Story by the staff of LuxuryWeb
Photos by Manos Angelakis and the specified importers

 

Fake Foods

The unprecedented affluence of the early 21st century and the new found willingness of the American public to try the pleasures of food products from other countries has caused restaurant chefs and home cooks alike to start offering upscale and exotic meals to their guests that were unknown to the US market twenty years previously.

The problem is that many of these new products that grace America’s larders are not always what they are tooted to be. It is not the fault of the buyers; many have never seen or experienced the real thing. The advertising and marketing industries are mostly to blame for creating high falutin designations for lowly ingredients.

patagonian toothfish aka chilean seabass

A case in point is what appears on restaurant menus as Chilean Sea Bass. The fish is neither Chilean (in Britain it is presented as Australian Sea Bass) nor is it a sea bass. Known to ichthyologists as Patagonian Toothfish, it is harvested in the chill waters of the Antarctic and in the fish markets of Chile and Brazil is a really inexpensive catch.

Argentine t-bone

Regarding Beef from Argentina. Even though the US lifted the 68 year importation ban of beef from Argentina because of hoof-and-mouth disease in 1998 and Argentina lifted in mid-2021 the export ban on their beef, much of what is presented as “Argentinean steaks” in the US is in reality beef imported from Australia or New Zealand. Many diners still pay top dollar in East Coast restaurants and churrascarias for Argentine Beef that supposedly comes from hormone-free cattle grazing the Argentinean pampas, even though the cattle has never been anywhere near that country.

wasabi-paste

Plenty of other ingredients are being replaced by inexpensive stand-ins. Wasabi powder, for example, is a staple in America’s over 7,500 sushi bars. It has also started showing on non-Japanese restaurant menus in such dishes as “Wasabi Crusted Salmon” or “Grouper with Wasabi Sauce”. Most wasabi in the US is actually powdered horseradish, mustard and green food coloring at retail cost of about $10 per pound not real wasabi root -- that has a much more subtle taste -- whose US retail cost is about $140 per pound.

Prized “Blue Point” oysters are rarely actually raised from the waters of Blue Point, New York. Otherwise, they would have become extinct long ago. Flounder is commonly sold as sole at twice the price. Rounds of shark meat cut with a small cookie cutter have masqueraded for scallops and undersized sea scallops often are served as Nantucket Bay scallops, a far more expensive ingredient.

blue cheese lactalis

If you are eating Camembert or Brie or Roquefort in the US., they are possibly not an import. US law still prohibits, with very few  exceptions, the importation of fresh cheeses made from unpasteurized milk not aged for more than 60 days. Groupe Lactalis, a leading European dairy marketer sells Roquefort under the Société Roquefort brand; if you look very carefully at the Roquefort back label, you will see, in small type, ”Product of France made from unpasteurized sheep’s milk”. So the Roquefort is genuine.

Double Cream Brie

However, on the back label of the Joan of Arc Double Cream Brie we recently purchased, you will see at the bottom, in very small type, the information that the product is actually made in Lincolnshire, Il. not imported from France.

Academia Aceto Balsamico

Another product commonly faked is balsamic vinegar. Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena is aged for at least 12 and as much as 25 years in wood casks, and must bear an official government seal from Reggio or Modena. It can cost as much as $80 an ounce. It has a full body, with rich density and a very characteristic bouquet. It is best used uncooked as dressing for antipasti, first courses, desserts and crudités. A less expensive variation, Condimento Pregiato (100% cooked grape must) aged for only the twelve minimum years, is used in lightly cooked sauces. The Barilla company imports under the Academia brand an excellent, authentic, balsamic vinegar, very aromatic and with decreased acidity. A good balsamic should be kept away from heat and light and at room temperature, 68F maximum. If you fell in love with balsamic vinegar during your last trip to Italy, that doesn’t mean that you are going to get the same item at your local supermarket. There you will probably find a product sold as “balsamic vinegar” which in reality is red-wine vinegar treated with caramelized sugar.

 

 

 

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