Fancy Food Finishers

Courtesy of Fish, Charleston, South Carolina

Gourmet ingredients add a chef’s signature flair to recipes.

Gourmet ingredients add a chef’s signature flair to recipes.

From truffles to caviar, butters, and flowers, luxury ingredients add a signature stamp to any dish. Now these finer foods have crossed into the local-sustainable world, as niche producers pop up around the country. Here’s a look at how chefs are using their favorite finishers.


A classic French and Italian luxury item, truffle foraging has expanded to other parts of Europe, California, the Pacific Northwest, and even China.

At the newly opened Arlington Club in New York City, executive chef Frank Cervantes uses truffles and truffle oil sourced from Urbani, a gourmet foods supplier.

Cervantes favors the strong black truffles from France for his popular gnocchi “a la Parisienne” dish made from pate de choux versus potato flour dough, a nod to a similar recipe given to him by Laurent Tourondel, chef and partner of the restaurant. Integrating the pate de choux with a touch of grated truffle, Cervantes finishes off the soft and fluffy pasta with larger, thin shavings of the luxury item using Urbani’s special truffle grater with a serrated edge rather than a mandolin for consistent slicing.

Outside the short October to December black truffle season, Cervantes will swap in summer truffles, which have a black exterior, white gray interior, and a lighter, more delicate flavor and smell. He’s also used the truffles paired with fois gras and toasted brioche for a special Chateaubriand steak topping. When it comes to Italian white truffles, “they are on a whole other page,” he says, preferring to use the more fragrant, uber-gourmet, and double-the-price item sparingly in risottos and scallop dishes. All truffles, though, “are an easy sale,” says Cervantes. “People are aware of what truffles are and are familiar with them as a high-end product.” As a result, charging just a touch more for a truffle-laced dish is acceptable.

While some truffle producers suggest storing the mushrooms in Arborio rice, “I don’t recommend that,” Cervantes says, preferring instead to wrap the truffles in fish paper and store in covered, plastic containers in the cooler for no more than three days to prevent them from over-drying.

At La Merenda in Milwaukee, where chef/owner Peter Sandroni uses white truffle oil everyday, desserts get the ultimate umami treatment. “We take local Brunkow cheese, which looks like a piece of white toast with toasted edges, and pan sauté it in a little butter like Greek Saginacki so it caramelizes, then we add toasted walnuts, dried fruit, and a drizzling of the oil on top,” he says. “It’s a savory dessert for someone who wants only a hint of sweetness.”




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