Garnishes make dishes appealing to all the senses


Staff Writer

With a house, it’s the front door that can make a welcoming impression. When dressing for a night on the town, it’s the accessories that often make an outfit special.

But when it comes to dining, it’s as important to make an appealing presentation when plating a meal as it is to cook a delicious tasting dish. Simply put, famed chef Julia Childs said, “Nothing gives a dish more polish than a perfectly chosen garnish — one that’s unique without quite stealing the show.”

For Chef Kevin Blake, who heads up the culinary creations at Oglebay Park, it’s making sure diners enjoy a wonderful meal as well as preparing an eye-catching plate.

“Guests judge with their eyes. First impressions are always lasting impressions. We put an emphasis on that,” Blake said.

In the Oglebay kitchens, Blake said chefs abide by the three pillars of food preparation: seasonal, regional and fresh.

“If you get those three things correct, you have a good jumpstart on success. We employ talented chefs and continue to push them and give them carte blanche.”

He said while garnishes have a place in cooking, it’s no longer a matter of adding an orange slice or sprig of parsley to the plate. Today’s chefs work to perfect their cooking techniques, whether it’s searing, braising or poaching, to make food delicious to eat as well as appealing to the senses. He said seafood dishes are very popular locally.

“Wheeling is very receptive to new ideas and different things, like you find on the Pittsburgh dining scene,” Blake noted. “It’s not just about meat and potatoes.”

As for plating dishes, Blake said the meal should incorporate various textures. For example, a light poached meat or fish might be accompanied by a crisp vegetable, “something with a bite to it.”

Color also appeals to the senses. Blake suggests pairing a white fish with fresh, green asparagus or a puree of bright sweet potato for an eye-appealing plate. If garnishes are used, Blake said they should be something edible that pairs well with the entree. For example, char half a lemon for a seafood dish. The carmelization of the lemon adds another dimension to the dish.

Micro greens, also referred to as vegetable confetti, make fun and edible garnishes. They can range from bull’s blood beets to baby corn and immature leaf lettuces and sprouts. Edible flowers — organic is best — also will make a plate or platters of food more appealing to the eye.

And don’t forget to get creative with the plates, bowls and platters used to serve food. Oval, teardrop and rectangular-shaped dishes add to the visual appeal of even the simplest dishes. Using unusual items to serve food can add a bit of whimsy to the dining table. Carve out melons to hold fruit salads. Lemon and limes can be hollowed out and used for holding dips on fruit and vegetable trays. Also peppers of all types and colors are great for serving dips and sauces.

For tailgating, place bowls of chips and pretzels inside a football helmet. Use a colorful vase to corral tall pretzels or bread sticks.


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