4 Tips to Broaden Your Palate
- Be a selective diner.
Choose small restaurants that are driven by a chef who creates new dishes in his/her kitchen and a menu that evolves with the seasons.
Select dishes from the appetizer/ first course menu. Restaurants need to protect their bottom line with solidly priced main courses that will please the many. So a chef’s creative drive is frequently centered on the small opening courses. This is your chance as a diner to sample dishes that are more creative than you would usually choose. You can broaden your palate by trying first courses that challenge your tastes and give your palate an opportunity to explore.
- Taste, Taste, Taste. Take every opportunity to taste ingredients.
Explore the cheese department of shops that are proud of the range of their products and are knowledgeable and anxious to offer you a taste of their recommended selections. Whenever I am planning a party I use this time as an opportunity to try new cheeses that I can share with my guests. I have spent as much as an hour with a cheese specialist exploring their recommendations and how they will fit with the goals of my party. I find this to be a delicious collaboration and a great way to expand my palate.
- Build your sense of smell. Fresh herbs are a logical place to start.
When I introduce herbs to my students, I encourage them to rub the herbs and inhale their scent, then taste them. You cannot bury your nose in an herb branch and capture its deep essence if you do not crush or rub it first. From scent you move to taste, then to memory. You should be able to identify an herb by its leaf. But your palate needs scent and taste to turn it around and use it effectively as a cook.
- Re-examine your prejudices. We all have a history of likes and dislikes.
Many of the decisions we have made about food were made while we were young. As an adult we may still cling to the rules of our youthful diet, limiting our choices and experiences. Consider questioning the things you are sure you do not like. And reconsider the possibility that you can change your mind and blossom beyond your limitations. Try a house paté at small local restaurant. Re-approach an eggplant or celery root, whatever you have neglected before, and give your palate a chance to grow in new directions.
As Julia might say: Bon Appetit! What a delightful opportunity it is to broaden your palate and rediscover the flavor of life anew.
Louise Hasson is owner and lead chef of Bon Vivant School of Cooking. Seattle’s premier cooking school for beginning and experienced chefs. At Bon Vivant Louise and her team of chefs strive to teach culinary creativity, not just recipes, in a relaxed home environment. Visit Bon Vivant on Facebook and get more recipes on her Blog.