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Serving food at the proper temperature-> What do you mean by 'proper'?

First time visitors to the UK know beforehand (usually) that the beer may not be cold and the bacon may not be crispy, and they look forward to stretching their cultural norms - part of the novelty of travel.

Not much of a stretch in those cases, clearly, but what are other instances in which you are presented with a dining moment whose temperature is not what you normally encounter, and did it warm your affections or chill your estimation of the location?

I'm thinking of this right now because when I pull cheese out of the fridge for a snack with crackers, I am usually too impatient to wait for it to uncool, so I either eat it as it is out of the fridge or I briefly zap it in the microwave oven --
how much better when a proper cheese course is presented in a French (or wherever) establishment that correctly keeps and serves its wares at the temperature that shows it at its best!

Of course good cheese treated well and served with a flourish is going to be better than standing at the fridge in the kitchen, but there's more to it than that, because what constitutes proper treatment varies depending on where and who is doing the serving, yes?

I hope your comments will not be limited just to cheese :-)

Posted by
2597 posts

For instance, another commonplace besides warm beer in England is red meat on the Continent --
people will warn us wet-behind-the-ears Americans that a real French chef will not serve beef well done,
so don't embarrass yourself.

The optimal phrase is 'a pointe', which is the French version of what here in California is known as 'al punto'.
My dad preferred his meat cooked to a cinder and served immediately out of the broiler ("I like my food hot" he'd bellow)
while civilized / cultured people let meat rest a bit, and they don't burn the juices out of it in the first place.
So what's the tension here between 'proper' and not so much?

Posted by
2146 posts

And quite popular here even is raw minced beef. "Steak Tartare" it is often called, but in Belgium they non-ironically call this "Fillet Americain".

I love having this in a restaurant, but regularly make this myself as well. Needs to be cold as well though.

Posted by
531 posts

I'm very open when it comes to trying food on tours and tried steak tartare during my France tour last year. It was akin to making meatloaf without actually baking it.

First and last time I've had steak tartare. To each their own!

Posted by
294 posts

When I read to title of this thread, my first thought was "proper temperature" means safe temperature. And that can mean different things to different people and different cultures and even different times.

"Proper temperature" meaning served "at the temperature that shows it at its best"? I agree one should at least try it.

Posted by
11368 posts

I have always enjoyed a rare beef tartare but thoughts of meatloaf are far removed, no similarities at all.
I love cheese and usually am too impatient to let it come to room temperature.

Posted by
8662 posts

avirosemail, I also thought it was about safety like khansen. I'm much too plebeian to know what proper might be for many things (Velveeta is good at all temps 😋), or the difference between cultural preference and poor food service. But the thing that comes closest to my mind in both respects is the way that pre-made sandwiches (France, Italy) are often kept at room temperature (bakeries, bars) for hours, with that warm mayonnaise and meat just plotting mischief.

Posted by
23473 posts

If the locals are eating it and they appear to be health, I will join them. There are some things that I am not overly fond of on either side of the ocean and that stays the same.

Posted by
8662 posts

I'll add that I cannot bear to eat sausages (bangers or wurst) that are just that barely cooked light gray color.

Posted by
3995 posts

Last month at a Viennese heuringer I was happy that they offered potato and other marinated salads to go with the schnitzel I has ordered. When asked if I want potato salad from the refrigerated case or room temperature, that was even better, room temperature please.

Posted by
8885 posts

First pint of Guinness I had was served warm. Will still drink it that way but also enjoyed it chilled.

I’m throwing this every day food into the “ proper “ discussion.

Butter; refrigerated or not…..inquiring minds want to know

Posted by
2597 posts

Claudia, some years back I went a little kooky looking for butter bells and other means of keeping butter without refrigeration,
because 'authentic' because 'traditional' and so on, as well as taste and ease-of-use,
and I never got anything set up that worked very well.
I keep butter in the freezer and chip off enough for a few days at a time, kept in a covered butter dish in the door in the fridge.

Posted by
1344 posts

the beer may not be cold

It has been many years since I had a warm beer in a restaurant/bar :-(

These days I need to be patient while the beer reaches room temperature - or buy one for the warm up period, and one to enjoy at room temperature ;-)

On a warm day or after hot work a cold lager, bitter or pale ale can be delicious, but darker beers like brown ale, porter, stout or Guinness must be at room temperature to enjoy the taste.

Posted by
1624 posts

Bottled Guinness can be poured at any temperature. Any landlord worth his salt or chalky water will only pour Guinness when it is around 40.0F. Of course, you can wait for it to warm up before you drink it, and the flavour and mouthfeel will be different. Draught Guinness doesn't pour properly at room temperature, mainly to do with the nitrogen used for carbonation.

The best ales are served at cellar temperature, around 55.0F, not 'room' temperature.

Posted by
531 posts

When I first traveled to France back in 2018, I bought eggs from a Carrefour and they were sitting out at room temp. I had never seen this before but just went with the flow. Also saw the stark difference between the yolk color there (dark orange) and the common US chicken egg (dark yellow).

They were the best eggs I've ever had!

Posted by
7089 posts

Eggs sold in France (and other European countries I have been too) are not washed and thus do not need refrigeration. Now, for most people in France, the fridge is the most convenient place to store eggs once bought so they go in the fridge once at home!

Posted by
7727 posts

Also saw the stark difference between the yolk color there (dark orange) and the common US chicken egg (dark yellow).

That is due to preference and the chickens diet. Chickens grazing in the wild will eat more Carotene rich forage in some areas, so the yolk becomes more orange. Europeans have long preferred an orange yolk, so producers make sure feedstocks are rich in Carotene, supplementing a number of things. In the US, that is not as much a concern. The meat of Salmon is kind of the same story, change it's diet, the meat changes color to more of a pale or white meat...however people demand Salmon have "pink/red" meat, so farmed Salmon are fed feed with supplements. Taste in both cases (in a blind tasting) is no different, but as they say, you eat first with your eyes.

Posted by
2597 posts

so this notion of 'proper' also applies beyond serving temperature to 'proper' color and texture -- should a pastry be flaky or crispy or chewy and so on.

I wonder if golden yellow butter has differences from pale/whitish butter other than color -- not just taste but melting point, mouth feel etc.

Posted by
4175 posts

In general, I'm pickier about temperatures than my husband. I think a lot of what we expect is based on how we grew up. Like the guy mentioned up thread, I grew up literally with the kitchen stove at my back when sitting at the kitchen table. My mother served the food directly to our plates from the stove, so the hot stuff was hot when we got it. Rarely was it put in bowls on the table. But the mixed salad that usually was a part of the meal was cold and needs to be for me. My husband's mom was a better cook than mine, but she never had the space to keep the hot stuff hot, so he got very used to foods being tepid. I've had to adjust to that over the past 35 years and not take offense if he doesn't get right to the stove to serve himself when the meal is ready.

When traveling, I'm much less picky, although I have encountered some pasta, especially in the UK, that was way underdone. Was the kitchen staff in a big hurry? Lazy? Who knows? I, of course, cook the pasta we frequently have perfectly. ;-) That has to be true because my husband says so. It takes patience and paying attention, along with some adjustments from sea level where we lived in WA and 3500 feet above where we live now.

As for steak, rare (cool red center) for my husband, medium rare (warm red center) for me. He had to send back one in Florence because it was even too rare for him. I've had tartare once, cold, sort of as a dip at a Lebanese celebration in San Antonio. I was told that the grease helped to coat your stomach so you're less likely to get drunk or to get sick from drinking.

Neither of us is a fan of any kind of raw fish, although in my younger days I did enjoy raw oysters (cold with lots of cold cocktail sauce) and raw clams (cold with something like a tartar sauce). My favorite way to eat shrimp is cooked and chilled, with cocktail sauce. There's a pattern here. His is warm in some kind of pasta dish and especially if the shrimp and it are spicey.

With cheese, I put wrapped snacking ones (Baby Bel, Tillamook cheddar) in my pockets to warm up so that they taste better. In fact, any other kind of cheese that I don't melt on something sits out for awhile before I use it. Similarly, I like to leave sliced fatty cold cuts like Italian Dry Salame out to warm up before using them. So an antipasti plate that's been sitting out for a bit is fine by me. I prefer pasta salad to be cold. Potato salad can be cold or warm, depending on the kind. I knew nothing about hot German potato salad until I lived in Germany.

Claudia asked, "Butter; refrigerated or not…..inquiring minds want to know." Even here in the desert outside of Tucson, we do not refrigerate our butter. We keep our house at 77 degrees in the summer. Using primarily solar gain, it's a bit cooler in the winter. The butter always keeps its shape. We both hate cold butter. I buy unsalted in bulk from Costco and freeze the boxes. When the butter in the dish (not always covered although I prefer using my great grandmother's pressed glass butter dish that is covered) is about half gone, I pull a cube out of the freezer and put it in the fridge. I use that to replace the butter in the dish when it's gone.

One final question for the Brits. What's up with the toast coolers? Are those just a way to serve the toast at the table? ;-)

Posted by
7727 posts

One final question for the Brits. What's up with the toast coolers? Are those just a way to serve the toast at the table? ;-)

Not a Brit, but my impression is that toast in Britain must be dry and crisp. If you stack toast, the steam from the slices will take the crispy surface off the toast. So to recap: Crispy toast, soggy bacon, not the other way around. Beans from a can for breakfast, make your own judgement there.

An edit: The standard of American diners to slather butter on toast while hot, then stack and serve must just drive them up a wall.

Posted by
604 posts

Paul, living in the land of salmon here, there are indeed differences in colour based on the type of salmon. Wild sockeye salmon looks different from wild chum or wild spring salmon. There are also taste differences amongst the wild types. And yes, I could pass a wild versus farmed taste test even blindfolded as there are taste differences for sure. I only order wild salmon for sushi/sashimi for that exact reason (amongst other reasons).

Posted by
8662 posts

avirosemail, my understanding is that butter's color is "adjusted" here in the US to meet customers' expectations. And historically, oleomargarine, when it was first sold as a butter substitute, was white and came with a small tube of colorant so mother could make it look like butter. Then there are the American eggs that are bleached to uniform whiteness with some of them dyed to be uniform "healthier" brown eggs.