Dept. of Wha?

Menu Descriptions that…Aren’t

Beignets with pepitas, Bottarga, and Banyuls, anyone?

By Kathryn Robinson October 18, 2010

Dined at the new Marjorie recently; noting once again its breezy, angular dissimilarity to its previous incarnation in Belltown. Charming still, with the ever-gracious Donna Moodie hosting masterfully…just no longer oozing that gypsy-trader’s-tent comfort of the former spot, in food or in mood.

Indeed, the food’s admirable but now quite foofy and composed. Not to mention, on the menu, nearly unintelligible. To wit, this menu description: “Squash Beignets with pepitas, Bottarga, Banyuls.”

“Well…I know what beignets are!” ventured one at my table of worldly sophisticates.

Banyuls, I half-knew, was a dessert wine; pepitas the Spanish word for pumpkin seeds. But would Joe Q. Eater know this?

And what the heck was Bottarga?

“Oh, that’s the roe of mullet,” our otherwise very helpful waiter explained, by way of non-explanation.

In fact it’s a sort of poor-man’s caviar, only sun-dried and cured to a substance that can be grated onto dishes for a bit of briny tang. Of course when our waiter described it as roe, I pictured tiny fish eggs.

The point being: We never would have known from either the menu description nor the waiter’s amplification that this beignet dish was in fact more of a frisee salad (beautifully dressed, by the way), scattered with pumpkin seeds and shavings of Bottarga roe, with six sweet squash beignets alongside.

Quite lovely in fact. But would a meaningful description have been so hard for the menu to give us?

We humbly posit that any menu that cares to identify the particular variety of salt crystals crowning its housemade butter—that’ll be Murray River salt, Your Highness—would be much better advised to identify the parts of the meal the vast majority of diners actually care about. And we’re not just talking to you, Marjorie.

Now, if they’d just tell us what cobia was…

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