Persistence of Memory. According to the MoMA Highlights catalog, the artist went on... Read more >

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Tastebud: Let Them Eat Brioche!


Once a symbol of luxury, brioche is a classic, egg and butter–enriched French bread that is traditionally baked in a circular, fluted pan. Crowned with a smaller globe of dough, it becomes brioche à tête. The richness of brioche stands up to intensely savory foods like foie gras and also works well in decadent desserts. Shortly before the French Revolution, shortages of plain bread were common in poor communities. To curb starvation (and prevent uprisings), the law required that fancier breads like brioche had to be sold at a lower, regulated price. The expression “Let them eat cake,” frequently misattributed to Marie Antoinette, actually stems from this 18th-century mandate.

Brioche is no longer inciting revolution, but it is showing up on many plates at the Beard House. In fact, Michael Giletto will serve it twice, placing fennel aspic on slices of caramel brioche with fried salsify

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Tastebud: Malt

Namesake of 1950’s hangouts and a classic American beverage, malted milk is a combination of malted barley, wheat flour, and whole milk, with the liquid evaporated away. After the English brothers William and James Horlick relocated to Wisconsin in the mid-1800s, they set out to develop a malt-based health food for infants and invalids. The duo, dubbed the Horlicks Food Company, soon invented a formula fortified with powdered malt called “Diastoid.” Although the name didn’t stick, malted milk caught on with Antarctic explorers, who included the Horlicks product in their rations for its high caloric content and resistance to spoilage. Back in more hospitable climates, soda fountain customers discovered that malted milk just tasted great, stirring it into milk and chocolate syrup. The drink got even better when a Walgreens employee named Ivar "Pop" Coulson threw in a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream, creating the “Horlick’s Malted

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Tastebud: Introducing the Sudachi

Looking to put some pep on your plate? Consider the zesty sudachi, a prized Japanese citrus that remains largely unknown to American diners. Despite its humble size—its average weight hovers between one and one and a half ounces—a sudachi packs more zippy flavor than lemons or limes. The perfume of its skin fades as the fruit matures, so growers harvest the sudachi when still green and unripe. Japanese chefs use it to garnish sashimi and season grilled fish, soups, and hot pot dishes. Sudachi trees thrive in the warm, gentle climate of Tokushima, a prefecture on the southern coast of Japan, where they are a cheap commodity. But throughout the rest of the country sudachi are considered a delicacy and fetch sky-high prices. Beyond Japan’s borders, the fruit is rarely seen.

Fortunately, chefs who cooked at the Beard House this spring gave diners a taste without asking to see a passport: Asiate’s Brandon Kida served sudachi granita, while David Myers and Noriyuki Sugie paired sudachi with fluke sashimi. And next Monday, Shin Thompson of Chicago’s Boinsoirée will serve the citrus with sea beans, pickled radishes, duck skin,... Read more >

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Tastebud: An Encore for the Intermezzo

Intermezzi make a comeback at the James Beard House

Italian for “interval,” an intermezzo is an icy interlude, a small dish to be consumed between courses, rejuvenating the palate and prepping it for the rest of the meal. Also known as palate cleansers, intermezzi tend to be sorbets, granitas, or other icy treats that are usually flavored with fruit, especially highly acidic citrus. While the fat and salt of previous courses deaden your taste buds, acidity perks them up; following a couple of savory dishes with a spoonful of lemon sorbet is like hitting a “reset” button on your tongue. Auguste Escoffier encouraged chefs to serve sorbets or other ices between courses, which helped popularize the intermezzo in 19th-century Europe. (The French legend himself was fond of Punch Romaine, an alcoholic lemon–orange ice that refreshed the tongues of diners aboard the Titanic.)

Over the past year intermezzi have popped up on an unusually high number of Beard House menus. We've seen a wide range of

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