Poncharee Kounpungchart

We love amuse-bouches, those one- or two-bite treats that many chefs present to diners before the first course as a way to entice the appetite. Often as much fun to look at as they are to eat, such morsels (whose name translates loosely from the French as please the mouth) grew out of the nouvelle cuisine movement of the 1970s, in which French-trained chefs built meals out of multiple small, colorful courses. When we asked chefs around the country to send us examples of their signature amuse-bouches, we found a range of culinary philosophies represented; some see them as a means of recrafting surplus materials, while others approach them with equal reverence as an entree. “Amuse-bouches are an opportunity to push boundaries,” says Daniel Humm, executive chef at Eleven Madison Park in New York City, whose amuse-bouches include an assemblage of lobster, lemongrass, and curry. At Restaurant Tallent in Bloomington, Indiana, chef David Tallent encourages line cooks to pack their creations (such as vegetarian muffulettas) with as many taste sensations as possible. But Rick Tramonto, chef at the acclaimed Chicago restaurant Tru (where starters include caramelized onion tarts) and author of the cookbook Amuse-Bouche (Random House, 2002), perhaps sums up the trifle’s significance the best. “It’s my way of saying, ‘Welcome, I hope you enjoy your meal.'”