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Learning to taste questions

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
I was reading a bit about the subject.  It appears one must do lots of tasting of spices, veges, meats, etc. as one can set up comparisons, dine out, etc.  And keep notes too.

Someone mentioned   Culinary Artistry by the Dornenbergs.

Someone also said something that makes sense- know what you like and what you don't like.

any thoughts, experiments, etc to help develop my palate? 

since i don't have the advantage of big city food availibility, are there particularly good websites to get foods for training?  Chattanooga is relatively close, but i already work 12 hour days. 


thanks,
john
post #2 of 24

not sure about tasting, but if you have someone willing to help you can try this. Get a friend to take little plates and put different spices on each one. Blindfold yourself and tell your friend to hold the plates close to your nose so you can try and identify each ingredient. There's a famous chef in Switzerland nicknamed " The Nose". My dad is friends with him. He does this everyday, and can say basically every spice in a dish. He's practiced it for over 20 years, and he can identify what's in a lady's perfume.

post #3 of 24
However, tasting and being able to identify flavors is mainly genetic, I believe.
I have been in the food business for some 20 years and I have hard time identifying flavors blind-folded or identify aromas. My wife is non-cook and she has an uncanny ability to figure out what spice or herb is in a dish. This is more than a little frustrating to me but I have to accept it.

George (Author of What Recipes Don't Tell You)
George, Culinary Scientist and author of
http://whatrecipesdonttellyou.com
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George, Culinary Scientist and author of
http://whatrecipesdonttellyou.com
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post #4 of 24
Learning to taste questions ... okay, being silly here ...

What does this question taste like?
post #5 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by OregonYeti View Post

Learning to taste questions ... okay, being silly here ...

What does this question taste like?

Maybe Durian?
Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
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Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
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post #6 of 24
One thing you can do is find out the ingredients in what you're eating, and try to identify each one as you are eating it. Or you can guess and see how close you come.
post #7 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by mgchef View Post

not sure about tasting, but if you have someone willing to help you can try this. Get a friend to take little plates and put different spices on each one. Blindfold yourself and tell your friend to hold the plates close to your nose so you can try and identify each ingredient. There's a famous chef in Switzerland nicknamed " The Nose". My dad is friends with him. He does this everyday, and can say basically every spice in a dish. He's practiced it for over 20 years, and he can identify what's in a lady's perfume.


Sounds like a movie with Al Pacino....

JP...if you can get any YouTube/DVD's of some of Gordon Ramsay's programs, particularly "Top Chef" , he does a lot of blind tasting on there.  I don't know if that would help you in your efforts, but it does show that many people can't identify a flavour/spice/meat etc without a lot of practice, or has been mentioned, a good nose.

mgchef's suggestion is a good one for this, I believe.  Spice blends are the hardest to pick up all the components.  Practice, practice, practice. But don't give up.  Try meats blindfolded too - they can be confusing if your palate is still developing.  Actually, it could be great fun.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #8 of 24
Thread Starter 
thank you all for the suggestions. 

what i think that i am doing is finding a way to make an adventure; while at the same time trying to build a good menu for my coffeehouse.

it seems there is more than blind "tasting" going on ; )
Edited by jproaster - 4/6/10 at 4:51am
post #9 of 24
jproaster, there is someone I'd suggest asking about coffee--Michael Sivetz. He's very accomplished and maybe a bit abrupt--but he is also an authority, for sure. info@sivetzcoffee.com May as well see if you can get any recommendations from him? On the coffee part of it, that is.
post #10 of 24
There is also Boar D Laze on this site, definitely a coffee expert. He's also a knife expert, so don't make him mad :^)
post #11 of 24
Thread Starter 
Thanks OY for the suggestions. 

and i'll try not to make bdl mad

have a great day
john
post #12 of 24
I've had this same question. I think one of the best things to do is keep a large assortment of spices available, and always be willing to experiment a little. I started to really grow interested in individual spices when I got into Indian fare with it's toasted spice blends. Making sauces is another excellent area to play with spices. We have a local eatery that had the best wings I've tasted and I couldn't put my finger on what it was that was so tasty, eventually I determined and confirmed that they had added some orange blossom honey to the sauce. Avoid the pre-mixed spices if you can, since you really don't get any say in the balance of the ingredients. It's really not that hard to come up with seasoning blends for your own versions of a steakhouse blend, ranch blend, etc. Another thing, there are drastic differences in flavors of dried herbs vs. fresh herbs. Experiment with both forms of common herbs to find out what you like and which applications are best for dry vs fresh.
post #13 of 24
When expanding into Mexican and Indian dishes is when I started recognizing flavors better, still miss some cause they have  a lot of flavor going on.  The best thing is to make dishes that experiment  with the different sides of a flavor. fresh jalapenos vs chipotle, the licorice taste of fresh tarragon vs the lemongrassy flavor it takes when sauteed longer then 5 minutes. 

Eating basic side dishes at different ethnic places also helps find similar flavors . A ceviche at one place, a taziki at another and a wakame salad at a third, lemon/lime and vinegar is awesome.  American Chili (some) and Indian Dahl both have cumin in them, heh, find it,  and once you separate that out find what it was sitting next to or what was done to it that made it taste different.
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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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post #14 of 24
Thread Starter 
is there a point at which too much spice heat makes tasting a food possible?  really hot thai or what have you?
post #15 of 24
definitely, can also happen with too much garlic, ginger, clove, alcohol etc...It's probably a big part of why experimenting can be so hard. going light to start and having water nearby helps but it is gonna happen when you can taste almost nothing because of something overwhelming your palate.
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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post #16 of 24
I don't know if it makes a great deal of sense but I started getting better identifying and measuring herbs and spices when I started growing my own.  I guess this makes me better in using fresh ingredients but it has also spoiled me.  Tonight's roasted tomatillo chicken enchiladas have a fair amount of cilantro in the sauce but I would never attempt it without fresh greenery.  Cilantro does not seem to dry well, others such as thyme or oregano I prefer fresh but a quick taste of the dried lets me adjust.  Who'd a thunk, I may be learning to cook.  If I am, the only answer is practice and a lot of ooops!  Kind of like learning to draw.

Rich
post #17 of 24
Thread Starter 
Rich- that is an awesome word to me.  I was supposed to make a raised bed area for my wife to grow herbs, a few tomatoes, etc last mother's day.

I know it sounds selfish, but i'm really gonna try to get that done.  i wonder if my proposed location is good- there's an awful lot of sun?

john

thanks gunnar- good word as usual.
post #18 of 24
JP,

We grow herbs in containers around the pool.  There is cilantro, italian parsely, garlic chives, rosemary, sweet basil, cinammon basil, sage, thyme, oregano and probably a couple others I've forgotten.  Mixed in with the flowers and such around the outside of the house are tomato plants, cauliflower, brocolli, and a variety of peppers such as bell, jalapeno, and mint.  The mint spreads so it acts like a ground cover.  We just move the containers around a bit until we find a spot that seems to appeal to whatever we've planted.  Some, like rosemary you have to try real hard to kill, others are a bit more delicate.  A quick trip to the library will let you know how much sun, water, and what type of soil are best.  Some, like the cilantro, do better with a sandier, better draining soil than say the basil.

Rich
post #19 of 24

There's nothing wrong with lots of sunshine, John. Worst comes to worse you can always rig some shade cloth.

Most of the time it shouldn't be necessary. If you make a list of the most common herbs you use you'll discover that the majority are native to a Meditarranean climate---basically hot, sunny, and semi-arid.

Among the many that fit this rubric: Parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram, savory, lavender, coriander, chervil, basil, and a host of others.

If you keep that in mind, as you grow your herbs, you'll also realize that the number one problem isn't too much sunshine. It's too much water. These are not houseplants, and they do not want to stand around with their feet wet. 

We've had several discussions about growing herbs on The Chef's Garden forum, and I'm sure you can pick up many insights by reading those threads.

 

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #20 of 24
Thread Starter 
excellent.  thank you mucho.


john (whose wife would be awfully impressed if john's jeep could pull out the giant jumble of intertwining plants where the raised bed should go : )
post #21 of 24
Thread Starter 
i read somewhere about an egullet forum with helpful info.

just read over there about "taste and texture"

definitely worth my time- learning about basic tastes, their interactions and the importance of texture is incredible; maybe it's an indispensible?

john
Edited by jproaster - 4/8/10 at 2:22pm
post #22 of 24
       Growing some of your own vegetables and herbs is a great way to introduce yourself to the flavors of food.  While this will certainly elevate your dishes, don't forget to try each and every one of them plain.  Try them uncooked, then cooked too.

   You can also seek out either higher end grocery stores or ethnic grocery stores.  You're not looking for high price...but you're looking for good ingredients.  If you're going to buy something...see if they offer varying varieties of the same general item.  I would forget about the blind (or double blind) tests right now.  I don't think that you're testing your ability to distinguish one item from the next.  You need to develop your preferences first.

   My suggestion?  Plant a garden, oh...I already mentioned that.  My other suggestion...when you buy a plum...by one of each variety and taste them side by side.  Same with eggplant, peaches, apples...do a side by side tasting.  This is also great with meats.  You really don't need a HUGE steak every single time you grill out.  If you've got a store that sells prime beef near you get one prime steak and one regular choice steak.  Cook them the same and lightly season.  Try them side by side and see what you think.  If the prime steak is too much money then next time your thinking of cooking steaks, just go without and save the money.  If you pass on cooking the steaks a couple times in summer you'll have saved enough money to get the prime steak for a side by side comparison.  True, many of us have had a prime steak before and it's easy to say that you preferred it over choice.  But doing a side by side you get to directly compare all the nuances within the meat.  The flavor, the fat, the mouth feel, the texture...etc.

    Also...go buy something expensive.  I absolutely love prosciutto, my favorite being Jamon Iberico Bellota.  It's expensive...really expensive!  $179.00/lb.  But you know what...I buy only a couple of slices and that's it.  It'll usually cost $7.00 to $14.00 for a couple slices, well worth it in my opinion.  Plus you may get to know the person who does the ordering and get a wonderful Iberico Bellota end for a heavily discounted price .  

   Don't pass up the chance to try new flavors...just adjust the quantity to fit your budget.  You don't have to do this all the time...but every once and a while.

    enjoy the food!
   dan 
post #23 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by jproaster View Post

i read somewhere about an egullet forum with helpful info.

just read over there about "taste and texture"

definitely worth my time- learning about basic tastes, their interactions and the importance of texture is incredible; maybe it's an indispensible?

john

texture is the number two complaint about food that people don't like. Take Hummus for example, for the most part it's a mild flavor, with a gritty texture I didn't like for years and years. Some people can't handle avocado or guacamole, not because of the taste but the mushy or slimy texture they feel that comes with it. The texture of the fish in fish and chips is as important as the batter that surrounds it. I wouldn't care how yummy the beer batter was if when I bit into my fish i found it was some sort of minced processed patty instead of flaky fish


and dry chicken is the most chewy horrible thing around compared to a properly cooked piece that is tender and juicy.
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post #24 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post

texture is the number two complaint about food that people don't like. Take Hummus for example, for the most part it's a mild flavor, with a gritty texture I didn't like for years and years. Some people can't handle avocado or guacamole, not because of the taste but the mushy or slimy texture they feel that comes with it.

You're so right. I can't count the number of people who LOVE passion fruit "flavor" in sauces, ice creams, cakes, creams etc... but give them a passion fruit and they want to throw up.
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