Luxury Ingredients Are Back on the Table

By Lacey Tisch-Sidney for TravelsinTaste

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- No industry was exempt when the recession hit in 2008, and our taste buds took a hit too. For the past two years, chefs, rightfully so, have not been focusing as much on the expensive and rare high-end ingredients -- those hard-to-find, in most cases hard-to-prepare and extremely easy-to-mess-up items -- that make us swoon.

"Quality products are always sought after, as human beings will always be fascinated with the idea of eating luxury," says Shaun Hergatt, executive chef and owner of SHO Shaun Hergatt.

Diners are starting to eat luxury, and swoon, again.

It is black truffle season and, with the economy inching its way back to normal, people seem to be picking up these "diamonds of the kitchen" in droves. Chefs from our favorite fine-dining locales are also showcasing foie gras, white truffles, caviar, squab and other high-end items -- a bit of decadence that still emphasizes the true flavor of the ingredients.

On New York's Upper East Side, Rouge Tomate is serving up Crescent Farms Duck Terrine, a jellied meatloaf, made from foie gras and a Black Winter Truffle Risotto embellished with parmesan and squid ink. At Le Bernardin, chef Eric Ripert offers Kobe Beef upon request and three different types of caviar that can cost up to $220 per ounce depending on the origin. Chef Daniel Boulud is known for extravagant dishes, and his latest -- frog legs, one of the better-known delicacies of French and Cantonese cuisine, paired with a fricassee with kuri squash chanterelles, pine nuts, crispy lollipops, black garlic and a tahoon cress -- brings an infusion of extraordinary flavor. The outcome is well worth the cost. Meanwhile, Hergatt wows with his Hudson Valley Foie Gras Torchon garnished with black truffle and apple in three forms.

There's immense flavor in the Truffled Maine Lobster at Wolfgang Puck's CUT.

Ingredient splurging is nationwide, though, not exclusive to Manhattan.

The West Coast is flaunting the use of high-end ingredients with a sense of exposition. At Ortolan in Beverly Hills, Calif., chef Christophe Eme shows off a reputation for ingenuity by preparing a scrambled egg in the shell and accompanying it with illustrious Ossetra caviar. He also showcases the Ossetra caviar with blinis, classic accompaniments and a chilled Belvedere vodka.

Las Vegas' fine-dining spots are taking it one step further. Like with everything in Vegas, our favorite Sin City chefs are pushing the envelope with their preparations and pairings. At Sage in the Aria Resort and Casino, chef Shawn McClain prepares his foie gras dish in a Custard Brulee with black mission figs, toasted cocoa nibs and a salted brioche. At Rick Moonen's RM Seafood ( MGM) in Mandalay Bay the chef imports cervena (a natural, tender venison) loin from New Zealand and cooks it in a pear butter, creating a delicious combination of sweet flavors with tender textures. He also offers a Hot & Cold Foie Gras a la Japonne -- in keeping with the Vegas tradition of decadence, the foie gras is paired with sea urchin, sour plum and grilled scallion, offering extraordinary texture and flavor.

Even at the top steakhouses, chefs want to offer the best ingredients just in case they don't have a carnivore in their midst. At Wolfgang Puck's Cut in Las Vegas' Palazzo ( LVS), executive chef Matt Hurley creates immense flavor with a truffled Maine lobster.

If you're dining out and see one of those sought-after, rare ingredients, don't think about the wallet. Just think about the flavor!

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