"At Bay Wolf, a restaurant in Oakland, Calif., the $22 grilled sea bass
comes topped with a complex sauce of pureed roasted peppers, cilantro and
blanched almonds. But the ingredient that gives it a distinctive flavor? A
high-class version of Mrs. Dash. Chef Michael Wild sprinkles a brick-red powder
into the sauce to "round out the flavors and bring everything together," he
As complicated as today's haute cuisine has become, many of America's top
chefs rely more than you might think on a smidgen or squirt of something simple
from the pantry. At Wallse© in Manhattan, the deep roasted, nutty flavor of the
salads comes from a spoonful of Styrian pumpkin-seed oil that chef Kurt
Gutenbrunner calls a "staple." Roy Yamaguchi, chef and founder of 32 Roy's
restaurants, says that when he hosts a private dinner, he drizzles argan oil on
sashimi and carpaccio. In San Francisco, Nancy Oakes of Boulevard uses vin
cotto, a syrupy vinegar that she says rivals the taste of 50-year-old balsamic,
at a fraction of the cost."
Now to find a specialty shop and get cracking once more at making palatable meals. In the midwest, high-seasoning means spicy-mustard or yellow, and it'll be simply marvelous to have boutique-quality flavorings available.