The Skinny's Food and Drink Glossary

In case you're new to the world of dining (fine or otherwise) and need a hand working out what's what, here's our not-at-all-sarcastic guide to some common food phraseology

Feature by Peter Simpson | 13 Sep 2018

No Reservations – Code for ‘We hope you like queuing in the street and eating while people try to stare you down and make you leave’. Many of The Skinny’s favourite spots don’t take bookings, so we’re used to hanging around for a while; look out for the good guys who’ll take your phone number and send you for a pint down the road while you wait for a seat. If you’re going somewhere like this, bring a hat and possibly some reading material – maybe even a monthly magazine packed with exciting cultural happenings, interviews, reviews and more.

Gratuitous use of commas – ‘Crayfish, olives, parmesan, 12’. Fancy restaurant menus quite often read a bit like that, which is to say a non-sequitur list of ingredients which will appear together in some configuration or other, along with a price that you should probably assume will be in pounds. Assume that the ingredients run in descending order of importance and that they'll probably all be delightfully sat together with at least one of them coming in the form of a smear of gel or foam. Sounds rank, tastes better.

Dry-hopping – Beer is a bit like art, music or fashion; nobody has a comprehensive grasp on everything that's going on, and anyone who tells you they do is a liar who should not be trusted. The trick is to learn a few lines of dialogue and return back to those time and time again; dry-hopping, for example, is a technique that essentially involves adding a load of hops at the end of the beer-making process. The results tend to have a great floral and citrusy aroma, and a fresh hoppy flavour (obvz). Now just memorise all that, prepare your secondary bluff of 'really liking sour beers right now', and you're good to go.

Artisanal – A largely meaningless phrase that is shorthand for 'quite nice but a bit on the pricey side'. Should really mean 'made with care by an individual or small group of people with specialised skills' – often seen on the sides of beer cans in supermarkets. We'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Street Food – 1) Super-casual handheld food served from takeaways, holes-in-walls and food vans; 2) A standard plate of restaurant food, but served in a cardboard box.

Food and Drink Festival – A pre-packaged, off-the-shelf, ready-to-rock night out. Sometimes this involves turning up at a venue to find it’s basically just a street food market but it costs more to get it; other times, it’s an all-inclusive excuse to get stuck into as many amazing beers as possible. Oh, and you’ll almost certainly end up with a commemorative glass at the end of it. We don’t know why either.

Fermentation – Essentially, it’s a controlled form of funky, musty tang. Fermentation takes place when the sugars in a food are broken down by yeasts and bacteria, and that breakdown adds flavour and smell to whatever it bumps into. It’s why you can smell kimchi from twenty yards away, it's the thing that puts the ‘sour’ in sourdough bread (you’ll see a lot of that on your travels), and it’s what’s behind everything from kefir to kombucha. You’ll get used to it, trust us.

Kimchi Cult

KeepCup – Want to make friends with coffee hipsters? And let’s face it, who doesn’t? Get yourself a reusable coffee cup; you’ll mark yourself out as liking the environment (nice), help cut down on wasted disposable coffee cups (excellent), and get discounts on your coffee when you use it (bonus). Like the Hoover, Biro or the George Foreman, KeepCup is the Australian brand that has become synonymous with the wider concept of the reusable cup – is it odd that we’re trying to save the environment with plastic items made in Australia? Kind of! But it’s probably fine!

Sharing Plates – Not a plate that’s big enough to be shared, no no no. A sharing plate is designed to be part of a vast array of things to be plonked on a table and fought over. Normally between a half and two-thirds the size of a standard plate of food; get two for yourself or three for every two of you. The maths will get complicated, so bring a pen and paper.

Small Plates – Basically the same as sharing plates, but more honest about it.